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The games that used to be, the games to be.

By Tom Peden, Gamer News Daily Contributing Author

I take a look back of some of the best memories of my childhood and relive some of the greatest and most mind-blowing games I played during those times. If I was Marty McFly and I had the Delorean, I wouldn’t be so hasty going back to the future if I had these games for company.

Without giving my age away too much, I’m old enough to have had the SNES as my first ever console. I was around five years old when my dad brought home this grey plastic, cartridge blowing, electronic joy. I sat down one night, slammed The Legend of Zelda: a Link to the past in the console and I’ve never looked back.

Since that first time I pressed start to play I’ve always thought of games as a truly unique art form. Yes, they are digital entertainment, but to myself and so many others, they are much more than just that single medium. When people ask me why I like games so much, the simplest explanation I give is that it’s like watching a movie, except you’re the hero, the villain, or the main dude. It’s a collective medium of all art forms mashed into one single interactive entity and you’re actively involved. What’s not to like about that?

Searching through the cobwebs for some of my fondest, most obscure games, I’ve brought you a list of just some of the games that used to be, the games to be when I was young. Some you might not have heard of, and some you might not agree with, but that’s the beauty of video games. There’s something out there for everyone.

In no particular order, here are the games that used to be, my games to be.

Syndicate Wars

The year is 1996, Bullfrog, a studio responsible for developing some of my all time favourite games release the sequel to Syndicate – Syndicate Wars. A year later it would be launched on the PlayStation and this is when I first got my hands on it.

Set in the year 2191 Syndicate Wars is an isometric futuristic shooter. The story is that a virus called ‘Harbringer’ has infected the global communication systems. Two factions are locked in a heated conflict and you take the role of an agent – a cybernetic being who can upgrade and customise their body parts.

Syndicate Wars was fast paced, had elements of GTA about it and looked amazing, for the time. Vehicles, multiple weapons, upgradeable characters – they all added so much to the game. In Syndicate Wars you could assassinate, persuade and blast your way to victory.

Syndicate Wars felt like one of the first non-linear game I played looking back, sort of like a first generation Ghost Recon Wildlands.

The game had an interesting story and it also had some weight to the consequences of your actions, touching on what cyber enhancements could do to humanity. I had so much fun playing this game with friends when I was younger and just thinking of the hours we spent blowing each other up brings a smile back to my face.

Populous: The Beginning

Before Black & White, there was Populous – a strategy game where you controlled a female shaman and her tribe as you try and conquer the known world, all in the name of a god. Sound familiar?

This is the second game on our list to be developed by Bullfrog, and if you haven’t gotten the hint yet, I really like that studio.

The campaign had the player warring against opposing shamans for domination over the land. As you progressed through the game, the god you worshipped bestowed great powers on you in the form of spells. Tornados, land bridges and swarms of insects all at your disposal to vanquish your enemies.

Populous: The Beginning looked amazing for its time. 3D graphics and what felt like a huge world to explore. It’s tiny by today’s standards but at the time it was mind-blowing for me. Players could construct buildings, monuments, recruit powerful warriors and you could even convert enemy units to fight for your cause.

Populous: The Beginning may not have had the pet that the Black & White games did, but what it did have were solid, fun and unique gameplay. I would consider this game to be something of a pioneer of its time, and that’s not just because the protagonist was a female either. It feels like a “you heard it here first”.


The ‘newest’ game on our list is Homeworld – a space strategy game developed by Relic Entertainment and released in 1999. Homeworld was what really got me into strategy gaming; it immersed me in this space age world and took me to a place I’d never been before.

Homeworld had an amazing story to its campaign. You search across the galaxy looking for answers about who you are and where you came from – something, which resonates with all of us at some point.

You controlled a Mothership, a huge towering space vessel from which you could construct your fleet. Battleships, carrier crafts and smaller fighters – there were a huge number of ships for you to build, control and take into battle.

You could research and improve aspects of your ships and every time you completed a mission, you would start the next level with all the ships that had survived in the previous one, a standout feature for this game at the time.

Homeworld also had an incredible soundtrack; it was a mesmerising at times and perfectly set the tone for others. When you couple all this with the impressive graphics, smooth gameplay and grand strategy, you ask yourself why games like these aren’t still made today. Homeworld did have a remastered version released in 2015 and there are talks of a sequel to the franchise being developed. I can only hope the rumours are true for once.

I could probably list about another 40 games on this list, but I’ll spare you, for now. Hopefully, you haven’t played some of these games before and by my passionate and informative plea, you might be persuaded to give them a try. Some of these games may be for sale online so if you haven’t checked them out, it’s better late than never.

What games were the ones to be in your childhood? Let us know your games that used to be the games to be and we can continue this nostalgic binge.

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