Don’t you hate it when something is on the tip of your tongue? When you have distinct memories of something, but you just can’t remember the name of it to save your life? Well, video games are no exception. In the decades of video games’ existence, thousands of games have come out, some good and some bad. Some games come out that leave a huge impression or legacy for one reason or another, but are difficult to totally recall. The games that toe the line between total obscurity and ubiquity. So we’ve scoured our memories and backlogs of games that came out at least twenty years ago in order to find a collection of titles that you probably picked up at some point, but just can’t recollect now, whether it be because the series fizzled out or the name itself was too strange to keep track of. Let’s take a trip down memory lane and explore 15 Old Video Games That You’ve Played – But Can’t Remember The Name Of.
15. Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon
Bright colors, poorly rendered polygonal graphics, and tons of quirky platforming action – Mystical Ninja is truly a Nintendo 64 game. But with a name as loquacious as Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon, it was a game that was doomed to be remembered only by the aforementioned graphics and quirks.
Mystical Ninja also had the misfortune of coming out between Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – two of the biggest games not only on that console, but of all time. Like Mario, a lot of the action in Mystical Ninja involved platforming and exploration, while a healthy chunk of it also involved dungeon-delving ala Zelda. It’s only natural that when thinking about N64 experiences, one tends to remember the titanic titles and forget the games with a similar feel. It’s a shame, too, as Mystical Ninja had a lot going for it, such as surrealist humor and an interesting blend of fantasy, sci-fi and real history. Maybe if it didn’t have as wonky of a title as it did, or if its competition wasn’t so steep, Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon would be remembered a bit more for the silly fun it provided.
14. 3D Pinball for Windows – Space Cadet
If you touched a computer at any point in the ‘90s, chances are you have played this game. You had this vague image of purple and black with a grinning man in a UFO burned into your mind, if not into the monitor screen. You knew its name had to be something pinball-related, but you were too busy racking up points to notice the title printed behind the happy astronaut: Space Cadet.
Space Cadet was a spinoff of Full Tilt! Pinball bundled with Microsoft Windows 95, making it owned by literally everyone who bought a Windows PC in the mid to late ‘90s. Sit down at any computer, whether it was in the classroom or at your parent’s’ home office, and you could boot up some Space Cadet and start spamming those bumpers to send pinballs off into the cosmos. We may not remember it as fondly as the games we actively chose to sit down and spend hours absorbing, but Space Cadet should be nonetheless respected for always being there for us whenever we needed to kill some time.
13. Math Blaster Episode 1: In Search of Spot
The Math Blaster series has been livening up elementary math classes for decades now, but the most memorable of the bunch would have to be Episode 1: In Search of Spot. In an elaborate ploy to make math actually interesting, In Search of Spot disguised its series of number-crunching puzzles with exciting sci-fi action. First you had to solve enough puzzles in order to power up the Blasternaut’s tractor beam so that you could then shoot the trash floating in space, which allowed you to feel like Luke Skywalker shooting down TIE fighters instead of stuck in school. Next you had to write out equations in the fuel tank to get the ship to the next planet, and you would follow that up with flying through caves in a jetpack, flying through barriers that only let you pass if you had the right number. Finally, you don your jetpack once more to invade the UFO of the pesky trash alien, flying through the engine under the correct answer to more difficult questions, dodging trash as you fly.
12. Primal Rage
No genre of video game has more forgotten gems as the fighting genre, and Primal Rage is a prime example. This SNES-era affair allowed players to get their kaiju on and pick a big beast to fight other giant apes and dinosaurs for dominance over a post-apocalyptic world. Like any other fighter worth its salt, Primal Rage allowed players to pull-off wicked combo attacks and finishing moves, and then bathe the screen in gallons of animated blood. So much so in fact, there was even a bit of a controversy regarding the game’s T for teens rating as opposed to a more appropriate M.
However, even controversies couldn’t keep the game from fading into obscurity. With the release of the more popular and acclaimed Killer Instinct around the same time, Primal Rage was pushed aside into its own dino-punching corner. A sequel was announced, but ultimately canceled, and so Primal Rage now serves as just a relic of an older time. A time when you could be a giant frost gorilla laying the smackdown on a fire-breathing T-Rex.
While on the subject of obscure fighting games, one would be remiss to not mention ClayFighter. Probably remembered as that one game with the angry snowman punching a quipping piece of taffy, ClayFighter was an odd outing in that its whole appeal was being a Mortal Kombat knock-off with claymation aesthetics. While fighting games were being surrounded by controversies over the amount of gore in their games, developer Visual Concepts thought it would be wise to capitalize on a sillier, less bloody alternative fighting game.
The gamble did not pay off, however, as Mortal Kombat and the like have lived on to this very day, while ClayFighter had only two more sequels before wrapping up. It wasn’t without success, however, with the first title selling up to 200,000 copies and enamoring fans with its zany sense of humor. I mean, what other game let you play as a blob mastered in the martial art of goojitsu?
10. Cool Spot
Back in the earlier days of video games, the product placement was the furthest thing from subtle. That’s how you get a game like Cool Spot: a whole game devoted to running around as the since-retired mascot of 7-Up soda.
But see, while product mascot games like Yo! Noid and Pepsiman were hollow and lackluster experiences, Cool Spot actually had some challenging, responsive, and rewarding gameplay. You could bounce around grabbing balloons, pull off cartwheel attacks and even sling soda bubbles at your enemies. Plus the Spot was an endearing mascot with his circular red body and slick pair of shades. Put those together, and you have yourself a game that people actually played a fair amount of. However, eventually 7-Up discontinued the use of Spot as their mascot, and production of Spot games ended, booting the franchise out of the public eye. But while many might forget the name Cool Spot, nobody can forget the little red circle enlightening us about the refreshing taste of “the uncola.”
9. ToeJam and Earl
Probably the strangest sounding title on this list – probably the strangest sounding title in all of video games – ToeJam and Earl was an action game where you played hip-hop influenced aliens who crash landed on the planet with the most hostile creatures ever: Earth. You and a friend control one of the titular aliens, attempting to navigate the world, find pieces of your broken ship and avoid earthlings at all costs.
ToeJam and Earl grew itself a cult following, with initial sales not impressing anyone at Sega, but word of mouth increased the game’s popularity enough to fund a few sequels. It never caught on with mainstream audiences, but fans of the game loved its hip-hop and jazz-funk soundtrack, sense of humor and overall zany action. Not to mention the game’s innovative use of split-screen co-op, which made it one of the definitive games to play with a friend right by your side. ToeJam and Earl might be too weird to be a household name, but it’s certainly a fun title to keep reminding yourself about.
8. Out of This World
One of the largest reasons you might be befuddled trying to remember the name of Éric Chahi’s sci-fi masterpiece is the confusion regarding the title change during its localization. While most of the world knows it by its official title of Another World, if you’re in the States, you instead know it as Out of This World. That little distinction can make the game a pain in the butt to look up.
But another possibility as to why you might’ve been fuzzy on the name is that perhaps the ground-breaking material in the game is remembered more vividly than the title. Sometimes innovation is the main take away, especially when it then becomes adopted as a new norm. And Out of This World was definitely an innovator on several fronts, especially with the use of cutscenes and in-game cinematics. The easy-to-learn, difficult-to-master combat as well as the game’s narrative drive would go on to influence many games, including the likes of Metal Gear Solid and even Silent Hill. And now that you know the title, be sure to track it down and play it again. With all that it had to contribute to modern games as we know it, Out of This World deserves a revisit.
Before the days when the beautiful beasts of Bloodborne or Resident Evil could give us nightmares, gamers’ dreams were haunted by a crude scribble of an angry yeti. We were all moving through pixelated fields of white, racing to the bottom of the screen and dreading the oncoming onslaught of that gray abomination.
And with all that persistent terror, it’s easy to forget that the game itself was all about skiing. Moreover, that the game had the absolutely innocuous title of SkiFree. Now, to be fair, the actual goals of the game are to ski down a snowy slope, avoiding obstacles and navigating between sets of flags. But once you reach a certain point, the Abominable Snow Monster would appear and attempt to devour you.
Like most of the casual titles in the Microsoft Entertainment Packs, SkiFree was a game we all played in our downtime hours fiddling about with a PC in the ‘90s, only to be forgotten about when we got the chance to play with more serious games. But some things can never truly be forgotten. Like the horrors that await you after you ski past 2,000 meters.
6. Super Solvers: Midnight Rescue!
Representing the English class sub-genre of educational games, Super Solvers: Midnight Rescue was a side-scrolling adventure game that required you to use your mad language comprehension skills in order to prevail. The game tells the story of the mischievous Morty Maxwell, who’s attempting to paint the school invisible with a series of robots, and one brave student who searches for clues amongst reading passages to deduce where evil Morty is hiding.
Unlike other educational games which too often had an immersion-robbing separations between the educational and game aspects, Midnight Rescue was able to merge the two more organically by having the majority of the reading passages come from in-game sources. On top of that, there were over 200 possible reading excerpts and over 400 possible questions relating to them, so there was something educational games so often lacked: replay value! It might not be on anybody’s best video games of all time list, but Super Solvers: Midnight Rescue (and its sequels, such as Treasure Mountain, Treasure Cove, and MathStorm)lent itself to be played over and over again, both in the classroom and at home.
5. Chip’s Challenge
What was the name of that game with all computer parts and different colored shoes and the lime green background? Why, it was Chip’s Challenge! How could anyone forget navigating mazes of gray blocks collecting various keys? The only thing more memorable was turning a corner only to see a stretch of water and realize you hadn’t found the dang diving flippers yet.
Though originally released on the Atari Lynx in 1989, Chip’s Challenge really found an audience when it was bundled with Microsoft Entertainment Pack 4 in 1991 and later, in 1995’s Best of Microsoft Entertainment Pack. In the same vein as Space Cadet or SkiFree, Chip’s Challenge was a casual game on many a PC, making it a common pastime. However, thanks to its password system, you could jump to any level you wanted and thus feel a sense of progression – something often lacking in casual games at the time. These days we have our mobile games to scratch our itch to kill time, but back then, we turned to good old Chip and his crazy mazes.
The oddities and controversies of Narc are so well-remembered, that it more than likely overshadowed the name of the game itself. I mean, it doesn’t matter what you end up calling a game, if it involves drug addicts literally hurling used needles at you and a final boss that is just a gigantic head, that’s all anybody is going to take away from the experience.
In Narc, you and a friend played as two machine-gun-toting narcotics officers hilariously named Max Force and Hit Man (because this was the ‘80s). You took to the streets to mow down dope fiends and drug dealers in order to rid the city of nefarious drug lord, Mr. Big. As if that wasn’t enough to make mothers fuss, you could also shoot rockets to make your enemies explode into chunky pieces and then you were given bonus points every level depending on how much money and drugs you could confiscate. There was an attempt to reboot the franchise in 2005, but sadly the game got mixed reviews and didn’t have quite the same zealous anti-drug sentiment of the original. Still, whenever you got a chance to slip away to the seedier corner of the arcade, Narc was there to help you take the War on Drugs to a terrifyingly literal level.
3. Altered Beast
“Rise from your grave!” Anyone who got their hands on a Sega Genesis (or one of the many classic collections released over the years) remembers those booming words as your character springs from his grave to punch skeletons in the face. Survive long enough and collect floating orbs, then you can witness your character enlarge and proudly proclaim “Power up!” until they transform into a variety of beasts to wreak havoc on the level’s boss monster.
Yes, Altered Beast was a badass, well, beast of a game. And yet, as memorable as its gameplay was, it tends to be forgotten amongst Sega’s other classic franchises. Maybe it’s the fact that it was overshadowed by the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog and Streets of Rage, which got multitudes of sequels. Maybe the title itself just doesn’t have the same oomph to it; the word “altered” doesn’t the same kind of drama as, say, Golden Axe does. Either way, Altered Beast is Sega Genesis jewel that rips its way into the memories of anyone that picks it up… even if the name can escape you along the way.
2. Number Munchers
Number Munchers is one of the OGs of the educational game genre, and the flagship of the Munchers series. Back in the early days of DOS machines, school kids everywhere were still given the solace of computer games to break up the monotony of classwork and lessons. Just turn on a game of Number Munchers, and you could almost convince yourself you playing some Pac-Man or Qbert, jumping from space to space eating the right numbers and avoiding ghoulies that wanted to eat you instead.
The math part of the game was relatively straight-forward: you had to hop around the gameboard and eat the numbers that fit the criteria, be it a multiple of a given number or other requirements. However, there was the added difficulty in the hungry Troggles that would also roam the board, hungry for your little green avatar or just wanting to cause some mischief. The longer you took, the more monsters on the board and the less points you could build up, so Number Munchers ended up being a great tool at making you quicker with solving simple math. And some people have the nerve to say video games aren’t productive!
The concept of this game is simple: you control a rectangle at the bottom of the screen, there are rectangles at the top of the screen, and there is a ball you must bounce to knock out the top rectangles. It is such a simple, yet satisfying concept for a game that it became an arcade classic and spawned multitudes of sequels and clones throughout all the years. You could find limitless rip-offs of this concept of bouncing a ball to knock out squares on the mobile app store this very second.
But be honest, did you remember that the name of the original is Breakout? Probably not. Unlike Pong or Space Invaders, whose premises are easily discernible even by the early graphics of the time and thus their titles easier to remember, Breakout has no obvious connection to what’s happening on-screen. If you look at the art of the game’s arcade cabinet, it implies that you control a criminal throwing your prison ball at the bricks of your jail, which you are attempting to break out of. Pretty hard to discern all that with just dots and squares, and probably the reason why the name of this game falls to the side more often than the darting ball does. With its now-ubiquitous premise contrasted by its ill-fitting title, Breakout is the definition of an old game you’ve played before but can’t remember the name of.