LAN parties took some planning
Aw, are you sad that the party system on Xbox One is a hunk of dog fudge? Then youre forgetting (or never even knew) what a pain in the ass hosting a LAN party could be. Finding space for everyone, getting approval from your parents, making sure your one friend didnt smoke weed in your living room--it was all a huge hassle, but worth it just to get in a couple rounds of Starcraft. If you were lucky you had a LAN center in your area, but only particularly cool parents would let you play in one of those sleazy strip malls till 2 a.m.
Resetting analog controllers
Analog controllers brought a whole new dimension of movement to gaming in the mid-90s, but they also brought a whole new set of problems. If you were used to carelessly laying down your controller on the floor when you were done, Mario might be walking in the wrong direction when you turned the game back on. Unplugging and reinserting the controller port usually fixed things pretty easily, unless you played Mario Party or similarly destructive titles that could ruin an analog stick. At that point it was too loose to ever reset properly, so you either had to scrimp and save for a new controller, or simply deal with it until (hopefully) you got a new one as a present.
Turning a PlayStation upside down to make it work
Sonys original PlayStation was a technological marvel, what with all its polygons and the ability to play my Ace of Base CDs. On the down side, the insides of the original model had the constitution of a dandelion, as most PSOne owners will recall their systems sometimes failing to work in the standard position. Turning the system on its side or even completely upside down often did the trick, an unwelcome burden for enjoying a truly amazing console. Then again, maybe I shouldnt have paid my friends older brother to attempt to mod my PlayStation...
Ordering import games through magazine ads
Did you read in the latest issue of your favorite game magazine that Final Fantasy 5 is out in Japan and youll never play it without importing? Well, too bad for you that one of your few pre-Internet options were the mail order services in the back of said magazine. You were basically fumbling in the dark compared to todays impressive amount of retailer accountability. Back then you sent $90 to a P.O. Box and hoped with all your might that youd get a working Super Famicom cart within six months. And if you didnt, good luck getting a refund.
Dealing with a finicky RF adapter
Currently youd laugh in your friends face for daring to play a game in standard definition. But in the 1990s my familys TVs only had RF inputs, which stands for Radio Frequency but I came to believe it actually meant Really Fugly. The RCA outputs of consoles (or composite if they were extra fancy) had to then get uglified via the RF adapter to the TV, giving every game a grainier, more washed out look than intended. When I finally got a composite television at the end of the decade, its not hyperbolic to say switching over the output was just like a blind man being blessed with the gift of sight.
And that RF adapter was attached to a 13-inch TV
This is one of those dont know what youve got till its gone moments. Unless your family was fairly well off, most televisions you played games on were 20 big at the largest, and they were in standard def. You barely noticed because all the players were sitting about a foot away from the set, but now in the HD era of somewhat affordable widescreen sets, you wonder how folks managed. So much unneeded eye strain just to suss out where the next platform in Tomb Raider was.
Rumors about games were hard to disprove
We all knew that one person in your peer group who told tales of unlocking a Knuckles in Sonic 3 or finding a Nude-ality in Mortal Kombat. In the present, you can pull out your iPhone and prove them to be a liar in about 13 seconds (depending on your data plan), but back then it was simply your word against his. And if you were gullible enough to believe that this guy had an uncle at Squaresoft who knew how to resurrect Aeris in Final Fantasy 7, youd waste an entire weekend following his phony guide, only to learn the hard way that he was full of crap.
Making controllers shake cost extra
You should really appreciate that today force feedback on a gamepad is a right, not a privilege. Getting your controller to shake in the mid-90s didnt come with every controller; instead, it came as an add-on or late addition. N64s Rumble Pak could cost a good deal if you wanted one for all four controllers, while you just had to buy a brand-new controller for the DualShocks haptic sensation on the PlayStation. Sega didnt get into the act until the Dreamcasts Jump Pack at the end of the decade, which sadly was too little, too late for the system.
Losing a game save after returning a rental
Rental chains like Blockbuster Video were so central to a 90s gamers existence that its surprising how well we do without them now. And if you rented a title for SNES, N64, or Genesis, you had to live with the fact that your personal save file would be gone as soon as the cartridge went back to the store. The advent of memory cards and CDs alleviated this a little, but even at the decades end I was still feeling the pain of losing my Jet Force Gemini clear to whoever rented it next. On the plus side, you did occasionally benefit from renting a game that already had everything unlocked by the previous renter.
Wires, wires, wires! The length of cable required to play a game could get ridiculous, especially if you frequently played games with two or more people or across multiple systems. Your controllers could create a massive spider web of wiring that would take hours to untangle once your parents finally forced you to clean up your room. Tripping over a controller cable could even lead to tragically knocking your system to the floor, doing irreparable damage in the process. Seriously, ditching all those wires via the standardization of wireless gamepads is a greater human accomplishment than mapping the human genome.