What's the first PC game you remember playing?

Lauren Morton

Staff member

Hey PC gamers and welcome back to another week in the chat log. This week Mollie and I decided to take a little stroll back through our childhood to talk about some of the earliest PC games we can remember playing. For us, that means the late '90s and early 2000s, a golden era for edutainment adventure games, weird browser games, and totally un-parentally-monitored chat rooms masquerading as games. It was a wild time. But whether you're close in age to either of us or you have memories of a much earlier (or more recent) era of PC gaming, tell me:

What's the first PC game you remember playing?​

We totally want to know if anyone shares those early memories of Humongous Entertainment and Learning Land games with us (shoutout to Lucas Learning too!). But we also want to know if you grew up on text adventures or if one of your parents shared their love of flight simulators and cRPGs with you. Maybe you grew up in the Minecraft era and you were raised on a diet of Hunger Games multiplayer servers and viral pop song machinima vids. We're honestly dying to know!
 
Very first was some golf game that a work colleague smuggled onto his PC in late 80s. There is also a fog of war containing a plethora of shareware like Commander Keen, King's Quest and many similar. :)

But the first clear memory—ie first game to make a lasting impression—was side-scrolling platformer Prince of Persia in 1990. First time I'd seen a character with fairly fluid human-like movement, which was such a step-up from ASCII sprites or cartoon characters. Dev Jordan Mechner had used rotoscoping animation in his similar earlier Karateka martial arts game for the Apple II in 1984.

Wiki says Mechner used his brother as model for rotoscoping the Prince, and an Errol Flynn movie swordfight for the combat animations!

It had the obligatory save-the-princess, buckling-your-swash swordplay, and more traps than a seaside golf links. Quite difficult if I recall correctly, took me a while to get thru. I recall one scene which took me a long time to figure out what to do—no web or guides back then—where you had to defeat your mirror image in a swordfight!

Great memorable game.
 
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I was born in '92, but I had two older brothers born in '85 and '87, so I managed to piggyback on their gaming endeavours. I have memories of a lot of different games from when I was very young, but I struggle to place them in order - but whatever it was, it was definitely on either a NES or PC.

As for the NES, I only really recall Super Mario Bros. 1, 2, and 3 and some sort of 2D sidescrolling fantasy action game (where 5 year old me really struggled with the most basic of platforming). The NES broke at some point and never got fixed, so PC became the defacto gaming machine for a number of years until (I think) I got a PS1 for my 8th birthday.

We had that family PC as long as I can remember and those early PC gaming years had a real spread of games; the ones I can distinctly recall are Worms, Doom 2, Quake, Tomb Raider, Command and Conquer: Red Alert, the first Grand Theft Auto, and my very first personal PC game that I got for Christmas, The Simpsons Virtual Springfield (...I had fun at the time). I remember we also had some of these discs which offered 100 games in 1 which were generally super low-effort minigames, but that didn't stop 6 year old me from trying them all.

Talking about desktop pets conjured up a terrible memory - I almost certainly filled my family PC with malware trying to download some kind of virtual desktop stripper 😭 This is what happens when you let pre-pubescent boys have unrestricted access to the internet - it's probably the 90s equivalent of searching for booba on Youtube 😂 PS. I never actually got to see any boobs on that thing, it was all a ruse!
 
My Dad bought our first PC in '92 which I think was a 486 SX/25. I had already been console gaming since '89 with Gameboy and Sega Megadrive. I was born in '83 so started gaming from the age of 6. One of the first PC games I remember playing was a demo of Hocus Pocus, a wizarding platformer which I think came on a PC Gamer demo disk. Demo disks used to be a great way to try a lot of games for the price of a magazine. I remember games being expensive and only getting a few a year. Compared to Steam sales today where I end up with 10s of games a year.

Edit: looks like Hocus Pocus was a 94 disk so my memory is a bit off. Hard to think back as to what my first game was.

View: https://imgur.com/a/aYYniJg
 
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IF we restrict it to just PC games, AKA IBM compatibles AKA what we use now... then I can't tell you. It might have been a golf game on a work PC circa 1995. I had a computer before that, just not a "modern" PC

First PC game I bought was Sim CIty 3000 but I had played the series before, I just didn't get my own PC until 1999.
First computer game I played? No idea... like Zloth I used them since Apple IIe days so no Idea. Wizardry sticks out... Beer panic as well, but they unlikely to be first. It was probably in 1981 though as before then I had never used a computer.
 

Lauren Morton

Staff member
One of the first PC games I remember playing was a demo of Hocus Pocus, a wizarding platformer which I think came on a PC Gamer demo disk. Demo disks used to be a great way to try a lot of games for the price of a magazine. I remember games being expensive and only getting a few a year.
What a time capsule! We hear tell of the demo disc days from some of our other team members and I always imagined them as CD-ROMs. I'm sure they were at one point, but it's cool to see one on floppy. I only have a very brief memory of games on 8 1/2 floppys before the rise of CDs.

I almost certainly filled my family PC with malware trying to download some kind of virtual desktop stripper 😭 This is what happens when you let pre-pubescent boys have unrestricted access to the internet - it's probably the 90s equivalent of searching for booba on Youtube 😂 PS. I never actually got to see any boobs on that thing, it was all a ruse!
This is exactly what I was trying to not admit out loud on the podcast but if you see pain in my eyes this is what I was remembering because I did the same thing 😅

Edit: "this gif of...whatever romping around on your screen," I said, definitely having flashbacks.
 

McStabStab

Community Contributor
Holy crap @Lauren Morton , you talking about the snap open jewel cases from the library unlocked a core memory!

I played a ton of edutainment as a kid on the Apple II at school or the library. Oregon Trail, Path Tactics, Storybook Weaver, Kings Quest IV, and Odell Lake are the ones that I remember the most.

Later my family got an MS DOS machine and that’s when I got into Wolfenstein 3D. What an awesome time to grow up!
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
What a time capsule! We hear tell of the demo disc days from some of our other team members and I always imagined them as CD-ROMs. I'm sure they were at one point, but it's cool to see one on floppy. I only have a very brief memory of games on 8 1/2 floppys before the rise of CDs.
3.5 inch was the last of the common formats. Apples, Ataris, Commodes, and early IBM clones used 5.25". 8" was used before home PCs, though I got to see some 8" disks in an office setting once.

This looks like it's about 8 inches:
full


Later my family got an MS DOS machine and that’s when I got into Wolfenstein 3D. What an awesome time to grow up!
But you missed out on great classics like this!
View: https://youtu.be/gGn536gbFUA?si=bhDNpO00YUeP98JU&t=191

What a wonderous game!

OK. So, it's only wonderous if you consider that they crammed that into something like 4K of memory. Playing it wasn't so great. Watching somebody else play out was a nightmare.
 

Lauren Morton

Staff member
I played a ton of edutainment as a kid on the Apple II at school or the library. Oregon Trail, Path Tactics, Storybook Weaver, Kings Quest IV, and Odell Lake are the ones that I remember the most.
Yes! Those big plastic cases were such a specific moment in time. I never actually played Kings Quest, but that's totally what the Treasure Mountain games were trying to replicate for kids.

3.5 inch was the last of the common formats. Apples, Ataris, Commodes, and early IBM clones used 5.25". 8" was used before home PCs, though I got to see some 8" disks in an office setting once.
I definitely meant 3.5 floppy you're right 🤣 I do not come from the era of 8" disks.
 

PCGMollie

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Aug 14, 2023
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Oh man, it's been so cool seeing all the different games you all played growing up! Always love to hear the differences in how people got into gaming, I remember when my Dad would always gush to me about the C64 days, though nowadays all he talks about is COD or whatever Tom Clancy game he's replaying haha 😄

I remember playing BloodNet on Amiga 1200. You needed 12 floppy disks to play it and I remember quitting the game because the amount of disc swapping was just bonkers.

12 floppy discs!! I remember being annoyed when a game would have four CD-ROMs, let alone 12 floppy discs. I don't think I would've been strong enough to be a gamer in the early 90s. 😆

I played Gobliiins on my friend's Atari and every time you walked off the screen you had to insert another floppy and it would take 2 minutes.
Oh god okay, maybe this is worse LOL!!

I do weirdly miss the ritual of swapping out discs these days though. There was something so satisfying about finishing up everything one disc had to offer, getting up and changing it to the next disc. Like a mini achievement. I'm sure if I had to do it now I'd be annoyed by it though hahahaa.

I had a friend a few doors down who had an IBM PC. I used to go around there and play stuff like WaxWorks and Ultima 5 with him. My own first PC had Windows 95 on it and came with a Theme Park CD ROM so it would probably be that on my own system, either that, MS Golf, or Space Cadet 3D Pinball, which apparently was only a demo TIL.
Holy crap TIL about Space Cadet too!! I was such a sucker for 3D Pinball. Fond memories of eating marmite on toast before school while flicking between this and the copy of Sonic R I'm pretty sure we picked up from Poundland.
 
Holy crap TIL about Space Cadet too!! I was such a sucker for 3D Pinball. Fond memories of eating marmite on toast before school while flicking between this and the copy of Sonic R I'm pretty sure we picked up from Poundland.
Pinball was great! Didnt have much of my own money at that point and we didnt have internet when I got my first PC so had to play whatever was around or what I borrowed from mates. Spent half the time with my first PC changing the Windows theme sounds to random song samples and editing the Autoexec.bat for no reason whatsoever.

Have to give Magic Carpet a shout out too, never won a game but it was full 3D and played alright on 1mb of VRAM
 
My Dad bought our first PC in '92 which I think was a 486 SX/25. I had already been console gaming since '89 with Gameboy and Sega Megadrive. I was born in '83 so started gaming from the age of 6. One of the first PC games I remember playing was a demo of Hocus Pocus, a wizarding platformer which I think came on a PC Gamer demo disk. Demo disks used to be a great way to try a lot of games for the price of a magazine. I remember games being expensive and only getting a few a year. Compared to Steam sales today where I end up with 10s of games a year.

Edit: looks like Hocus Pocus was a 94 disk so my memory is a bit off. Hard to think back as to what my first game was.

View: https://imgur.com/a/aYYniJg

Hocus Pocus is one of the earliest video games I remember playing. That and Raptor: Call of the Shadows. Though I started playing when I was just 2 years old according to my mom, so I don't know for sure what the very first game I played was.

Yes! Those big plastic cases were such a specific moment in time. I never actually played Kings Quest, but that's totally what the Treasure Mountain games were trying to replicate for kids.


I definitely meant 3.5 floppy you're right 🤣 I do not come from the era of 8" disks.

We had Super Solvers: Treasure Mountain and Gizmos & Gadgets, both of which were great. The Dutch version had a voice line every time you found the solution to a puzzle, which my family still occasionally uses. I recently introduced my 6-year old kid to Treasure Mountain and she did pretty well until the second or third difficulty level.

TIL about Space Cadet too!! I was such a sucker for 3D Pinball. Fond memories of eating marmite on toast before school while flicking between this and the copy of Sonic R I'm pretty sure we picked up from Poundland.

The first Pinball game we had was Silverball. I wasn't very good at it, but my brother and my father would compete to break each other's high scores.
 

Zloth

Community Contributor
I do weirdly miss the ritual of swapping out discs these days though. There was something so satisfying about finishing up everything one disc had to offer, getting up and changing it to the next disc.
Unless you hadn't finished everything you wanted on the disc! "Insert Disc 2" also can mean "All your pending side quests just failed." <shudder>
 

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