Video Game Magazines were such a huge part of gaming in the 90s and 2000s. This was before the internet really got popular and the magazines were the main way people got gaming information. This included upcoming video games, exclusive information, previews, reviews and much more. The magazines are such a lost piece of history that I feel really should be talked about more than they are. I love old Video Game Magazines because they’re a time capsule of what was happening in that month and year. I want to go over in this blog the Importance of Video Game Magazines and how they helped shape gaming back then.
Before the internet video game information was really hard to come by. The only way you really learned about video games was commercials, word of mouth (mostly rumors on the playground) or video game magazines. These magazines would be the first to get sneak previews and exclusive world premieres. They usually advertised that next month’s issue would have special previews so you knew what was upcoming. The anticipation of getting the new magazine and seeing the new games were great. The best part was that most of the times, a game came out under a year after the first preview dropped so you were never waiting long like you do today. There are screenshots of actual gameplay and not just a concept, but actual gameplay. The preview section was something to look forward to that kept you on the edge of your seat waiting between issues.
Video games were still fairly new and getting a new game, either renting or buying was a big deal. You wanted to make sure you got the best game because that most likely would be the only game you play for the next couple months. If it is bad, you can maybe convince your parent to let you trade it in for something else. This could be mostly avoided by reading the reviews in these magazines and making sure you knew the game you were getting was good. The magazines were usually very fair on reviews and you could always count on them for being accurate. The reviews also helped with renting games. Let me paint a picture for you. It is Friday night; you just finished your day at school and you head over to blockbuster while the local pizza place is making you a fresh pizza. You look at the wall of games and have no clue what to rent. You see some new games you never heard of, your old standbys that you have rented enough that you could have bought it, and finally games that have been there for months but you never gave them a try. You know if you pick a bad game, that weekend would be a waste! You would have to wait for the next time you can rent a game and you were unsure when that would be. I know myself and a lot of friends did not purchase video games because we were just kid, we had to rely on renting them. This is why Video Game Magazines were so critical. I was super confident every time I was looking for a game to rent as I knew if it was good or not. Most games I ended up purchasing came from renting first. If a game was good enough, I knew I would ask for it for my Birthday.
Tip, Tricks, Hints and Cheat Codes
Remember all those school yard rumors for games? Mew is under the truck in front of the S.S. Anne? You could play as master hand in Super Smash Brothers Melee? Skipping half the track if you jump off the right part of Rainbow Road in Mario Kart 64? Hidden areas, cheat codes and even hidden mini games? A lot of times in these older magazines would have awesome tricks, tip, hints and cheat codes in them. If I remember correctly, I learned about the rare candy glitch in Pokémon from a magazine. Seeing secrets confirmed from playground rumors was always something special. Cheat codes were also a ton of fun to expand your game. Who didn’t love finding out you can have big head mode, moon gravity, infinite special or any other crazy game breaking cheat code from the back of a magazine. Some times messing with those cheat codes were more fun than the actual game.
This was game changing honestly and I feel it doesn’t get talk about nearly enough. I remember I bought an Official PlayStation Magazine before I even had a PlayStation. It was issue Number 2. It had Crash Bandicoot 2, Croc, Armored Core, Madden 98, Cool boarders 2 and Colony Wars. I got a PlayStation a few months later and got to playing! This disc opened me up to the Crash Bandicoot, which I would have never have even tried if it wasn’t for this demo disc. I vividly remember sitting in the parking lot of Toys R’ Us looking at Crash Bandicoot 3, thinking, this is not my type of game. However, thanks to this PlayStation Demo Disc, Crash Bandicoot 3 quickly became one of my favorites. I know a lot of people talk about the Pizza Hut promotional discs as being a big part of their childhood too. Now, you just download a demo, watch a review, or even watch a streamer play the whole game. However, back then the only real way to be exposed to play new games early were demo discs. They also contained trailers for upcoming games as well. They were a really nice addition to an already jam packed magazine.
The Video Game Magazines often times came with folded posted. You would have to cut them out and you could hang them on your wall. They ranged from upcoming games to promotional posters to even Pokémon: The First Movie and Mario posters! Just make sure you cut them with a scissor or else when you tried to rip it out, you would get really uneven, bumpy edges. You know exactly what I am talking about!
Sometimes these magazines had special promotional trading cards in them. You could only get these through the magazine and they were nice little surprises when you found them. Some examples would be the Nintendo Power Magazine from September 1999 that contained the E3 Yellow Cheeks Base Set Pikachu as well as the Nintendo Power Magazine from April 2000 that contained the Mewtwo Black Star Promo #12.
Mail In Bonuses and Giveaways
Ah, those little slips that everyone threw away. Yep, even I did too. Now 20 years later I realize how important some of those actually were. You could get some amazing deals with those mail in bonuses. It ranged from discounts of games, exclusive items and even free giveaways or trips. I know the super rare Donkey Kong 64 Banana Yellow controller was available through a mail in bonus. To think something so important and rare would have been available from a paper slip most people threw away. I guess that is why it is super rare, huh?
A Snapshot In Time
If you pick up an old video game magazine you instantly go back to the month and year of that issue. What was hot, what is coming out soon, what is trendy. Even the advertisements are fun to go back and look at. You might even see something you completely forgot about! I love looking back at old Funcoland advertisements! When I reread some magazines, I can even remember reading the magazine for the first time and being in awe at what was going on in the gaming world.
Off Topic But Related, Strategy Guides
It is late 90’s, you just picked up a brand-new game. You are about to embark on a new adventure. You start playing and a few hours in you are lost. You can’t just jump on YouTube and watch a clip of how to beat an area, or search for help on Google. You just spent all your birthday money on this game. You had to painstakingly sit there, for sometimes hours, walking around the same area hoping to find the right way to go. I am looking at you Final Fantasy 8! This is where a strategy guide will help immensely. I would get strategy guides for RPGs and I was never lost. I wouldn’t follow it step by step throughout the whole game, but it was nice to know I could check in be guided in the right direction. With a strategy guide you got the full experience out of the game. You could get every morsel of content out of a game. When the internet started gaining popularity physical strategy guides slowly vanished. It’s a ton of fun to think back to the days before the internet and remember how these guides were game savers. I don’t think I would have a much love for most JRPGs as I do now without the help of these guides. Actually, I don’t think I would have even beat those games at all when I was younger!
Wow, writing this really makes me miss monthly Video Game Magazines. The importance of them before the internet is undeniable. The days of the mystery, the waiting, the anticipation and constantly checking your mailbox for the newest issue is gone, but not forgotten. There was something to be said about the instantaneous nature of the internet now. Trailers are launched and you can watch them seconds after being posted, waiting for a review embargo to be end to be inundated with review score, downloading a demo or beta months before the game is even released and even checking YouTube or Google on how to beat a boss. It’s great, don’t get me wrong, but I will always hold a special place for Video Game Magazines.