With only three formats predominant on store shelves, purchasing a video game is a simple and effortless process these days. Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s however, the store shelves were a minefield.

Never mind the fact that many systems had similar packaging to one another – the quality, in general, was far lower, with publishers happy to slap a well-known license on a sub-par product.

If you didn’t specify a certain game for as a Christmas or birthday present, you ran the risk of your dear old mum picking up a duffer. Her intentions were good, there’s no doubting that, but when faced with a dazzling array of colourful box art, chances are she’d leave the store with one of those terrible games Mean Machines magazine warned you about. Oh, mum!

For no other reason other than the imminent arrival of the SEGA Mega Drive Mini, here are five games doubtlessly purchased by clueless mums in the run-up to, oh let’s say, Christmas 1993.

Art Alive

After gazing upon a row of Mega Drive games in Woolworths, mum makes the assumption that the majority are either too childish for you or far too violent. There will be no Splatterhouse 2 in this house, she declares. But… you’re thirteen, that difficult age where the cutesy likes of Donald Duck: Quackshot and Mickey Mouse: Castle of Illusion may be met with scorn.

Looking for a halfway house – a compromise of sorts – mum finally settles on a half-price copy of Art Alive. She can recall buying you Postman Pat colouring-in books a few (several) years ago, and she’s pretty sure you were grateful for the felt tip pens aunty gave you last Christmas. So, Art Alive it is.

The reality, of course, is that your artist flare only extends to doodling obscenities on school textbooks nowadays. After thirty minutes of drawing crude wangs in Art Alive on Christmas day, the cartridge is put back in the box, never to be played again.

Captain Planet and the Planeteers

Last Christmas was all about Captain Planet. Or was it the Christmas before? Mum forgets. Not only did you ask for a bunch of action figures, but the Captain Planet lunch box and duvet set too.

The Captain Planet and the Planeteers Mega Drive game is down to £19.99 in Woolworths. Mum loves a bargain – which is also why your Christmas stocking contains Go-Bots instead of Transformers – and so Captain Planet is the game you’re getting this Crimbo.

Fingers crossed somebody at school will be up for “a swapsie for keeps.”   

Greendog The Beached Surfer Dude

Mum knows that you own at least three T-shirts with surfers on – she bought them herself during the last C&A sale. She also knows surfers are cool, and she’s pretty sure she has heard you use the word ‘dude’ a few times when your friends were over, along with the word ‘bodacious’…whatever that means.

By extension of this, Greendog The Beached Surfer Dude must be the epitome of cool, which in turn gives mum some much needed ‘cool’ points. She even felt safe bursting out the line “How cool does this game look, eh?” as you tore off the wrapping paper.

If only she had purchased Cool Spot instead.

Mortal Kombat on Master System

Oh no! Your beloved mum knew what game you were after, but once faced with a shelf full of similar-looking packaging, she ended up leaving the store with the Master System version of Mortal Kombat. It says SEGA on the box, so this must be the correct game. Right? Cue a face redder than Santa’s suit, followed by a rummage in her purse for the receipt.

There will be no spine tearing or skull-splitting this Christmas. At least you have both The Beano and The Dandy annuals to tide you over until the shops reopen.

Bubsy the Bobcat

Knowing you’re rather fond of Sonic the Hedgehog 2 – a much appreciated Christmas present from 1992 – mum sets about looking for something similar. Gosh, there certainly are a lot of mammal-based platformers on the shelves of Dixons. There’s even one starring a dolphin. How funny.

Caving in and asking the store assistant for help, she finally settles on Bubsy the Bobcat. She was informed this was quite similar. Plus the name sounds like Buzby, the popular British Telecom mascot. Remember Buzby? You loved that bird.

“What could possibly go wrong?” Bubsy questions upon starting the game. Simply put, the answer is spending Christmas day without Streets of Rage 2.