All The PC Games You've Forgotten From Your Childhood

90s pc games childhood nostalgiaSpy Fox In Dry Cereal

The late 90s and early 2000s were a great time for PC games. With widespread adoption and the new affordability of home computers, games were able to reach mainstream audiences for the first time. It led to an 'edutainment' renaissance, and saw games entering school classrooms for the first time. From Bugdom to The Magic School Bus, we're taking a look back at all the games that shaped our childhoods.

Kid Pix

kid pix

Kid Pix was a drawing program that let kids show off their creative spirit the best way they knew how — with total, pure chaos. There were stamps that printed money, sticks of dynamite that blew away your artworks and tools for shifting, poking and prodding your canvas. Later versions even extended the game into animation and video creation, letting kids learn a variety of new skills under the guide of having fun. Kid Pix was a staple of many creative classrooms.


Bugdom

bugdomImage: FirstPlaysHD

Bugdom is an action adventure game where players take on the role of Rollie McFly, the coolest bug in the entire Bugdom. After the evil fire ants take over Rollie's peaceful land, he sets out on a quest to free imprisoned ladybugs and save the entire Bugdom. Wandering among the tall grass, whopping bugs and uncovering keys was great fun back in the day.


Spy Fox, Freddi Fish, Pajama Sam and Putt-Putt

humongous entertainment

Humongous Entertainment was a video game developer that focussed almost solely on edutainment. They created a variety of iconic characters that you just mind recognise, including Putt-Putt, Freddi Fish, Spy Fox, Pajama Sam, Fatty Bear, Buzzy the Knowledge Bug and Big Thinkers. These games were all classic point-and-click titles, and helped younger learners develop solid problem solving skills.

Many of us won't be able to count the amount of times we've played these on all of our fingers and toes. Every game has since been released on Steam, and you can usually pick them up for around $5 in seasonal sales.


Thinkin’ Things

thinkin' thingsImage: Razyrgames

The Thinkin' Things games featured a whole bunch of minigames on a CD-ROM, and included activities like swirling photos, making music and editing videos. They're most known for introducing the world to Fripples, delightful little creatures of all shapes and sizes that were spun-off into a game called All Around Frippletown. Here, the Fripples baked cookies, skated and delivered mail.


Granny's Garden

granny's garden

Granny's Garden originally appeared on the BBC Micro in 1983, but received several different remasters and adaptations for other home PCs — so you may remember it looking vastly different. In the game, players were required to rescue the six children of a King and Queen from various fantasy creatures. In one memorable challenge, players had to determine the favourite foods and baby dragons, and feed them each in the right order to free one of the children. If you failed your task, you were greeted by the cackling (and terrifying) face of an evil witch.


Logical Journey of the Zoombinis

zoombinis

Logical Journey of the Zoombinis is a puzzle game where players are required to deliver 'Zoombinis' (creatures with funky features) across a variety of obstacles. These logic puzzles are based on Zoombini facial features and preferences, making it extremely difficult to save all the Zoombinis at once. The game was actually remastered in 2015, proving just how popular the funky little Zoombinis still are.


Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures

indiana jones and his desktop adventures

Indiana Jones and His Desktop Adventures featured a brand new Indy tale, stuffed into a tiny pop-out window. It uses a charming pixel-art style, and sees Indy traversing Mexico solving puzzles and beating up bad guys. Interestingly, every playthrough of Desktop Adventures is unique — the game procedurally generated new interactions every time you started the game. It's now considered abandonware, and is available freely online.


The Treehouse

the treehouse broderbund

The Treehouse is an edutainment game developed by Brøderbund, and features a whole bunch of minigames taking place in a dusty treehouse. Players take on a a variety of games like theatre challenges and eye spy, all while looking after their opossum protagonist. The Playroom and The Backyard are also part of this cute little franchise.


Reading Blaster 2000

reading blaster 2000

Reading Blaster and Maths Blaster were two game franchises disguised as edutainment that were actually super fun. Reading Blaster 2000, a remake of Reading Blaster: Invasion of the Word Snatchers is the best of the bunch, and features a journey through a spooky house, mix and match puzzles, a running race with words and even shooting letters out of deep space. Every minigame was good fun, plus it was a great excuse to play video games while you were 'learning'.


Kid’s Typing

How did you learn to type? For many kids growing up in the 90s, Kid's Typing taught them everything they knew. This program featured a friendly ghost named Spooky as he took kids through the basics of typing. With instructions for touch typing, correct posture and finger placement, it's certainly one of the more helpful programs that we played as kids.


The Magic School Bus

magic school bus game

The Magic School Bus taught us everything we know about nature and the human body. After its TV popularity skyrocketed, it was spun off into a video game franchise, covering everything from the solar system to the ocean, the age of dinosaurs and bugs. The games are all fun, gorgeous and very delightful.


Encarta '94: MindMaze

mindmaze encarta 94Image: Jayskillz

Before the age of the internet, the fount of knowledge was the Microsoft Encarta on CD-ROM. These discs functioned as virtual encyclopaedias, with interactive media to illustrate moments and events. One fantastic feature of the Microsoft Encarta in 1994 (and the 1995 edition) was MindMaze, a hidden quiz game where you used trivia from the Encarta to progress through an underground chamber and escape. While it was a difficult game, it was also supremely rewarding.


The Way Things Work

the way things work

The Way Things Work is an 80s children's book written by David Macaulay. It describes basic mechanical concepts and the functions of machines to children using woolly mammoths as illustrative examples. In 1994, it received a video game adaptation. In it, kids can discover how things work in a mechanical setting and learn about basic machine components. While the information it contains is likely to be outdated now, discovering these objects for the first time as a kid was absolutely magical.


Do you remember any of these games from your childhood? Did we miss any of your favourites?

Editor's Note: I still have a copy of The Way Things Work that I got as a birthday present one year. It was the shit. And if you're patient enough to muck around with Windows 3.1 compatibility, you can get it running today: the ISO is saved on the Internet Archive here. - Alex


Comments

    No such list is complete without Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

      That's surely a game that most would remember though. This is meant to be about games you have probably forgotten about.

        Hard to forget a game with its own Netflix show.

          hard to forget Zoombinis as well but it was on the list

        Hard to forget them if not one made it anywhere near any school I was ever involved with. I do have fond memories of Carmen through. Can't say the Netflix series has registered with me, but perhaps it's not aimed at my age group?

    Would make sense if schools actualy had games back then, can't recall any school that I went to as having actual games at all (pre-98). (apart from punishing you for bringing your own)

      Heh. Certainly wouldn't have been an issue at my school. All the nerds were walking around with hard boxes squeezed with 13 or 14 x five and a quarter inch floppies made double sided by notching them manually with a box cutter and filled with 4-5 pirated games each, including some laughable ascii porn. The teachers mostly wouldn't have had a clue what we were doing with the half a dozen Apple IIes the school owned. It's true, however, that about the closest the computers came to having an actual game installed was turtle graphics.

    Such a great period for the industry.

    Oh! Indy desktop adventures were the original, but surprised there's no mention of the spin-off: Yoda Stories.

    Others that come to mind:
    The Incredible Machine, Gumboots Australia, Galleons of Glory, Math Blaster, Dr. Brain series (on the school Macs!)... also, not 'edutainment', but I spent a ridiculous amount of time hours early for school so that I could play mac-based asteroid clone 'Maelstrom' on the school computers in the early 90s.

    I was always quite fond of the Math and Word Rescue games from Apogee, i remember playing the absolute crap out of the shareware versions on my home computer.

    Also i remember a program called Macro Worlds, it was a program that teaches the kids the absolute basics of programming, i remember its mascot thing was a turtle but no one seems to remember it and cant seem to find it on google.

      Heh, I remember playing the shareware versions of those too. Probably the first platformers I ever played xD

    *cough*
    Some of us had childhood in the 80's.....

      I hear you. Some lesser-known examples from my childhood. They aren't all PC but who cares? I enjoyed them!

      Adventures in Math (1983, PC)
      Donald Duck's Playground (1986, Amiga)
      Fire Trap (1987, C64)
      Lost Dutchman Mine (1989, Amiga)
      Shipwreck Island (1980s, Microbee)

      There are more, but I've forgotten them :-P

    The only game on this list I am familiar with is Mind Maze. During primary school we were all playing wolfenstein 3d and descent on the school computers. During high school it was UT2003/4 and MOHAA.

    2 games that stand out in my memory from my primary school days were Number Muncher on the Apple II and Gizmos and Gadgets! on the PC.

    Although I don't know if that counts as forgotten if I remember them...

    I remember and edutainment game where you walked around a 2D building to get parts, claiming a part involved solving a physics puzzle (balance the scales, complete the circuit etc.) then you used the parts to build a vehicle to race the boss.

    No idea what it was called.

      Sounds like Gizmos and Gadgets

    Zac mcCraken, stunt racer FX for amiga and atari st, Armourgeddon. Skidmarks, cannon fodder, rick dangerous, geoff crammonds grand prix, moon patrol..

    see the problem with this type of list is that if you add something then it won't be a forgotten game because you remember it for this list.

    nevertheless here is a list of games that I can barely remember

    Outpost 1 & 2
    Ultima
    Alec Kidd (the spinoff's)
    the early AD&D games
    The Bard Tales (c64 era)
    Gateway (can't remember the subtitle)
    Reunion
    Wonder Boy Series (pre-remake)
    the sequels to Bubble Bobble (which is not Bubble Bobble 2)

    I'm pretty sure it qualifies as edutainment albeit by stealth, but Eagle Eye Detective Agency (made by an EA that wasn't yet all about destroying the gaming industry) was amazing.

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