Throwback Thursdays: Pathways into Darkness

The year was 1993. I was 14. I was sad, for my parents didn’t allow video game consoles in the house, and although I felt smugly superior for owning a Mac rather than a PC, I couldn’t really play any games on it.

But then there was Bungie, and it was good.

We used to receive a number of software/hardware catalogs at home (remember paper catalogs?), and I would snap up the computer catalogs and read them avidly, hoping the products would somehow leap through the pages to me. I would leap ahead to the “Edutainment” section, because it was less sparse than the Games section of the Mac catalogs, and offered the glimmer of hope of a game to convince my parents to buy me. And then, there in the game section, Macintosh only, was Pathways into Darkness.


Pathways was the game that sold me on computer games. It was a first-person shooter, although those were inexplicably called RPG’s in the marketing copy that I can recall, and it was terrifying. Monsters came at you out of the darkness, puzzles tormented you (and they could only be solved by talking to dead Nazis, who were often less cooperative than you might expect).

The monsters in the game were varied and menacing, and you had to have a strategy for each, and you had to be ready to deploy those strategies. Once you thought you knew something, it would change, and you’d be learning all over again. For months I struggled to reach the top level of the pyramid, which was only necessary in order to go back to ground level and unlock the doors into the catacombs, which contained the last two-thirds of the game. I wondered when and if I would find Captain Muller, leader of the dead Nazis, and when I finally found him he was a sonofabitch. (a dead one, but still).

In those days, Bungie knew a thing or two about naming levels. People don’t name levels any more in games, and they should. I grew up wanting to name levels for Bungie games. Pathways’ second level was called “Never Stop Firing” and it was solid, although misleading, advice. This was in the time when ammo in games was a valid concern, and if you took that advice you’d die pretty fast. “Evil Undead Phantasms Must Die!” was better advice. And to this day, if someone asks me what is written on the gates of hell, I can quote the old Italian and tell them it’s “Lasciate Ogne Speranza Voi Ch’Intrate — because of Pathways into Darkness.

On top of that, in those days, Bungie knew how to write games. Read the game’s page for an exploration of the nooks and crannies of its story. The page was last updated a year ago, but that’s still 20 years after the game came out. That’s some staying power. And that’s nothing on the story page for the next Bungie product, Marathon, about which I could write volumes.

Given the strong association with my childhood, I’m not sure it’s appropriate to rate Pathways in terms of an adult beverage. So instead, I’m going to call it a vanilla Coke from a soda fountain. It’s nostalgic, and surprisingly good, and even when you think you might be remembering it as better than it actually is, you’re wrong — it is that damn good.

I hear there’s a version of Pathways now available on the Mac App Store. I think I need to go buy a Mac.

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