If you were a kid in the 90s playing CD-ROM games, you probably played at least one Disney Interactive game. For kids learning how to use the computer, Disney games were the best of the best, the cream of the crop. 101 Dalmatians: Escape from Devil Manor, Disney’s Animated Storybook: Mulan, Disney’s The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Undersea Adventure, you name it. All your favorite Disney franchises, right on your desktop!
Oh, and Nightmare Ned. You remember him, right? That great beloved Disney franchise? … No?
Nightmare Ned was a platformer game released sometime in late 1997 (it’s difficult to get an exact date, due to vague distribution of PC games at the time). It was, as far as I know, the only Disney Interactive game to not be based directly on an established IP – it only had a single season of a cartoon that was made after the game began development, and by the time the game released, the show was no longer airing even in reruns. It was Disney’s one voyage into making ‘original’ video games, and it disappeared as quickly as it came.
So what even was it?
There’s something about the 101 Dalmatians franchise that enraptured me as a child against all odds.
Be outraged if you must, but truth be told, I’m not even sure if I had watched the original movie at that age. When I watched it as an adult, I remembered nothing about it, and I’ve never found a VHS of it in my family’s extensive Disney tape collection.
And I mean, what about it actually drew my attention? The main characters are British heterosexuals. Yes, somehow they managed to take the two most annoying groups of people in the world and combine them. And then they had the audacity to make the dogs British and heterosexual, as if dogs are capable of hate. Absolutely dreadful. Why do I like 101 Dalmatians?
Because of the puppies. Duh.
Even Disney knew the puppies were the only reason 101 Dalmatians is even relevant enough to talk about today. And boy, the merch they made. Sequels! Cartoons! Toys! I think I spent more time playing with my Dalmatians-themed snow globe than watching 101 Dalmatians: The Series (which, admittedly, still takes up way too much space in my heart).
There was one piece of Dalmatians-themed memorabilia that held my attention for the longest, though, and it was by far the least appropriate for the puppy-obsessed children they were marketing to. For little me, 101 Dalmatians: Escape from DeVil Manor was fun, emotionally stimulating, and also absolutely unnecessarily terrifying.
Super Mario 64 did more than just bring Mario to the third dimension: it literally defined a new genre and revolutionized video gaming for the rest of eternity. It’s impossible to overstate just how important Super Mario 64 was to the world of video gaming. Almost every single 3D video game produced after Super Mario 64 has drawn from its groundbreaking new mechanics.
But it’s not all fancy industry-changing technology in the world of Super Mario 64. This game changed something else about the world of video games… it introduced a world of fear. With the new 3D world came new 3D horrors, and these scarred the minds of a whole generation of gamers.
Where would modern horror gaming be without Big Boo’s Haunt, the Mad Piano, and Unagi? Although these kinds of scares may now seem simplistic, the world of horror would not be where it is today if they did not give us a glimpse of the potential that 3D games could provide.
After the jump, we’ll see these revolutionary frights first hand, and learn about what it meant to see 3D fear for the first time.
Tomba! is a 1997 side-scrolling platformer released for the Sony Playstation by Whoopee Camp. Designed by Tokuro Fujiwara, creator of the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series, Tomba is an interesting platformer-RPG blend involving solving quests in an open 2D world.
In Tomba!, the world has been magically corrupted by seven magic Evil Pigs and turned into a surreal land. The events of the game are sparked into motion when one of the Evil Pig’s minions steals a bracelet that belonged to Tomba’s grandfather, prompting him to go on an adventure to recover it. Along the way he meets the inhabitants of his world and helps them solve the problems that the Evil Pigs have caused with their dark magic.
The game itself is eccentrically humorous, and doesn’t let go of its grip on that, to the point where it might be hard to see what’s scary about a game with sidequests like helping a monkey find his pants. But this is October, and you know what that means: being designed by the same person who made Ghosts ‘n Goblins, this game is filled with unexpected creepy frights.
Join us after the jump and we’ll see ourselves just what kind of madness these Evil Pigs have caused.
Banjo-Kazooie is a 1998 3D platformer game for the Nintendo 64 by Rareware, and is considered by many to be one of the best games for the N64 altogether. It involves a bear (Banjo) and his best friend (Kazooie) on a quest to save Banjo’s sister Tooty from the evil witch Grunty, who is planning on stealing Tooty’s vestal beauty for herself.
Although Banjo-Kazooie is widely considered to be one of the greatest hits of the 90s, that just means it’s filled with what a lot of those great 90s had in common: pure, pure fear. Although Banjo-Kazooie is a light romp at heart, certain areas of the game are filled with unabashed fright. And no, we’re not just talking about Mad Monster Mansion here – Mad Monster Mansion is child’s play compared to how terrifying some of these levels can get.
After the jump, we’ll journey with the bear and bird to the deepest, spookiest recesses of Grunty’s castle.
Ecco the Dolphin is an action-adventure game developed by Novotrade International and published by Sega in 1992. Starring the titular Ecco, a bottlenosed dolphin with a strange constellation-shaped birthmark on his forehead, the game was unique at the time for exploring the vast depths of the ocean.
“It’s dolphins, right?” was the common refrain of most parents purchasing Ecco games for their children. Nothing could be bad about some nice, adorable, friendly dolphins! Even discarding the fact that real life dolphins are brutal and carnivorous, it was still a flawed premise from the start to assume that every animal protagonist would be as friendly as Sonic the Hedgehog… which was still a game with its own problems, but that’s for another article.
Needless to say, this didn’t pan out well for the children who received these gracious gifts. Just like Ecco himself, we’ll learn to experience true fear after the jump.
Donkey Kong Country was released in 1994 for the Super Nintendo. It was developed by Rare, and was the first entry to make Donkey Kong his own standalone hero instead of a Mario villain. It was hailed as a gameplay and graphical masterpiece, utilizing pre-rendered CGI models to give a faux-3D look to the 2D game. However, for as impressive these CGI models were, they pushed the limits of realness closer to the border of uncanny.
Many of the things that made Donkey Kong Country so great were also things that made it down right spooky. Join us on a trip through the jungle as we reminisce on the things that made us wonder if 3D gaming was all it was hyped to be.
Some fears are more primal than others. All things spooky tap into the darker parts of our mind, where our basic survival instincts lie, and exploit them to simulate experiencing a level of fear that people in modern society rarely feel. But perhaps one of the most primal fears is that of being hunted by something stronger and unstoppable than you.
3D Monster Maze was released for the Sinclair ZX81 in 1982, written by Malcom Evans for J.K. Greye Software. It relies on a deep, primal fear of being hunted. Hit the jump, and enter the monster’s lair for yourself.
Welcome to Halloween! Or as most people like to call it, October! This Halloween, we want to talk about some of the stuff that scared us the worst when we were kids. It’s time to take a retrospective look back into the past with Retrospectacles’ Spooky Edition, Retrospooktacles, where we will be not just looking through our old memories, but the things that made them terrifying!
Croc: Legend of the Gobbos is a Playstation game that was released on September 29, 1997 by the now-defunct Argonaut Games. It was originally intended to be produced for Nintendo as a video game starring Yoshi, but Nintendo declined and decided to produce their own 3D platformer with Mario himself. If it wasn’t for Nintendo declining this offer, Croc could’ve been the first true console 3D platformer ever released.
Croc, to most people, might be a minor footnote in the history of 3D platformers. But to those who have played it as kids, we may just remember something very distinctive about it: it was creepy as heck.
After the jump, we’ll explore why this Yoshi expy had reason to fear for his life.