How I Spent My Childhood #1

looking back at the things that made my childhood fantastic. This week...Nintendo!
July 28, 2010
How I Spent My Childhood.....the Nintendo edition.

Like most of us I'm sure, I spent my Saturday mornings eating cereal and watching cartoons. Then my programming of choice from the 11:00 hour on was a mixture of pro wrestling, and other sports programs like Rollergames or Wide World of Sports.

But come about 2:00 or so, my attention invariably turned towards the patron saint of youth from the 80's.....NINTENDO!

I spent every Saturday afternoon, and a lot of time during the week, hunkered down in front of my television with a controller in my hand enjoying whatever the day's chosen game happened to be. What follows is a list of the games I had and my memories and feelings about them. I'm listing them in order of fondness. Not necessarily what people would consider ranking them in order of greatness, but in order of my own personal enjoyment and time spent enjoying that game.

1. Castlevania 2: Simon's Quest
This, I think, was the first role playing game I ever owned. I don't even remember what the draw was that led me to buy this game. Possibly it was the fact that I had money on me and this was the most intriguing game the store happened to have that day. Whatever the reason, I took it home and enjoyed every second of it. Matter of fact, when I bought a Wii last year, I immediately downloaded this game for it and still play it now.

The quest of Simon to destroy Dracula was the simple premise, but the much more complicated facet of the game was just where in the heck do you find Dracula, and what weapon do you use on him when you find him? You spent your time traveling through towns, forests, and mansions killing skeletons, wolf men, sea creatures and anything else that got in your way like spiders and floating eyeballs. You earned "hearts" that were like money and you used that money to upgrade your whip and buy additional weapons like Holy Water, Laurel Bushes, Diamonds, and numerous other curiosities. You also had to talk to the towns people to get clues on which direction to go to find Dracula and how to beat him. All this wrapped into the game made it one heck of a time waster, and I can't forget the Saturday afternoon that I finally beat this game. Still my favorite game I've ever played on any platform.

2. Contra
Is this the best shoot 'em up game the Nintendo ever had? If not, it made a heck of an attempt to be. The big lure to me for this game was the co-operative aspect for two players. My cousin and I loved to team up, put in the code to give us each 30 lives, and set out to beat this game on Saturday afternoons. We usually succeeded and celebrated with high fives and pizza slices. This was the ultimate game for two friends to play together and strive to win together. Until a special gun became available and you both tried to be the first one to get to it, and then argue about who got the last special weapon. That was a small price to pay for such a fun time though.

3. Super Mario Brothers 3
The Nintendo system I received did not come with Super Mario Brothers. I played it at friend's houses, but was never really that impressed. Super Mario Brothers 2 came along and I just shrugged my shoulders. I think I may have played it once. Then when #3 took the world by storm, I gave it a shot and fell in love immediately. Maybe it was the fact that by that time, they had several years to upgrade the concept. Whatever it was, Super Mario Brothers 3 was a masterpiece. With all the various worlds and levels, and all the cool new power ups, I could play this game for hours on end and have a blast.

4. Defender of the Crown
A lot of you may have never seen or heard of this one. It was a strategy game set in the classic kings and knights era of England. You had a spot of land, and you attempted to conquer neighboring lands. Pretty simple concept don't you think? You had several ways to go about that though. You could siege their land, or covertly go in and try to take over. And if you needed help, you had the ability to call on Robin Hood! Throw in the fact that you had sporting events as well like the joust and sword fight for the action quota, you were left with an pretty fun way to kill time on a Saturday afternoon.

5. Castlevania 3: Dracula's Curse
After my first foray into the Simon Belmont universe with #2, picking up this game was a no brainer. In this version, you had the ability to morph between several characters, each with a different unique ability. The graphics were better this time around, and the action seemed more intense. Fundamentally, this was probably better than Simon's Quest. But something about it just keeps it from taking a higher spot for me.

6. Ivan Stewart's Super Off Road
This game was my favorite racing game for the original NES. With so many different tracks to race on, it felt fresh every time I picked it to play. You earned money based on your race finishes, and then used that money to upgrade different parts of your truck. Before long, you could be dominating all the races and earning more money than you thought even existed. I can't put my finger on what exactly made this game so re-playable, but more times than not I found myself playing this game at the end of every NES session for a half hour or so.

7. Tetris
So simple a game, even an adult could play it! And thats exactly what happened at my house, and why this game is so high up the list. My father never would play video games. He didn't even like to sit and watch me play a game. So when he saw how easy Tetris was, he wanted to give it a try. For months afterwards, we would play it together, seeing who could get the highest score and the most completed line. He would even be the one most times to suggest us playing. Those times spent with my Dad, doing something that I loved are ones that I'll never forget, and Tetris gets a high spot on my all time list because of it.

8. Genghis Khan
Probably another one that a lot of you have not played before. Like Defender of the Crown, this was a strategy based, land conquer game. But with way more detail. Instead of the 4 or 5 nations you had in DOTC, this one had like 40. And you had so many different types of resources to manage, deals to make with other nations, army's to recruit and train, treaties to negotiate, food to be produced and was enough to make your head spin. Then when you went to war, you were a General and had to plan all facets of the battles, make sure recon was being done, and troops were where they were supposed to be, and actually doing some fighting yourself. This was a game that could take months to master, and even longer to conquer. It's still one of my favorite strategy games.

9. The Goonies 2
I guess after the success the movie had, a video game was inevitable. But playing this game didn't feel very much like watching the movie. You had Mikey, the hero of course, traveling through caves and various other locations slinging his yo-yo at the bad guys to dispose of them. But the focus of the game was on collecting different object to help you get farther along. It was a constant maze of entering different rooms and trying to find secret doorways to get some place else. It was quite the brain bender, and I spent many hours on this puppy on Saturday afternoons.

10. Ring King
What red-blooded American boy didn't want to put on the the gloves and go to battle with one another? With this game, you and your best friend could live that out without anyone getting a bloody nose. The action was slow and plodding, but man was it fun. You really had to battle for the full 3 minutes to stay alive, and then you had to work your thumbs to the limit in the rest period to regain needed energy. I loved the fact that this game had a tournament mode. That meant a lot of "Championship Tournament" afternoons for me.

11. Alpha Mission
The great space saga known as Alpha Mission.....or Space Invaders knockoff. This was a cool game where you had a space fighter and the ability to upgrade it's weapons and defense systems in the course of the game play. Once you earned more weapons, you could switch back and forth between them. At the end of each level was a boss, and that boss was only beatable by one of those special weapons....and you had to figure out which one and select it before you got to him. It was hard in the beginning, but soon it became one of those games that I would sit down for an hour and a half and run through the whole thing for fun.

12. Rollergames
Being a huge fan of the tv show by the same name, I was pumped to get this. Then I got it and found out that I was not going to be on the figure 8 track in a sporting event, but out on the streets fighting thugs. Huh? Anyway, i got over my disappointment because the game was actually enjoyable in the form it was presented. You had your choice of 3 playable characters. One from the Rockers, the Hot Flash, and the T-Birds. Now, the dude from the T-Birds was obese, even by video game standards, and couldn't quite make all the jumps necessary in the game. The Hot Flash player was a female, and lacked the "punch" to put away the bad guys all the time. That really left only one choice. But that character from The Rockers could do it all. It was a small game that only took about an hour and a half to beat when you figured everything out.

13. Excite Bike
Blasphemy! 13? I know, I know. One of the consoles most beloved games and I have it low on my list. I think this is just because it came out early in the consoles history, and most of the games on this list were a lot newer. However, I killed many hours with this bad boy. Racing on a motorcycle! Design your own tracks! Put 100 jumps in a row! This was one awesome game for those three reasons, and why it's so fondly remembered. That and the fact that you could wreck others by coming down the track with your rear wheel in their front wheel and watch them tumble over and over down the track.

14. Where In Time Is Carmen SanDiego?
This game was all about the learning. It came with a complete desk reference encyclopedia to help you along with this game. It would give you clues to where and when the bad guy was hiding, and you had to track him or her down. To do that, you would often have to refer to the encyclopedia to decipher the clues. You only had so much time to complete the case, and if you made a wrong time jump, you could kiss the bad guy goodbye. You slowly worked your way through the rogues gallery, until you were on the trail of the chief baddy herself, Carmen SanDiego.

15. Pro Wrestling
Growing up a wrestling fan, when I got the Nintendo, this was the first game that I got with it. how could you not love this game if you were a fan of wrestling? It had great colorful characters in King Slender, Giant Panther, Starman, Amazon, and several others. My friends and I would sit for hours and play this game to no end. It is till my favorite wrestling game for any console.

And as a side note, I don't remember when it came out, but The Game Genie revolutionized my gaming experiences. It created new ways to play the games, in that, if I wanted to jump straight to a certain level in a game an play it, I usually could. When the genie debuted, my Saturday afternoons kicked into overdrive, and I'm so thankful to the people at Galoob for bringing it to us.

Thanks everyone for checking out my first article. I plan to do more of these as the weeks go by. Next up....another installment of How I Spent My Childhood, this time taking a look at G.I. Joe!
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