Come back with me to a warm summer day at the farm. I was about to become a junior in college, and was getting things out of storage to prepare for my transition from dorm to apartment.
Creech and I walked into the narrow room at the corner of the garage, beginning to maneuver through the glut of containers packed across the floor and the shelves. “Do you want our old TV?” Creech asked.
“Sure. I can use it to play my games.” It was an old model, a boxy box-shaped relic lucky to not need antennae. The perfect atmosphere for my consoles: a shiny white Wii and the good old N64. I hadn’t felt the need to lug a TV to college, so Wii and N had been packed away in a large green storage container along with my black binder, which I’d been using to store trading cards for years.
Truthfully, I was most excited for the N64. My console libraries have never been particularly big, but I’d always had fun in my handful of games from the days of three-pronged controllers and Rumble Paks (no, I didn’t have one). I was looking forward to blowing out the nonexistent dust from the cartridges and playing them all over again.
Creech and I looked around the storage room for the big green container. We couldn’t find it. We looked again. There was no tub.
“Um…are you sure you put it here?” I asked.
“Yes, Pilot. It wouldn’t be anywhere else,” Creech replied, and as the matriarch and long-suffering renovator of the farmhouse, her memory was authority.
We paused, silence funneling over us like a cloud. I started slowly. “At the garage sale. You told the others, only sell some of my things, right?”
“Right.” Earlier that year Creech had hosted a garage sale including contributions from yours truly. I didn’t need my classic black GameCube thanks to the backwards compatibility of the Wii, and had long ceased playing Star Fox Adventures along with another game so long abandoned that I don’t recall what it was. I’d written on paper, those were the three items for sale, and had sealed the note inside the tub so the garage admins would know for sure. And now the whole tub was gone.
Another few seconds passed. Creech and I looked at each other.
“Somebody must have taken the whole thing,” said Creech.
“All my stuff is gone?”
“I guess so,” Creech said, eyebrows raising as the disappearance of an entire container started to sink in. “I owe you a Nintendo.”
She never got me one, but that just makes it another item to save up for myself. The real loss from this…theft? Mistaken thought that I was selling all of my stuff? Was the card binder, which I simply will never be able to replicate. Farewell, faithful rectangular hoard of Pokémon, Digimon, Cardcaptors, some other stuff I can’t remember, and a little bit of Magic. I’m not sure which is worse, losing this or the binder that stashed a complete collection of The Lion King trading cards and many sleeves of Animal Crossing E-reader cards, the latter of which really had amounted to a lot of money.
However, this post is not about the missing cards. It’s a step back into the cartridges of my past, the small but treasured collection of video games that had taken up so much of my childhood. Parted we may be, but over time I shall amass the gems once more. And maybe you, too, used to play these titles. So sit back, buckle in, and let the misty days of Nintendo nostalgia sweep you away.
Donkey Kong 64
King K. Rool is at it again, and this time he’s distracted the Kongs from his hyper-tech island-destroying death laser of doom by stealing their hoard of golden bananas! This game is too awesome for me to describe. Every level of Donkey Kong 64 was a vast landscape packed with mini-games and hidden crannies. There were so many things to complete, and you could only do it all after unlocking the Kong’s full potential. Most are unreachable at first, so you have to wait until later, when you get the latest fruit gun upgrade or come back to a dark and bubbling lab to drink the next of Cranky’s power-enhancing formulas.
It is, more or less, a game of uncharted territory, and along the way you’ll find all the hidden places and piece together all the blueprints and beat up all manner of colorful, creative enemies, which range from leather-sporting Kritters to angry mushrooms that pop out of the ground to attack you in a forest where mine carts still operate and gigantic killer tomatoes leap out of veggie patches to terrorize innocent bookworms. Even the miniature world surrounding Kong Island counted as its own level, demanding you fly, swim, and climb to find everything it has to offer. Every stage unlocked by the ecstatic stomps of K. Lumsy was another opportunity to explore a wonderful new climate.
Oh, I had a long journey finding all there was to find in DK64. I never got to the end, and had my first true rage quit at a water barrel game in the early levels, but it was fun nonetheless and I’ll be ready to save Kong Island for real when this special cartridge reunites with a Nintendo 64.
What an adorable game! Yoshi Story is a colorful page-turning game about a band of little dinosaurs who travel across the land to reclaim joy when Baby Bowser takes away their beloved Happy Tree. As a slide-scroller, it doesn’t have the 360-degree mobility of Donkey Kong’s levels, but there’s still plenty of hidden places and even a couple new friends to make throughout the game. Yoshi Story is fairly easy on the surface, as all it takes to complete a level is to eat 30 pieces of floating fruit. You could beat the game in 20 minutes. But if you really want to engage with it, you’ll unlock all the levels on each page and chalk up your scoreboard with repetitive eating habits—eating the same fruit in a row boosts your points with a combo bonus, and the ultimate challenge lies in finding the 30 melons ridiculously hidden throughout all 24 levels. It’s harder than it sounds, folks. It’ll take skill and a lot of random sniffing to get a monopoly on these melons.
Besides that, the game is unabashedly cute and appeals to the kid in all of us. Blue patchwork skies, elastic sluglike beings, and dragons both friendly and terrifying will cross your path as you trek across mountains and wind through sewers littered with newspapers deep below the earth. You might even have to outrun a giant jumping fish! There is something about the creativity and innocence of Yoshi Story that kept me coming back even after I outgrew its nasally singing and smiling flower health meter. Pick it up, make an effort, and you may just find a childhood delight within the virtual pages of this game.
Star Fox 64
That which doomed me to be a furry forever! Star Fox 64 is probably the most classic game on this list, tapping into many players’ love for animals and throwing them into an adrenaline quest to save the Lylat System. Our favorite anthropomorphic mercenaries take to the stars when old hound General Pepper contacts them about Andross, the nemesis of Star Fox history. Exile to Venom didn’t prevent the mad monkey scientist from being able to experiment, and now his influence has spread across the universe, putting everyone in danger. Blast through seven linear levels as Fox McCloud, fearless leader and successor of his legendary KIA father. Star Fox 64 is a choose-your-own-adventure game that opens paths based on your accomplishments on each planet. You’ll experience team banter, hyperspeed, swarms of manufactured bogeys, and of course Peppy Hare telling you to do a barrel roll. It’s a timeless action adventure and appears to still be the most praised of the franchise. Are you ready to fight robots, primates, and alligators all from an aerial cockpit? Then jump into that Arwing and become the hero of the Lylat System.
Also, for the last path I totally recommend Area 6. You’ll have 100 points before you can even blink.
Kirby and the Crystal Shards (Kirby 64)
Now this is a long-awaited reunion. Kirby and the Crystal Shards is a game I haven’t played in 13 years. I just remember that it is so fun and so cute that I can’t turn away from it forever. It’s an interplanetary adventure following everyone’s favorite talent-stealing puffball as he collects the broken pieces of a powerful crystal. He gets help from fuzzy lookalike Waddle Dee, the adorable self-crowned and greedy emperor penguin King Dedede, and a literally realistic painter named Adeleine, who I used to think was a boy. The gameplay was great, the soundtrack was fun, and the major villain is infamously considered among the scariest of the franchise. One day you and I will meet again, Kirby and your crystal shards, but I imagine I’ll have to shell out a whole lot of money beforehand.
I also remember Galbo. Those were adorable.
Hey you, Pikachu. Smile.
Pokémon Snap brings you to the professional world of Todd the photographer, enabled by Professor Oak to go on a camera safari. Capture the profiles of 63 original Pokémon in terrains as high as space and as stomach-dropping as the rapids of a mountain’s rushing river. You’ll chalk points based on how good your photographs are, which utilizes some guidelines for the actual craft.
You can roll by and let the Pokémon do their thing, but the fun comes from taking action to get vibrant and lively photos. Over time you’ll obtain a trio of tools to influence the surrounding Pokémon’s activity, which could be considered harassing wildlife, but hey. Science. There are also a few puzzles up the sleeve, so occasionally it’ll be up to you to figure out how to advance the next level. Pokémon Snap is a unique and challenging game that lets you capture these magical monsters in a different way. I’ll be happy to have this one again, even if I have to live with knowing Muk was somehow the last Pokémon I figured out how to get.
And please, let me re-experience the triple instant replay of the exploding Electrode that unlocks the third level of the game. Oh my gosh, I need to see that again.
My other 64 game for the franchise was Pokémon Stadium, but I never enjoyed it as much as Snap or the mainstream games. I also had GoldenEye 007 and All-Star Baseball 2000, but those were really Murphy’s and he outgrew Nintendo a while back. The rest of my losses came from the beginning of the new century, when Nintendo improved its graphics and shelved the N64 for a smaller, neater platform. The remaining games in my missing container hail from the GameCube and beyond.
Okay, so I don’t play Animal Crossing anymore, but what’s not to keep? AC is another furry favorite, ensnaring us into domestic anthro living and dragging us below its depths to never be seen again. Veteran players can have a laugh at the real-time mechanics of this game and how it can screw you over. There’s debt to pay, furniture to collect, villagers to meet, and lottos to attend. Hardcore players must have arranged a multi-village trading route to get all the paintings for Blathers’s museum (I never did). And of course, if you miss even a day inside your 30 acres of talking animals, there’s all the more WEEDS to squander! Animal Crossing is a GC classic with plenty of goals to obtain and truly memorable music. I might not play it anymore, but having it was always nice, so when the time comes for me to restack the library compatible with a Wii, AC will be added to the ranks.
Star Fox Assault
The Arwings are back and they are as awesome as ever! Join Team Star Fox as they track down the source of an invasive insectoid race known as aparoids. The game goes through 10 flying and on-foot missions, many of which amount to distractions and a wild-goose chase, but Star Fox gameplay has always trumped the story. You’ll see plenty of action in this galactic adventure, along with a bit of character development and some pretty cool voice acting (unfortunately, the dialogue itself had yet to escape the cheesiness of earlier installments). It’s a fast game but a fun one, and hey, I’m sure it made plenty of people like Slippy.
Melee and Brawl
Hail, bros of super smashing! This free-for-all tournament continues to throw Nintendo favorites with and at each other as they battle to be the best. These games were great exposure for the lesser-known Nintendo stars and just plain fun otherwise! I loved the story mode in Brawl and the addition of events and mini-games in Melee. Each installment expands upon the classic arcade fighter concept to give you the most epic smackdowns possible. I’m ready to get back into that, so when I get another Wii, both games are going on the recovery list.
Looking back, this game was more frustrating than anything else, but it was a pretty fun time-waster when I didn’t have any work to do. Sonic Heroes follows the adventures of four teams all journeying to fight Eggman on his ultimate aerial fleet. It had a Point A/Point B objective system, though each team had their own speed (sorry) that allowed players to control the pace. Team Sonic had rapid, action-packed levels (but truly terrible dialogue, which is why I played them the least). Team Dark was the most challenging. Team Chaotix eschews the Point A style in favor of detective missions that keep you on your toes. Team Rose was easy mode, and while the requirements for voicing girlish innocent Cream and dim oafish Big amounted to some very difficult listening, the less demanding style of their missions was good for people who just wanted to play. And as heated as discussions about Amy reportedly are in the fandom, I appreciated her resilience in this game.
Over time the teams encounter Eggman and each other, bringing in conflict and comedy to break up the adventuring. There’s jungles, beaches, castles, and cities to explore. Get ready for high-speed fun in the world of Sonic Heroes (but don’t get hit, you’ll still lose a gazillion rings).
Paper Mario and the Thousand-Year Door
Oh wait, I think this is the one I forgot. Honestly? I didn’t get into this game. But that might be because I got stuck in that giant mushroom tree thing. Paper Mario and the Thousand-Year Door is the second book-style adventure of the iconic plumber, now rendered so flat he could slip through a crack. In this game, Mario needs legendary crystals to unlock an ancient door, and as with its predecessor you get a whole host of paper partners to help you on the way. I did have fun among the colorful cutout environment and the tame, turn-based fighting sequences, which Creech considered a welcome change after so much Star Fox.
So I got stumped by Paper Mario 2, literally. But who knows? If I get this game again I may just be able to Google my way through that wooden labyrinth and move on to better, less oxygenous places. Oh god, that sounded really bad. I meant that trees produce more oxygen and I was stuck—oxygenous isn’t even a real word—I’m pretty sure the paper versions still need to breathe and—oh, forget it.
So that’s about all there was in my incedible missing container, and it was nice to look back and remember the games so fondly featured in my youth. It’s been a long time, even longer for some, but someday I’ll have my consoles again, and can slowly recollect these discs and cartridges until this coveted piece of my life is complete once again.
But seriously, that’ll be a while. I mean, this economy? Forreal.