Games That Withstand Time

Legend of ZeldaYou’re feeling restless. You want to play some video games, but you’re not really in the mood for anything that you’ve been playing recently. Try as you might to entertain yourself, nothing seems to get the job done. Suddenly, you get the idea to put in an old favorite, something you haven’t been back to in quite some time and haven’t had the heart to sell. You put it in, get excited as the old familiar screens pop up. Within a few minutes, though, you notice something. The magic is gone. This game doesn’t feel nearly as great as it did all those years ago. Wtf?

I don’t know if that’s happened to you, but it’s happened to me on more than one occasion. As sad as it is to admit, there are plenty of games that don’t withstand the most inscrutable of all tests: time. Whether it’s because they were overhyped pieces of junk to begin with, or our tastes have matured, or other games have done it better, there are any number of reasons that certain old school titles don’t tickle our fancies they way they used to.

I came across a recent article on 1Up (thanks Anthony) that talked about this very same issue, so it really got me thinking about what it is that makes a game age well. In the article, the writer lists several old school video games. Some of the titles he goes over include Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, Super Mario World, Earth Bound, Chrono Trigger, Link to the Past, and then some. I noticed an interesting trend in this list: namely, that none of the games seemed to be from the 3D era.

What’s notable about that observation is that this was something Nick and I spoke about some time ago: the idea that the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis generation was the last generation where gaming had that classic look. Once we graduated into that last great dimension, the likelihood of your game aging well seems to have diminished. Take Mario 64 for instance. Great game, and beautiful at its release. In fact, in terms of design, nearly all 3D games are still judged alongside it, which is a testament to its staying power in terms of how it was made. However, even Mario 64 on a current viewing doesn’t maintain its grace very well, and seems to have lost a lot of its luster.

So what is it about that particular era of gaming that makes games have that classic and timeless feel? Honestly, I think part of it has to do with the simplicity of design and focus of many 2D games. Whether they are top down or side-scrolling, the pixelated sprites we navigated were so meticulously set in their functions, and the games so uniquely set in terms of what they were made to do, I think a sort of cohesion was formed that’s sorely lacking from many games of today. Loading up a game now is a crazy exercise in tutorials, button combos, and new sets of rules. While I’m not saying that I dislike complicated games, I do think it is partly to blame for how well games tend to age, not only visually but in terms of how they are played, as well.

Anyway, that’s just a few of my thoughts on the matter. Recently, the oldest game I’ve played in the last few months was Metal Gear Solid, and I do have to say that I was somewhat impressed with how it has aged in just how it’s played. It was still a blast to spend my time with, and never really got frustrating or limiting. So what do you guys think? What’s the last old game you’ve played? What are some other games that you think have aged well? Haven’t aged well? Go!

Source- Games That Have Aged With Grace, by 1Up

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I write about samurai girls and space marines. Writer for Smooth Few Films. Rooster Teeth Freelancer. Author of Red vs. Blue, The Ultimate Fan Guide, out NOW!

18 thoughts on “Games That Withstand Time”

  1. I recently purchased a Nintendo 64 and hunted down a copy of Ocarina of Time, which is the game that got me into gaming. I sat down and played it for hours, and while of course the graphics are terrible (and I really miss the second analog to move the camera) it was an absolute blast to play.

  2. i have to say halo: ce, although not THAT old when talking about old games has that lasting power for me. its so well made that even with the dated graphics, its still a blast to play. its been nearly 10 years since its release and to still have people playing it is really good. proof of story over graphics. if a game can get you into its story, your never gonna leave it. i think 10 years from now ill be dusting off mass effect and loving it.

  3. I think that Mario 64 HAS stood the test of time and OoT has not. Compared to Twilight Princess, I cannot find as much joy out of it as I used to since TP perfected those imperfections.
    Now, maybe this is just me but I don”t think many 2D games have aged with grace. I’ll choose Gunstar Heroes and Metroid Fusion as examples. I feel that Gunstar Heroes has done a resonable job of aging well, but Metroid Fusion’s control scheme makes it unplayable

  4. I recently re-installed Star Wars Republic Commando and I’m having a blast.

    Something about the slightly darker take on the Star Wars universe just makes me have a good time.

  5. Call me crazy (“You’re crazy!”) but the game that I can always turn to is Knights of the Old Republic 2. An instant and timeless classic to be sure – even though the game was never really finished.

  6. Just played Gears of War and it is fine, but only 4 years old, so not really on the same standard.

    All those games listed by 1up are my faves, so I do think the SNES and Genesis hold up the best.

  7. Besides Link to the Past (the ultimate in replayability)?

    I’ve played Shadow of the Colossus quite a few times over the years, although that’s only five years old. Also, kind of along the lines of Captain Canada, Jade Empire is a keeper for me. And Psychonauts, too, although it’s been a while since I replayed that one. Oh, and Fable: The Lost Chapters. Those are only the 3D games, too.

    I think these games hold up, but none of them have been around long enough yet to really be called “classics”, so that’s why we don’t see it that way. I mean, of all the 2D games that ever came out, there are like 10 of them (maybe) that can be considered to still have the “magic”. I say give 3D a few more years. Comparatively, it’s still new.

  8. I’ve been thinking about this issue recently too. I think the main thing that syphons the luster out of old classics is that you’re used to the game. A repetitive game or one that just lacks enough challenges makes several playthroughs feel like you’re just going through the motions, which isn’t fun at all. If it’s too complicated or other games have done the gameplay better, those factors also affect the enjoyment that you can get out of games over and over again. While time is an enemy of revisiting old times, it can also be a great boon when you forget about the details of a game or any experience and get the chance to relive the moments and the immersion. And sometimes, you just have to get lucky. If you can confidently say you enjoyed a game after several playthroughs, the developers did their job right and you earned another taste of the experience.

    Aaanyway, I went back to Age of Mythology (AoM and AoE2 are my favorite RTS’s ever; Ensemble will be dearly missed), Halo CE on my PC, and reliving the glory days with Ocarina of Time and I suppose I’ll go back and play some fantastic handheld games, as well as other last-gen titles I missed out on.

  9. At our house we have a NES, SNES, 64 and WII now all rigged up to the TV. Our SNES gets as much play (if not more) as the wii. My room mate and I battle in Super Mario Kart all the time, while throwing in our Super Mario Allstars to play whichever we fancy. The SNES games I own never seem to lose the magic.

    More recently, I would say Deus Ex / Half-Life 2. Not horribly old yet, but some how they always manage to get me to install about once a year and do a play through.

    I was actually going to bring up the 2D vs 3D and the “purity” of old school gaming that, really, our generation was the last to experience in the “user submitted” post, but then I read this article!

    Great post man.

  10. Well to narrow it down by system, it’s obvious most of the Genesis Titles hold up, as do some of the older PC games. Baulders Gate I and II are still pretty damn fun RPG’s. Battlefield 1942 and 2 are still some of the most played online games.

    For PC Games, obviously Half Life is still one of the better First Person Shooters, I’ve heard a lot about the first Unreal Tournament but have yet to play it myself. Star craft is great fun too, and with Starcraft 2 hitting stores in the near future i think a lot of newcomers to the series will play the original.

    For 8 bit Consoles… All of the Super Mario Bros. games are classics of course, but dont forget about Metroid and The original legend of zelda. Oh and Mega Man 2=Best Plattformer/Shooter hybrid ever.

    Obviously the Sonic Games hold their ground quite well in the 16 bit generation, and it’s the reason i still play my genesis every day or so. But also some of the less known titles like Ecco The Dolphin and Gunstar Heroes.
    On the SNES front I only think Link to the Past and Donkey Kong Country deserve any mention. I understand the hype surrounding Super Mario World but I never really saw what was so revolutionary about it. SMB3 for the NES did everything it did better. In fact I think SMW2 was better than SMW.

    Getting into the N64, Playstation, and Dreamcast war: I think the obvious ones here are Ocarina of Time, Goldeneye 007, Super Smash bros, mario kart 64, and Majoras Mask all hold up fairly well. The Dreamcast released quite a few classics as well, namely Bangai-O and Nights: Into Dreams.

    I’m not sure i can consider last generations games “classics” yet.

  11. Maniac Mansion???….I just downloaded this mid 1980s point and click title that came out for SNES and the personal computer. I must say it stood up very well, I still found myself freaked out and still the game is bloody challenging. Also i must mention FF7 and FF8 as they have stood the test of time very well, FF7 still has the best story around and could run circles around any of the newer Final Fantasys.
    Thats my 2 cents…..

  12. [quote comment=”11094″]Maniac Mansion???….I just downloaded this mid 1980s point and click title that came out for SNES and the personal computer. I must say it stood up very well, I still found myself freaked out and still the game is bloody challenging. Also i must mention FF7 and FF8 as they have stood the test of time very well, FF7 still has the best story around and could run circles around any of the newer Final Fantasys.
    Thats my 2 cents…..[/quote]

    FF 7? With its indecipherable story?
    Well, to each his own. And FF 7 or 8, with their ugly graphics, are hard to look at these days.

  13. @ Anthony

    Indecipherable story?…i guess it depends how into you got, I at this point have played it so much that the story seems pretty easy to follow….but i guess first play-through I was quite lost.
    And yes! of course they had terrible graphics, the game was released pretty early on into the PSone’s life, Metal Gear Solid wasn’t even released until close to 2 years later and its graphics are nothing to write home about. although the blockiness of the main characters was pretty bad, the environments and backdrops still look great even by todays standards. The music is still one of the best parts too.

    sorry, didnt mean to get all “fanboy” on you.

  14. I have recently just popped my Pokemon RED version in my old, four AA battery taking game boy and fired it up. For me its still as fun if not more. I did the glitch to get mew before the second badge and I am having fun. But at night I have to turn on some lights so I can see its yellow and black screen. XD

  15. Anthony, I actually think FF7’s story is great, as well. I wouldn’t call it indecipherable at all, no more than any other FF game, really. But I do agree that it’s ugly to look at these days.

    I’m with Plan9, it’s one of my favorite game stories.

  16. [quote comment=”11101″]Anthony, I actually think FF7’s story is great, as well. I wouldn’t call it indecipherable at all, no more than any other FF game, really. But I do agree that it’s ugly to look at these days.

    I’m with Plan9, it’s one of my favorite game stories.[/quote]

    Well, having played all of them, trust me when I say it was the first one that was pretty confusing. Like the fact that every time you see Sephiroth, it’s really Jenova, until the end of the game, anyway.

    They all got confusing after that one, but before that, they were more clear.

    And I like the story, but when you need to read the Ultimania guide to figure it out, that is mainly due to poor localization.

    I get why people like it (first one and all), but it’s not my favorite of the stories, in hindsight.

    Honestly, though, when I first played it, I loved the story. But having played it 4 times or so, it lost its luster, for me,lol.

  17. I play the Halo: Combat Evolved demo with my friends at school, there is only 1 map online, but it’s one that’ll withstand the test of time forever

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