Today, most video games are released for the Xbox, the PlayStation and PC. The experience is largely the same on all three of these platforms, so it doesn’t really matter where you play the game. In the 1980s and ‘90s, however, games were often exclusive to one console or another, so unless you had multiple consoles, your gaming experience may have been very different from your neighbor’s.
For Christmas in 1992, when I was only 6 years old, I got my very first video game system - a Sega Genesis. I still have it, in fact, along with many of the games I played as a kid. Even though I have dozens of games for newer systems that I have yet to play, I’ll often go back to my Genesis and fire up one of my old favorites.
Phantasy Star IV was the first Japanese RPG I ever played. To this day, it remains one of my favorites. Despite being a sequel, the story is completely self-contained, and kept me absolutely enthralled for the 30-plus hours of gameplay I got each time I went through it. Unlike most modern role-playing games, this one is well balanced, not too difficult, and gives you the freedom to explore the world it presents to you.
When I first played Ecco the Dolphin, I had absolutely no idea what was going on. The game gives you very little instruction, expecting you to figure out what to do. After swimming around aimlessly for an embarrassing length of time, I finally figured out how to play this game, which turned out to be about a time-traveling, telekinetic, alien-fighting dolphin. The music is soothing, which is fortunate, since the puzzles are some of the most challenging I’ve ever encountered in a video game.
And of course, I can’t talk about the Genesis without talking about Sonic the Hedgehog. More often than perhaps any other game, I will dedicate a Saturday morning to replaying Sonic 2 or Sonic 3. To me, these are the perfect Genesis games. They have genius level design, great music, tight controls and are just the right length. The colorful graphics and quick gameplay set a benchmark for future platform games, and gave Sega the leverage they really needed to make sure the Genesis was a solid competitor with the Super Nintendo.