Extra Life 2023 Recap

By Brian • 28 January 2024

I did this last year, and I thought I might like to do it again! Let’s recap our 2023 Extra Life charity video game marathon, held on Saturday, October 21. As usual, I successfully conned many of my coworkers into marathoning with me! As a team, we raised somewhere in the neighborhood of $2,000 for our St. Louis Children’s Miracle Network hospitals (I really need to start keeping official numbers), putting our total over the years at right around $9,000. These facilities have directly benefited the families of coworkers and friends alike. It’s a great cause, easy to participate, lots of fun, and a perfect excuse to play games for 24 hours and revisit many of my retro favorites.

So what games did I play over the 24 hours? Let’s check them out!

Power Blade (NES)

I never played Power Blade prior to this marathon! I also beat it during the marathon in a little more than an hour, which may hint at its difficulty or lack thereof. Nevertheless, Power Blade impressed me—a fun, straightforward, no-frills sidescroller with a banging soundtrack, big (but not too big) levels to explore, and a protagonist clearly inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger slaughtering his enemies with super-powered boomerangs. (Not to mention the dude pumps his arms like a maniac when he runs!) Nintendo Power introduced me to this game long ago, and I always wanted to give it a shot. Based on my experience here, I might introduce more blind plays to future marathons. It’s easy to stay in the comfort zone.

Metroid (NES)

Speaking of comfort zones, here we are! Although, Metroid got me the same way it always does—after a strong start, I went to Ridley’s hideout before getting the Varia suit to save time, and got the absolute dog mess kicked out of me by the enemies there. I got stuck in lava one time, as well. Despite my struggles, I had fun, as always, and managed my trek through planet Zebes without a map. Metroid is the easiest game to get lost in, but my memory pulled through this time.

Ninja Gaiden (NES)

Having not played Ninja Gaiden for several years now, it went about as well as I expected: I got stuck on the notorious stages 6-2 and 6-3 for a lengthy period of time, got killed by the Jaquio twice and therefore had to replay 6-1, 6-2, and 6-3 two more times. I finally beat Jaquio, but only with the help of the Art of the Fire Wheel subweapon, as I could never get the timing right on dodging his fireballs. What an amateur. The rest of the run went well!

Super Star Wars (SNES)

A brief hangup on Lava Beast Jawenko, the boss of the Sandcrawler level, could not hinder an otherwise fun and straightforward run of Super Star Wars. The Force was with you, Jawenko, but it was...uh, more with me!

Volgarr the Viking (PC)

I lost patience pretty quickly. Volgarr is a fun game with really technical combat and movement mechanics, but it is unforgiving and I am just bad at it. I got to level two.

Duke Nukem 2 (PC)

This was my first time playing Duke Nukem 2 since probably sixth or seventh grade. My biggest takeaways are that, although the game is still fun, what with all the shooting and collecting of power-ups, it’s much harder than I remember it being. I think I was in too much of a hurry and would have been better served taking my time. Unlike Power Blade, the levels here were too big, and some of the backgrounds were busy enough to make my eyes hurt. Pros and cons of classic games.

Castlevania: Bloodlines (Sega Genesis)

A struggle! I started dying on the second level (knocked into the water by a fishman—how embarrassing) and didn’t stop. I made frequent use of passwords, and later save states once I reached the final level (so I wouldn’t have to keep putting in the same password) to push through a great, but gravely difficult installment of the Castlevania franchise. I apparently need to revisit this one more often to stay fresh on all of its terrors and challenges. That 3-boss gauntlet at the end doesn’t help matters much.

Mega Man 4 (NES)

One of the “lesser” of the NES Mega Man games. But really, come on, it’s Mega Man. For me, it’s always a treat, regardless of which one. Something I noticed for the first time while playing is that the Skeleton Joe enemies (native to Skull Man’s stage, of course) will fall apart and reassemble if hit with a normal shot, but can be destroyed with a fully-charged Mega Buster shot. I guess I never made that distinction? Anyway, it was a cool discovery. This run went well, overall, and was made easier by 1ups out the wazoo. The random number generation (RNG) was, for once, in my favor.

Super Mario Bros. 2 (I played the All-Stars version on SNES)

A nearly flawless playthrough. Died a couple of times, but nothing serious. Probably the most unadulterated fun I had during the run, and certainly the peak of the run, as exhaustion began to set in afterward. There’s not much new I can tell you about this gem of a game, other than that the All-Stars version is my favorite take on Super Mario 2, so that’s the one I played.

NES Open Tournament Golf (NES)

A terrible round. Probably one of my worst ever, and a lousy comedown after such a great time playing Super Mario 2. I would have been better off playing real golf.

Shadowgate (NES)

I tried to narrate what I was doing in this classic point-and-click adventure, but I’m not sure how well it came off. To the casual observer (especially if they had me muted), it probably just looked like me shoving random items into orifices to unlock doors or solve puzzles or whatever. Although, to be fair, most of the puzzles do come down to that. I have to revisit Shadowgate every so often to ensure my memory still works. (It does! Or did when I played it!)

Friday the 13th (NES)

I remember trying to explain Friday the 13th to my coworker Nolan, and feeling like I was making zero sense in my already half-delirious state. Strategically switching between camp counselors, visiting cabins until a torch (the best weapon in the game) appears in one of them, rescuing campers from Jason, fighting the decapitated head of Mrs. Voorhees in a cave—what even is this game?! To the uninitiated, it’s probably pretty hard to follow, but I’ve been playing it since I was six, so it makes a little more sense to an old timer like me. The game has a terrible reputation among gamers, but if you like survival horror or squad-based games, and work a little strategy into your play, I think it’s really quite fascinating. Did you know Atlus developed Friday the 13th? Time to climb aboard, Persona fans!

Splatterhouse 3 (Sega Genesis)

Splatterhouse 3 has everything. Horror-based beat ’em up action in a haunted house, branching paths, multiple endings, super scary story interludes, and the opportunity to bash monsters to death with a cinder block. It’s also one of the hardest games I’ve ever played, and I did not make it far on this occasion. I remember doing real physical damage to a Sega Genesis controller trying to beat this some 18 years ago. I think it’s a gaming feat I’ll never accomplish again.

SimCity 3000 (PC)

I could not get this game to work on stream. The game, itself, would play, but I couldn’t get the stream to pick it up. A little discouraging, but I couldn’t let it stop me!

Pac-Man 256 (PC)

I’m not sure how long I played Pac-Man 256. It could have been twenty minutes or four hours. A great way to veg out and see where the dots take me. I think I got some new high scores, too.

Sword of the Stars: The Pit (PC)

My first run of this roguelike ended when I contracted a disease and couldn’t recover. My second run seemed to be going a little better, but I had to stop to play Zelda II to close out the marathon. I was on autopilot for this game, so I really don’t remember much of what happened. Some dude came into chat to tell me how poorly-ranked my stream was in some metric or another. Uh, thanks, I guess?

Zelda II: The Adventure of Link (NES)

It turns out trying to navigate Death Mountain in Zelda II on no sleep might be one of the most confusing experiences in existence. While that was truly disorienting, I was pretty impressed with how I handled the rest of the run. I finished three palaces in two hours, and despite the exhaustion, it certainly wasn’t the worst time I’ve had playing Zelda II!

That’s it! That’s the list!

There you have it! Thanks to everyone who contributed to the marathon: my coworkers for keeping things fun in real life, Mod Melissa for keeping the chat active, anybody else who dropped by the stream, anybody who provided food, and finally, all the donors who make this whole endeavor worthwhile every year.

While I still plan to game for 24 hours next year, I might cut my stream to 18-20 hours or so. It would be kind of nice to work in some gaming with my coworkers, be it some couch co-op or board games or something. We’ll see what everybody wants to do!

As always, thank you for reading!

Screenshot Credits: MobyGames