The XBLA Fans staff looks back on our gaming memories

OK, so we can relate to the N64 kid. The most obvious thing we at XBLA Fans have in common with him is this: we love video games. However, because our team ranges in location and age, we all have our own unique stories. Since it seems like everyone’s nostalgia bone loves to be tickled every now and then, we decided to take a look at some of our staff’s best gaming memories. Whether their first console was an Atari or an N64, it’s been chronicled here in this brief history of our gaming pasts. Join us as we relive some of our fondest childhood — and adulthood, in some cases! — memories.

Once you’ve read about us, hop into the comments and share some of your own favorite gaming memories!

My earliest memory, is me sitting with my teddy bear playing Super Mario Bros. The NES was my first console. You could nearly always find me glued to the TV playing games like Mike Tyson’s Punch Out (Mr. Dream just didn’t do it for me), Karate Kid, Double Dribble basketball, just to name a few. In fact, one of my best memories was watching my mom beat Super Mario Bros. 3. I soon beat it, because I couldn’t let my mom beat the game without me beating it too! On the other side, my dad and I would play NES Play Action Football  and WWF Wrestlemania constantly. Later in my lifetime I found out he was letting me win. Not cool, dad.

My family would continue to be a big part of my gaming through the years. I owned both a Sega and Super Nintendo. My dad and I would once again play sports games, primarily the EA Sports franchises NHL and Madden. While I did have my moments with Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (Beat 17 seconds on the Emerald Hill Zone, I dare you) Super Nintendo was my single player console. While I enjoyed the Mario games and Donkey Kong, Super Nintendo introduced me to Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. After beating the game, I went back to play Adventure of Link and Legend of Zelda on the NES, which produced some of the most frustrating gaming moments of my young life. I also owned the big gray Game Boy for the longest time, before I finally saved up enough money to buy a Game Boy Color. I was that kid with his friend in the back of the bus playing Pokemon and battling/trading with link cables.

Link Cables (Insert Zelda joke here)

As I grew older, I went through many other phases of gaming. While I played the N64 and eventually the PlayStation, I was primarily a PC gamer. Quake and Duke Nukem, and the original Call of Duty for hours and hours until I eventually was kicked off the computer. A friend and I got to the point where in one map in Quake, we would memorize the spawns and be ready for the complaining in the chat (if it was any of our dear readers in the Heat.net lobbies, I apologize). Later in my PC gaming days, I also played Ultima Online and Diablo 2

Eventually my Xbox 360 peers convinced me to buy the console, and I was not disappointed. While I continued to purchase most sports games, I also was introduced to a large amount of other quality games, Gears of War being my first 360 game. I’ve spent countless hours with the Call of Duty and Battlefield franchises, but they were not my favorite games. Fable and Mass Effect take the cake, with Burnout Paradise finishing as a runner up.

While I’m on my own now, gaming played a large role in my childhood. Whether it acted as a babysitter or it was bonding time, I really cherish the memories that I shared with different family members playing video games. Here’s a look at some of our other staff member’s memories.

Nick Santangelo

I don’t remember the first hockey game my father took me to. I don’t remember the first vacation the family took me on. And I don’t remember my first day of kindergarten. But Christmas morning of what I believe to have been 1986 or 1987? Now that, I remember. My parents tell me that I begged them to death for the ugly gray rectangle they — sorry, Santa Claus — had placed under the tree the night before. Though I don’t actually remember ever asking for an NES, I was a fool if I did not. The precise number of hours that were dedicated to Super Mario Bros., Duck Hunt and Track & Field have been lost to history, but the bond between a young boy and video games has only grown stronger over the ensuing decades.

Note: The impossible world record time in Track and Field

After several years of enjoying classics like The Legend of Zelda, Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest, Dragon Warrior and Super Mario Bros. 3, it was time to move onto the Super Nintendo and get into senseless Nintendo vs. Sega arguments. Of course, they were both fantastic systems in reality, and kids on both sides of the fence secretly yearned to play the other camp’s games. In any case, the bickering fizzled out over the years and my attention turned towards something that truly blew my mind: I walked into a Blockbuster in late 1996 and my jaw hit the floor. It couldn’t possibly be him — he never looked or moved like this before. Oh, but it was Mario all right, and it was magical. A few months later, my 13-year-old heart practically exploded with excitement when I opened up the N64 under the tree. Sadly, it nearly exploded with disappointment seconds later when my mother responded to “Where’s Super Mario 64?” with “It doesn’t come with the system?”

 

I’ve owned all the Nintendo consoles over the years, but branched out with the PlayStation 2 last generation and picked up all three consoles at launch this time around. Being a big fan of Rare’s games, I purchased an Xbox 360 mostly to continue playing them. That…didn’t go so well. However, I picked up Halo: Combat Evolved and Halo 2 about a month or so after launch and was hooked. I tried to “Finish the Fight” less than a year later, but Microsoft went ahead and kept on releasing Halo games — not that I’m complaining, of course. These days the Xbox is my favorite console, but I occasionally boot up the PS3, Wii or 3DS, and I even built a PC (read: I ordered pizza while my buddy put together all the parts I bought) for the first time this past summer. Now, if you’ll excuse me, Halo 4 is calling my name.

 

Matthew Smail

I became a fan of gaming and of computers in general through a mixture of luck and curiosity. Back when I was about six or seven, an uncle I had barely met (and am now estranged from) saw fit to hand me one of three 128k ZX Spectrums that had been sitting in the spare room. Although he sadly died when I was nine, I remember my dad being curious about anything having to do with electronics, computers, cars and anything else with a similar theme; so looking back it’s not surprising that after maybe two or three months gathering dust, he broke out the Spectrum and I took my first steps to becoming a gamer.

The 128k ZX Spectrum

Dad and I had always played chess together before then, but once the Spectrum was hooked up, we played together against the computer instead. What followed was a slowly expanding collection of games which I could play either with friends or when I was alone. I loved titles like HeroQuest, River Raid and the various Dizzy games, which is probably why I now love shooters, RPGs and point and click adventures when I think about it. After dad’s death in 1992, I continued to nag mum to pick up consoles once they dropped into a reasonable price bracket (usually one generation behind) and over the years I’ve owned all of the mainstream consoles – as well as some of the rarer ones — at some time or another.

Although thinking about how I got into gaming brings back a lot of bittersweet memories for me, I’m glad my dad hooked up that Spectrum and got me involved in gaming and computers when he did. Today I have a fairly successful job in the IT industry and I think my dad would be very proud of what I have achieved. To think that both a lifelong hobby and a career could be sparked by the most basic of tape-loading consoles is wonderful to me, and I have a lot to thank that little old Spectrum for!

Ben Fisher

Commodore 64: The Personal Computer with Professional Power!

 

I have been a video game enthusiast since the Commodore 64. I remember my first love for games was with the game Zork!, and I even owned an Amiga. Since then I have purchased all major gaming systems, and I am the proud owner of an XBL account that is as old as Xbox Live from the original Xbox days. I personally love strategy, RPG and TD-styled of games.

Christine Mitchell

I was introduced to the wonderful world of video games after my dad saw me playing board games with my teddy bears (I’m an only child!). He obviously felt it was less weird to play video games on my own, so the next Christmas I was presented with this fancy new device known as the ZX Spectrum. It took about five minutes to load games from a cassette and nine times out of 10 it failed, so you had to rewind the tape and hope for the best. It even came with a programming manual so you could spend hours coding a dot to run across the screen. It was great. But despite some good times with Horrace goes Skiing, Sabre Wulf and Back 2 Skool the Speccy died (or perhaps it was my patience), and I moved on to the Sega Master System that came with highly sophisticated cartridges that you just blew on if they stopped working. The console itself came with a light gun and Safari Hunt and Hang On built in.

From there I progressed on to the Sega Mega Drive and then switched my loyalty to Sony with the PSOne and PS2, and I fell in love with the Final Fantasy games. By this time I was expected to buy my own consoles, and I felt the PS3 was too expensive, so I spent some time with the DS and the Wii while waiting on a price drop. Then it was announced that Final Fantasy XIII was coming to the Xbox 360, so I crossed over to the dark side and have been a Microsoft girl ever since. I still haven’t bought FF XIII.

Steve Melton

I think I’ll go Ben’s route and keep things rather brief (normally I’m a bit long-winded). My first gaming memories were of our Commodore 64 and games of Radar Rat Race. I really got hooked when our family got a Nintendo for Christmas in ’85. That baby went through a lot as my brothers (now much calmer) would get frustrated with Contra and throw their controller. Often the NES fell off the shelf, and we performed surgery on it once or twice. Since then my tastes have evolved from 2D platformers and shooters. Now my favorite genres are racing and shooters. I tend to be a franchise fan, though, as I love games like Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and Halo. Right now I’ve found renewed love for Burnout Paradise, the crown jewel on the greatest racing/destruction series of my lifetime.

Radar Rat Race

Andrew Crews

My first ever gaming console was the Atari Pong. It had a switch on it which swapped four different game modes and it either took C or D batteries (I forget which) to run. I used to play it on an old black and white TV in our basement as a kid until my gaming world took a turn to the NES and a brand new color TV for my very own bedroom. After that it was game over for me. I’ve owned most of the major consoles to date but not too many handhelds. I’ve always been super competitive and XBLA has allowed me to take that competitive spirit to a worldwide competition, whereas I used to just try to be the best on local arcade machines. Asteroids was always my game of choice as a kid, but these days I tend to play Poker Smash and Geometry Wars to relax. I still love and prefer old score-based retro style games over most titles these days, but I’m open to trying most games as long as they are fairly priced and less than 10 hours long. That’s why XBLA has been the perfect platform for me, and that’s why I have spent nearly my entire Xbox 360 experience with those games. No knock on Skyrim but I’d rather complete 10 XBLA games in the time it takes to complete Skyrim once.

Chris Leggett

To say I was raised by consoles is perhaps unfair to my parents, but there’s a certain degree of truth to that statement. Perhaps it’s fairer to say that, because of my gaming obsession, I was an easy kid to raise: I required little attention, and my parents didn’t have to worry about their son getting into trouble.

My first console was a little-known contraption called the “Kingsway.” It was essentially an Atari 2600 knock-off with 64 built-in games (including the likes of Pitfall and Frogger). From there, I grew up with the NES, Game Boy, Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis as it’s known here in the US), Sony PlayStation, Xbox and now the Xbox 360.

Gaming’s easily been my most obsessive hobby throughout my entire life. In fact, I remember, being a young child and regularly waiting out in front of the local takeaway store for its morning opening. At 9:00 am I’d beat the staff to the power outlet, so I could switch on their arcade cabinets: Double DragonBubble BobbleWonderboy in MonsterlandStreet Fighter II and more. By 10:00 am I’d have blown my allowance and would spend a good portion of the day watching and learning from other players.

One of my favorite things about XBLA is that it’s allowed me to recollect and relive all of the aforementioned games and, to some extent, my childhood.

About Justin Mellor

Justin is a writer for XBLAFans.com. By day, he is a Communications Specialist for a Pro Audio and Lighting business in the Pittsburgh area and co-hosts a sports talk show once a week. By night he is a person who sleeps, and writes about his favorite XBLA games. Twitter @ItsJustinMellor GT: Ste11ar