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5 Challenges Gamers Faced in the '90s

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by Marisa Quinn-Haisu (subscribe)
My name is Marisa. I am a fiction writer, a blogger, and a freelance journalist.
Published September 19th 2020
A nostalgic flashback to the retro gaming years
5 Challenges Gamers Faced in the '90s

I've been a gamer ever since my Mum thrust a Super Nintendo controller into my hands. Video games were a huge part of my childhood after that. I grew up playing Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda, Star Fox and Super Mario Kart. I have so many fond memories of sitting around the television with my siblings and racing them in Super Mario Kart or watching them battle Bowser in Super Mario World or solve puzzles in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. I was born in 1984 and started playing video games in the early 1990s. The 1990s was an interesting time to be a gamer. There was no internet to look up cheats or walkthroughs, and video game consoles were large and bulky and came with big buttons, joysticks, and wired controllers. I had a lot of fun playing a lot of classic games, but can remember moments of frustration as well, like when dust would get in a game cartridge or when the joystick on my controller would break. Here are 5 Challenges Gamers Faced in the 1990s

1. Not being able to search the internet for walkthroughs

5 Challenges Gamers Faced in the '90s

Growing up as a kid in the 1990s, if you got stuck playing a video game, there was no internet or YouTube to consult to look for hints or a walkthrough guide. We had to get on with nothing but schoolyard gossip or if we were lucky our parents would let us call the Nintendo Power Line for help. The Nintendo Power Line was a telephone service run by Nintendo that provided hints to Nintendo video games. I can remember calling this service once when I was stuck on a level in Super Mario 64 and asking them "How do I find the last red coin in Bowser's castle?" and hearing a woman on the other side answer. I can remember she sounded amused by my question. I only called the Nintendo Power Line a couple of times. I love how if I get stuck on a video game today, all of the answers are just a Google search away.

2. Struggling to play Gameboy at night in the car by streetlight

5 Challenges Gamers Faced in the '90s

The Game Boy was another huge part of my childhood. This large grey brick was an 8-bit handheld gaming console that was developed and released by Nintendo in 1989. We had one Game Boy in the family that we were all expected to share. I can remember playing Tetris, Super Mario Land and The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening on our family Gameboy. At the time, it was an amazing device, but it had one irritating little flaw: it did not have a backlit screen. What that meant is if we wanted to play it in a low-lit setting, we would not be able to see the screen very well. I have memories sitting in the car as a kid at night struggling to play the Gameboy in the light of passing streetlights. This design flaw was so problematic, accessories were even released to help people play the Gameboy in poor light. It wasn't until 2005 that a version of the Gameboy was released with a backlit screen.

3. Discovering hidden levels by accident

5 Challenges Gamers Faced in the '90s

When I was a kid one of the games my siblings and I played a lot on our Super Nintendo was Super Mario Kart. My siblings and I got pretty competitive with each other playing that game. We would race each other regularly and would try and beat each other's rankings. And when we weren't trying to beat each other, I was playing the game solo, trying to beat my personal best. I can remember thinking as a kid that there was nothing left in that game that we didn't know about. We knew about the short cuts, how to take corners so you didn't skid, the best players to choose for certain tracks, how to knock other players out of the way, and how to time a speed burst just right to win a race. Imagine our shock when we discovered one day that we had failed to unlock something huge in the game: The Special Cup. The Special Cup was the final cup in Super Mario Kart that was unlocked after winning gold in the Star Cup in 150cc. The Special Cup was only playable in 100cc and 150cc and included the very tricky and very fun Rainbow Road. We were shocked, stunned! How could we have missed this!?! It was so exciting to discover by accident that the game still had secrets left in it for us to unlock.

4. Untangling Long Wired Controllers

5 Challenges Gamers Faced in the '90s

When I was a kid one of the things that I hated most about our Super Nintendo was how the controllers were connected with these long thick cords that would get horribly, impossibly tangled sometimes. I can remember sitting down in front of our Nintendo as a little kid and letting out a big huff of irritation because our two controllers had gotten tangled together again. I would spend at least a couple of minutes undoing the knots in the cords to separate the two controllers. Later, when I was done playing, I would then wrap the cords around the controllers, slowly and carefully, to prevent them from getting knotted up again. Years later, when wireless controllers were introduced, I can remember being so happy that I wouldn't have to bother with long, wired controllers anymore.

5. Broken joysticks and dust in cartridges

5 Challenges Gamers Faced in the '90s

In 1996 the Nintendo 64 was released. The Nintendo 64 was part of the fifth generation of home video game consoles. I can still remember the hype leading up to the release of the Nintendo 64. We were so excited. The Nintendo 64 was my first introduction to 3D graphics and the release of 3D platformer games like Super Mario 64. Super Mario 64 was one of the biggest games of my childhood. For the first time ever, we could control Mario in a 3D environment, and make him do backflips and triple jumps and move in a way like we have never been able before.

Mario's movements in Super Mario 64 were only possible because of the design of the Nintendo 64 controller. The Nintendo 64 controller came with a joystick that could move in all directions which enabled Mario to be able to move around freely in a 3D environment. I wasn't a huge fan of the Nintendo 64 controller. Over time, the joystick on our controllers would get wobbly, which would make Mario sometimes start to wander aimlessly on screen, much to my annoyance. A broken joystick also made it harder to race a cart in Mario Kart 64 or dodge bad guys with guns in Perfect Dark. The Nintendo 64 could do amazing things, but the controller could have been designed a bit better.

Another issue we had growing up with our games was getting dust in cartridges. Nintendo used game cartridges up to the Nintendo 64. A game cartridge was a removable memory card with a game loaded on it that you inserted into a gaming console to boot up a game. As kids, we found that if dust got into the cartridge or into the loading slot, we found that the game would not load. This would mean we would have to blow dust out of the cartridge or get down on our hands and knees to blow on the video game console itself to get the dust out of it.
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Why? The 1990s was a fun time to be a kid who enjoyed playing video games.
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