Today we’re going to go back in time a bit and talk about classic video games.
I didn’t play video games much as a kid. There are several reasons, not least of which is that I grew up poor. My first console was the 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System. I got it a few years after it was released in the US, when I was 7- or 8-years-old. I enjoyed playing Super Mario Bros. and Tetris, but I wasn’t very good at them so I didn’t spend hours playing them like my cousins did. At the time, I would rather play outside on my swing set than sit inside staring at the television.
So I missed all the really great games that came out in the late 80’s and early 90’s. I didn’t hear about games like EarthBound or Final Fantasy until I was much older – well after the release of the Super Nintendo, possibly after the release of the first Playstation.
Lately I’ve seen this as a major piece that’s missing from my geeky life. In an attempt to fill this gaming gap, I started looking into gaming emulators and ROMs.
An emulator is simply a program, downloaded to your computer, that acts as the gaming console. It’s software that simulates hardware. A ROM, or Read Only Memory file, is the game file. You load a ROM in an emulator in much the same way you would load a game cartridge in a console.
Emulators and ROMs are a way to rediscover the classic games you loved, or missed, as a kid. Lifehacker published a great article about this – “How to Turn Your Computer into a Retro Game Arcade” – that goes into detail about which emulators they recommend, some easy DIY hacks, even how to use real controllers and cheats.
After a little research and some serious inspiration from people like Felicia Day, Wil Wheaton, and Zac Gorman (who I will talk about more on Monday), I took the plunge and downloaded an emulator and a few ROMs. I personally use CoolROM.com, but there are several sites out there that offer essentially the same software. To me it was more a matter of which site made it easier to find what I was looking for. CoolROM makes it simple – you can search for ROMs by console, name, or listed by Top Downloads and Top Rated. They also let you know which emulator works best for each ROM, for both Windows and Mac.
Rather than overwhelm myself, I’ve only downloaded a few games so far. My favorite game to this point is EarthBound. This game is amazing. Originally released in 1995 (in the US, 1994 in Japan) for the Super Nintendo, EarthBound is a single-player RPG. The graphics are amazing. The music is phenomenal. The story is unbelievable. I played for five days straight for hours each day until I made it to the end. Like a really good book, I had to know what happened next, where the next adventure would take the characters. And when it was all over, I was sad to see it end. I didn’t think I could connect to characters in a video game like I connect to characters in books. I’ve never been so glad to be wrong.
Whether you’re feeling nostalgic or you missed out like I did, emulators are the perfect way to bring these classic games back to life.
Let me know what games you think I should be playing. What were your favorites? Leave your suggestions in the comments!