What’s a Game That You Heard About As a Kid, But Didn’t Play Until Later?


#1

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In a fantastic thread started by Colin Spacetwinks over on twitter, a question that short-circuited my nostalgia brain was posed: essentially, was there ever a game you saw in magazines or in a store as a kid that piqued your imagination and curiosity? But you never played it until much, much later in life, or perhaps, you never played it, so it exists somewhere in between memory and imagination?

And just like that, I was transported to a late evening in 1998. I bought a Tips and Tricks Magazine, which was a monthly edition of walkthroughs and FAQs for games, ostensibly so I could 100% Yoshi’s Story. But that night, on a vacation with my family, sitting up by a light in the bathroom in a hotel room, I read through the entire walkthrough for Resident Evil 2 (on the Playstation, a system I didn’t have). It was a walkthrough, without much flavor text, but the screens and the layout—and the basic descriptions of the action—were more than enough for my 14-year-old brain to enjoy an evening of freaky horror.

I’ve still never played that game, outside of maybe the first five minutes a few years later, on a friend’s console.

Similarly, I recall a walkthrough of Hexen 64 in a late 90s issue of Nintendo Power that I obsessed over, learning the layout of the stages, knowing what each enemy looked like and fought like. I even had preferences for lighting and textures.

But I’ve never played Hexen 64.

This wasn’t rare for me. I had a very lucky, comfortable childhood, but video games were expensive, and they were the realm of Christmas or birthday gifts. Maybe something I’d save up for months to buy. Maybe, something I’d rent, but that wasn’t a common occurrence. So, buying gaming magazines was how I’d get my fix, and I’d pour over every screenshot and hang on every word, for games on systems I didn’t own, that my friends didn’t even own, that I’d probably never play.

Sometimes, I’d even buy full game guides—the kind that Prima Games made—or read through them for hours in a bookstore. I grabbed the guide for Resident Evil 0 on the cheap once, and loved reading about the action. That one, I actually did play later on, but it was over a decade on.

It was just a treat to have that much information about a game—and the world of that game. It always felt like holding the treasure map to some ancient, profound secret. It didn’t matter that I never had the intended experience. I had a pretty great one.

It’s easy, in most cases, to see a game in motion now.

I fear this particular phenomenon—the discovery by book or magazine—may be a little more rare now. It’s easier to get information about a game, or to watch walkthroughs or lets plays or speedruns. It’s easy, in most cases, to see a game in motion now.

That certainly doesn’t discount the deep dive into a wiki rabbit hole (and thank god for that), or the other genuine pleasure of this era: the rare, awesome lore video that actually explains the world-building and relationships and context of a given piece of media.

If you grew up at all pre-internet (or pre-internet being as ubiquitous as it is now), it’s a safe bet you have one of these stories. So, dear reader, what’s a game you saw in a magazine as a kid, (and always imagined…) and never played it until far later on? Let us know on the forum!


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/kzkbav/magazine-games-resident-evil

#2

I grew up very comfortably middle class, so I’m not going to act like I was deprived of anything. But new video games were a thing to be prized in my house, and I only got four at most per year (one for Christmas, one for b-day, and one for each semester that I brought home straight As). So mostly my purchases were sure-fire Nintendo first party releases such as Star Fox and Mario Kart, along with licensed Disney games like The Lion King. Rentals were a thing but I just used that to keep renting the Ninja Turtles arcade port and various sports games. Needless to say, I missed out on a whole lot during that time. Super Metroid? Too scary. Various Final Fantasies? I had no idea how they worked. And Sega stuff? I assumed I would never get to play those.

I eventually got caught up in middle school when my older cousin showed me how to download an emulator and ROMs. From there I was off to the races, playing basically everything of note in the 8 and 16-bit cannons. I’ve still got my blindspots, but that one summer when I had nothing but time and what felt like every game ever made was truly magical. Unethical, but magical. My 11-year-old self would be fuming at my 31-year-old ass that has all the consoles and all the games and yet I play fucking Fortnite and Overwatch almost exclusively.


#3

I had this exact experience with pre-Mega Man X games in the Mega Man series. I grew up in a Nintendo household, so I had requested and received a Nintendo Power subscription. Periodically, Nintendo Power would run features where people submitted their drawings of new Mega Man bosses with names and descriptions of powers. I devoured these sections and imagined the fantastical world where these bosses would fit in. While I played Mega Man X2 at the tail end of the SNES’s lifespan, I didn’t actually play any of the NES Mega Man games until college. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the actual bosses and levels in those games never lived up to what I thought Mega Man was supposed to be like.


#4

Smash was a big one. I went from a SNES to a PS2, so I missed a LOT of games. A ton of my friends talked and played both the original and Melee. I didn’t get to play the original until I was in college unfortunately.

Republic Commando as well. I watched a friend play, but I ended up not getting to play it until last year when I finally bought it on Steam.


#5

We never owned consoles, so there’s a lot of “Wow! How have you not?!” series of games I never touched.

Zelda. Final Fantasy. Metal Gear. Metroid. Castlevania. Sonic.

For birthdays, we’d often rent a N64, or Genesis before that, and a game or two. Short-form stuff to play at a party. Mario Kart, Goldeneye, Perfect Dark. Nothing long-form. Nothing you couldn’t enjoy in a few hours.

My entry to games was made on a fairly weak family PC, which struggled to run Half Life, and mods, like Counter Strike. 10+ minute loading screens for a section in the training levels, because internet lines couldn’t be tied up for that long yet. What ran was Warcraft 2. Then Starcraft. Eventually Diablo 2, and so on.

Years back, when Steam ports of Final Fantasy, and Metal Gear 5, started showing up, and finally this year, getting my first Nintendo console in the Switch, I dipped my toes in. Breath of the Wild wasn’t around as a kid, but it was my first Zelda. This is nothing like Darksiders, what were people talking about? Oh. It’s also nothing like Zelda. I liked Metal Gear, but not for reasons I thought I would. The story felt like cliche garbage. The characters were cartoonish, lacking entirely in subtlety, if not motivation. It was fun to play though. Charming.

Final Fantasy 7 was interesting. I saw Advent Children in a 3D animation class in 2005/2006, and was vaguely familiar with some of the characters, but none of the context. I got to the brothel quests, and stopped. Maybe it just hadn’t aged well. A year or two passed, and I’d try again. I got to a military parade, much further in the game, and stopped. Maybe it’s just not my thing. It had been raved about as one of the best things ever, and I just felt like I was playing mediocre-bad minigames for unclear reasons, with tone all over the place, and I knew the future emotional surprises. I just couldn’t make myself care enough to sit through the rest of it. (I am excited for the remake, I’m the monster that is being made for. Maybe this time I’ll get why everybody loved it.)


#6

To lift my responce to Colin Spacetwinks’ original tweet: I RELIGIOUSLY read a text-only walkthrough of Shadow the Hedgehog in one of those little Gamesmaster Cheats Handbooks. Took up half the booklet.

I vaguely remember the impression I got of it from that walkthrough was a much more muted thing. I wouldn’t have called it such at the time because I must have been about 8 at the time, but the game I imagine Shadow the Hedgehog to be based on descriptions had a very Noir feel to it. The plot sounded like it had a lot more Brooding than it actually did, and the locations often come across as quite grim. Didn’t get to play Shadow until quite a bit later, so good thing it turned out to be the pinnacle of the Sonic the Hedgehog franchise or I might have been somewhat disapointed.


#7

Just about… all of them.

Warning: Discussion of abuse

I grew up not only poor but in an abusive household, so all of my interests were subject to ridicule at best, destruction of the items and injury of myself at worst. This was on my paternal side, with a complete reversal on my maternal side of my family.

When my siblings and I were at my grandmother’s house, she taught us to love video games and she and my mother recognized the safety games gave us. My grandmother played her NES for a few hours a day, exploring Hyrule and the Mushroom Kingdom with us. My mom, working retail, managed to get the last N64 in a busy holiday season. We could only afford a few games for each system, but were given a number of games by older family friends as they got rid of old systems and games.

We loved all of those games and played them through endless times, but on entering the age where trendiness becomes important, we weren’t able to keep up. I didn’t have the latest console, and no way to get one. I didn’t have games that launched at a price meant for my whole year of clothes for school. We only had one computer for five people to share, so PC games were out of the question. These were socially strained times, and I just stopped caring about games. Avoiding the problem seemed like the best solution. I ended up getting my own computer eventually and took small steps towards trying new games.

Playing catch up wasn’t totally feasible, but I was able to play a couple games I had heard about but lacked context for. Many recent games are my first point of entry for the whole series, if not whole genres of games entirely. Civ 5 was my first Civ game, and I loved it. It remains video game comfort food. Watching my boyfriend play The Witcher 3 enchanted me so much that I thought I could give a more “intense” game a try, one with fighting and action that I wasn’t used to. Fallout 4 is my first (and currently only, sorry New Vegas, I’ll get to you) Fallout game, Stellaris is my first Paradox game, I’ve never played a playstation or xbox game.

The weird thing about catching up is that technology progresses faster than you can play the games, so I never played Mass Effect. I have the games downloaded. I tried them. But the gameplay and graphics are so far below what I got used to playing current games that I couldn’t get through more than an hour of gameplay. I take suggestions from time to time for games I missed out on, but so many good games are coming out that it’s hard to tell where I should put my time. I think the second hand experience of hearing about them online and seeing the impact certain games make is enough in some places.


#8

So for a long time as a teen I had the FFXI strategy guide/handbook. This thing was detailed and enormous. I had watched my cousin play it a little the year it came out and then bought the guide. I loved pouring over the monsters, magic, environments, and especially the different jobs. I think the coolest thing I found in it as a kid was the Dark Knight and how its sword had to kill a certain amount to upgrade.

So that was in 2002, and I think in 2008 or so when I was having my usual “Is WoW fun?” crisis I found a complete collection of FFXI and its expansions for super cheap and just dove in. I loved it as much as I thought I would although understandably it was hard to get into right away with the knowledge I had from a first edition, no expansion guide. I played it for a few years and actually was incredibly willing to beta test FFXIV 1.0. I now on and off play the newer FFXIV but I don’t think anything can compare to that sense of wonder I felt as I read all about FFXI.


#9

I didn’t get my first console until grade 9 (around 2002). In grade 8 I remember seeing TV ads for Wind Waker, XIII, Killer 7 and Beyond Good & Evil, which made me want a console. Before I had enough saved for a GameCube I saw ads for GTAIII and Max Payne, so I changed my mind and I got a PS2 just in time for Vice City.

In University I saw brand new copies of BG&E show up in my local retailer for $10. I had always heard good things and my PS3 could play PS2 games so I picked it up and finally played it. I don’t like it. I’m not sure what everybody saw in it. I assumed it didn’t age well. The HD remake came out a few years later and lots of people who hadn’t played it the first time around were experiencing it. They seemed to like it more than I did.

I still haven’t played Wind Waker, XIII or Killer 7. I haven’t liked any of the Zelda games that I have played, and XIII and Killer 7 are not readily available on modern consoles.


#10

As a kid I had an issue of some gaming magazine (possibly EGM?) with guides for SaGa Frontier 2 AND Dragon Quest Monsters 2 in it, complete with pictures and artwork. I became obsessed with all the monsters and magic and with SaGa, the huge possibilities implied by all the different endings, and invented entire massive games in my mind to fit around those details. I had extremely limited funds for games as a kid and only had an iMac and a Gameboy until we got a Gamecube in 2003, so outside of whatever I played at friends’ houses I missed anything made before that point until later when I discovered emulators and had money to buy used games.

I later tried to play DQ Monsters 2 on an emulator and bounced off it pretty hard, it just couldn’t live up to the impossible standards of my young imagination. My girlfriend loves those games though and wants us to play through them together, so maybe I’ll end up giving it another shot.

I never did play SaGa Frontier 2 though, due to not having access to something that could run a PSX emulator until recently, and not wanting to shell out the money to get an actual disc on ebay to play via ps2/3. I imagine that it would have similarly failed to live up to my imagination’s impossible standards.


#11

Growing up my brother and I had a Sega Genesis then an N64, a PlayStation, a Dreamcast and an Xbox. We also had a PC in the house where I played Lode Runner, the Incredible Machine, King’s Quest VI and a couple Lucas Arts point and click adventure games. Eventually through some friends I discovered the absolute joy of Warcrafy II and Starcraft but I remember a few friends going on and on about Baldur’s Gate. I never got the game as a kid and had aimited taste of it when we tried to LAN the second game one night in our very early 20s. I finally played through while game last year and loved it so much I picked up the Dragonspear expansion. It lived up to the reputation it earned over the years spendidly. I did try to immediately jump into the second game but I think I had fatigued myself on cRPGs so I set it aside, for now.


#12

When I was in elementary school I saw a copy of Ikaruga at a Gamestop. I don’t think I even knew what it was, it just looked cool as hell. One of my first internet usage, was going to an the official website and being even more confused. I saved up my allowance for weeks, and at the last moment I bought so Pokemon cards instead. I haven’t seen a copy of Ikaurga since then.

Around a decade later, It came out on Steam. Never got to play the 360 version, so this was my chance. By then I knew what the game was and the cult around it. I’ve seen the superplays. And its was… fine. I just didn’t gel with the memorization. I tried to like it, there are just better shmups for me. I bet younger me would’ve liked it regardless.


#13

I went to a day camp, and whenever it was too stormy to go outside we’d stay in and play games. The younger kids would get some time on the game systems (an old SNES, even though it was a year before the GameCube) but they were usually in use by the older kids. They played, and raved, over Earthbound. I didn’t really hang with them and couldn’t read that well back then so I didn’t really get it. I wouldn’t play it until much later, when I had a Wii U in grad school.


#14

I remember going to Toys R Us every few weeks in the spring of 2002, during the about five month span between the GameCube’s launch and my obtaining one on my seventh birthday, and practically salivating over those early GameCube games. I built up a desired library in my mind, far too large to expect my parents to actually get me alongside the console. In the end, I received, I think, 3 games with the console - Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3, SSX Tricky, and All-Star Baseball 2002. Two of those games are excellent, and one of those games is a mediocre baseball sim.

Anyway, I had a fascination with Wave Race: Blue Storm, partially because the name and the game’s case seemed so mysterious and cool to my young mind, it took me a while to understand what the game was even about, and I don’t even think I had conceptualized what a Jet-Ski was by that point. All these unknowns pushed the game forward in my mind and they stayed there for about ten years, when I eventually found a cheap copy of the game.

It’s a perfectly fine Jet-Ski racing game, but I kind of miss thinking of it as this mysterious forbidden fruit


#15

I don’t know exactly how the rules work here in terms of talking about emulation in the past, but there was a time long ago where I played many of the obscure NES and SNES games I never had the chance to growing up. Not something I do anymore, and haven’t in over a decade.

Anyway, I remember hearing tons about REZ growing up. I don’t remember why I never got it, if it was because I knew it was short and couldn’t justify spending the money or if I actually just couldn’t find it, but I was excited when it finally got its XBLA release. I liked it, although after years of hype it wasn’t quite the transcendental experience I was hoping for. Very neat and beautiful, but just not the whole mind experience I was hoping for.


#16

I was a stubborn-ass Sega kid, so anything on the SNES/PS1 fits that bill for me (yes, I stuck blindly by my Saturn for as long as humanly possible until I caved and got an N64. PS1 remains the last major home console I never had). I was pretty much JRPG-less until FFX. The two that stick out are Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy VII, both of which I tried to play much later and was pretty ‘meh’ about. Never finished either one.

It’s funny, I think most people who are excited about the FF7 remake are anxious to re-capture some of the their fond memories, but I just want it so I can finally experience that game in a way that doesn’t make my eyes hurt.


#17

Quest 64. My neighbor was just about done with it so I asked if I could borrow the strategy guide to read up before he lent it to me. I ended up reading the entire strategy guide a few times before half-heartedly trying to play it and then getting distracted by better games. I never did end up finishing it.


#18

I actually had a super similar experience with Tips & Tricks, multiple times. It was the only games magazine I had a subscription to, so I would read the walkthroughs for games I didn’t own religiously, and in some of the earlier issues I had I would go through and read the cheats section as well. I still vaguely remember some of them, like some Spider game for the Playstation having arcane level warps.


#19

I played Resident Evil 4 in 2016 after having seen it played in an EB Games at the tender age of 10. That demo still terrifies me for some reason, it’s etched into my brain and probably linked to my discomfort with crowds.

Turns out that game whips ass. Almost timeless design.


#20

I always saw ads for the OG Ratchet and Clank Trilogy for PS2 as a kid but I never ended up playing them. Which was weird because my cartoon obsessed brain should have instantly gravitated towards this series. My jam instead were the Sly Cooper and Kingdom Hearts series. I picked up Ratchet and Clank later when it got remastered for PS3 and even though some stuff felt dated (also the first Ratchet was stupid hard at some points right?) I found that the trilogy (mostly) still holds up today.