Every console nowadays has access to the internet, accompanied with some version of an online store. So, no matter if it’s a handheld or home console, there’s a way to download demos of the latest games. But before that became possible, it was all about the demo disc.
Demo discs normally consisted of a handful of games, and they were either a mixture of upcoming games for a certain console, or company specific, like a Namco disc with only Namco games. Different genres were represented differently in demo form, and after playing a couple of discs, you pretty much knew what to expect. A fighting game demo would give you two or four characters to choose from, along with a stage, sometimes two if you were lucky. The game settings were normally best of three, with either a 30 or 60 second time limit, nothing very spectacular. An adventure or platformer demo would give you the first level of the select game, something short, just the minimum to leave you wanting more. A racing demo would consist of two playable characters, and one track, the complete bare bones of a racer. Needless to say, they all got redundant ranter quickly, but if there was a gem that you loved on the disc, you could easily play it over, and over again.
Now, there were a multitude of ways to get a demo disc. You could get them through publications like Xbox Magazine or Playstation Magazine. Retailers like Target or Wal-Mart had them either for free or for a small fee, normally under $5. Lastly, some demo discs would come with pre-ordering a video game, so they were certainly prevalent for a period of time.
These days, demo discs are an ancient gaming relic, obsolete with the advances in technology. But for many old school gamers, it was the only way to play some of the newest games coming out, and when funds were tight at home, you were playing those suckers for quite a bit until your parents got you the actual game. I remember spending plenty of time playing various GameCube demo discs, with Soul Calibur II, Sonic Adventure DX, and Viewtiful Joe. As I’ve gotten older, I rarely play downloadable demos, even though they are readily more accessible. Maybe it’s because I have so many games to play, or that I have the patience to hold out until I buy the full version, but I’ll always have fond memories of playing demo discs as a child.