My 12 Favorite Non-Mainstream Retro PC Games

Alright, so the internet is littered with nostalgia lists about everyone’s favorite ’80s movies and NES and 64 and Genesis games, so I figured I’d do one that was just a touch different.

I wanted to do it about old school PC games, but not the ones you’re thinking of. Yeah, yeah we all played Oregon Trail, Doom and Wolfenstein, but that’s not what I’m talking about here.

Rather these are games I played that I’ve almost all but forgot about, as most of them don’t even exist anymore. A lot of them were on school computers when I was younger, so they’re educational games, and I’m hoping you’ll at least recognize a couple and this post won’t be for naught. Check them out below:

1. Number Munchers

I swear I learned more math from this game than any actual teacher I had in elementary school. This game was genius because I would actually race to get my actual homework done so I could play this on the computer in our classroom. Little did I know, I was still learning. Tricky bastards.

2. Mario Teaches Typing

We had two typing programs on the computers at my school. One half had the terminally boring Mavis Beacon, and the other had Mario Teaches Typing. I credit him for my current job as a writer, as it was highly motivating to break blocks and kill Koopas using my keyboard, and I became an expert typist in no time thanks to this program.

3. Yoda Stories

I forgot this game existed for about 11 years, then all these memories came flooding back as soon as I saw this screenshot. It was an overhead cam view of various worlds in the Star Wars universe, and it kind of played like a Zelda game. You used weapons and problem solving to uh, actually I forget what the end goal was, but it was a lot of fun.

4. Yobi’s Basic Spelling Tricks

Damn, they really got me with all these learning games didn’t they? This was another favorite of mine going up. It was another top down adventure game which was less about spelling and more about avoiding dangerous animals and traps in order to ge the letters needed to spell whatever word. It took me forever to remember the name of the wizard guy who starred and made you spell, but it’s Yobi! I spent about an hour Googling “Yogi” with no luck.

5. Jill of the Jungle

This game didn’t actually teach me anything, but I remember it being pretty damn hard when I was younger. You were Jill, a Tarzan like chick who would swing on vines and throw daggers at bugs, and for some reason it was on all the computers at my school. It’s really what we played when we got bored of Oregon Trail

6. Amazon Trail

Pshh Oregon Trail is so mainstream, it’s all about Amazon Trail, where you travelled down the river avoiding whirlpools. I forget where you actually ended up at the finale of the game, but I do remember that instead of hunting, you take pictures, which is far less gratifying, but it was cool to see a really rare animal pop up every so often.

7. Treasure Mountain

Seeing that damn sneaky king brought back a flood of memories for me just now. That guy was such a dick, and I remember getting all the way up to that treasure, and having it snatched away from me by his greedy ass. What the hell else did you do in this game again?

8. Operation Neptune

This one is such a distant memory, I can barely remember playing it, but seeing this screenshot reminded me that I had in fact used to love it. I think somehow it was educational like a lot of these, but I can’t remember why. I just recall shooting ink pellets at fish.

9. Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?

This was a mystery game that at the time went a little over my head because I think I was too young for it. I could follow the TV show, but finding her myself? Forget about it. I usually just watched the older kids play while I pretended to know what was going on.

10. Swiss Family Robinson

This goes all the way back to MSDOS, and was my first Monkey Island -like text based adventure. You were given items, and you would combine them in various ways to try and get yourself off the island. The only thing I ever did was get them to yell at me for trying to use “dog” with “fire.” “The dog does not like that.”

11. Reader Rabbit

Described as the “Kratos of educational games,” Reader Rabbit taught us all how to read and write when our teachers wouldn’t. Specifics of the gameplay are fuzzy to me, but I remember it being one of the less fun of all the titles listed here.

12. Magic the Gathering

I was never actually allowed to own or play with Magic the Gathering Cards as it was believed they were forged by the devil himself, but I did get to experience the game through the PC version which allowed you to roam through the countryside collecting cards and dueling NPCs. I remember you could get so good, that characters would actually pay you in free cards to get you to not fight them. You felt like a baller when that started happening.

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  1. first off, i wouldn’t say the carmen sandiego series wasn’t main stream. but i’m with you on never really getting into it. it came way before my time learning that stuff in school, and there was just too much going on with the different places you can go to and buttons you can press. kinda like why i never got into those rpg’s like morrowind, except not nearly as bad.

    i’d like to add in leisure suit larry to the list, though. even moreso than with these “learning” games, i was way too young for this one at the time as well, but my older cousins did a good job explaining what was going on to me. and so was my first bout with sex education.

  2. I only remember number munchers out of all of those(Thats how i learned prime numbers)…But in elementary we had game like The secret Island Dr. Quandry(fav), Leprechaun, and Kid Pix. I miss those days

  3. I miss number munchers so much! That game was awesome! I was the best in my school and Carmen Sandiego was the shit! Even though I was only in fifth grade I still was a beast at it thanks to me reading everything. Ahhh sweet sweet nostalgia 😀

  4. Protip: If they’re releasing a Facebook remake of your “non-mainstream” retrogame in the same month you’re making your post, the game in question is actually probably, mainstream. If the fact that it spawned not one, but two different TV shows wasn’t a big enough hint.

  5. I recommed Traffic Department 2192. Severely, severely underrated, and one of the best games of the shareware era. If not the best, and this is coming from someone who got the full version of just about everything Apogee and Epic Megagames ever made.

  6. oh my god! number munchers!! Also there was one I used to play in school that was awesome, it was a math egyptian type game and another math game for apple that had you race cars by completing speed math problems. I wish I knew what they were called…..

  7. Treasure Mountain, Reader Rabbit, and Number Munchers I remember well. Many people I know played the latter two in school, along with Oregon Trail. In fact, Oregon Trail I see as almost as mainstream as Ski Free, damn that maddening yeti.

    I also enjoyed the Sierra games, especially the Quest for Glory series. A lot of funny allusions, lines, and colorful characters. They had a great sense of humor even if they were buggier than a hobo’s wig.

  8. I liked the Where in the World is Carmen Sandiago cartoon show, but the game and the rest of the games you mentioned I have never seen, and I am maybe just a smidge older than you (I’m going on 23).

    However, I find it unforgiveable that not one person mentioned Math Blaster. MB was where it was at.

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