This is part of a series in which I try to write a post every day on silly video game topics. For the list of topics, click here.
Let’s get old-school. TFG provided no stipulations on time frame but given the word “past”, but I’d like to highlight 10 games that aren’t only significant in my gaming past, but also games that you could go out and play right now and actually enjoy.
This is a tricky thing, of course. Graphically speaking, for instance, older games often feel dated in a way that can detract from the experience. Let’s discuss one of these right now: Myst. Myst is an amazing game, really more of an “Event” within the gaming world. Personally, though, I always felt its thrill came from the incredible leap forward that game took graphically, drawing you into the world like no other game had done. Now, I tend to judge it a bit harshly, turned off by the too-clean lines and too-shiny reflections. You’re going to read later though that I am going to break this very rule which goes to show: I really have no fucking clue what I am talking about.
Also not on this list; MMOs. There is without a doubt that EverQuest was one of the most significant games in that genre’s history, and (for better or worse) a part of my own gaming past, but let’s be honest here; all MMOs are more or less the same game with new features added on and old features further refined and improved. Thus, the best MMOs are going to be the most recent ones, and I don’t think you gain any real appreciation for them by playing the older, less graphically engaging, and less user friendly games. I’m not a fan of telling someone to slog through endless hours of EverQuest just you can enjoy The Secret World for what it is not.
So let’s get to the list:
Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (2003) -Yes, the graphics are a bit dated, but being in the middle of a replay now (as shown yesterday), they still hold up. What holds up even better is the story (still great after all of these years!) the voice acting, the play itself (even if you have to look up some of the old D&D 3rd edition rules) and of course the lightsabers. KotOR really set the bar for Bioware and one only needs to look to this game to really appreciate their amazing run in the last decade.
Age of Empires II (1999) – Microsoft has always carved out a tiny niche for video games, but Age of Empires and its even better sequel might have been their greatest effort, and a step out of their then usual place of flight simulators. Still it offers a very simple yet richly detailed tech tree, solid graphics that hold up even today, and a fun, repeatable game play. The original is one of the games that introduced me to PC gaming, but the sequel was always better.
Total Annihilation (1997) – We’ve got a little genre group here with this and its bookends, but TA stood out on its own as a dark horse game with unlimited potential. Starcraft & AoE were a bit more polished, a bit more thought through, but TA brought amazing graphics, beautiful explosions, coordinated chaos on the battlefield and a true feeling of unleashing the title’s fervor.
Starcraft: Brood War (1998) – The gold medal and pinnacle of all real-time strategy games. Much like AoEII, the original was a fine game, but Brood War added on to it without upsetting the nearly perfect balance of the game. So much so, it’s hard to even imagine StarCraft without Brood War.
Civilization III (2001) – Yes, Civ 4 is better. Yes, there are ways to cheese the ever loving hell out of it. But much like KotOR raised the bar for Bioware, Civ 3 raised the bar for Firaxis. The only issue about going back to this version? Much like going back to 4 after playing 5, you might not be used to rule changes!
Gauntlet (1985) – Despite my love for the remakes, the original is still the best. Even better? Finding a way to play it on your PC where you don’t have to put in $5 in quarters just to play.
The Secret of Monkey Island (1990) – Sierra might have paved the way, but LucasArts nailed the adventure genre with the absolutely hilarious Monkey Island series. The graphics here might be quite dated, though. But I had to include it.
SimCity 3000 (1999) – For me, the most beloved of the franchise. SC3K brought fantastic graphic and game-play improvements but even on today’s computers can run a bit slow and sluggish when it comes to re-drawing buildings. There are some problems with the model as well, freeways are ugly and unsightly, non-standard zones don’t always get developed, and there was no scenario editor like there was in SC2K, but still, by far my favorite SimCity.
Dragon Warrior (1986) – Going way back here, but of all the early RPGs I ever played, Dragon Warrior was easily my favorite. The graphics still hold up even today, despite the 8-bit platform, thanks to a very simple and colorful art style. Being able to play it might require a bit of inventiveness if you don’t have your old NES, though.
Shadow of the Colossus (2005) – The youngest entry on my list, Shadow is a truly remarkable and breathtaking game. I do fear that it may ultimately suffer the same fate that I decreed upon Myst, and perhaps that makes me a bit of hypocrite. The difference for me here is the art style. Myst broke a lot of barriers in graphic presentations, showing off not only what video games could do, but what computers could do: I would be shocked to hear that few animators my age or younger do not list Myst as an influence on their craft. SotC simply took an amazing simplistic concept artistically and executed it beautifully. For that, I’ve included it on this list over Myst.
And that, as they say, gentle reader is that. 30 days of video games (with a bit of a break for the holiday in between, yes) and 30 posts. What’s next? Probably nothing to do with video games, I think I am gamed out!