Gaming Memories

A common practice while I sit at my desk working throughout the day is to read through the blog sites that I follow here on WordPress. In catching up with today’s blogs, Athena from The AmbiGamingCorner has written another blog post for Dragon Age Month titled – The Interesting Case of Dragon Age: Origins, or Multisensory Experiences and Memory. In the article, Athena discussed the connection between the way that our memories are formed and stored within our minds. Also mentioned within the post was how certain sensory details can trigger memories, such as the song played at your wedding or high school graduation. Simply hearing this combination of notes and sounds can bring with it an array of sensory details as you may remember a certain sight or smell, along with the type of things you were feeling at the time of such memories. The post got me thinking of examples of the feelings and emotions a few brief seconds of audio, whether sound effects or music, can bring forward. I decided shortly thereafter, it may be slightly less-restrictive to wax nostalgic in a separate post rather than leave an enormous collection of scattered thoughts in the comments section. Here are just a few of the games and associated memories/details that arise from hearing a split-second of intro music…

Note: For a more coherent description of what I attempt to say in the above paragraph, check out the original post. If you are not already familiar with Athena’s great blog site I strongly urge you to do so, as it contains a wealth of Dragon Age and Mass Effect knowledge, among other things.

Donkey Kong Country

It takes only a split-second of hearing Kranky Kong turn the gramophone playing the first few notes of the opening sequence of Donkey Kong Country before I come down with nostalgia overload. Immediately, I recall sitting in my neighbor’s living room playing DKC for the first time after school way back in November of 1994. I still remember how the tv/entertainment center was along the east wall or the color of the carpeting as I sat on the floor fixated on this SNES game. I can still vividly see the beige/tan sofa that sat to my right along the living room windows, I even remember the smell of the air freshener used in the house. I still remember staying there for sleepovers and sitting up until the early morning hours playing DKC trying to beat some of the stages like Millstone Mayhem or, god forbid, Minecart Madness. Another track from Donkey Kong Country I’ve mentioned numerous times is Aquatic Ambience, which is used in the underwater levels of the game(a gorilla collecting bananas underwater while riding a swordfish?) and feels almost heart-wrenching upon hearing. It’s one of those pieces of music that has the inexplicable ability to stir something within you, despite not being able to articulate just what it is that makes you feel this way.

Pokemon Red

Another title song that instantly transports me back to the days of my youth. Pokémon Red starts by the dramatic building of tension as the battle music begins, before showing a contest between Gengar and Nidoran, depicted in the black/gray hues of the Game Boy. Nearly anyone who has played a mainline Pokémon game can likely tell you the first time they heard the now-iconic battle theme that ushered millions of kids into what could only be described at the time as “Pokémania”. I’m unable to put my finger on precisely when I was first introduced to the newest phenomenon known as Pokémon in the late 90’s, though I’d wager “how” would be from flipping through issues of Nintendo Power as a kid. Hearing the Pokémon main battle theme to this day, I can still feel the yellow plastic of my Game Boy Color as I would sit and play Pokémon Red the entire way from school. I can still smell the warm spring air or the dust swirled about from beind the car as the final stretch of the drive home was on a dirt road. I remember how I would often sit behind the driver’s seat of the car and the feel of the fabric of the seats, or even the occasional creaking noise from the vinyl upholstery of the dashboard. Hell, I even remember times where I would realize I had been sitting in the car in the driveway for about 20 minutes before moving inside to continue my journey to become Pokémon Master of the Kanto Region…


Yes, here we are, I’m talking about Banjo-Kazooie….again. I often feel a tinge of embarrassment when I enthusiastically gush about a game that I loved as a kid, now an adult, but I can’t deny its significance. I remember first seeing the commercial for the game while watching Nickelodeon cartoons(most likely) one summer afternoon before deciding I wanted to play the game more than anything else I could think of. In our local town there was a small store which rented out VHS tapes, video games, along with a small assortment of knicknacks, and I remember my mom finally agreeing to let me rent Banjo-Kazooie from the store. Of course, I was fortunate enough the store also rented out a few Nintendo 64(and Playstation) consoles so I could actually play the game as I didn’t even have an N64 of my own at that point. I still remember the excitement of bringing the game home along with the rental console that was safely housed inside the big plastic, foam-lined briefcase and hurrying back to my bedroom to hook up to my little tv with the one broken antenna. All it takes is to hear the first musical notes(from a banjo, naturally) and I can almost smell the pungent odor of the secondhand smoke that penetrated the rental cases as the lady that ran the store sat behind the counter and smoked cigarettes all day. I have many memories of sitting alone in my bedroom in moments of quiet solitude playing Banjo-Kazooie and would love to dedicate a full-length blog post to expressing, or attempting to, what the game has meant to me over the years…

Thanks for reading!

5 Favorites for the Rare 35th Anniversary

For any kid like me that grew up(?) playing video games in the 90’s and early 2000’s, one of the most beloved and prolific studios was Rare. The British studio was responsible for creating classics like Donkey Kong Country, Battletoads, GoldenEye, and Banjo-Kazooie. There was such a sense of humor and creativity in the games created by Rare, along with a respected level of quality that easily rivaled that of developers like Capcom or Konami during the early and mid-90’s. Rare is now celebrating its 35th anniversary in the gaming industry, so, for today’s post, I’ve created a list of my favorite games developed during the studio’s golden years. To commemorate this occasion Rare has also released a list of tracks taken from its past titles across streaming services online titled – Rare All-Stars 35th Anniversary Collection, which served as my background music while writing this…

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country wasn’t the first Rare game I ever played, that would go to R.C. Pro-Am and Battletoads on the NES, but DKC is a game that holds a special place in gaming history(and myself). Rare convinced Nintendo to allow them the opportunity to create a new game from a classic game character that was considered long past his prime, only to create an all-time classic adventure-platformer and bring the banana-hoarding primate to relevance once again. I will concede that Donkey Kong Country 2 is the best of the series, but my personal favorite will always be the original.

Perfect Dark

Though both GoldenEye and Perfect Dark are great games and examples of how Rare changed perceptions of FPS games on console, I’m choosing Perfect Dark here. In contrast to my preference of Donkey Kong Country games, my choice of GoldenEye or Perfect Dark would be the latter, though not by any great margin. I always felt that Perfect Dark took everything that made GoldenEye a breakthrough (console)FPS game and refined it, along with creating unique, memorable world, weapons and protagonist in Joanna Dark. I’ve written in the past about some of the different things that I loved(and still love) about Perfect Dark so I will keep this relatively brief.

Jet Force Gemini

One of my personal favorite Rare games, Jet Force Gemini was released during their golden days on the N64. The premise of Jet Force Gemini is pretty simple: Juno, Vela, and their dog-companion, Lupus are dispatched to restore order after insectoid overlord Mizar has taken over the planet Goldwood and enslaved the fuzzy alien population. The non-linear worlds in the game were large and colorful, they were also crawling with insect enemies to be splattered. The enemy A.I. in the game was pretty challenging, making for some intense battles which required a healthy dose of the game’s many interesting weapons. Whenever the question is asked about which game you would pick for a remake or remaster, Jet Force Gemini is one of my first picks. There’s also the code for rainbow blood, which resulted in plenty of added color after fighting an army of bugs…

Diddy Kong Racing

While multiplayer kart-racing games begin and end with Mario Kart, Rare took Diddy Kong, the number-two banana in DKC and inserted him into an exciting and colorful kart-racer along with a cast of Rare-verse characters that we would know and love for generations like Banjo and Conker. The success of Diddy Kong Racing is also quite impressive considering it came out the same year as Mario Kart 64. One of the most memorable parts of Diddy Kong Racing(outside of its difficulty) was the fact you had the option of choosing between standard go-kart, plane, and hoverboat to use in the various races before ultimately facing off against the evil WizPig. I’m not going to go without also mentioning my two favorite characters to use in the game that have sadly faded into obscurity – Tiptup the Turtle and Timber the Tiger.


Whether asking my favorite Rare game or simply my favorite Nintendo 64 game, Banjo-Kazooie is usually my answer. The game contains everything that made Rare so special – instantly memorable characters and worlds filled with humor and personality, along with an iconic soundtrack and sound effects. I have mentioned Banjo-Kazooie here on WordPress….a time or two and also just finished up a playthrough of the HD remaster on Twitch. I had a great time and was very pleased with how incredibly well the game has held up, especially impressive considering other games from the first generation of 3D games. The final level of Banjo-Kazooie is even turned into a boardgame/quiz show, how awesome is that? I absolutely love this game.

Other honorable mentions would include:

  • R.C. Pro AM
  • Killer Instinct
  • Conker’s Bad Fur Day
  • Battletoads/Double Dragon
  • Donkey Kong 64
  • GoldenEye
  • Viva Piñata
  • Star Fox Adventures(yes, I liked it)

There’s plenty more that I’ve either forgotten or haven’t even played yet, like Grabbed by the Ghoulies or Sea of Thieves. I will also take this opportunity to promote the impressive retrospective/collection of games are included(minus any Donkey Kong games) in the Rare Replay bundle on Xbox One, especially for those subscribed to Game Pass. What are your favorites from Rare? Let me know!

Thanks for reading!