Mean Machines was one of the first UK magazines to devote the entirety of its coverage to console and handheld gaming, especially imports. Along with the ‘celebrity’ roster of writers, it quickly became one of the most popular gaming publications of the period.
Mean Machines started life in 1988 as a section of long-running UK magazine Computer & Video Games. It was primarily written by CVG’s editor, Julian Rignall, who had an interest in the new wave of consoles coming from Japan that were largely ignored in the UK at the time.
The section’s popularity grew over following issues, and Julian, along with other writers and artists (including Gary Harrod), made a prototype Issue 0 of a stand-alone Mean Machines magazine. It was approved by EMAP and Issue 1 went on sale in September 1990.
Originally the magazine covered all consoles, including the Neo Geo and the ill-fated C64GS and Amstrad GX4000 systems. However, after the first six issues, it became a primarily Sega and Nintendo based publication, which timed perfectly with the market dominance the Mega Drive was enjoying in the UK and the increased interest in the upcoming SNES.
The magazine became well-known for its dualistic nature in its writing. It was filled with schoolyard humor, reader-drawn cartoons (one contributor was deemed so good that he later became a staff writer) and old-fashioned British double entendres, but the reviews were always honest, forthright and well-written. It was also one of the few magazines that covered news of gaming in Japan and America, a rarity given the secular nature of the British gaming magazine industry at the time.
Free gifts were a mainstay on the magazine’s cover. One issue even gave away a small plastic statue of Julian Rignall, along with stickers of various slogans to affix to a sign he was holding.
After 24 issues the magazine split into two entities – Mean Machines Sega and Nintendo Magazine System.