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Old-School Games That Today's Gamers Won't Understand

We live in a whole new world now when it comes to video games. There are game consoles with hard drives and internet connectivity. We can just download what we want from online shops, foregoing the long lines at GameStop. Developers and publishers have a bead on what's popular and what's not. There aren't a whole lot of risks taken anymore. There aren't as many games with that "wacky" factor showing up.


Basically, today's gamers are largely insulated from all of the nonsense we had to deal with in decades past.

Below, we're taking a close look at some strange old games. They're the kind of games that won't make sense to the younger generations. The kind that the Fortnite crowd will have a very hard time relating to, as they represent very specific moments in time. In those moments, someone pitched an idea, and someone with some power said, "That sounds amazing. Let's make it." If those same ideas were pitched again today, the person pitching them probably wouldn't have a job in video games anymore.

So let's journey back to the '80s and '90s, when video games tried new things and got weird. And lets appreciate what we have today. It's largely thanks to these titles that don't make much sense anymore.


These are old-school games that today's gamers won't understand.

GoldenEye 007 had one hand tied behind its back

We can still hear the theme music now, decades after GoldenEye 007 released. It was the pinnacle console shooter of its time, giving everyone a reason to want a Nintendo 64. Everyone who played it remembers the multiplayer mode and packing in around a small TV, desperately trying to watch their little corner of the screen. And who could forget Natalya? The female lead in GoldenEye the movie also had a role in GoldenEye the game and gave us one of the most infuriating escort missions ever created.


Today's market would have a very hard time picking GoldenEye 007 up — even those who are good at first-person shooters. And it has everything to do with the game's control scheme.

The most unfortunate thing about the Nintendo 64 wasn't its incredibly small library. It was the fact that Nintendo designed a controller with only one analog stick. And that lone analog stick had to do a lot of work as a result. Instead of being able to move with one stick and look around with another, players had to hold down a shoulder button and then use the analog stick to move their sight — while standing perfectly still. It worked at the time because it had to. But these days? A shooter with that setup just wouldn't cut it. Those who love Fortnite would toss the game in the garbage after their first death.


We appreciated you back then, GoldenEye 007. But today's gamers most likely wouldn't.

Yo! Noid is the stuff of nightmares -- and pizza

Do you see that character above? He's called the Noid. Is he creepy? Heck yes he is. He looks like he belongs in a horror movie of some kind. You would replace someone's elf-on-a-shelf with a Noid if you really wanted to creep them out. He's the stuff of nightmares, which is why no one in their right mind would put him in a video game, right? Kids play video games. The Noid should absolutely, under no circumstances, ever be in a video game.


Except he was. And he wasn't just a video game character by the way — he was the mascot of Domino's Pizza in the late '80s.

Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. Some genius in marketing at Domino's Pizza thought that the Noid would not be the source of many sleepless nights, but would instead help sell pizzas. And when commercials weren't enough, Domino's teamed up with Capcom to create Yo! Noid, an entire video game starring the Noid as the good guy against a bunch of slime creatures that were taking over his city. It might be the first time in history that people rooted for the slime creatures to win. "Take us, slime creatures! We surrender our souls! Just please get rid of the Noid."


There's a decent chance that today's gamers have no idea who the Noid is, and as a result, wouldn't get why this game exists at all. They're incredibly lucky.

Shaq-Fu to you, too

Long before he was using ice to dull the pain and hot to relax it away for hours, and long before he was slinging Ring doorbells to the masses, Shaquille O'Neal was a professional basketball player in the NBA. He had a long and storied career, but in the '90s, he was an incredibly hot ticket in entertainment. He starred in the movie Kazaam as a genie, a role that won him no other roles ever again. And he also got his own video game: a basketball title, which fit perfectly, because basketball is Shaq's best quality.


Just kidding! It wasn't a basketball game. It was a fighting game called Shaq-Fu, because giving a basketball player a fighting game made all the sense in the world to someone.

Gamers today might think it absolutely bonkers that Shaq had a fighter with his name on it. But it wasn't the only game of its kind at the time. Michael Jordan got a side-scrolling beat-em-up called Michael Jordan: Chaos in the Windy City. It seems developers just wanted to put basketball players in games that weren't about basketball, and that's something we don't see a lot of today.

Fortunately that trend seems to have died off. Someone did crowdfund and ultimately releaseShaq-Fu 2, but it was largely ignored. And for good reason.


Zork's graphics are in your imagination

Today's video games are just as much about graphical fidelity as they are about the underlying content. Sites like Digital Foundry are famous for their intensive breakdowns of graphical performance in games. They put different platform versions side by side, zooming in to find the slightest frame tear before ultimately rendering a judgment on its worthiness. Graphics are important today. People have gotta have their 4K, or their 60 frames per second, or both.


If you're one of those gamers, wow would you have ever hated Zork.

Zork was a text-based adventure game, and if you've grown up in the last two or three console generations, you probably have no idea what that even means. Let's just say that a text adventure game is LeVar Burton's dream come true. The game is presented entirely in text, which means you have to read. A lot. You take actions in the game by typing your commands out, again in text. And to give you an idea of what Zork had to brag about when compared to today's games, consider this: Zork is, according to Wikipedia, held in high regard for "the sophistication of its text parser."

If you're not a big reader and you prefer the fast-paced action of today's titles, hearing about a text parser is likely the video game equivalent of being tranquilized. And in that case, Zork is definitely not for you.


Seaman is somehow worse than it sounds

The Sega Dreamcast wasn't around for very long, but hoo boy, did that system have some weird games. We'll just say this: the original Shenmue had you driving a forklift around at a part-time job so you could afford the coin to buy hot dogs at food carts.


But Shenmue wasn't even the weirdest game on the Dreamcast — not by a longshot. Instead, that honor belongs to Seaman, the game starring a twisted half-man, half-fish hybrid that you definitely wouldn't understand if you didn't own a Tamagotchi.

Seaman was, for all intents and purposes, a virtual pet experience. The Seaman itself grew out of an egg and, over time, turned into a fish with a human face. You didn't necessarily play the game so much as check on your Seaman. You turned the console on. You booted the game up. You made sure your Seaman was fed. You kept your Seaman company. You could even communicate with your Seaman via a microphone accessory for the Dreamcast. All of that, and your Seaman would still insult you, or worse — posit about life.


It was definitely a bizarre title. And Leonard Nimoy, of all people, lent his voice to the title, serving as its narrator. There was definitely a time and a place for a game like Seaman. And today is no longer it.

Mario Paint was painting for consoles

If you're young and proficient with a computer, and someone asks you to edit an image, you might laugh out loud at the thought of using Microsoft Paint. Paint? That program is for newbs! You can't even add layers. But travel back in time a few decades, and Photoshop wasn't as widespread. Microsoft Paint was all anyone had on their IBM PCs with system memory that numbered in the megabytes. Travel back even further, and some people didn't have a PC at all.


For some people, Mario Paint was the first interaction they ever had with an image editing program and a mouse. And you can likely understand how that might blow the minds of today's gamers.

Mario Paint, in that regard, wasn't really a game at all. It was a creation tool. You could create pictures using Mario Paint and show them off to your friends and family. But that wasn't the extent of what the software was capable of. Mario Paint also let you compose music tracks using various sound samples to string together your own little ditty. You know that sound Yoshi makes when Mario jumps on his back? That was one of the sounds you could create song with in Mario Paint. You could create an entire song with nothing but Yoshi sounds in it. It was either amazing or annoying or both.


These days, there are apps for that. But for those who only had a Super Nintendo, Mario Paint was it.

Typing of the Dead was a typing arcade game. Really.

And hey, while we're on the subject of personal computers: how are your typing skills? How many words per minute can you bang out? For some of us, high school was reading, writing, arithmetic, and learning the proper way to type on a keyboard and format letters. Because someone, somewhere in the education system realized that computers might play a big role in the future. Whoever you are, you were right! We can Google the answers to complex math problems so much faster now thanks to those typing skills.


Oh, and we could also kill zombies a lot faster, too, thanks to Typing of the Dead. Before you ask, yes, that is a real game. An arcade game, no less. And yes, the arcade cabinet had built-in keyboards.

Typing of the Dead was a spinoff of Sega's popular House of the Dead series. In those latter titles, players used light guns to shoot down zombies and score points. In Typing of the Dead, however, bullets came by way of your speedy little fingers. How fast could you type "exult" or "troubling developments" before the zombies closed in? How accurate could you be under pressure? Those were the tough questions asked by Typing of the Dead, and they're apparently questions that no one's wanted to answer for a while.


James Pond is no more clever than its title

The folks at the now-defunct Vectordean Ltd. were smart enough not to rip off the James Bond series blatantly. They didn't just slot another English man into the lead role and pump out a Bond-wannabe spy game. Instead, they chose a fish. And they named that fish James Pond — "pond" as in the body of water a fish might live in. Yes, seriously.


Modern-day gamers might not understand how in the world this game was made. And they'll be even more bewildered to learn that Electronic Arts, of all companies, published it.

Back in the day, it was hard to escape parody. The era James Pond released in — the early '90s — was the heyday of Weird Al Yankovich, after all. And video game developers and publishers seemingly had no beef with creating parodies of other games or other artistic works. The world was a less litigious place back then. There weren't a bunch of people ready to sue any sketchy-sounding project. So we ended up with the mostly forgettable James Pond — a title that, today, would probably have been shut down in court before it ever made its money back.


Castle Wolfenstein is nothing like what the series became

When you think of Wolfenstein today, you probably think of big machine enemies. You think of heavily armored supersoldiers. You think of B.J. Blazkowicz, the Captain America of the series who just wants to kill every Nazi that crosses his path and even those who don't. But Wolfenstein wasn't always a high-octane murderfest. It wasn't about tearing down the entire Nazi regime single-handedly while muttering something cool.


Rather, one of the earliest Wolfenstein titles, Castle Wolfenstein, was primarily a stealth game. And some gamers today might not even know how to playWolfenstein game like that.

In Castle Wolfenstein, the game almost always encouraged you to take the silent path. Things were a lot easier for you if you snuck around and didn't attract too much attention. If guards saw you, you could run away. Or you could don the uniform of a Nazi soldier and blend right into your surroundings. Very rarely did Castle Wolfenstein leave killing as your only option, and that is far from where the series eventually ended up.

Gamers who've played in the worlds of The New Order and The New Colossus might not get the toned down nature of Castle Wolfenstein. We'll just say this: it was a different era.


Michael Jackson's Moonwalker is for kids, so ...

This one didn't age well, did it? Goodness. In the game's defense, it was released in 1988, long before any Neverland Ranch documentaries had aired. And it debuted during what was arguably the prime of Michael Jackon's career. He'd filmed the movie Moonwalker, which the game is loosely based on, and was finally ready to conquer a completely new medium. Who was going to say no to Michael Jackson, honestly? If the man wants to be in a video game, put him in a video game. And so it was.


For young gamers, this one might be as baffling as seeing Shaq in 2D fighter. Because Michael Jackson was famous for his music. He was not famous for his magical powers. Yet in this video game, he had them.

Michael Jackson's Moonwalker was basically a beat-em-up, sort of like Double Dragon. But Michael Jackson never made contact with any of the enemies he breezed through on his way to saving the day. Instead, he shot his powers at them. He moonwalked and kicked. He danced magic into existence and then hurled it at people. Oh, and did we tell you his pet chimp Bubbles was also in the game? Bubbles could show up and turn Michael Jackson into Metal Michael Jackson, a being capable of shooting lasers and missiles.


It sounds like some kind of fever dream, but we assure you, this was a real game. And those who weren't around back then might not understand why it was made at all.

Sonic & Knuckles was a whole new way to expand content

Think about the last game you updated on your home console or PC, the last patch you downloaded for it. Pretty straightforward, right? It probably happened in the background without you having to do anything at all. The same likely goes for DLC. If you buy it, it automatically downloads onto your platform of choice and you can start playing. Easy peasy.


It wasn't that way on older consoles. When a game went gold, that was that. There was no adding to it. If developers wanted to include a new feature, they did it in the sequel. That is, unless they were Sega, and they created the most outrageous workaround possible.

Enter Sonic & Knuckles, a game for the Sega Genesis that packed in a new adventure and so much more. You see, Sonic & Knuckles wasn't just a new game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. It was also what DLC looked like back in the '90s. The Sonic & Knuckles cartridge had a lid that you could flip open, revealing a whole new cartridge slot. Then you could plug Sonic the HedgehogSonic the Hedgehog 2, or Sonic the Hedgehog 3 into that slot and play altered versions of those games.


It was a revelation at the time. Something no one had ever done before. Today, most gamers might just find it totally ridiculous.