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20 lessons from old game manuals

Game manuals used to be more awesome than the actual games they described. They had pictures and charts and words about monsters and everything else that is cool and good. And sometimes they had pages for notes, but you’d never write on them (the manual must be kept pristine).

Most of today's manuals are short and boring and tell you nothing. They're flimsy, pathetic leaflets, and their only purpose is to make game boxes feel a little heavier, because they just feel weird otherwise. But look... just look at this beautiful specimen of product documentation:


Above: A special message from Captain Commando, just for us? Hesigned itandeverythingHEEEEE!

Back in the day, we didn't get an on-screen tutorial - we could play through an entire game without knowing about a key feature because we failed to read the entire 52-page manual. And we liked it that way!

We can all learn a lot about games, and ourselves, by taking a moment to flip through some of the glorious manuals of yesteryear. Just look at what we learned from a small selection (mostly found on replacementdocs, a very snazzy website)...


Lesson 1: Everything you've ever wanted to know about Zelda

Nothing was assumed about the player. Take a look at some snippets from several Zelda manuals, and you’ll discover the answers to questions that may have been nagging you for years. For example, how do you select a bottle? Do you have to align your cursor with anything?


Above: Yes! Do it like this! 

Oh wow, that’s cool, so is Ganon nice?


Above: NO, HE’S REAL MEAN!

Wow, I never knew. But, say I press the 'B' button, what then?


Above: WE'VE GOT A WHOLE PAGE FOR THAT!

Great! But can I use magic? I’d really like to use mag-LOOK OVER TO YOUR RIGHT AND YOU’LL SEE SOME CRAZY MAGIC, MAN! THIS 'AINT NO DAVID COPPERFIELD SHIT, THIS IS FINGER WIGGLING SPELL CASTIN’ MAGIC WITH THE FUNKITUDE EIGHT HUNDRED CLONES OF EARTH, WIND, & FIRE PLAYING SIMULTANEOUSLY!

See? Everything. And game manuals didn’t just teach us about games, they taught us valuable life lessons. Keep scrolling for more wisdom from these ancient tomes.


Lesson 2: Lava hurts you

Also, when someone writes "period" after something, they really mean it.


Lesson 3: If you try to make a copy of GoldenEye, Pierce Brosnan will f***ing shoot you in the face

For England!


Lesson 4: Rick is deluding himself,
and so are you

Like Rick, your whole family probably hates you, and will run away from home just so they don't have to look at you.


Lesson 5: 120%!!!

Nobody played this game!!!

46 comments

  • CandiedJester - June 15, 2010 5:30 a.m.

    Lava one was my favorite. xD "Fall in and you will be destroyed. PERIOD."
  • Smeggs - June 14, 2010 1:57 a.m.

    The words "MEGA MAN" and "state-of-the-art, high-resolution graphics" in the same sentence made me lol.
  • Oddeh7 - June 8, 2010 5:49 p.m.

    "I’d really like to use mag-LOOK OVER TO YOUR RIGHT AND YOU’LL SEE SOME CRAZY MAGIC, MAN! THIS 'AINT NO DAVID COPPERFIELD SHIT, THIS IS FINGER WIGGLING SPELL CASTIN’ MAGIC WITH THE FUNKITUDE EIGHT HUNDRED CLONES OF EARTH, WIND, & FIRE PLAYING SIMULTANEOUSLY!" EPIC
  • Zeb364 - June 6, 2010 11:36 p.m.

    I love how the first thing I noticed about the Mario Kart entries was Nintendo promoting one of the cheapest tactics you could use. And Pierce Brosnan will shoot you in the fucking face.
  • reaperman22 - June 1, 2010 11:34 a.m.

    i LOLed at number 16
  • brickman409 - May 29, 2010 4:16 a.m.

    nothing about the fallout 1 manual?
  • philipshaw - May 28, 2010 8:25 p.m.

    Great article Tyler,you should have had an extra entry to say that manuals teach you that Birdo is a dude
  • R_U_Guys_From_British - May 28, 2010 2:56 p.m.

    Thick, coloured, detailed game manuals. <3
  • Rhymenocerous - May 28, 2010 10:46 a.m.

    X-COM = Best.Manual.Ever.
  • Ridgley - May 28, 2010 6:16 a.m.

    I FUCKING LOVE GAME MANUALS!
  • jmcgrotty - May 28, 2010 6:01 a.m.

    It's a huge pet peeve of mine for people to not read the instruction books. Pathetic punks.
  • initialreactionshow - May 28, 2010 4:20 a.m.

    Unbelievably excellent article Tyler. The part about Dragon's Lair being our fault that the game is bad and Pierce Brosnan shooting us in the f**king face if we illegally copy Goldeneye made me laugh so hard. LONG LIVE THE MANUAL!
  • michaelmcc827 - May 28, 2010 2:38 a.m.

    I'm pretty sure lesson 14 asks, "Do you have the instinct?" Great stuff, I really hope no more publishers decide to do away with manuals.
  • Camoxide - May 28, 2010 12:23 a.m.

    No Birdo is a dude?
  • Romination - May 28, 2010 12:06 a.m.

    Game manuals sucked back then too. I'm not sure you realize this, but the Mario Kart ones are just gameplay stuff. The Goldeneye one one is a copyright page. And you know what? Manuals are the same. There's just a tutorial now. You can read the manual and glean the same info, but you may have to sit through the tutorial still.
  • WonsAuto - May 27, 2010 11:45 p.m.

    Well, it's a damn good thing I have Super Mario Kart saved on my laptop via emul- Hey, let go o' me! NOOOOOO BIG BROTHER HAS FOUNDED MEEEEEEEEEEEE
  • garnsr - May 27, 2010 11:02 p.m.

    I'll bet many of the readers have never seen a worthwhile manual. And a page worth of info in a NES manual was only about a paragraph.
  • Randomwordcombination - May 27, 2010 11:02 p.m.

    Good stuff! Now i'm off to spend hours no replacementdocs.
  • Harmonator - May 27, 2010 10:38 p.m.

    HA! I actually REMEMBERED the feather from SMK! And you're not the only ones who have been wondering why that wasn't in any of the later games...
  • LizarDAZZLE - May 27, 2010 10:21 p.m.

    lol, lesson 16 I see what you did there.

Showing 1-20 of 46 comments

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