In my last article I looked back at my gaming habits back in the early nineties. Something that was a big part of my gaming life for two of those years was Mean Machines magazine.
Article by Darren Cater
As I have said before my own experience of home gaming started with my Acorn Electron back in 1986 this meant that occasionally I would get hold of the odd Electron User magazine either buying it or borrowing it from a friend. However towards the end of the eighties as my campaign to get a Commodore 64 gained some real momentum one of my tools was showing my Dad the games we could be playing via the pages of CVG magazine. It is CVG magazine that first featured a Mean Machines console based section in 1987 that would go on to become its own publication in October 1990. The timing of the first edition proved quite influential for me.
When I returned to school after the 1990 summer holidays a couple of my friends had both got a Nintendo Entertainment System & after playing it I was totally won over by the console. Then with the first Mean Machines being launched in October 1990 featuring a full page advert for a £79.99 NES Teenage Mutant Hero Turtle Bundle along with a 90% review of the game along with an 89% review of Super Mario Bros 2; the campaign for an NES Christmas started & eventually ended in success. Yes I got the Turtles bundle for Christmas & after much deliberation in Dixons I chose to also get Super Mario Bros 2 over Batman as my generous Dad offered me the choice of an extra game. So from then off Mean Machines was clearly in sync with my tastes along with a lot of my mates as well.
I always enjoyed reading Mean Machines the reviews made sense to me & I personally felt I could relate to the writing staff that was putting the magazine together. The language & humour used in the magazine always hit the mark with me & for example Insult Corner always made me chuckle. What with sections like Mean Yob, Q+A & of course all the reviews in each monthly Issue ensuring I would get down to the Newsagents as quickly as possible so that I could get home with the new issue, shut myself away & work my way through the pages much to my own personal enjoyment. The early nineties was exciting for console enthusiasts as we already had the 8-Bit systems & were being teased with the upcoming Megadrive & Super Nintendo Systems that were due to invade our shores. Mean Machines was released exactly when gamers like myself needed it. Yes I still brought CVG now again if I had the available pocket money but Mean Machines at that time was my favourite & was always the priority.
The magazine staff came across as quite fun characters with their individual personalities coming through into the Magazine’s content. How lucky was that Radion Automatic (not his real name) to get a job on the magazine after sending in his excellent cartoons as a reader? I was very jealous of that guy as I considered myself a good cartoonist back then & if only I had thought to do that although being in full time education may have been a bit of an obstacle in my path of gaining full time employment with the magazine. Other talented guys were also involved like Richard Leadbetter, Paul Glancy & Matt Regan to name just a few. Back then though the main man was Julian ‘Jaz’ Rignall (still a hero of mine to be honest). He was the key figure bringing Mean Machines to us video game fans & whilst still working on CVG magazine was quite an achievement.
Jaz Rignall really has an interesting history in video games going back to the early 80’s what with winning video game tournaments & writing for Zzap64. I could probably write an article about him & his career (that’s an idea) but there is one personal memory that I must mention. Back in secondary school for a couple of years we had a lesson called General Studies (I think it was called that anyway) which I never understood the purpose of but it was quite an easy going hour of the school day so I never questioned it too much. But in one particular lesson we were asked who do you admire or who would like to aspire to be like? My answer back then was Julian Rignall. My teacher & most of my class mates didn’t have a clue who I was going on about but when I explained his job is to play video games, review them & put together a video games magazine I think everyone could see where I was coming from. To be fair it would be a bit of a dream job now wouldn’t it? I am always quite honest to admit I am purely a retro gaming fan who enjoys playing the games & all the nostalgia of looking back at these times. I highly respect the pioneering games programmers from the eighties & nineties that shaped the industry but to me I always loved the idea of being able to play all these new games & write about them as programming has always baffled me a bit. I guess that is where I was coming from back in that lesson many years ago. I could understand where all the guys writing on the magazine were coming from, what they were doing & to me it was something I could see myself perhaps doing if given the chance.
The original run of Mean Machines would run up to issue 24 in September 1992. During this time we would see the launch of the Sega & Nintendo 16-Bit Machines & some absolute classic games like Sonic, Super Mario World & Street Fighter 2 to name just a few. The magazine would eventually split into Mean Machines Sega & Nintendo Magazine System. I would still buy these depending on the content of each magazine & what games were being featured but it’s the original 24 issue run that brings back the fondest memories to me. Looking back it feels like there was a lot more issues covering a lot longer time period but that is my mind playing tricks on me & back then in that time of my life the monthly gaps between issues did seem to take a lot longer to pass than they do today.
Mean Machines had memorable covers, reviews & articles. In my mind it is the most memorable video games magazine from an era I will never forget. If you have never read Mean Machines go online & hunt around for some of its content because if you can remember playing consoles in the early nineties you definitely won’t regret it.
Here are some of the highest rated games from Issues 1 though to 24:
- Impossible Mission (Sega Master System Issue 1): 94%
- Revenge of Shinobi (Sega Megadrive Issue 1): 94%
- Pang (Amstrad GX4000 Issue 3): 93%
- Snake Rattle & Roll (NES Issue 4): 94%
- Mickey Mouse Castle of Illusion (Sega Megadrive Issue 5): 95%
- EA Ice Hockey (Sega Megadrive Issue 11): 95%
- Mega Man 2 (NES Issue 14): 95%
- Super Kick Off (Sega Master System Issue 14): 96%
- John Madden Football 92 (Sega Megadrive Issue 15): 95%
- Star Wars (NES Issue16): 95%
- Desert Strike (Sega Megadrive Issue 17): 94%
- Super Mario World (Super Nintendo Issue 17):98%
- Contra III: The Alien Wars (Super Nintendo Issue 19):: 95%
- The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Super Nintendo Issue 20): 95%
- Streetfighter II: The World Warrior (Super Nintendo Issue 22): 98%
Article by Darren Cater