As a child, I dreaded the days when indoor recess was off limits, forcing everyone to go outside and (ugh) socialize with each other. While part of this was because I was terrified of other humans, the other part was because the classroom computers had so many wonderful games to offer. For example: there was Zoombinis, the popular PC game that required kids to decorate little blue blobs and subject them to a series of math challenges. Now that the retro learning game is apparently making a comeback, (yes, it’s true!), I decided it was time to round up other classic games that fueled my childhood imagination.

1) Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?

Every time I try to pretend that I’m still a teenager or that I’m not so old, I remember that I used to play Carmen Sandiego on a floppy disk. Had I kept it around, that relic may have paid for my college tuition. (A quick Google search has revealed the game is currently only worth $20. So nevermind, I guess.) In this game, you are an investigator working with Acme Detective Agency trying to locate the nefarious con woman, Carmen Sandiego. Using tips provided by anonymous strangers or The Chief, you were tasked with finding this infamous villain, who committed large scale crimes, like stealing the entire airport in Nairobi, Kenya… In hindsight, it may not have been the most realistic game, but it taught me geography far better than any teacher ever did.

2) Oregon Trail

I use the “I’m actually dying of dysentery” excuse to get out of parties at least once a month, if not more, and that’s all thanks to Oregon Trail. Though some companies have tried to revive this classic PC game, they will never be able to reach the level of awesomeness that the original possessed. I always thought there was a strategy to this game (start the game with a doctor and as many oxen as your wagon can handle) but after hearing numerous success stories from my friends, some of which included screenshots as proof when I denied their achievement, I’ve come to realize that I was actually just a terrible pilgrim. This may be in part to my inability to hunt (“Squirrel for dinner again, kids!”) but mostly because I always chose to ford the river, no matter how much I had to lose. It just seemed right, you know?

3) SimCity

If any game crushed my dreams of being mayor one day, it was this one. SimCity was supposed to be a fun distraction from my algebra homework, but all it really did was raise my blood pressure and turn me into a destructive monster. “I add one building and the town’s whole economy collapses?!? FINE. GO AHEAD. TRY TO SURVIVE WITHOUT ME.”

4) Kid Pix

Before there was Photoshop or Paint, there was Kid Pix. It was the first platform that allowed me to practice the art of stick figure drawing and spray painting. I would play this game for hours, pasting stamps and digital crayon marks all over the page until it was time to destroy with the ripple-y explosion key in the corner, AKA the most satisfying eraser ever invented.

5) Treasure Mountain Mathstorm!

I know the whole purpose of this game was to learn math equations and how to tell time, but all I can remember is trying to catch little elves in nets and make snowball mountains. Not to mention the game’s protagonist, whose oversized hat and scarf made him seem like he only had a nose.

6) RollerCoaster Tycoon

Nothing brought out the evil in children more than RollerCoaster Tycoon, except maybe Zoo Tycoon but I’ll get there in a minute. This game, which required users to build their own roller coasters and theme parks, was less about entrepreneurship and more about making a ride that would scare the most people. I relished the moment where thrill-seekers would turn away from my ride, claiming it was too terrifying, as if I had achieved something by making a roller coaster that would make park guests cry in fear.

7) Zoo Tycoon

Zoo Tycoon is a game for the truly depraved. If you don’t think so, look me in the eye and tell me you never put an army of zebras and a group of lions in the same cage just to see what happened. Tell me that you didn’t purposefully surround the jaguar exhibit with low fences just to watch animal control freak out when the creature escaped. That’s what I thought. If you got tired of doing that, there was always the option of making an exhibit solely to see how cute the babies would turn out.

Featured image via Wikipedia, Tumblr.