If you're like me, you remember the NES very fondly. You also remember the system for the genres that made the system so great. Sure, there was something for everybody, but generally you could count on plenty of platformers, side scrolling action titles, bullet hell shooters, and RPGs, to name a few well-worn genres from the 8-bit days.
What you wouldn't expect a lot of are stock trading simulators. Mainly because marketing a game where you buy and sell stocks to a bunch of 10-year old kids is INSANE
Enter: Wall Street Kid.
Wall Street Kid, quite simply, was designed by sociopaths who thought, "You know, there's plenty of games out there where you play baseball, save princesses, or do battle on alien worlds. So let's just get away from all of that and let kids do what they really
want to do: try to make a profit off of the volatile stock market!"
Keep in mind that in 1990, when Wall Street Kid was released to what were certainly crowds of gamers who had camped outside of stores in anticipation of such a AAA gaming experience, games were pretty expensive at about $50 a piece. People complain nowadays about $60 games that "only" provide 10 hours of single-player content, but let's remember in that in 1987, people were shelling out $50 for Deadly Towers
So, this wasn't like asking somebody to pay 800 Microsoft Moonbucks for a niche XBLA title that might offer some stupid fun. This was asking a bunch of pre-teens to set aside their allowances for a couple of months so that they could buy a game that you could beat in two or three hours that had you trading stocks instead of punches or gunfire.
"Okay," you may be thinking, "this doesn't sound so bad. I mean, yeah, it was a dumb business decision to make a game like that, but I could see a sort of stupid appeal. It could be fun if done right." I know, I know! I felt the same way when I played it as a kid. The problem is that the game was AWFUL, even if you thought trading stocks all day sounded amazing.
First of all, the difficulty level was punishingly hard. You had to trade the stocks of companies like "Strayhound", "Reebucks", or (my favorite) "American Depress" on a weekly basis according to wildly varying market conditions that could make a stock hot one day and leave it plummeting in price seven days later. You were expected to use the game's version of The Wall Street Journal (another well-known name in children's entertainment) to make your decisions based on interest rates, market conditions, and news items.
See, your character has a $600 billion inheritance from a distant uncle that he can't have access to until he proves his worth by turning $500,000 into at least $5 million within four months by trading on the stock market. Why? I don't know...because your uncle's a dick.
Why do you need to make so much money? Because at regular intervals throughout the game, you will be forced- yes, forced- to buy large items. If you don't have the money, the game ends. One time it's a $1 million house, another time it's a $700,000 yacht, and then there's the family castle that is up for auction but used to belong to the family. Depending on how the auction goes, it will be at least $3 million, but can cost as much as $10 million. How did a family worth $600 billion allow a castle that was supposedly important to them fall into the hands of outsiders? We don't ask such questions.
Not pictured: literal wet blanket
Then, there's your fiancee, Priscilla. Her sole existence appears to be to bleed you dry and make endless demands of you even though you have four months to make a 1,000% profit on the stock market. She wants a dog, and then she wants a new car. Then she wants stereo equipment, as well as art to put in the new house. She'll also want to throw an expensive party, and you'd better buy her some jewelry, too. You'll also have to make time out of your stressful workdays to take her to picnics or carnivals, and after the wedding, you'll take a week off of work for your honeymoon, even though you're busting your balls to try to make back the money you spent buying her all of that crap.
As a kid, you have to wonder whether this was intended to be a game that trains you to kick ass on the stock market or one that trains you to have a deep-rooted fear of commitment. Wall Street Kid teaches you that women are nagging, greedy, needy creatures that exist only to make your life difficult. For $50, you get both a stock trading sim and a mysogynist trainer!
Fun for all ages!
The next time you wonder what the hell game developers and publishers are thinking, just remember that once upon a time, a little software company called Sofel published a point-and-click, stock trading strategy game that was ridiculously difficult in a time when videogames were still thought of mainly as "kiddie stuff."