Net Yaroze was indie before indie was indie. Short games, often made by a handful of people, that came free with the Official PlayStation Magazine. As a kid, you legit couldn’t ask for a better deal.
But what are the best Net Yaroze games that are still worth checking out in 2022? Read on to find out what games should be on your radar.
Mah Jongg – Gerhard Rittenhofer
Imagine playing Mahjong. Now imagine playing Mahjong but you have zero idea how the hell to even play Mahjong. That’s the conundrum I found myself in when I played Mah Jongg. Yet somehow, that made it all the more interesting.
Mah Jongg was a super-polished game. While some of the best Net Yaroze games feel like they were knocked out over a lunch break, Mah Jongg didn’t, and its two main hooks – pleasant visuals and intrigue – were just enough to keep you entertained. Come for the visuals, stay for the what the heck am I supposed to do?
That’s the thing when you’re a kid. As an adult, if something annoys you, you can throw it out the window. Excluding kids, of course. But as a child with a limited gaming budget? You’re going to play whatever you’ve got to death.
That’s why I remember Mah Jongg so fondly. I still haven’t a clue how you play it, but trying to figure it out was almost Rubik’s Cube-like. It doesn’t matter whether you can play it properly and win, there’s enjoyment to be had just in the trying to figure it out.
Total Soccer – Charles Chapman
Sensible Soccer remains one of the best football games. Seriously, I replayed it recently on my Evercade and it still holds up today.
Total Soccer is, essentially, a copycat version of Sensible Soccer. It’s not as good, obviously, because nothing compares to Sensible Soccer, but for a free football game that game with a magazine? It’s surprisingly enjoyable.
Plus it was a damn sight cheaper than the official footie games at the time, which is always a bonus.
Clone – Stuart Ashley
Clone is very much a love it or hate it kind of game. It’s a Doom clone mixed with the stylings of From Software’s King’s Field.
As with many Net Yaroze games, there isn’t much here in terms of gameplay – one level that repeats when it’s finished. The goal? Shoot clones and find the exit. It’s basic, sure, but its atmosphere is where this game comes alive.
Once the level kicks in, the music stops, and you’re left with an oppressive, almost cave-like sound echoing throughout. It’s awful. Seriously. It’s one of those sounds that keep you on edge, so when the nightmare-fueled clones show up, the only response is to spray bullets like a blindfolded Rambo in the hopes you hit something.
By today’s standards, Clone isn’t all that haunting. But back then, this was a game that would keep you up at night.
Terra Incognita – Team Fatal
Honestly, I’m not sure how Terra Incognita ended up as a Net Yaroze game and not a full-scale release.
It always stood out as the one Net Yaroze game that felt more like a full game than something attached to the front of the latest Official PlayStation Magazine.
In short, Terra Incognita was Zelda with Final Fantasy VII visuals. The writing was on-point, the graphics were superb, and the combat was morish.
Also, here’s a fun fact: You can tell whether people have played Terra Incognita by how their faces light up when you mention it. For real, go try it out on someone over the age of 30. You won’t be disappointed.
Pushy IIb – Richard Fred Williams
While Terra Incognita will always top the best Net Yaroze games lists, if it’s gameplay you’re after, Pushy wins every time.
It’s so painfully simple that I’m sure devs kick themselves for not creating it first. The goal here is to use Pushy to move blocks onto an X. It’s a puzzle game, and yes, it sounds crap when you lay it out like that, but once you start playing, it’s impossible to put down.
It’s helped by the frankly surreal sounds Pushy makes. Even though I haven’t played it in a long, long time, but I can still hear that delicious “nugh” sound Pushy makes. Or worse, the sad “nugh” sound it makes when you fail. God, it’s such a weird game.
If you happen to own a PS1 and the mythical Net Yaroze hall of fame demo disk, you really need to give Pushy IIb a try. Trust me, you won’t regret it.