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Old School Games Through The Decades

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by Bastion Harrison (subscribe)
Freelance writer and poet from London; if you would like to read my poetry, please check out my book, 'Poems on the Page', available from
Published October 30th 2013
What are Your Favourite Retro Games?
Old School Games Through The Decades

rubix cube
Image from Wikipedia

What were your favourite games to play as a kid? Are they still popular today, or are they long gone? We all talk about retro games, but depending on when you were born, your idea of what is considered old school could be radically different from someone else's. In order to cover all grounds, I have decided to go through the decades to explore some of the most popular games of the past. Feel free to comment and share your childhood favourites.


Image from Wikipedia

Since I'm guessing (forgive me if I am wrong), there aren't many WN readers born before the 1950s, I felt like this was a good place to start. My dad was born in the fifties, and one of the games he recalls playing is conkers. Conkers are the large seeds from a horse chestnut tree, and could be considered the pre-cursor to modern games like Beyblades. The first mention of the game was in 1821, but it was still vastly popular in the 1950s. The game involves drilling a hole through a conker, and tying it to a string. Players would then battle it out by bashing each other's conkers together until one of them broke. The winner was the one whose conker was left intact. Various methods were used to harden conkers, such as boiling them in vinegar or painting them with nail varnish. Conkers shows how creative children used to be by inventing games with materials from the world around them.

While conkers have long since fallen out of fashion, hula-hooping has made a come back. This time, however, it is the adults wo are in on the action. Hula Hoops these days are most often used for exercise routines, but this invention from 1958 had kids whirling round the school playground ll through break time.

Made famous by Disney Pixar's Toy Story (1995), Mr. Potato Head is far older than that. Distrbution by Hasbro began in 1952 and was the first toy to be advertised on television. The character's popularity stems from how customisable he is. Mr. Potato Head now comes in several variations, from Star Wars to Indiana Jones. He even has a Mrs.


mouse trap
Image from Wikipedia

While Sindy never managed to out perform Barbie, the British made doll from 1963 attempted to stake its claim in the fashion toy industry. She was popular in Britain, but never did very well in America, where Barbie remained a firm favourite.

KerPlunk and Mouse Trap were both invented in the 1960s, and remain popular today. I think this has to do with the construction/destruction aspect. Children enjoy putting things together, then watching everything all crumble.


rubix cube
Image from Wikipedia

I don't think there is a puzzle game more iconic than Rubix Cube. A multi-coloured conundrum that the average human being can't solve without an instruction manual and several hours of nothing better to do. The only way I ever managed to complete the puzzle was by peeling off the stickers and swapping them round. These days the Rubix Cube has become something of a sport. There a tournaments where serious competitors time each other for first place. The world record is an amazing 5.5 seconds by Mats Valk in March 2013.

Space Hoppers are a must for any child who does not have room in their garden for a trampoline or the balance required for a pogo stick. These big round rubber balls do indeed look like something from outer space, and even made a guest appearance in an episode of Star Trek. It was only an extra, but considering it was less than a year old at the time, it was obvious that Space Hoppers were going to become the next big thing.

The 1970s saw rise to a new type of gaming. The virtual kind. Arcades were just coming in, and one of the very first games you could play was Pong. Ping pong that is. It might have only been a moving dot and two lines, but it was the start of a video gaming revolution. Pong was developed by Atari in 1972, and late became available on a personal gaming console. It set the ball in motion (sorry about the pun) for the whole future of video games.


Image from Wikipedia

Speaking of which, anybody heard of a little Italian guy called Mario? Who would have guessed that a plumber in dungarees and a red cap could take over the world (or rather save it) so easily? Okay, it wasn't easy; Mario has to fight apes, turtle-shelled dinosaurs, and rescue princesses in distress on a daily basis (its a wonder that he gets any plumbing done at all), but he always comes out on top. He first appeared in 1981 as the hero to the arcade game, Donkey Kong. It wasn't long before his name became the title of all his future games, which includes not only platformers, but racing games, and party games too. Mario has become a cult phenomenon.

Despite advances in technology, traditional toys were still going strong. Pictionary has been keeping families busy on rainy days since 1985, and young girls became collectors of My Little Pony, which started off as toys in 1983, and grew into a television series. They were the animal equivalent of Barbie, with the ability to be accessorised and pampered.


Image from Wikipedia

Finally we come to the nineties. My decade. What do I remember of the nineties? Lets see; I collected Tazos, played Hungry Hungry Hippos, and got caught up in way too many fads. For example. I hounded my parents for a Tamagochi. This was a small pocket-size device with a pixel pet that you had to feed with virtual food, and play with by pressing various buttons. You had to constantly keep tabs on it, otherwise it would get lonely, starve, and die. I was never allowed one, so secretly bought it behind my mum's back. I left the game and my grandparent's house to play with at the weekend. As a result, my pet had to be regenerated each week because it had not been given enough attention.

Then there were Furbies. Electronic toys that looked a bit like a cross between an owl and a Gremlin, it was cute and creepy at the same time. Furbies had eyes that followed you round the room, and they became aware of who their 'owner' was through voice interaction. If you spoke to them enough times, they would begin to pick up phrases, just like a parrot. Recently Furbies have been relaunched, and although more advanced and interactive, I don't think they look as cute.

Atari had the seventies, Nintendo claimed the eighties, but in 1994, Sony released the PlayStation One. This was my console of choice - although it was several years down the line before I actually owned one. I found the controllers much easier to use, and I fell in love with platformers like Crash Bandicoot and Rayman.

So what are your favourite Old School games? Tell me any important ones I may have missed out, and share your fond memories.
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Your Comment
Skipping. bat-tennis, Hoppy [this was played by drawing numbered squares on the ground,throwing a 'tore' into a square , hopping over the tore and then hopping into each square in order] and marbles for boys. I went to a country school in the 50s and remember that playtimes were not long enough-we had so much to do. I enjoy Weekend Notes and often go to functions mentioned .
by junea (score: 2|186) 3257 days ago
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