Memory Card Icons Were Rad

Image for article titled Memory Card Icons Were Rad
Screenshot: Dreamer RD (NeoGAF)

Memory cards are already a strange and soon to be forgotten artifact from gaming’s past. How many kids growing up with consoles that include hard drives will remember or care about memory cards in a few years? Probably very few. But I bet even less will remember what strange things could be found on old memory cards. And that’s sad because those little save icons were so wonderful.


Twitter user Video1 shared some memory card icons recently and ever since spotting them on my timeline I’ve been digging around, finding more images and videos of these strange relics from the PS2 era of gaming.

There is a surprising amount of detail in these little icons. For example, look at this creepy save icon.

And this icon, which I believe is from a Silent Hill game.

The tweets don’t include game titles and finding memory card icons online is tricky. This is something Video1 actually mentions in the thread. The internet has collected and archived nearly everything, yet save icons seemed to have been missed by the gaming community and their desire to catalog all things related to games. As a result, there isn’t an easy to search database or wiki dedicated to them.

Which is unfortunate, because it makes me fear they might end up getting forgotten and lost to time. Hell, I almost forgot about them until I stumbled upon some tweets.


Across the web, I did find others who shared their love of these icons. Once NeoGAF user in 2013 booted up their PS2 and discovered old memory cards filled with the colorful little save icons. A memory card filled up with saves creates a weird collection of totally different models, items and animations not connected to each other in theme or style.


It seems there weren’t any hard rules about what could and couldn’t be a save icon or what they needed to look like. So each game has wildly different styles and icons. From fully modeled characters and objects to floating boxes to plain logos or letters.

Image for article titled Memory Card Icons Were Rad
Screenshot: ShadowHawk0807 (Reddit)

This inconsistent style means a jam-packed memory card is like walking into a mess of memories and creations. Sure, a gun over here, a giant hand over here, some words over there, an anime girl next to all that and a giant box over there. Why not?

The closest thing we have to memory card icons, in terms of variety and color, are achievement artwork and icons. But while some studios opt for more elaborate icons and others just use concept art, none of these are quite as weird or charming as a low polygon model of a dancing woman.


Or as funny to me as Gordon Freeman from the Half-Life games, just chilling in his suit and slightly shifting around like he’s at a dance club but isn’t quite ready to get on the floor so he is just standing off to the side, wobbling to the music and building up his courage to get down.


Black Mesa can wait. Gordon Freeman has some dancing to do. Eventually.

The rest of the thread is worth checking out and once you’ve done that, you should start digging around the web and looking up videos and images of other PS2 save icons.


For me, it has been a weird trip down memory lane. I didn’t realize how many of these I would recognize and how damn cool they were. Maybe the next generation of consoles can bring back memory card icons? Maybe update them for the future? I don’t know, have them be ray traced or in 4k or something.


Platypus Man

It’s crazy, looking back memory cards were only a thing for a little over a decade. From the PS1 in 1994 to the PS3 in 2006, only six consoles even used them (PS1, N64 Controller Pak, Dreamcast VMU, PS2, Gamecube, Xbox). I guess the Xbox 360 technically supported them as well but I never saw anyone actually use them.

But at the time they were so big and important! Everyone had to have the unnecessarily expensive proprietary storage devices to save their games on!