I love seeing younger people getting into retro gaming, but they do sometimes seem to miss the context a little. It’s pretty easy to acquire a well-known duffer and make a mocking YouTube video, which will invariably contain the line “How could anyone buy this?” Well kids, let me tell you how that happens.
As the PlayStation and N64 gained popularity, my local video shop was selling off old Mega Drive and NES stock to clear the shelves. I had a PlayStation by this point, but I was a teenager with little disposable income and the games were being sold for £4 each, so I raided that place. With access to review books from Sega Pro and Mean Machines Sega, I ended up cherry-picking a whole bunch of great games including Virtua Racing and Street Fighter II: Special Champion Edition.
But with Nintendo, I wasn’t so prepared. My NES was a recent arrival, a hand-me-down from a cousin, and I was ignorant as to what was available. Worse yet, so were my friends – we’d all grown up swapping Master System games. This made it rather hard to evaluate the white rental box with “Mario Is Missing!” scrawled on it. I’d just pull out my phone and look online these days, but neither mobile phones nor internet connections were commonplace back then, so I went with my limited knowledge of Nintendo. Mario is always good, right?
Wrong. I’d picked up one of those dreaded “edutainment” games, in which Luigi wanders around various cities, retrieves cultural artefacts and answers trivia questions. Needless to say, it wasn’t the experience I expected – but how was I to know?