Hey there, looking for a nostalgia fix? We get it. Sometimes that mood just strikes out of the blue.
We’re gonna talk about some 90s PC games: educational and edutainment games that, at times, really weren’t all that educational if we’re being honest.
But the games themselves are definitely worth talking about, and a good few of them can still be played on modern systems in some form.
Alright, let’s get to the games.
Oregon Trail 3rd Edition
There have been versions of Oregon Trail since the 1980s, including versions that didn’t even feature graphics, instead printing out gameplay info on real-life paper.
But Oregon Trail 3rd Edition is definitely one of the most memorable editions of the game ever released, even if only for the wrong reasons.
The basics of Oregon Trail are still here of course. You have to forge a path across the very Wild West while also trying to keep everyone in your traveling party alive.
But the third edition here also includes full-motion video, which is just real-life actors awkwardly superimposed over game backgrounds.
Full-motion video, or FMV, was all the rage around this time (the game was released in 1997), and its inclusion here probably seemed like a good idea at the time.
But these days, the FMV elements just make those dialogue portions of the game so-bad-they’re-good.
As for educational content, this game was supposed to teach kids about the historical era the game is set in, and also challenge them to consider concepts like money and supplies. But as with many of the Oregon Trail Games, kids probably paid a lot more attention to the game-y elements, including the hunting minigame of course.
Math Blaster Episode I: In Search of Spot
The Math Blaster series also reaches back into the 80s, but in our opinion, the series had some real high points in the 90s, including Math Blaster Episode I: In Search of Spot.
Originally released in 1994, this game definitely shows its age when it comes to visuals and audio (the audio compression here is of its time, but to modern ears it’s a little grating), but for anyone who played it growing up, there’s something special here.
Sadly, you can’t buy this game through official channels nowadays, as far as we can see, outside of tracking down a physical CD that’s still in working order, and even then, you’ll probably have some issues trying to get it to run on modern Windows operating systems.
Humongous Entertainment Games
Humongous Entertainment was one of the biggest edutainment developers in the 1990s, and their output, both in terms of quantity and quality, was really something to behold.
Though the company also created many games that were meant to function purely as games, without a major educational component, such as the Backyard Sports series and Humongous Arcade series, their bread and butter was their edutainment point-and-click series, such as Freddi Fish, Spy Fox, Pajama Sam, and Putt-Putt.
We’d like to talk about just a few entries from Humongous’s impressive catalog. And when it comes to getting your hands on these games, they can all be found on Steam for pretty cheap, and you can save even more by buying a bundle.
Select Humongous games have also been made available on mobile platforms and even the Nintendo Switch.
Freddi Fish 3: The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell
Released in 1998, Freddi Fish 3 was, well, the third mainline game in the series, and from our point of view, it was the first game where the series started to feel a bit more modern, even when it came to lighting and color choices. In fact, when switching from this game to the first two, the early entries can feel very dank and dark in comparison.
The Case of the Stolen Conch Shell is basically a whodunit mystery. As you might have guessed, someone stole a very important conch shell, and the big festival can’t get started without it. Also, Luther’s uncle has been wrongly imprisoned for the theft, so you’ve got a fair bit of motivation to find the true culprit.
Also, as is the case with many Humongous Entertainment games, there are multiple endings and multiple puzzles that can appear in different runs.
So how is this game, or any of the Humongous games, meant to be educational? Eh, well, let’s just say that the edutainment label was a bit generous.
Yes, sometimes you’d encounter some basic math problems or some memory minigames, and puzzle solving probably inspires creative thinking, but for the most part, these games really just got kids excited and engaged to explore a new world.
Pajama Sam: No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside
No Need to Hide When It’s Dark Outside was the very first game in the Pajama Sam series, first released in 1996, and based on what we’ve seen online, this entry also seems to be the most popular Pajama Sam game.
You play as a kid named Sam who has to venture into the Land of Darkness to fight Darkness, naturally. He doesn’t want to be afraid of the dark so he needs to fight Darkness, who’s an actual character. Makes total sense, at least if you use kid-logic.
This is probably one of the best-looking Humongous games, specifically in terms of art direction. Every location has such a distinct feel with real style and, in typical Humongous fashion, tons of tiny details and animations.
Also, Sam is probably one of the most likable and relatable Humongous characters. Just sayin’.
Spy Fox in “Dry Cereal”
Released initially in 1997, Spy Fox in “Dry Cereal” is definitely one of the most memorable Spy Fox games.
Filled with references to James Bond that the kids playing it probably didn’t understand at the time, this Spy Fox game is just a really solid experience, especially for longtime fans of point-and-click adventure games.
Set on a kind of Mediterranean island someplace (at moments it also feels like a nod to Casablanca of all things), Spy Fox has to track down the big bad guy, with the help of the far more intelligent Monkey Penny.
With a bunch of gadgets and clever puzzles, this game is a great time, even for adult players jumping into it for the first time.
Putt-Putt Travels Through Time
Another big Humongous game released in 1997 was Putt-Putt Travels Through Time, where Putt-Putt, a living car, has to travel through time to find his school supplies.
Putt-Putt can access four different time periods, meaning the game offers more variety than the average Humongous entry.
You’ll also have to hop between time periods to solve puzzles, and each world contains some delightful little activities and minigames as well.
Also, this is one of the Humongous games that recently got ported to the Switch, so if you’re not a big fan of Steam or PC gaming, you’ve got another pretty good option now.