Before video games looked like real life and before you used your computer to watch girls out of your league touch each other, there were CD-ROM video games. They became popular right in the heart of the Super Nintendo/Sega Genesis era not because they were a better alternative—because they certainly were not—but mainly because in the early 1990’s, computers were really fucking cool and having one meant that both your parents had jobs.
This was during a time where logging in to a computer and playing Solitaire for two hours was like a really fun thing to do. CD-ROM games would eventually evolve and gain the complexity of their console-based brothers, but I’m not talking about games like World of Warcraft, I’m talking the OG shit of the 90’s where your choice of weapons in shooter games was gun or knife and where even Hellen Keller would complain about the graphics.
Now admittedly I wasn’t a HUGE CD-ROM gamer, so I’m in no way qualified to comprise some sort of well-crafted top ten list. Instead I’m gonna list some of the games I used to play and say a few words about them. And hopefully you’ll be entertained. So break out your copy of Duke Nukem, wipe it on your L.A. Gear t-shirt to make sure you get all the scratches out, and pop it into your Apple Macintosh desktop, it’s time to CD-ROM.
Sim City 2000
Sim City 2000 came out in 1994 when I was 7 years old and I’m pretty sure I still constructed a better subway system than the one we have in New York City. As a kid it was hard to take the game seriously because there was no such thing as “beating the game,” so you’d just fuck around for hours at a time and do things that hopefully wouldn’t piss off your imaginary citizens too much. Or you’d just say fuck ’em and surround an elementary school with four prisons.
Either way, in hindsight this game was probably wayyy too advanced for me (there were property tax rates for Christ sake) to truly appreciate, and I’d actually like to play it today to see how well it held up.
Roller Coaster Tycoon
By the time Roller Coaster Tycoon came out in 1999, I had all that Sim City experience under my belt so I was able to take this game a little more seriously. And by more seriously, of course I mean put as many loops in my roller coaster as possible and kill 65 innocent people with an architecturally impossible design. Sure they’d stay away from the park for a while, until I smoothed things over by putting a Dippin’ Dots stand on every corner. Easy game.
Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?
Bet you didn’t see this pick coming. If it weren’t for Ms. Sandiego and her international run-ins with the law, I wouldn’t have aced AP Geography my senior year of high school. Two things here: first, Carmen Sandiego is sexy as fuck. Not in the traditional sense because she’s kinda got a Teresa from Real Housewives of New Jersey thing going on with her face, but her whole steal-something-valuable-and-make-me-chase-her thing really did it for me. Secondly, anybody who played Where in the USA is Carmen Sandiego? is an absolute coward. Yeah I’m sure the game is really fun when you have to find Carmen in the state that Los Angeles is in. Man up and attack the entire globe.
It feels a little wrong including The Sims because I feel like this is where CD-ROM games really started to turn the corner in terms of complexity, but the game was just too awesome not to include. It was like suddenly you were Mary-Ellis Bunim (may she rest in peace) and directing your own version of a hybrid Real World/Big Brother right at the height of the popularity of those two shows, except you didn’t even have to include a gay cast mate if you didn’t want to. Anyone who says they didn’t at least think about jacking it to a hot Sims character is a pathological liar.
Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?
Speaking of shows that were extremely popular at the time, Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? may be my most played CD-ROM game of all-time. Flashback to the year 2000. My little league team makes the regionals in some bumfuck Massachusetts town and we all have to stay with host families. The family I’m staying with has a son about my age who showed up to greet me wearing pretty much the same hat that Smalls wore in The Sandlot, meanwhile my teammates got to stay with normal kids who had movie theaters and golf courses at their houses.
So right off the bat I’m like wow this kid is an L7 WEENIE. I get to his house and ask if he’s got any video games, and of course he doesn’t because he’s a future serial killer, but he says he did just get this new computer game based off the most popular gameshow in the world at the time. Flash forward three days and my man TJ is my new best friend because I am HOOKED on Millionaire. Playing it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, never letting TJ play because fuck off it’s my house now, be nice to your guests.
You wanna know how I know I’m weird? When I didn’t know the answer to a question and used all my lifelines already, I used to walk away from the game and take my money. You know how fucked up in the head you have to be to walk away with $125,000 in fake digital money? Eventually I’d learn of a secret lifeline called Ask Jeeves and I’d beat the game every time.
I know this wasn’t technically a countdown but I had to save the best for last. The Doom vs Duke Nukem debate in elementary school was like the precursor to the Mortal Kombat vs Donkey Kong debate in Billy Madison. Every rational thinking 9-year-old knows though that Doom was the superior game. If you didn’t have nightmares about the creatures in Doom the night after playing it for seven straight hours you were a tougher kid than I was. My parents wouldn’t even let me play Doom until one day I walked in on them having sex, and suddenly Doom seemed a little more harmless. Doom was the game the made me realize that I was way better at sports games than I was at shooting games. And that there is obviously life on Mars.
Jimmy T is a regular columnist for BroBible. He also runs the blog Jimmy’s Very Unusual.