Header image shamelessly stolen from Nintendo Life
My games journalism career started on 2 May 2006 when I joined the Official Nintendo Magazine (ONM) as a Staff Writer.
In 2009 I was promoted to Games Editor, which basically meant I was in charge of deciding which games should get covered, figuring out how many pages they should get and contacting the publishers and PRs to get review code.
I eventually left ONM after six fantastic years to work on the Nintendo Gamer site, but continued to work for the mag on a freelance basis, providing reviews and features and occasionally appearing on the ONM podcast.
Given that these six years covered the entirety of the hugely successful Wii’s run – and the vast majority of that of the DS – it’s probably no surprise that most of my Twitter followers (or at least those who like voting in Twitter polls) have been with me since the ONM days.
These days, the magazine is no more: it closed down in October 2014. The website was wiped too, meaning unless you want to go trawling through archive.org you’re going to struggle to find any ONM articles online.
Before the mag closed down, I accessed its content database and downloaded PDFs of almost every article I’d written: as many of my reviews, previews, news items, guides, letters pages and features as I could get my hands on. I needed to keep hold of some sort of tangible evidence of those six years.
The result is a folder (along with a backup folder on an external drive) consisting of 1051 articles, coming in at over 5GB in size, all containing the words I wrote for the publication that meant so much to me.
Now, much as I’d love to just upload all 5GB and share it with the world, the reality is that Future Publishing still owns the copyright to everything that was created under its roof. It’s issued takedowns to other sites for posting old magazine articles in the past, and I’m not a fan of going to lots of effort to do something only to have it undone.
In December 2018, though, I reached out to Future to ask if I could put together a sort of ONM Advent Calendar on Twitter where each day contained one of my favourite articles from my time at the magazine. They generously gave me permission to republish 24 old articles, which I duly did.
You can only do so much on Twitter, though, and I’d have loved to have said more about each of the articles. So, here they are again, along with more detailed ‘liner notes’. And, just to bring things up to a round 25, I’m also adding my Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 reviews (which Future had also previously given me permission to republish on Tired Old Hack).
My time at Official Nintendo Magazine remains one of my highlights of my life. Hopefully these 25 articles, all written by yours truly, go some way to explaining why it was such a fun and rewarding time.
Note: Click a page to open it larger, otherwise you’ll struggle to read it.
Also note: These pages are taken from ONM’s original preview PDFs. These were lower resolution PDFs than those sent to the printers, so you’ll see a number of irregularities like blurry screenshots or white lines. These are issues with the image, not your browser.
Also also note: These pages have been republished with the kind permission of Future Publishing. This permission was given to me specifically: please don’t take them and host them on your own site or they’ll hunt you down and beat you to death with your own shoes.
In no specific order, then, let’s get cracking!
1) Missing in Action
ONM 20 (September 2007)
Throughout my stint at ONM I was constantly being lectured by gamers (usually those who didn’t actually read the mag) about how all our content was controlled by Nintendo and we didn’t have a lot of freedom.
This was complete bollocks, and while there were more obvious ways of proving this (such as any time we gave a game a bad score), there were other more subtle ways too.
One such example is this article, which focuses on the brilliant games that were released in the US and Japan but never made it to the UK.
If ONM had really been little more than a sneaky way for Nintendo to promote and market its new products, there’s no way in hell it would have approved an article that essentially told its customers: “Hey, sometimes you don’t get good games that other countries do”.
Incidentally, of the 12 games in this feature, four did eventually make it to the UK in some form either as Virtual Console games (Mario RPG, Sin & Punishment), re-releases (Chrono Trigger) or via their sequels (Rhythm Tengoku).
2) The 34 Greatest Nintendo Easter Eggs of All Time
ONM 69 (June 2011)
As will become pretty clear as you make your way through this collection, retro articles were always my favourite stuff to write: this isn’t just a new phase I’m going through on Tired Old Hack.
In particular, I loved putting together lists of the more weird and wonderful things in gaming that people weren’t aware of: it’s why I kicked off That Time When on the site last year and will be doing a load more later this year.
This article was one of my favourites because it gave me an excuse to dig out loads of the useless “did you know” trivia from my head and share it with our readers.
The Resident Evil 3 / Back to the Future one is a personal favourite of mine, because it’s just so strange.
3) ONM’s Top Ten
For a period around 2009-ish, we would have a Top 10 article in the news section every month. This was my idea, with my hope being that we could use it to publish some sillier lists to take the piss out of the Top 10 concept.
Although a few of them were more serious than I’d hoped, I did a least get a chance to write a few daft ones including my personal favourite, the Top 10 Best Levels Set in Stomachs.
Here’s my three best ones, in my opinion. Interesting to note that one of the comedy Kirby transformations did actually end up happening when Mega Man came to Smash Bros.
It’s also worth noting that while these old articles are a useful way to look back on the good old days, they’re also reminders of how changing attitudes have affected what’s no longer acceptable these days. The Pokemon evolution list, for example, makes a joke about emo kids self-harming, which was considered a comedy stereotype a decade ago but absolutely wouldn’t fly these days.
I could have chosen just not to include that article, or to Photoshop over that joke, but I think it’s important to own things you may have said in the past, as long as you show an understanding that what may have passed without criticism then shouldn’t be said now.
4) The Phat Controllers
ONM 61 (November 2010)
Let’s face it, that’s a pun and a half.
I’m a big fan of the way this article was designed: two members of our art team (Clair and Roland) were fantastic when it came to these line illustrations.
I forget which of the two worked on this article specifically, but whoever it was nailed it: from what I can remember all these illustrations were knocked together in a single day.
It was actually done out of necessity: when you’re dealing with an article about old peripherals it’s often hard to get hold of hi-res photos (or the hardware itself, so we could take our own photos).
Doing it this way meant we could just grab low-res pics off the internet and let our art team work their magic turning them into the lovely, clean diagrams you see here.
5) The Madness of Suda 51
ONM 55 (May 2010)
Other than Shigeru Miyamoto, Suga 51 is my favourite person to interview.
I’ve interviewed him a few times in my career. The first time was for No More Heroes, and the most recent was for Travis Strikes Again for this very site.
Although the first one was my favourite experience personally (because I gave him a football shirt, he gave me some branded toilet paper and proceeded to hit invisible free kicks in the middle of the room), this is probably the best of the articles.
Rather than focusing on a single game, it looks at the early days of Suda’s career and I reckon it’s a fun read.
Here’s a bit of insider magazine info on why the middle of the first spread here looks weird, whereas all the others in this article look seamless.
Because of the way magazines fold in the middle, you don’t get to see the inside edges of each page. Because of this, each page has a little bit of a gap down the middle (which usually shows a bit of the opposite page) so that the reader can still see everything.
When the article is just a simple grid layout this all looks pretty seamless, but when you have a diagonal line going along it you sometimes need to create some extra overlap to help the line join up. As such, this is the best I could get it to look!
6) Virtual Reality
ONM 42 (May 2009)
This is an article I wanted to write for ages: what would happen if you tried doing the stuff that happens in video games in real life?
I actually trawled the internet trying to find experts who were somehow willing to answer my questions without charging a fee. The guy who worked at the container plant in Aberdeen was a particular favourite.
My idea was always to take photos of us acting out the real-life equivalents. However, my parents came to London for my birthday so I took a week off to spend time with them, and when I got back I found out that the team had pretty much taken all the photos while I was away. That’s why I’m only in one photo (albeit a cool one with a Starwing promotional tie on my head).
7) Sonic & the Black Knight review
ONM 41 (April 2009)
This one’s important to me because it’s one of the first times I tried something different to the usual review formula.
As I was playing the game I kept thinking to myself: “What’s going on with Sonic now? He used to be better than this.” I then started smiling at the idea that I was referring to him as if he was a real guy.
This idea then evolved to the article you see here, where I basically wrote the review in the style of a letter to Sonic. It’s not the most original idea in the world but it’s one of my favourites because it marked an early example of me trying to mix things up a bit.
8) Professor Layton and the Curious Nintendo Secrets
ONM 60 (October 2010)
Here’s another of my patented “here’s a bunch of random trivia shit” articles.
Since we’d already used the ‘best Easter eggs’ idea, it was clear that we had to come up with something different to tie all this unrelated trivia together.
Professor Layton and the Lost Future was about to be released in the UK, so I decided to tie it into that and use the game’s time travel plot to make it seem like we were looking back at Nintendo’s best secrets. Yes, it was tenuous, but it made for some cool artwork.
It’s also further proof that Nintendo didn’t have full control over the content of the magazine, because it’s a pretty weird use of the Layton characters.
9) Clash of the Titans
ONM 48 (November 2009)
Issue 48 of the magazine was our world exclusive reveal of Mario and Sonic at the Olympic Winter Games, the second Mario and Sonic game.
This was a perfect excuse for me to once again pitch a retro feature, this time with the angle that “hey, Sega and Nintendo are best pals now, but that wasn’t always the case”.
The result was this cool timeline that showed all the major moments in the history of the Nintendo vs Sega war, accompanied by a brilliantly colourful layout.
I was really happy with this one.
10) In the Mix
ONM 52 (February 2010)
DJ Hero was one of my favourite games, to the extent that people in the office actually complained about me playing it, even with headphones on (because the turntable controller’s buttons were quite loud).
Although it launched in October 2009, I spent the next couple of months playing it constantly, so I got in touch with Activision and asked if I could visit the development team at Freestyle Games to see how they put the game together.
The resulting chat was full of brilliant information, including loads of detail on how the controller was made (which led to that excellent diagram).
During the conversation the games producer kept referring to it as “DJ 1”. At one point during a break, when the mic was off, I told him: “You know, you keep referring to this as DJ 1. It’s pretty clear that you’re working on a sequel.”
His face went chalk white. This was only about 30 minutes in, though, and I had a full day of behind-the-scenes stuff scheduled with them, so I explained to him that he shouldn’t worry, and I wasn’t about to leak their new game. He relaxed a bit and the rest of the interview went without a hitch.
DJ Hero 2 was officially announced five months later. There’s a belief among some journalists that if you don’t leak information you aren’t doing your job right, but by being honest and proving myself to be trustworthy I ended up with this, one of my favourite behind-the-scenes articles.
Game leaks come and go, but nobody else got to write anything like this.
11) Wheelspin review
ONM 51 (January 2010)
Of all the reviews I’ve ever written for ONM, my two Super Mario Galaxy reviews are the ones people mention to me most often.
Right behind those is my review of Wheelspin, the absolutely abysmal Wii racing game.
You should have seen us trying to play an eight-player game with the guys at CVG: the language was so blue that even Eiffel 65 would have thought “that maybe needs a spot of red or something to mix things up a bit”.
Since this month marks the review’s 10th anniversary I’m going to stream this at some point soon, so watch this space.
12) Record Breakers
ONM 56 (June 2010)
After watching the brilliant documentary The King of Kong – about a battle between Donkey Kong players to try and claim the new high score crown – I decided to check out the website for Twin Galaxies, the ‘official’ global video game high score leaderboard.
It turned out that despite its reputation, Twin Galaxies had a lot of big games that only had a couple of players properly trying to get high scores, and that as a result if you were good at a specific game there was a decent chance you could at least get in one of its top 10 lists.
As someone who’s been a big fan of Tetris ever since its launch on the Game Boy, I spotted that most of the scores on the Game Boy Tetris high score table on Twin Galaxies were painfully low. I could score 400,000+ points with a bit of luck, but other than a couple of genuinely great scores the table was full of scores like 160,000.
This whole article, then, was really just an excuse for me to submit my Tetris score to Twin Galaxies. Because we were up against a deadline I only had a couple of hours to try, but I got a so-so score of 283,706 and ended up sixth on the table.
Later on a reader informed me that I had actually appeared in the Guinness World Records Gamer’s Edition 2016, which included Twin Galaxy tables. I’d dropped down to eighth but I was still there.
13) Magic Moments: The Ultimate Mario Retrospective
ONM 45 (August 2009)
I can actually, legitimately, remember the conversation we had about this feature and how I managed to successfully pitch it. I’m paraphrasing but it went like this:
NEIL (editor): “Okay, we need to start thinking of features for 45, does anyone have any ideas?”
ME: “I was thinking we could do something on Mario.”
NEIL: “That’s not the most original idea though, is it Chris? We always do stuff about Mario, people are probably bored of that by now.”
ME: “Aye, but what if it was a big massive fuck-off 10-pager that was bigger than anything we’ve done before?”
NEIL: “Ten pages?”
NEIL: “…sigh, fine.”
14) The ONM Mystery Casebook
ONM 46 (September 2009)
I’ve always loved gaming’s urban legends like the Nintendo PlayStation (this was long before we discovered someone actually had it, remember) and the claim that Michael Jackson had written music for Sonic the Hedgehog 3.
This article was my attempt to look at some of them, but obviously in order to get an eight-page feature out of it I had to be a little creative and come up with some urban legends that weren’t really urban legends (like the AVS or Totaka’s Song).
Much like the self-harming joke in the Top 10 article, this one also has a questionable section about Birdo (as did the previous Mario article) which refers to her as ‘cross-dressing’ and says she has an “alternative lifestyle”.
These days it could be considered questionable, but given that to this day we’re still in the process of trying to educate people on the correct terms to use when discussing the trans community, I hope you’ll appreciate that 11 years ago I was significantly less educated on the matter. Once again, I present it unedited with that caveat to show how we’re all capable of contributing to progress being made.
15) Watch & Learn
ONM 32 (August 2008)
While I was at ONM I would write reviews for other Future magazines on a freelance basis. I basically considered those gigs ‘free money’ and so despite being on pretty shite wages I would spend this cash on retro Nintendo stuff anyway.
As such, by the time I was two years into the job I’d acquired a nice little collection of Game & Watches, enough to let us book a session at Future’s photo studio and make this cool-looking feature on their history.
These days I only have Donkey Kong, Mario Bros and Parachute: the rest were either resold on eBay or given away to readers during one of my infamous desk-clearing competition days.
16) Silent Hill: Shattered Memories review
ONM 53 (March 2010)
For the most part I’m usually pretty adamant that I stand by all my review scores, and that even if a game doesn’t age well, the score I gave it at the time was the accurate one.
There’s one exception to this, and it’s Silent Hill: Shattered Memories, which I originally gave 86%.
This one was reviewed right before deadline, and I finished it relatively quickly. As such, the score was essentially what it was because as fantastic as the game is, it was pretty short.
However, after the magazine had been sent to the printers the game still lingered in my mind and I kept thinking about the story, the characters and the fantastic music. I even gave it a second playthrough (which is rare for me).
In hindsight, I really wish I’d given it a score in the 90s, because it absolutely deserved a Gold Award and is one of my favourite games of the last decade. If any game needs an HD re-release, it’s this one.
17) The Diary of a Mii
ONM 58 (August 2010)
I’ve written on Tired Old Hack before about Jake McPake, the character I’ve been creating in games for the past 21 years (ever since WWF Wrestlemania 2000 on the Nintendo 64).
That article even led to me writing a more passionate biography about Jake for Vice, which was a slightly bizarre thing to see.
I was always keen to try to find a way to get Jake McPake into ONM but struggled to do so, until after four years of trying I finally thought of an idea.
By 2010 there were a load of Wii games that let you import and play as your Mii character. My idea, then, was to make a Mii of Jake McPake and put him in as many games as possible, then present it as a weird diary.
I love this one, even though it’s one of the odder ideas I’ve come up with.
18) System Shock
ONM 57 (July 2010)
I’ve always been fascinated by prototypes that never made it to production, either because they were changed or outright scrapped.
This article let me properly nerd out about a bunch of Nintendo consoles and games that never were, accompanied by more brilliant illustrations by our art team.
You’ll start to see some crossover by this point, such as the bits about the AVS and the Nintendo PlayStation.
To be perfectly honest, every time we finished an issue I was so burnt out that I never read the articles again, meaning I’d often forget what we’d already written in the past. Our readers knew my articles better than I did because they’d often re-read them.
It was only when I left ONM and started reading through these PDFs again that I rediscovered my appreciation for the work I did there.
19) The Greatest Game Boy Games Ever
ONM 63 (Christmas 2010)
Usually whenever we did a Best Games Ever feature it would be a group decision and we’d have a big meeting and argue about which games should and shouldn’t be included.
That’s why I started my 30 Best series on Tired Old Hack, so I could give my own lists of my favourite games that didn’t include other colleagues’ picks.
For whatever reason though, I was on my own for this one, which means this is very much yer man Scullion’s list of the best Game Boy games.
Naturally, this was a decade ago and I’ve discovered more games since then, so if I was ever to do a 30 Best on the Game Boy I’d imagine there’ll be some changes.
20) Donkey Kong’s Greatest Secrets
ONM 65 (February 2011)
Despite his obvious importance in the overall history of Nintendo, Donkey Kong doesn’t usually get a lot of solo attention. This may be because of his lengthy downtime between Donkey Kong 3 and Donkey Kong Country, but who knows.
Because of this, I had load of readers tell me they loved this article because they were amazed that they didn’t know a lot of the stuff here.
My favourite bit here is the look at all the different Donkey Kong sprites from the countless home versions of the game. I always laugh when I see the weird one that looks like the Donnie Darko rabbit.
At some point I want to do a proper written and video feature comparing those home computer ports.
21) We Are Error
ONM 82 (June 2012)
Earlier in 2012 Capcom released Resident Evil Revelations on the 3DS, but gamers in America quickly noticed that the US version said ‘Revelaitons’ on the spine.
This tickled the shit out of me, even though it was just a minor typo, and so it inspired me to do this article on other big mistakes in games.
Of all the articles I’ve written for ONM I think this is one of the most entertaining because let’s face it, we all love it when someone messes up.
22) Nintendo’s Ideas Factory
ONM 71 (August 2011)
“Nintendo can’t claim to have literally invented every single one of the 33 innovations in this list, but it certainly introduced and popularised them by using them in inventive new ways.”
This sentence features in the intro for my feature on the best Nintendo innovations, but it didn’t stop a lot of readers completely ignoring it and busting out the “I think you’ll find” patter anyway.
Yes, I know the Nintendo 64 didn’t have the first analogue stick. Yes, I know there had been wireless controllers before the WaveBird. But the point was that Nintendo had done them in a way that made people stand up and notice them for the first time.
I’m happy with this article despite the shit I got for it.
23) ONM’s 50 Greatest Nintendo Moments
ONM 50 (Christmas 2009)
We wanted to do something special for issue 50 so I put together this list of the 50 best moments in Nintendo games.
Looking back at it now it’s clear that some of the more modern moments were included because they were fresh in my mind (like the Scribblenauts one and the Phantom Hourglass one), so I’m sure if I did it again I’d remove a bunch of them.
After all, there have been plenty of other great Nintendo moments in the 11 years since, such as playing as Peach in Smash Bros Ultimate and booting the utter piss out of Daisy.
24) Christmas Classics
ONM 76 (Christmas 2011)
For such an important time of the year you’d be surprised how few Christmas moments there are in video games. Or at least, how many there were by 2011.
This article, then, was actually much harder to put together than you may originally think, hence odd inclusions like Sam & Max and Donkey Kong Country 3.
It was all worth it for the final panel, though, in which I got to tell the whole story of one of the most devastating, tear-jerking stories in gaming, the ‘dead dad’ level in Elite Beat Agents.
Besides, any article that lets me write about Snatcher is an instant classic.
25) Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 reviews
ONM 23 (December 2007) and ONM 56 (June 2010)
There was only really one way to end this list. Well, two ways.
My reviews of Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2 are far and away the two articles that most people cite when they tell me they used to read my stuff in ONM.
I’ve had countless people tell me they started reading ONM with their respective issues, and I remember us having hefty sales spikes for those two issues so I can believe it.
On a personal note I’m probably the most proud of these because they were both written to obscenely tight deadlines and both required me to basically set up base camp at Nintendo UK’s HQ in Windsor so I could play the games and write them up in time to send the mag to the printers and get the exclusive first review.
I’ve said before how the first Super Mario Galaxy in particular reduced me to tears as I was playing it, because I was still only a year and a half into the job and was struggling to come to terms with the fact I was living in London, was 24 years old and was no longer a kid. Adult life is scary, after all, especially when you’ve left your family and friends behind to move to an enormous city.
As I giggled away like a kid playing Galaxy the realisation that it was absolutely fine to still be a kid hit me like a ton of bricks and I sat there alone at Nintendo HQ weeping like an idiot as I continued to try and speedrun the prick to get the review done in time.
I’m so proud of both of these articles, but the first one in particular means the world to me.
So there you have it, a whistle stop tour of my six years at the Official Nintendo Magazine all compressed into 25 articles (well, 28, if you want to get into semantics).
My time at ONM will always be six of the best years of my life, but my goal is to make sure that they weren’t the best years of my career.
As proud as I am of all of those articles, I want to eventually create stuff for Tired Old Hack that makes me equally proud, or even more proud.
I hope you’ll continue to join me on my journey to aim for that. I may not reach that goal, but it’s going to be a hell of a lot of fun trying.
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