Memory Cards are some of my favourite things to collect, they come in so many different shapes and sizes, and for so many different consoles. My collection of memory cards is only small and limited mostly to PlayStation and PlayStation 2, but I do have a couple for the Dreamcast, Gamecube and Xbox. I even have some of those lesser-used and often forgotten about Xbox 360 memory cards too.
I always believed that Sony was the first to create a memory card for a games console, but it turns out that I was wrong as it was actually SNK all the way back in 1990 for the NeoGeo AES. The NeoGeo wasn’t that big of a console here in England, so it’s no surprise it went completely over my head but I would be pretty much correct in saying that Sony popularised the memory card with their 128KB memory cards on the PlayStation in 1994.
I will never forget my first PlayStation memory card. It was as if I had been handed the holy grail of gaming, I could finally save my game in Crash Bandicoot, Metal Gear Solid, Gran Tourismo, and more! I felt like one of the cool kids despite the cool kids already having owned memory cards for around a year before I finally got one and the novelty had worn off on the playground.
My plan with my collection of memory cards is to have at least two for every console I own, leaving just the original Xbox, and the Nintendo 64 without memory cards as of the writing of this post.
Before Memory Cards consoles were restricted to battery-backed volatile RAM in the game cartridges which was an ideal format back in their day, and some of them are still working just fine. These days, buying a retro game in cartridge format usually requires a replacement battery, so it’s always a good thing to keep a soldering iron and some replacement button cells handy, just make sure to replace like-for-like otherwise you may cause damage to the game.
Dating back earlier, but still an often-used option for saving your game, even during the memory card era was the password or passcode option. Passwords were a little more tricky in the sense that one wrong character could mean that you had lost your progress in your favourite game, or if you put in a random string of characters you could really mess with the game’s code.
Passwords were also greatly used to allow for the use of cheats, some of which are still being discovered today through the use of data-mining, some of which are freaking hilarious such as FANNYMAGNET for GTA: Vice City on PC. Some passwords were also known to break games or even completely brick consoles in their later ports to newer hardware, such as ENGAGE RIDLEY MOTHER FUCKER in Super Metroid.
I used to drive myself crazy trying to figure out passwords in games back in the day because I could never afford ActionReplay/GameShark packs when I was a kid, and my local newsagents didn’t stock games magazines until the later part of the 32bit era of consoles, so I couldn’t even get my cheats through those. It wasn’t until my family got the internet that I discovered the world of cheats beyond the realm of what few were handed out on the school playground.
Kids of today will never know the magic of being able to simply pull out a memory card at your friend’s house and continue to play a game together, or lose the scrap of paper you kept in your game case with all of the passwords you had written on it for your favourite game.
Do you have any memories of saving your game back in the day? Let’s talk about it on Twitter (@Metabera) and even tag a friend? Did you ever have one of those third-party memory cards with the switch on the side? Those things were well known for wiping every save away and leaving nothing but tears. Let’s open up a support group for sufferers of save game disasters.