OF 2022: The Retro Stuff!

‘Of 20XX’ is my attempt to look back and catalog the previous year of gaming in my life. I haven’t done the “Best Of” category stuff in a long time so what you’ll find over this week is a recounting of what I played in 2022 with a mini review or personal anecdote for each, wrapping up today with my favorite category: The Old Games!

Now here’s what I’m talkin’ about: OLD GAMES! I touched a ton of old games in 2022 as I found renewed interest in my retro setup, dubbed the Retro Dance Station. It’s a micro Dell OptiPlex originally designed for the workplace that I resuscitated and upgraded to preserve a few terabytes worth of old games. It’s not all-encompassing but it touches on everything that’s special to me from the 80’s up into the early 2000’s.

We also invested in some serious dance pads in 2022 leading into a Summer of Pump it Up and Dance Dance Revolution that may or may not have contributed to my current knee pain. Suddenly missing my beloved Guitar Hero TV in the early Fall I gathered a huge collection of Rock Band and Guitar Hero titles and got both flavors of plastic guitars up and running on my meager little PC too.

From consoles and handhelds to rhythm and dance games, 2022 was a crowning year in retro experiences for me. I discovered new favorites and oddities, finally saw some classics through to the end, burned a ton of calories while dancing, and spent entire days making LaunchBox and RetroArch behave the way I wanted them to.

I said I touched a ton of old games but I’ve only included the titles and platforms below that I spent a reasonable amount of time with. So here we go, a super quick recap of every old game I played in chronological order from January to December.

Santa Claus saves the Earth – PlayStation

I think I discovered this one thanks to its soundtrack and was bewildered to find myself actually playing this clunker in 2022! It’s a mundane and dull platformer but oh-so-weird with some good vibin’ music, none of which is even Christmas themed. Go figure.

Lowrider – PlayStation 2

I ventured back into Lowrider on a mission to clean up the shoddy rip of its soundtrack I made a decade ago. I wound up playing through most of the game in English and Japanese, appreciating it just a little more than I already did.

American Arcade/Pinball/Play it Pinball – PlayStation 2

Another that I initially dove into for the soundtrack, I’ve always admired this game’s passion for capturing the 1950’s American diner/pinball aesthetic and it didn’t disappoint.

Gradius II: Gofer no Yabou – Turbo/PC-Engine CD

I am not even sure why I played through this one, I don’t even like Gradius that much.

Super Mario World – SNES

Ayyy, I finally finished a single playthrough of Super Mario World after all these years! I think my biggest realization after growing up only playing the game at store kiosks or at a friends house on random weekends is that it’s surprisingly short if you just do the main stages that lead you to Bowser.

Assault Suit Leynos (2015) – PlayStation 4

I could never have appreciated Target Earth on the Genesis in 1990 but the PS4 remake brought it around and jazzed up the visuals at just the right time to grab me. At least for a bit. There are a lot of reasons to replay the game over and over but I just did one solid playthrough for the raucously explosive, sci-fi anime experience and had my fill. Worth grabbing!

Runabout 3: Neo Age – PlayStation 2

I’m a big fan of this off-beat driving series but Runabout 3 is the one entry I never played… or did I? I imported this one from Europe years ago on PS2 but I never figured out how to get around some interlacing problems to play it. Over the intervening years Climax pretty much recreated it on the 3DS as Runabout 3D: Drive Impossible (or Crash City Mayhem), so by the time I got Neo Age running in an emulator this year I realized I’d already played it. Well, glad to have it on a disc at least.

Aero the Acro-Bat – Sega Genesis

Aero is another platformer I’d played numerous times over the decades but never finished until 2022. It was a grueling struggle without relying heavily on save states but it has some clever tricks and great visuals worth experiencing at least once.

Cyborg Justice – Sega Genesis

I’ve played this game so many times but came back to it in 2022 after I saw someone had created Retro Achievements for it. It’s great to know that someone loves it enough to figure out how to make achievements for it. Still a wholly unique 2D brawler, if a bit repetitive.

Max Payne 2 – PC (Steam)

With Dan Ryckert about to do a playthrough on stream I had to run through this classic myself. It’s still a fantastic shooter with totally satisfying level designs and bullet time gameplay. Still a total classic.

Sewer Shark – 3DO

The Sega CD version is what I grew up on so seeing the closer-to-the-source FMV on 3DO was astonishing. For an on-rails FMV shooter, Sewer Shark is still unmatched in my book. Turn and burn!

Escape from Monster Manor & PO’ed – 3DO

I spent more time with these games than any year in the past but still didn’t finish either. Monster Manor is an original, albeit slight take on Wolfenstein, notable only because it’s a 3DO exclusive. PO’ed on the other hand is still supremely unique; an FPS where you play as a space chef capable of kung-fu backflips equipped with gory weaponry and a blazing fast jetpack who fights walking, farting butthole aliens in elaborate 3D spaces.

Road Rash & Guardian War – 3DO

I returned to both games for some Twitch streams and made it farther than I normally do. Both are 3DO classics with Road Rash being the last good entry in the series and a rollicking good time, and Guardian War an interesting JRPG with lots of Final Fantasy style job classes and flashy 3D spell effects.

Final Fight CD – Sega CD

I have been trying to beat this version with limited lives and Continues since 1993! And I still can’t do it! I made it farther than I have before in 2022 so I’ll take that as progress if not a win.

Rally Cross – PlayStation

For the longest time I’ve listed Rally Cross among my favorite games of all time so it’s no surprise I come back to it often. This year I tried to play through its Grand Prix campaign but this game is tougher than I remember! Early physics simulations combined with flawless computer opponents is a killer combo. Still a blast to play here and there, maybe I’ll get a little more dedicated in 2023.

Little King’s Story – Nintendo Wii

A favorite of Skyevlyn’s, I tried to join the ranks of this game’s dedicated fanbase in 2022 but it just didn’t hook me. The light town management was way more interesting than the parts where enemies destroy your followers before you can wiggle-waggle them out of harm’s way. I’m glad to have spent at least some time with it though and come to appreciate its bizarre and charming characters.

Drihoo – Xbox

This was such a long and elaborate project that I almost forgot to put it on this list! I dissected Drihoo and translated what content I could, in the process logging about 80 hours with it. It’s a slow-paced and repetitive adventure, but an adventure all the same! I’ve posted plenty about it myself on the site but my favorite bit of exposure was getting to talk with Time Extension about the game!

Jurassic Park – Sega Genesis

I hate this game but I finally slogged through it in 2022 and I guess I hate it a little bit less now? It has some interesting moments of level design and its soundtrack is catchy in that squishy Genesis way but it’s still one of my least favorite Jurassic Park games.

Kirby’s Adventure – NES

It is wild to think that this NES game was contemporary with so many more advanced 16-bit and even CD-based releases! I overlooked it in the 90’s but can now appreciate the technical accomplishments behind it. That said, I’m not really a fan of playing Kirby games but it sure looks dazzling!

Batman – PC-Engine

Another one I come back to often, I progressed pretty far in the Batman-meets-Bomberman mashup but I can’t remember if I finished it or not. It’s a bit repetitive but worth a look as a Batman puzzle game.

Strawberry Shortcake: Musical Match-Ups – Atari 2600

This is barely a game but I rediscovered it in 2022 and realized it started my love of music/rhythm games so it gets a special nod. And speaking of music games…

Pump it Up and Dance Dance Revolution – Arcade-at-Home

We invested in some hardcore dance pads this year and I got super into my two favorite dancing franchises all over again! It was so great to be able to play with shoes on, on a hard pad, at home (and on stream) for the first time in 20 years! Seriously, revisiting some of these songs brought me to tears.As soon as my knee gets better I hope to play some more.

Guitar Hero and Rock Band – Clone Hero

The dance game obsession led me to discover Clone Hero, the Guitar Hero and Rock Band emulator. I got some USB adapters for both guitars and was just super happy to be able to play my favorite tracks from Guitar Hero TV and the original Rock Band games once again.

Bound High – Virtual Boy

How did an unreleased game become my go-to for the platform that I never owned and barely touched in real life? One, it starts with ‘B’ so it’s always at the top of Virtual Boy game lists. And two, it’s a high flying, physics-y puzzler where you’re bounding high off the backs of enemies and plummeting out of the sky to clear the playfield. It’s a little painful to behold but the RetroArch core for Virtual Boy lets you use anaglyph glasses to simulate the console’s 3D effects and Bound High benefits from it greatly.

Jurassic Park – Arcade

I played this one a couple times through the year but thought I’d lump it in here with the other Jurassic Park titles. It’s a quarter munching rail shooter but what a fun ride it is! It combines the well established 2D scaling sprites of earlier games with underlying 3D tech to create a gorgeous sense of motion and speed. The spritework on the dinosaurs is fantastic and vibrant, making the whole thing feel more like a cartoon thrillride than the dark and dangerous tone of the majority of Jurassic Park games.

Jurassic Park: The Lost World – Sega Genesis

I wrote plenty about this one on the site back in October. What a surprise to discover that the best Lost World video game came out on the Genesis in 1997 while I was fawning over 3D stuff on PlayStation and Saturn.

The Lost World: Jurassic Park – PlayStation

After finishing the Genesis entry I wanted to revisit this punishing dino-sized turd to see how it held up. Not well! Constant save states are the only way I was able to proceed and I still couldn’t finish this one before I got too frustrated to press onward. It did lead me to buy the Greatest Hits release which is a rarely seen remaster of the game designed to be less of a turd pile.

Stampede – Atari 2600

I loved Stampede as a kid and after all these years I finally took the extra 45 seconds needed to understand how to play it. It’s got a fun cowboy theme with the goal of keeping 4 lanes of incoming cattle from slipping past you. Unlike many 2600 games, Stampede isn’t about instant reaction, it’s a bit more strategic requiring you to keep the cattle out ahead and decide on just the right moment to throw out a lasso.

Atari 800

I never was much of a computer game kid but we did have an Atari 800 in the house for a few years. There are a handful of games I remember fondly and I discovered in 2022 that they were fairly easy to set up and emulate. I didn’t spend a ton of time with any one of them but it was great to once again be at the controls of Archon, Bruce Lee, Montezuma’s Revenge, and Boulder Dash.

Gate of Thunder – Turbo/PC-Engine CD

The game that launched the TurboDUO here in the States and one I’ve played the first stage of numerous times. I finally played through it this year and while it’s a fairly basic shooter these days, that soundtrack still kicks things up several notches.

Sonic the Hedgehog 3 – Sega Genesis

It’s been a long time since I touched this one! I always favored the first two games and Sonic CD over Sonic 3 so it was well past time to revisit it. It’s still a fun romp and has better transitions between high speed and platform puzzling sections than I’d remembered. The Robotnik boss fights are each unique and clever (though not terribly challenging) and the levels still pop with color and variety.

Atomic Punk (Game Boy) & Animal Snap: Rescue Them 2 By 2 (GBA)

Two handheld games I played a bit of this year. Atomic Punk sure is Bomberman on the Game Boy, adding a shop and inventory system to stock up on your favorite power-ups and take different sets into each stage. The stages are more puzzle and time-based than most Bomberman entries. It was kinda fun for a little while. I launched Animal Snap because of the funny title boxart, briefly rekindling my love of Shanghai style mahjong games. I’m a little broken.

Splatterhouse – TurboGrafx-16

Another one I’d touched repeatedly but never finished. Thanks to a few save states I muddled through this one in about an hour, now appreciating the touchstones of Japanese horror where I originally only saw the Jason Voorhees mask.

Altered Beast – Arcade

I think I was just testing out a RetroArch setting and wound up playing through Altered Beast again. It’s a quarter munching bastard of a game but the arcade original is so vibrant and the transformation from scrawny human to overbuffed meathead to superpowered monster is still worth a handful of tokens.

Blaster Master 2 – Sega Genesis

I liked this one enough that I wrote a whole post about it just a few weeks ago! Suffice to say here, it expands in some clever ways on what the original did but loses the thread with difficult top-down stages and boring boss fights.

Castlevania: Circle of the Moon – Game Boy Advance

I never played the GBA’s inaugural entry in the series because of the whole backlight issue and by the time I got around to emulators we were already onto the far superior Aria of Sorrow. I finally circled back to this one in 2022 and dropped it after a few frustrating hours. I liked the card-based system of special abilities but the movement and speed of the game was just too slow to stick with 20 years later.

Pac-Man World – PlayStation

I’ve been tired of 3D platformers since the mid-90’s but sometimes one will still stand out to me. I never even acknowledged this one back in the day but looking at it now Pac-Man is so lively and animated, and the way the levels incorporate the sights and sounds of vintage Pac-Man is fun and clever. It’s a bit slow and simplistic but I think I’d like to see this one through to the end.

Atari Jaguar – BigPEmu

Atari 50 included the first retail Jaguar emulation and it was made possible by Rich Whitehouse’s BigPEmu. With the public release of the emulator I jumped into all the Jaguar games I’ve been waiting to play in more accurate form. I didn’t spend a ton of time with any of them but it was fantastic to see Tempest 2000 running like it should, Alien vs. Predator at full speed, Bubsy in Fractured Furry Tales with actual music, and more. I ran through both Fight For Life and Atari Karts for the first time every. The Jaguar library is 100% weird and not all that fun but it was nonetheless exciting to see it in action after nearly 30 years.

ExoDOS – MS-DOS Emulator

Like the Atari 800, I played some old DOS and Windows games but not a lot of them. The incredible ExoDOS package allowed me to browse, download, and jump into my favorites and begin poking around at an astounding 7,200 other DOS games I’m only vaguely familiar with. Also like the Atari 800 stuff, I didn’t play many of these games for long (yet!) but I was pleased as punch to once again lay hands on Blake Stone, Hexen, Stunts, FlixMix, Mystic Towers, and most surprising of all, Nogginknockers 2.

Nogginknockers 2 – MS-DOS

Unbelievably crass, crude, and immature, there is still to this day something intriguing about Nogginknockers 2. Although it’s covered in gore and racial stereotypes, the combo of Pong with a roster of fighting game characters who each have a set of special moves is something I can’t remember ever seeing. Throw in the meta layer of the developers’ alter egos being forced to play and comment on the game in the background and it’s just a wholly unique and increasingly offensive experience.

Boppin’ – MS-DOS

This game is so bizarre! I’d never heard of Boppin’ before but of all the DOS games that ExoDOS presents to you, it’s the one I’ve come back to over and over. Its strange setup only gets stranger in practice and while I don’t always love the mechanics of it, I’m endlessly fascinated by what I might see next. 

You play as one (or two) alien weirdos who bounce blocks around each screen in order to set free the enemies that have been captured from other video games. You are rescuing alien ships, skeletons, dragons, G-men, and more because the heroes of those games can’t bring themselves to help their enemies. Each time you do the enemy rushes over to you and proclaims “I AM FREE!” before flying off the screen.

It is so supremely strange and oftentimes clever in revealing the secret mechanic of each screen. I can’t wait to keep playing and seeing more of it!

R4: Ridge Racer Type 4 – PlayStation

I kept hearing folks reminisce about R4 this year and finally loaded it up to make a real attempt. The handling has just never felt Ridge Racer-y enough to me and things didn’t change after a dedicated playthrough in December. I’m certain there is still plenty to unlock but the “story mode” was over in about an hour.  The arc of the story races was actually pretty good but it was SO short that it didn’t leave me wanting to continue playing.

Panzer Bandit – PlayStation

What a shame I never got to play this in the 90’s! I remember seeing it in Game Fan magazine back in the day but just now rediscovered it and what a ride it was! It’s a multi-plane, 2D beat-em-up with lightning fast movement and combos that let you juggle enemies up and off the screen in 50+ hit combos! It’s a bit repetitive nowadays and looks a little flat on the visuals but it’s well worth taking a look for the flashy attacks alone!

As modern games continue to focus on live services, competitive multiplayer, and subscription models, with samey visual fidelity dulled by reliance on middleware tech, I am more and more excited about all the games that came before. Is it comfy and nostalgic? Absolutely, but I’m not just sticking to games I know. I’m already excited to continue exploring the last four decades of old games in 2023, randomly stumbling onto fascinating oddities and poring over classics I either skipped or never finished. Here’s to you Old Games! 🥂

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