As a little kid in the mid- to late ’80s, my world revolved around Cabbage Patch Kids, Cyndi Lauper, Family Ties and sticker albums. (So many unicorns!) But it was also the dawn of the post-Atari video game age, cemented by the release of the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Here are some of my favorite overlooked games of that era. Add your own!
2. Below The Root (Commodore 64)
I didn’t even realize til years later that this game was based on a book by one of my favorite authors as a kid, Zilpha Keatley Snyder (You maybe read The Egypt Game?). You were a character with various magic powers, one of which was reading minds, while you tried to make peace between the formerly warring factions of Green Sky, Erdling and Kindar, which was probably supposed to be some kind of Cold War parable. (Maybe?)
3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (Macintosh)
Based on Douglas Adams’ book, this was a text-based role-playing game that I used to play at my twin friends’ Jennifer and Jessica’s house. They had a Mac, which back then was kind of a big deal (their original selling price was $2,495 when they were released in 1984). I loved this game, probably because it was kind of like reading a book.
4. The Goonies II (NES)
Any good ’80s kid knew Goonies pretty much by heart. The Nintendo game based on the movie — you had to outwit Mama Fratelli and her sons to get to the treasure — used the Cyndi Lauper song “The Goonies R Good Enough” as its soundtrack (and if you have never watched the video, it is really worth it, even though now it seems a little… racist?).
5. Wizards & Warriors (NES)
A real B-list Castlevania — it wasn’t nearly as wonderfully creepy and goth — Wizards & Warriors was nonetheless a solid wizard-must-rescue-princess game.
6. Montezuma’s Revenge (Commodore 64)
Let us not dwell on the unfortunate title! Montezuma’s Revenge was a classic treasure-hunting game that took place in Aztec catacombs, and Panama Joe was the coolest dude in a pith helmet ever to jump across a computer monitor. (Although those brown piles he’s jumping over do resemble large stinking piles of poop.)
7. R.B.I. Baseball (NES)
This was one of the first games to use real players and teams (and their stats). So here we have Nolan Ryan going up against Don Mattingly, just like they would have in real life. Or you could have a best-of-seven series, or make the American and National leagues go head-to-head — which at the time, only happened in the post-season IRL.
8. Winter Games (NES)
Bobsled? Yes! Figure skating? Sure! Between this game and the actual 1988 Winter Games in Calgary, I became preeeeeeeetty sure that luge was a viable career option.
9. The Growing Pains Of Adrian Mole (Commodore 64)
In the course of my research for this post, I came across this game, and OMG WHY DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS AS A CHILD? I read all of the weird, wonderful Adrian Mole books, which were the (fictional) diaries of a pimply British teenager who does things like buy a girl a pound of grapes in the hopes that she’ll make out with him. According to Moby Games, the goal of the Adrian Mole game “is to make Adrian as popular as possible by making the correct choices so as to exert a positive impression on Mum, Dad, Pandora, Nigel, Bert and all the rest.” I want to play this immediately, and also forever.