Games You Remember Through Non-Gaming Related Memories


There are lots of games I can’t remember without going to the moments and feelings external to them first. . Lode Runner was my first game but I have no recollection of it at all as a game. Only the memories of a colossal box I eventually turned into a spaceship arriving at our house that contained an IBM PC, my child fingers first attempts at clumsily using a keyboard, the satisfying chunking sound of a 5.25" floppy drive opening and closing, and my stepfather actually teaching me the word “video game.”

I kinda started getting at this when I wrote this about grieving and Shadowgate. I had thought I’d never really think about Shadowgate until a friend and I compared stories of our first broken bones. And then a flood of memories and emotions surrounding it walloped me and I couldn’t stop.

This can’t just be me. And I’m fascinated about people’s connections to games. What external memories tie you to games that you may have completely forgotten? What are those games you can’t possibly forget because they form such a tight bond with other memories and not just because it was a pivotal gaming experience?


When I used to play Halo 3, I didn’t have a way to play CDs in my house. So I stole a CD from my dad and quickly copied it into the Xbox 360 hard drive. I only manage to get Sawdust by The Killers. I bet not even 5% of the userbase stored music in the 360 lol

To this day, whenever I see a screenshot of clip of Halo 3 I remember the only disc I heard at that time. And whenever I hear those songs I remember Halo 3.

BTW that version of Mr. Brightside is vastly superior to the original.


I used to have a lot of sleepovers with a friend that tended to involve many hours of playing video games, usually stuff like Rollercoaster Tycoon 3 and Lego Starwars, and usually trying to break them.

When I remember that time though, I remember that room, and those chairs, and the several times when we broke something bad enough in a game that we just laughed for five minutes straight—I really only remember one of those specifically, but I remember all the laughing.


Winter break after my first semester of college, I played through Super Mario 64. I also happened to be really into the new Sufjan Stevens album The Age of Adz, which released around that time. So I listened to the album end-to-end, on loop, while getting all 120 stars.

I’ve played through SM64 many other times. I’ve listened to that album many other times. And even still, there is this weird connection my brain makes when I listen to that album. If I close my eyes while listening to the track Vesuvius, I can perfectly Imagine myself sitting in my childhood bedroom— fresh off my first semester exams— lazily navigating Mario through the down town of Wet-Dry World.


There are a few titles - Bioshock, The World Ends With You, Zero Escape: VLR, and some more - that I associate with a period of time where I wrote some pretty bad reviews/opinion pieces on GameInformer’s ‘user blogs’ section. While I may not like a lot of the games from back then, they still make me feel all warm and fuzzy thinking about them these days.


i’ve also got a music one.

my girlfriend at the time was a big Radiohead fan and had burned me a mix of tracks she enjoyed. i was playing through Fallout 1 for the first time and while the soundtrack for that game is pretty good, i had this Radiohead mix on repeat for the multiple hour journey through the wasteland. a specific track that really stands out for me is idioteque:

the swelling of the synths on that sample is so evocative of making my way through an isometric, dark, abandoned vault. i think the fact that that song is also about the apocalyptic panic of climate change also really juxtaposed well with the game’s settings.


Around the time that I was first getting into music, I was also playing through a bunch of N64 games for the first time. One of these games was Donkey Kong 64, which if I were to remember that game for anything, it would be for how hard it is to 100% it (I still have not gotten 2 of the 200 golden bananas).

But while I was playing that game, I was super into System of a Down. Specifically, while I was playing that game I was listening to Mesmerize for the first time. So whenever I attempt to remember something from Donkey Kong 64, what immediately comes to mind is listening to “Radio/Video” while playing through the desert level as Chunky Kong. That also means that when I think of that album, I think of Donkey Kong 64.

I ended up doing this with other games as well. When I played through the Forest Haven section in Wind Waker, I was also listening to Steal This Album!, and I can’t hear songs from that album without thinking of that entire area.


I have a strong association between Adventures in Odyssey (a super Christian radio drama series for kids) and Sonic 3D Blast. My brothers and I would listen to episode after episode while trying to collect those dumb little birds.


I love this topic, when I think about it, there are so many experiences that I’ve had with games that were associated with outside experiences. One good one is OlliOlli for the PS Vita, a game I played for about four days so intensely that it messed up my thumb badly. I haven’t touched that game since April of 2015 because it actually injured me, but I’ll always associate it with my thumb being messed up for a year afterwards.


I can’t remember anything about Donkey Kong 64 other than that me and my siblings and my cousins were playing it in the top of the third story in our cabin (it was a very narrow cabin). My one cousin went to lean on the wall, forgot there was a huge, open window there, pushed the screen out of the window, and was head over heels out the window when I managed to catch his torso.

The screen landed on my aunt’s car and made a sizable dent. My cousin was fine.


I love all of these!

Since a lot of you are sharing musical connections, I thought I would too.

Final Fantasy Tactics is forever linked to Master P’s Ice Cream Man album. Going over to my friend’s house in high school in the summer and watching him endlessly grind Ramza through every job while “Time to Check My Crackhouse” looped repeatedly. Him shouting “AM I MY BROTHER’S KEEPER? YES, I AM!” before unleashing a devastating round of Flare with a perfectly choreographed army of Mimes and Calculators. I can’t think of one without the other popping into my head now. Which…is weird.


There’s a super underground PC game called Liero. It’s a direct-control super basic and kinda violent version of Worms.

It was the very last game I played with my younger brother right before I became a different person. I played this with right right to the very last minute when I was already late to take my moving-out-of-home flight. I was 19. I moved to the other side of the country and left my pre-teen brother to take care of himself. It would have been a long time until I would be back to visit, but I never had the chance to be around my brother during those formative years.

Now he holds some political and social views that I deeply, strongly, completely, viscerally disagree with, and I’m very torn about going to make my own life and not being around him to guide him in becoming a better person. I don’t regret going, but I regret not staying.

To this day, videogames are the only thing we can truly connect and bond over. The Switch has been a godsend to us. We’ve been playing a ton of Mario Kart and ARMS. We’re excited to try Monster Hunter later this year. We have fun, we laugh together, we don’t think of our disagreements.

But every time I get sad about my brother being the person that he is, I always go back to that moment when I actually left. We were playing Liero. I could have stayed.


The one evening I spent with my Mum’s best friend from work was spent sitting in the front room playing Super Mario Galaxy. She was a lovely American woman set to leave the UK soon so my Mum had invited her over. Apparently my Mum would often mention how enamoured I was with games so she seemed genuinely interested in what I was doing. She had brought over ingredients to cook American-Mexican food including home-made guacamole; this was the first time I had either.

Whenever I think of Super Mario Galaxy, it’s as the backdrop of that evening: trying American-Mexican food and talking to my mother’s friend for the only time (after years of stories my Mum would tell about her days at work with her).


This topic reminded me of one of, to my mind, the best pieces of writing on gaming and memories by Maggie Greene - Remembering Hearts


Every time I hear specific music I’m taken back to the games I was playing when I first heard them. Big ones for me are Outkast - B.O.B. - Romancing Saga 3(I think) in japanese on an emulator. Eminem Slim Shady LP - Vandal Hearts.


I’ve talked about FFIX being where my brother became my best friend, but when I started to replay it when it was released for Android I realized…it was really boring, and I remember so little about the game from that time, just my wonder at the graphical detail of the haircutting and my brother saying “you know how this has seven discs? You know how many the next one has? TWO!” but mostly eating boxes of Better Cheddars and making funny voices.

Also your piece was gorgeous and heartbreaking.


In the movie “Zathura” (Jumanji but space), they are playing the end of Jak 3. I remember this more vividly than the end of Jak 3, and is the only way I can remember the end of Jak 3. I cant think about one without the other.

Hot take: Jak & Daxter 1 is the only moderately tolerable one.


My son was diagnosed with celiac disease about two and a half years ago. His symptoms began with sudden, terrible belly pain at night, lasting for hours; a couple of ER visits didn’t help us figure out what was going on, and it improved for a couple of days and then worsened. We spent a couple of weeks being awake all night together, him in this awful pain and my wife and me taking turns trying to help. He watched me play a lot of Alto’s Adventure in those midnight-to-five stretches of uneasy waking and sleeping. It was the kind of game I cold dip in and out of quickly, and I found a lot of calm in the music and in the flow of a good run.

He’s healthy again and no longer terrified of going to bed; but when I tuck him in and spend a few minutes sitting in bed with him, I almost always think of that game. He likes to play it once in a while; it’s sort of hard for me to play, anymore.


I can’t play Bejeweled anymore, as it brings to mind the moments that my best friend decided he no longer wanted me in his life. I had been playing it nervously then, as we both sat in silence for about an hour before I really knew what was going on.

I used to find it relaxing.


I set up a second TV so I could have something on while playing (primarily it was for putting baseball on in the background). For some reason, I started streaming Phineas and Ferb while playing Sunset Overdrive. They were the perfect combo, and I pretty much streamed it whenever I was playing that game.

Now, whenever I come across Phineas and Ferb, I think of Sunset Overdrive.