10 Games that Define My Childhood – Mike

The Legend of Zelda: Links Awakening DX

My first Zelda game had nothing to do with Zelda or Hyrule! This was the first game I purchased for my Game Boy Color that was made to make use of the colors the new device had. I remember being enthralled by that opening cut-scene as I thought to myself, “Man, how can handhelds get any better than this?” The game had a great story that wasn't afraid to throw in the occasional self-referential and fourth wall breaking jokes about other Nintendo properties. The puzzles were clever and just hard enough that when you completed them, you felt like you accomplished something more “smart” than simply being able to count frames in a fighting game.

Sonic the Hedgehog 2

Here's my first introduction to what "Ninten-don’t." Being the resident Sega Genesis owner of the neighborhood, I sat in my room playing this game literally every day. I could not fall asleep unless I played through at least once. I became so good at this game that I was able to passively speedrun through it while watching a movie. Think about that, I was able to speedrun a PLATFORMING game while watching a movie. Having played Super Mario World on Super Nintendo and Super Mario Bros. 3 on NES beforehand, I felt completely satisfied in being a Sega Genesis owner over Super Nintendo since we all know which Mario was better. (Hint: SMB3)

Sonic the Hedgehog 3

I remember McDonalds having a contest for this one. You had to purchase a Happy Meal which came with food, a toy, and a chance to win Sonic 3. I convinced my parents to buy me Happy Meals for a month, so yes, the advertisements worked. But much to my dismay, I never won the game. Feeling bad about my situation (or looking out for my health and his wallet), my father decided to just purchase the game one day and surprise me.

Sonic and Knuckles

Not going to lie, when I found out that you could put other cartridges on top of this thing and play older games with Knuckles, I thought it was the COOLEST THING EVER! It almost made me feel like I was hacking the game! I mean, you could play as Knuckles in Sonic 2 and climb all the way up to the top of the first level and just glide to the exit! Clearly the use of Knuckles in levels not designed for Knuckles made them game breaking easy. But it was so much fun at the time! On top of the extra, added compatibility with older Sonic games, you had the actual game of Sonic and Knuckles where you can play through two slightly different games depending on which character you picked. This quickly became my favorite Sonic game of the three I had. Altogether, I played at least one of these three Sonic games all the way through at least once a day.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Hyperstone Heist

This is the first game I played that had co-op in it, and four player co-op to boot! I was big on the turtles back in the day, so naturally, my parents had bought me this game. It was a staple at our family get-togethers and was yet another game I was able to speedrun through. Before writing this, I actually did go and replay some of these games again, and I can say with confidence that this is the one game that still holds up today gameplay wise. The controls still feel as tight as ever to the point where if I mess up, I feel like it’s my fault rather than that of poorly designed game mechanics.

Disney’s Aladdin

Holy hell this was hard for a Disney game. I think I got as far as trying to escape the Cave of Wonders on a daily basis which was a bit angering to a kid who was able to speedrun through all Sonic games with no problem. What kept me coming back despite the difficulty were the awesome animations the game had. At the time, the game had good enough graphics that it looked like it was being drawn right in front of our eyes; forget the SNES version that had better audio. It’s called a VIDEO game, not an AUDIO game for a reason, kids!

Pokemon Red

This game was my first exposure to the RPG genre. I remember when I first bought this game; it was from a Target right off the 54 in Sunny San Diego. I bought a Gameboy just to try this title out. I started in that parking lot as my mother ran back into Target to buy some last minute items. When Professor Oak appeared on that screen to tell me about Pokemon and the adventure I was about to experience, I was hooked. Naturally, this led to collecting Pokemon cards outside of the game which came in abundance after I bought a GameShark (remember those?) and started trading level 100 Mews for rare Pokemon cards. Man, I was a mean, crafty kid.

Street Fighter 2 Special Champion Edition

HADOUKEN! I bet you that my kid self could kick any of your asses in this game! Remember that picture in the game guide of Zangief being so angry that blood literally ripped holes on his head and spilled fountain-like out onto the floor? I DO! This game made me feel like a badass, which came in handy that one time my pants fell off, exposing my briefs during a potato sack race at a picnic. I ran off and cried until I started to think to myself that I needed to be like Blanka and have the courage to come back awesome. I walked back to the picnic after my mother found me, acting like nothing happened.

Roller Coaster Tycoon

This is the first game where I flexed my creative muscles. If you know me at all, you'd know that because of how I was raised, I am a big fan of theme parks and the design and creation that goes into making them. I didn't actually ever want to play the game, I just wanted to design and create rides with whatever assets the game had. This is something made possible through the use of trainers. Luckily, in Roller Coaster Tycoon 2 and 3, a sandbox mode was added for those of us who preferred to be creative rather than play the sim part of the game. I was so thorough with my theme parks that I used to collect park maps from visiting real life theme parks so that I could emulate them in the game to learn the reason why engineers design theme parks the way they do in order to apply the same rules and theory in making my own. I still dip into Roller Coaster Tycoon every now and then to design a ride or two.

Star Wars Arcade 32X

This was a port of the Star Wars Arcade game that was available on consoles. It allowed you to control an X-Wing to fight the Death Star. THE DEATH STAR!!! Aside from the Death Star, you were also able to dog-fight in what seemed like an extremely large arena for the time. I remember the objectives being simple, along the lines of killing 20 Tie Fighters before proceeding to the next objective. But the idea of piloting my own X-Wing was such a dream come true that the absence of levels (there were only 3) became irrelevant. I really hope that Battlefront 3 will allow me to recreate moments from this game. Also… DEATH STAR!

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