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Backlog Thoughts | Nostalgia and the Games We’ve Never Played

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Memories of games we played as children are what inspire many of us as gamers, but what of the games we never played?

The new, the old and the never had

Nostalgia 1

We all fondly think back on the games we played and loved when we were young. The long nights and weekend marathons trying to squeeze every ounce of enjoyment out of the latest game rental. The dedicated Mario Kart and Street Fighter II sleep overs where you attempted to perfect your skills so you could best your friends and of course gloat in their face. Or maybe the beautiful summer days spend in your sweltering attic grinding out levels in Final Fantasy III.

Nostalgia 2

These are just a few of my cherished memories. Honestly, it’s what made me the gamer I am today and why I still have a game room packed to the brim with gaming paraphernalia new and old. But it’s not always the things I remember playing that gives me that warm and fuzzy feeling. Recently, I’ve been thinking a whole bunch about the games I’ve never played, or never had the opportunity to play, but longed for. And now that I’m older, wiser, and with funny money to spare I can finally acquire and experience those games and gaming hardware I might have missed, for the first time. Also, with the internet up my sleeve as my game huntin’ ace in the hole, it’s never been easier.

To play and dream from a magazine

Nostalgia 3

Back before Ebay and Craigslist it wasn’t always easy to seek out the games you desired. This was exacerbated primarily because I lived in a small town. And because of that there were only a few ways for me to keep up to date with the what’s what of current and upcoming video games. The first was my local video store, but to be perfectly honest that wasn’t really a greatest resource. At best there was a couple of week delay before a game would show up on the shelves and at worst it would never show up at all! And forget about the less popular titles and/or hardware. Wanna try out the TurboGrafx-16 or Sega Saturn or even that super cool looking Shoot em’ Up you may have seen in a commercial?? Well, you’re outta luck kid!

Nostalgia 4
Source: RetroMags. Images from left to right (1, 2, 3, 4)

No, if I wanted to stay somewhat current, at least with the news, then subscribing to my favorite gaming magazines was my only option. I would wait impatiently month after month for GamePro, Electronic Gaming Monthly and Nintendo Power just to get any semblance of the video game fixation I obviously needed. To me, these magazines weren’t only a source of entertainment, but also kinda like the Sears Wish Book catalog (which was also a supplementary source) of gaming goodness.

Nostalgia 5
Source: RetroMags. Images from left to right (1, 2, 3, 4)

I would obsessively read the reviews and previews of the then “state of the art” games like Snatcher or Dragon Force, wondering what it would be like to play them. I would stare at the advertisements of consoles like the Atari Jaguar, the Panasonic 3DO and even the Sega CD thinking they were the coolest most exotic gaming devices ever! The games seemed so realistic, advanced and just out of reach for a youngin like myself. Not only were they expensive, but trying to find one of these things in my little town wasn’t easy. Sure, we had access to well known and popular systems like the Super Nintendo or the PlayStation, but anything slightly off of the popularity curve was pretty much a no go. I also needed to prioritize which of these systems I would get, when I was given the opportunity to finally get one. Would I choose the latest Nintendo console, with which I had a long and storied past? Or should I choose the Sega console, the seductive dark horse hiding in wait in the bushes? Being a big Nintendo fan the choice was already made for me, but I think you see where I coming from.

Nostalgia 6

Don’t get me wrong, I’d circle every single game and gaming console on each issue until the ink ran dry in my grape scented Crayola marker and handed my parents a three page long list every year. But, with only getting a game at most twice a year (during birthdays or Christmas) the games and consoles on my “never had and would love to play” list grew and grew. This of course became less and less of a problem as I got older and started making my own money. But until then, I had my dreams, my magazines and the local video store.

Creating new memories

Nostalgia 7

Fast forward twenty-ish years and we arrive in the present. With the internet as the omnipotent thing it is now, for better or worse, and living in an area where there isn’t much I don’t have access to. The ability to revisit and attempt to acquire those games and gaming console I dreamt about as a child is finally mine!

Nostalgia 8

I still love finding those games that I remember playing when I was younger like Contra 3: Alien Wars on the SNES or Ninja Gaiden on the NES. But, I’d be lying to myself if I didn’t say I get the most enjoyment and the most excited about finding that one game I remember seeing in one of those old GamePros or EGMs. I remember my wife finding and gifting me a Sega 32X. It didn’t matter that this Sega Genesis add-on was clunky, practically useless and could barely fit on my game shelf while connected to the system. It was the fact that I was finally able to lay my hands on and experience the games, hardware and pure horridness myself for the first time! Or when I ran across my first TurboGrafx-16 Hu Card in a local thrift store. I had no way of playing it, but it blew my mind that a game could fit on this little credit card sized cartridge! Even better, I got to take it home with me!! To this day, I still don’t have the console, but once I do, Keith Courage will be sitting on the shelf waiting for me.

Nostalgia 9

So, it’s not just the nostalgia of re-experiencing the memories we have of the games we played in the past, but also creating memories of the games we haven’t tried. The thrill of finally being able to hold that item in your hand, to be able to experience the sights and sounds or even just how uncomfortable that controller really was. I get to be that kid again and with any luck I’ll create new experiences I can look back on nostalgically in another twenty years.

Do you have any games or consoles you wish you had as a child? Did you ever get the opportunity to try them?