Video games get a bad rap but I reckon they’re pretty awesome.
They can be a great way to pass the time, they can allow people to live out their violent fantasies without actually harming anyone, and they are constantly pushing the boundaries of technology and art. Sure, some people spend way too much time playing them but it just goes to show that you can overdo it with anything.
However, despite all this, I don’t actually play many video games. I break out Angry Birds every now and then, and I have one of those castle-building things that I check in on a bit too often, but as for those epic games that contain entire exciting worlds? Games that at one time would have seen you burned at the stake for suggesting such a thing would one day be possible?
The reasons are an odd mix of being a responsible adult and pure laziness. On one hand, there’s always plenty I should be doing instead of sitting around with a controller in my hand – all that wonderful stuff like paying bills and cleaning the house. But on the other hand, when I do just sit around – watching movies or TV appeals to me more than video games because it demands even less of my brain. Why try to figure out how to explore a vast world when David Attenborough can just show me one? Why struggle to conquer a powerful kingdom when I can watch Daenerys Stormborn doing the same thing?
Of course, it wasn’t always this way. As a younger fella I had a whole lot less stuff to do and I had limited access to quality entertainment (back then we still relied on video stores to bring us the latest movies). So I played games a lot. And every second was worth it. Every time you completed a game it was an ultimate demonstration of your skills and you immediately felt the respect and adoration of your peers for performing such a great feat.
Yeah ok … so what actually happened is you a had just enough time to quickly fist pump the air before you were crushed by your overwhelming loneliness. Few things are as depressing as spending countless hours trying to achieve something, and when you finally get there realising that no one was around to see it and no one in the world is going to care ever.
But perhaps, by blogging about my greatest achievements in this area I can somewhat legitimise them. Perhaps I can convince myself that the years spent playing every track on ‘Wave Racer’ seven hundred times weren’t a waste after all.
Well 14-year-old self … this one’s for you.
1. Gold on 150cc Special Cup – Mario Kart
Correct me if I’m wrong, but the later Mario Kart games are pretty damn easy (there are at least 8 of them now). Completing ‘Mario Kart 64’ was just a matter of being mildly competent at racing and hoping that you didn’t get hit with too many blue turtle shells, ‘Mario Kart DS’ was like taking your pet cake out for a walk (a “cake walk” if you will – see what I did there?), and I’m currently undefeated at the arcade version.
But the original Mario Kart for Super Nintendo? That shit was hard!
Once you got to highest difficulty level (150cc Special Cup) it was enough to make even your childhood bully break down and cry. You’d slip-slide all over the place, certain corners seemed impossible to manoeuvre without all seven computer characters over-taking you, and then there was this …
Rainbow mother-f***ing Road – a thin track with no guard rails, where you were guaranteed to come dead last if you fell off, and you were guaranteed to fall off at least once every race.
But dammit, I defied the odds and on one glorious day I came home with the gold … and by that I mean a giant flying fish gave the gift of a small trophy and vague disappointment.
2. Seeing the Real Ending of Donkey Kong Country 2
This was my favourite game at the time, and it was fairly challenging so I was pleased at myself for getting to the final boss and kicking his ass. The ending sequence was okay for the time, so I would have walked away happy, but one thing was still bugging me. Specifically, this dude …
Klubba promised to send you somewhere interesting if you gave him enough “Kremkoins”. Trouble was, those koins/coins were difficult to find and he wanted all of them.
So I cheated.
I suddenly had all the Kremkoins (which makes this seem like not much less of an achievement) but I still had to pass a bunch of levels in the “Lost World” designed to be crazy-difficult, and defeat a super-charged version of the final boss. After that I was rewarded with the real ending to the game, which was incredibly satisfying as far as SNES endings went, because the whole damn island – the one you’ve been exploring throughout the game – blows up and sinks into the ocean …
3. Collecting all 120 Stars on Mario 64
Mario’s first 3D adventure was a ground-breaking piece of genius, and not just because of that bit at the start where you could mess around with Mario’s face.
The game had you running around collecting stars, which wasn’t too hard really. To defeat Bowser you didn’t even have to get them all – just 70. But then you started hearing rumours about a special surprise if you got all 120. Rumour had it, you could unlock Luigi and play the game as him instead. And that’s where things got tricky. When just aiming for 70 you’d purposely skip stars that seemed too difficult, but without that option the game became a total time-sink as you drove yourself mad trying to figure out how to get the last few stars.
Unfortunately the Luigi rumour was a lie. But you did get to climb to the top of the castle and meet Yoshi, plus it opened up a cool glitch where you could fall through the walls – and for my teenage self that was reward enough.
4. Defeating the Final Boss in Zelda: Ocarina of Time
Ask a 90’s kid what the greatest video game of all time is, and there’s a good chance this will be their answer. It was one of the first convincing RPG’s that had a seemingly endless world to explore and a huge range of challenges.
Defeating the final boss of the game felt like a great weight off my shoulders because I’d been really stuck on it a number of times, and I didn’t want the damn thing to beat me. I think I once spent a whole month trying to figure out how to advance to the next stage, only to finally realise that the answer had been staring me in my big dumb face the whole time.
5. Passing all the Challenges in Perfect Dark
If you ask me, Perfect Dark was a revelation. It took everything that was great about ‘GoldenEye’ (which was plenty), got rid of all the Bond references, and made the rest twice as good. And while the story mode was decent, it was the huge variety of multiplayer modes that made it really special – and even better, these multiplayer levels were actually a hell of a lot of fun to play by yourself.
No, seriously. The best part of the game were the Challenges, where you had to run around the multiplayer levels facing off against computer simulants and doing various tasks like “capture the flag”. Some of the challenges were ridiculously difficult, making it probably the most genuine thrills I’ve ever got out of a video game. Few things get your heart-rate going like running around the halls of an abandoned research facility, knowing that at any second a tiny alien creature moving at half-light-speed could appear and pump a thousand laser rounds into you before you even hit the ground.
So when I finally passed that last level and saw a little star next to each challenge number, it was one of the greatest moments of my gaming career. Though it obviously didn’t last long (see “crushing loneliness” above).
But what about you, dear reader? Do you have any achievements you’d like to get some overdue praise for? Or do you still love video games and it saddens you to hear me say “I’m over it”? Well maybe you can change my mind … give it a shot!