I’ll never forget when my brother and I unwrapped our Playstation that Christmas morning 15 years ago. Amongst the cables and controllers was a disc featuring previews of several games. PLAYABLE previews of several games. This was important as all three of the games we got were fighting games (Tekken 2, Mortal Kombat Trilogy, and Street Fighter Alpha 2) and it being the holiday, it would be a while before we would increase our collection. That was okay, because the demo disc we got held wonders beyond imagination. Playable demos of King of Fighters 95 and ESPN Extreme Games, and videos of Jet Moto and Twisted Metal 2 were among the discs’ many hidden goodies. There were also several hidden codes, and you could even listen to some tracks by putting the CD in your player. Another memorable disc came with an Official Playstation Magazine issue that I picked up the summer after my freshman year in college. It contained Threads of Fate, Deception 3, and X-men Mutant Academy. I ended up buying most of the games featured on the disc. Since the early days of disc-based gaming, a demo disc has been one of the best ways to sample games before thier release.

The neat thing about disc-based gaming is that compared to cartridges, you could fit tons of content on them for only a fraction of the manufacturing cost. As such, demo discs such as the one I described were a regular treat. Sony formed a club known as the Playstation Underground which mailed out demo discs on a regular basis, although if you registered thier products, you probably got some for free as well. In fact, magazines such as Official Playstation Magazine and Official Xbox Magazine later on would include demo discs that were chock full of goodness with every issue. The Playstation disc would even include demos of Japanese games, many of which were unreleased in America. Companies would include demos with thier games as part of special promotions as well. For instance, Capcom included a demo of Resident Evil 2 with its release of Resident Evil Directors cut. A few years later, they re-upped by including a demo of Resident Evil 3 with Dino Crisis and a demo of Dino Crisis with Resident Evil 3. Square included a demo of the then-long awaited Final Fantasy 7 with thier release of Tobal No 1 to tide players over. When FF8 was in development, the put a demo of that in with Brave Fencer Mushashi. A disc they included with Parasite Even included a demo of Xenogears which made the game a ‘must by’ after experiencing the demo. Nintendo even released a special demo disc back in 2003. It contained demos of Splinter Cell, Sonic Adventure, and Billy Thatcher, along with downloadable demos of Wario Ware and Dr, Mario for Game Boy Advance. It was supposed to be included with new Gamecube systems, but most places had it on sale for $5. It was so successful, it’s a wonder why Nintendo hasn’t done any more.

While demo discs are still released with various magazines, there have been less and less of a need for them, with demos being downloadable and all. However, older gamers can remember how special it would be to get thier issue of Official Playstation Magazine in the mail or at the store, unwrapping it, and seeing what hidden treasures were inside.