Introducing the Gripe Monster

The Gripe Monster lives in a cave on the premises, and hates everything. In its mind, nothing has ever been great, but it always used to be better. It has demanded the opportunity to vent its three spleens here every once in a while. We have agreed, in order to shut it up, and so long as it confines its rantings to occasional Sunday evenings. Take it away, Gripey!

Don’t call me Gripey!

Rarr! I am the Gripe Monster! Fear me! I will talk your ear off if given the opportunity! Do you know how much a doctor charges to reattach an ear? And you can’t sue me for injury, judges think I don’t exist!

But I do exist! I’m not just a piece of pixel art! And I am displeased. This time the object of my formidable ire is a dumb listicle!

In particular my woeful focus is fixed upon an article on a website, titled 10 Games You Probably Didn’t Know Started As Arcade Games! It makes my bile boil, and my blood clog! It upsets all of my monsterly fluids!

Three of the series listed are Tetris, Super Mario Bros., and “Space Wars!” This article, it makes me breathe FIRE! None of these series started in arcades! It doesn’t even get the original name of Space War right! My sensibilities are agitated! They cannot even claim defense due to Mario starting in Donkey Kong, for they list that as a separate series!

I do blame the author, for my anger is indiscriminate, but my wrath is tempered with the understanding that writing is difficult and research is time-consuming, although the histories of these series are by no means secret! Much more, I blame the site that let it pass without question. Grar, I say! Grar and grar again! I swipe at it with my mighty claws, and I bite it with my awful tusks!

If you do not wish to suffer my wrath in the future, please edit your articles with greater care! And get off my lawn!

Management wishes to express that we bear no ill-will towards either the author or the site, although the points Gripey brings up are technically accurate. Mistakes happen!

Stop undercutting my rant!

Sundry Sunday: Pixel Orson Welles Disses Game Characters

It’s Sunday once again! You crossed, not a finish line, but a significant leg of the race. You deserve a reward. Here is one.

Orson Welles’ hilarious high-brow yet earthy tone, presented both as actual quotes and adapted, twice, have made the rounds lately. (Note: Welles had wide-ranging opinions of various degrees of cultural suitability, and so his posthumous imitators imagine he would now.) Here is a video of a pixel Orson Welles (no word on if he is also pixelated) trash talking various game characters. He is especially dismissive of Cool Spot.

Indie Dev Showcase 7/2/22

Our indie showcases highlight the many dev-submitted games and demos we play here on the channel. Please get in touch if you would like to submit a game.

SGDQ 2022: Zelda Beta Cartridge “Triforce% run,” explained

Friday night at SGDQ 2022 the TAS Block show demonstrated something special. After a recording of a Portal 2 run that predictably demolished that game, they moved on to a rather more esoteric show.

In past shows, TAS Bot has some off some pretty ridiculous sights, using something called Arbitrary Code Execution (ACE). Essentially, using certain well-understood exploits, the runner (usually, but not always, a set of scripted inputs) writes a sequence of instructions into the machine’s RAM, and then transfers the code execution to that sequence, allowing for “arbitrary behavior,” meaning, almost anything that can be written into that RAM. TAS Bot at AGDQ 2014 wrote Pong into memory during a run of Super Mario World and ran it (6 minutes):

This technique has also been used to run a variant of Flappy Bird, and even a bona fide hex editor into the save RAM of Super Mario World, without even needing scripts, entirely by a human player. But this is beside the point.

In 2017, TASbot demolished the NES Classic, NES games and pulled off other very weird shenanigans (59 minutes).

There’s several of these videos, which I leave it to you to search out. They’re pretty easy to find on YouTube with the search terms “games done quick” and “tasbot”.

The point of this post is to bring you news of how players finally “obtained” the Triforce in Ocarina of Time after 23 years. The video of the show has yet to be uploaded to YouTube (it has been since I wrote this! scroll to the end), but until it shows up, Retro Game Mechanics EX has a video explaining how it was done (34 minutes):

SwankyBox has his own explainer video that’s 22 minutes. Of course, it’s all an elaborate show, but it runs on the Ocarina of Time beta cartridge found back in January of last year.

EDIT: Here it is, the whole 1-hour 13-minute epic!

News 7/1/2022: Doom Ring Dungeon Pinball Theremin

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

Sam MacKovech at Ars Technica writes about Doom RPG, a pre-iPhone game that has been ported to PC by fans.

At TechRadar, Callum Bains describes that SNES-style Elden Ring demake that’s been making the rounds. It’s just an animation though; not playable.

Over at GameSpot, Jordan Ramée interviews Endless Dungeon creative director Jean-Maxime Moris about the design of their roguelite action game.

Skanda Hazarika at XDA Developers points us to the creation of an Android port of the old Windows 3D Pinball game that was produced by Maxis!

Our policy to only link each site once per news post sometimes produces difficulties. This time our Nintendo Life post is by Ollie Reynolds, about the news that Zelda: Wind Waker was at first going to have a playable theremin. The news ultimately comes from a Do You Know Gaming video, which also mentions that Nintendo design guru Shigeru Miyamoto hated Wind Waker‘s cel-shaded art style at first, which in retrospect is one of the aspects of the game that’s held up the best:

And at Destructoid, Chris Moyse has news of the upcoming release of Ray’z Arcade Chronology, another of those arcade collections that have been popular lately, this about the Ray series of arcade shooting games, which are called either shmups or STGs, depending on which subcultures you’ve had the most exposure to. It is planned for release in 2023.

Technoblade, Minecraft YouTuber, passes at 23

I saw on Metafilter a post from The corpse in the library (an unfortunate user name in context) that the popular streamer has passed away. Technoblade is one of the few channels to have reached over a billion views. He is remembered for his playing skill and his friendly rivalry with fellow Minecraft Youtuber Dream.

A message from his father:

Here is Technoblade’s Channel. His website, with merch. I don’t like linking to Fandom, but it hosts a good backgrounder on him and his life.

How Retro Games Have Taken on a New Life

How Retro Games Have Taken on a New Life

It has been 15 years since Kaizo Mario World introduced gamers to the notion of extreme difficulty. Since then, the rise of Kaizo games, Kaizo-likes, and of course speed running, can all be seen as a way of giving retro games new light.

By now, I’m sure all of you have either heard or seen a Kaizo Mario platformer, but this well runs far deeper than that. For today, I want to share some of the other games and trends that have given retro games a new, more challenging light.

Explaining Kaizo Difficulty

For those new to the concept, Kaizo is loosely translated from Japan to mean “remodel” and has since been defined by modders and level creators to describe brutally difficult remixed versions of games, particularly retro games. Super Mario World was the first game to get popular, and thanks to third-party editing tools and emulation (which of course I’m not going to link to here), has opened up the doors to people working on their own takes. And believe me, there are a lot of them out there.

I’ll be discussing the appeal of these games more in length further down, but for Mario specifically, we have seen developers who take the classic game and up the challenge to extreme lengths. We have also seen developers create original content and mechanics never before seen from the Nintendo classics, and design levels around them.

While I have certainly talked about Kaizo Mario at length before, let’s talk about some of the other examples.

Kaizo Metroid

You may not think that there are ways of extending the seminal Super Metroid, but it has also grown to have its own niche of custom versions and Kaizo design. The big difference between Metroid and Mario is the difference in movement tech and the technicality of the gameplay. In the Mario games, Mario’s move set is so tight that it has allowed developers a huge range of designing content to exploit it.

With Super Metroid, the tech is far more complicated with the added elements of ranged combat and boss fights thrown in. There have been speed runners who have done low% runs and sequence breaks thanks to advanced tech. For the harder Kaizo examples, these options are oftentimes required to stand any chance of winning. Since the game is open-ended, it also means that progress is a lot harder to define compared to the stage-based progression of Mario. Some examples completely redo rooms and the order, others may literally build a completely new world for players to explore.

Kaizo Super Metroid was ran at a GDQ (Games Done Quick) event and looks like an ordeal of challenging death traps and finger-destroying movement tech in order to play it.


One of the downsides of playing many retro games was the fact that random and procedural generation was not really known to the mainstream back then. Once a game was done, there was very little reason to play again if you knew where everything was. Thanks to modders of not just retro games, but some modern ones, we now have randomizer mode.

many of the resident evil games in the past have a bevy of mods for them now

Randomizers will literally alter the item placements of major and minor items in a game. While the locations of items remain fixed, what actually shows up at those points is completely random. For games that are built on item progression: Soulslikes, metroidvanias, horror, action-adventure, etc., a randomizer gives these games a whole new life.

Because your actual progress and major challenge spots remain fixed through the game, the challenge becomes remembering where all the item placements are, adapting to what you find, and using them to chart a path towards the other item spots. Attempting to do a Link to the Past randomizer, I realized just how poor my memory was of all the item spots. One of the craziest things I’ve seen in this space is a Super Metroid/Link to the Past duo randomizer — tasking you to play both games at the same time, switching between the two, and finding randomly placed items for both. For games that randomize enemy placements, you are going to have to juggle the randomly given items with the fact that you could get bosses all over the place and enemy encounters that were never suited for specific areas.

In the modern space, there are mods for randomizers in Soulslikes for weapons, enemies, items, or all the above. Personally, I think this is a fantastic addition and transforms linear games into infinitely replayable ones. With so many classic games having randomizers available, I’m starting to think that this could be an interesting feature to make standard for modern-retro or linear titles.

Extreme Retro

And now for the game that gave me the inspiration to write this piece. Super Mario RPG Legend of the Seven Stars is one of my all-time favorite games. Up until recently, it was one that provided a simple taste of action commands and was the perfect game for people who didn’t like traditional JRPGs. Over the last few years, however, there have been modders working on making this classic game into something else. A mod that completely rebalances and reworks the entire game.

This mod adds in additional action command timings, adjusts the stats of every character in the game, adds new skills and weapons for everyone, and also adds something that the original game never really had: a post-game. Sure, there was that one fight from a Final Fantasy boss, but here, the modders have put in bosses from as many Square Enix games as they could fit (being a free mod for a rom does have some advantages in avoiding copyright issues).

With the improvements of engines and the ingenuity of modders, even not-so-retro games have started to see mods like this. There have been content mods for the Souls games, and surprisingly enough — difficulty mods and original stories for the original Resident Evil trilogy. Some of these mods are arguably on the weird side: such as having Kendo run all over the place. Others take the difficulty to levels no one ever considered back in the day or do something completely original for the game. In some cases, modders are fixing some of the imbalances and problems in these games and give something back to the games we remember fondly.

Why the Appeal?

It may be easy to think that the modders could be spending their time doing something more productive or working on a game of their own, but there is something deeper here in terms of the “why” of creating content like this.

For the past 30 years, the ease of which games could be modded ranged from “easy” with games that came with SDKs (software development kit), to impossible for console games with no PC version. One of the more famous mods of the last decade: The Long War for XCOM Enemy Unknown was built by a team who had to create their own toolset along with the mod as XCOM had no SDK. For The Long War, the desire was to take a game that the creator loved and go even further to create their dream version of it.

The Long War mod is an example of modders wanting to make their favorite game even better

I’ve been wanting more non-programming-based ways of working in games for years now, and why Super Mario Maker was such a big deal. However, being limited by both being on the Switch and Nintendo’s general lack of wanting to continue supporting it has hurt its longevity. There are “unofficial” modding tools for several classic games that if you know about the game, you know where to find them.

Being able to use classic games as a metaphorical canvas to then work on is a great way to give these games more life. For a lot of these games, the original creators are either no longer able to work on them, or there might not even be a way to play them normally. I could go on a huge rant right now about game preservation and emulation, but everyone knows my thoughts on this already. While not every mod is a winner, the ones that stand out could easily sit side-by-side with the greatness of the original games.

Much like how some of the most popular mods get integrated into their PC games, I would love to see creators acknowledge and celebrate these mods without fear of a lawsuit or takedown. And maybe someday, someone will create the ultimate 2D action game and call it “Streets of Josh,” or “Super Josh Deluxe” or Devil May Josh” but one can dream, right?

If you enjoyed this story, consider joining the Game-Wisdom Discord channel. It’s open to everyone.

RPG In A Box

Lots of players are also armchair designers, so we like to present interesting tools as they appear. One that recently went up on Steam is the voxel-oriented RPG In A Box ($29.99). It has that interesting 3D-yet-8-bit vibe that make the Dragon Quest Builder games so appealing.

There are a lot of interesting tools out there for a variety of skillsets, and greatly differing levels of flexibility. Some considering are RPG Maker MZ and MV (who knows what the letters are meant to stand for), Zelda Classic for action games, and for more flexible tools it might be worth checking out Godot, or maybe creating something with Python and Pygame.

News 6/29/22: Steam Stolar Fall Gay Bob Hacking

“We scour the Earth web for indie, retro, and niche gaming news so you don’t have to, drebnar!” – your faithful reporter

K. Holt at Engadget says Valve has doubled production of Steam Decks, meaning those on the waiting list will have less waiting to do.

Bernie Stolar
Image from VentureBeat

At VentureBeat’s subsite GamesBeat, Dean Takahashi sadly reports that Bernie Stolar, former President at Sega of America, has passed away at the age of 75. Alana Hauges of NintendoLife notes that his early career was in co-op, before joining Atari and working on their Lynx portable system. Later at Sony, Stolar helped shepherd the Playstation and franchises such as Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, before leaving to help Sega launch the Dreamcast.

After going free-to-play, the player base of popular battle royale hit Fall Guys‘ has ballooned to 20 million! But Eric Van Allen at Destructoid tells us that there is some tension among long-time players over changes to its currency model. At GameRant, Rory Young has more, including an observation made by one of the players: under the new system, a player who loses five matches in the first round ends up making more than a player who wins a match after five rounds!

Space Bob vs The Replicons

Graham Smith at Rock Paper Shotgun tells tales of the 2018 indie game Space Bob vs The Replicons (Steam), described as like a 2D No Man’s Sky, but didn’t do well on its initial release. Its creator had a heart attack a week after it hit Steam, then left the games industry. But he’s back, and has announced a big update. Its developer is Intravenous Software, and they’re on Twitter!

Sharang Biswas at Eurogamer posts an essay for Pride month about fanfiction and mods made by the gay community. (Note: slightly NSFW image)

Jeremy Winslow at Kotaku tells us that Blizzard has announced that, when Overwatch 2 releases, it will replace the original game, making it unavailable to play! Progress will carry over, but 6V6 matches will be sunset in favor of the new version’s 5V5 teams.

Finally, we have received word that venerable roguelike NetHack has been inducted into the Museum of Modern Art, as part of its Never Alone exhibit! We’ve seen it mentioned on PC Gamer, Reddit, and Slashdot — remember them? DevTeam member Jean-Christophe Collet muses on the distinction on LinkedIn.


Pangur is a text processing system that works entirely through visual code. People familiar with systems such as Scratch or Nintendo’s Game Builder Garage should be at home with it. Its workings are adjusted by creating and connecting a number of nodes, with both input and output connections. You can try it out directly in your browser (Firefox and Chrome are known to be supported), or read the guide to learn how to use it.

Best of Next Fest 2022 Showcase 6/28

With Steam Next Fest 2022 going on, I’m dedicating the indie showcases each day to cover my favorite demos of the night prior, let me know what you think about this in the comments below.

Info on Knights of the Round & Warlock’s Tower Romhack

Scattered throughout the World Wide Web (which, I remind you, is not the same thing as “the internet”) is a wealth of game information, although as old sites die out increasing this info is really hosted on the Wayback Machine. I previously presented the Bubble Bobble Info Pages, which are among my favorite game sites of all.

Image from hardcoregaming101

A relatively recent addition is this description of the great nuance in Capcom’s 1991 fantasy brawler Knights of the Round by Sebastian Mihai. It should be remembered that at that time Street Fighter II was already out and making it harder for games that weren’t one-on-one fighters to succeed. Capcom had a lot of experience with belt scrollers at that time, having made Final Fight and Dynasty Wars by then. A few years after they’d make the (IMO) even better Dungeons & Dragons brawlers Tower of Doom and Shadow Over Mystara, which I think are probably the pinnacle of the genre.

Image from site

As just one example of the thought that went into Knights of the Round, most of the pickups in the game can be struck with your character’s weapon, and this splits them up into multiple smaller treasures, that are both usually worth slightly more than the original, and if desired can be shared with other players. It’s the only brawler I know of that does this!

Last year hackaday reported on Sebastian’s project to create a improved version of the game by hacking the game’s roms. The project page for it is interesting reading for people of a technical frame of mind, going into detail of the hacking process.