REPLY TO ALL: Timeless Video Games

For better or worse, some games may surprise you when you go back to them. What games have not held up well over the years, and which ones impressed you at how timeless they actually are?

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Every Wednesday we pose a question on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+. You can answer from Wednesdays through Mondays on Twitter with the hashtag = #RE2ALL, and in our weekly thread on Facebook.com and Google+ posted every Wednesday. Check out this week’s responses at the end of the post, and add to it in the comments!

River City Ransom

Timeless. BARF!

JP (DocJPizzle)

I like to think that a lot of 8-bit games hold up very well. For instance, when I went back and played River City Ransom I felt that game may have gotten better with age. The fact that the title is a cult classic may also help it’s case. The classically difficult 8-bit games also hold up very well.

Justin L (JDevL)

I’ve always wondered about those classically difficult games, like Ghosts n Goblins, and if it’s just our perception that they hold up well. I have this fear that my favorite games all look as abstract and terrible as ET for the Atari.

That being said, I’m partial to Mega Man and its classic design. As evidenced by Mega Man 9 and 10, it still has some legs even today.

As far as games that terrify me to go back to, picking back through the early PS1 library is ugly. Hell, I don’t even have a reason to go back and play Resident Evil 1 as the remake fixes most of the glaring issues. Metal Gear Solid is the only exception I can think of in this blanket statement.

Rob (Robeque)

That’s a good point. I’ll crawl under that blanket with you. … wait… not like that. Anyway, PS1 games used to be the future. I remember thinking that they were all just pure awesome. I didn’t have one, but my friend did. We would always hang at his house playing games, and PS1 was the greatest thing in the world when it came out. Now if I try to go back and play some of those games it’s almost unbearable. All the 3D is rendered so blocky and weird looking. It makes me really appreciate how far things have come.

To the point of the 8-bit games… I’m not sure they’ll ever get old. That may be a thing of our generation, though. I might be hard pressed to get my 7 year-old nephew to play too many NES games for more than a couple of minutes. I think there’s a level of nostalgia there for us that probably isn’t appreciated by kids today. I’m curious now… I’ll have to break out the NES next time my nephew is over.

Same goes for the 16-bit era. I think Super Mario World will always be just about flawless in my book.

Super Mario World

Yoshi, where you at?!

Ethan (Wizardtrain187)

I’m actually scared to go back and play the original Resident Evil again because I like the way that game has implanted itself in my mind. I watched a video of Barry finding Chris’s blood and frankly don’t remember it being that bad. That one will stay secure with me.

To me, Super Smash Brothers series has not held up well not because of graphics or gameplay but because I personally can’t get into the grove that I once had with that game. The chaos is a bit too frustrating and the randomness is not quite as appealing as it was when I was going through puberty (though only in the scope of a fighting type game, I like randomness elsewhere). Additionally, I find Nintendo characters exceptionally annoying as of late (still like Samus and the addition of Solid Snake though).

Contra 3 is an obvious one for holding up well, but after playing classic Contra at a recent Horrible Night Out event, I was surprised to see it held up as well. I always struggled with that game, and while I am still not very good, it’s mostly because of my lack of ability and not the game’s presentation.

Justin L

Mega ManYa, the original Smash Bros (arguably the best) is looking rough. I think the Gamecube version will stand the test of time though (even if the controller doesn’t).

I’ve been going through a SNES renaissance as of late with Mega Man X, and looking through the rest of that library. 16-bit graphics may be the most timeless of them all.

JP

I 100% agree that Mega Man holds up today. If you look at the Mega Man Anniversary Collection, it proves that the series has aged very well. I would also agree that the first Playstation era does look a little rough today. I remember Road Rash as fantastic experience, but today that may not be my opinion. Today it could look like a bunch of pixelated blobs riding what appear to be motorcycles. When it comes to 16-bit, I would love to go back and play Earthworm Jim to see if the experience holds up to what I remember it being.

Justin G (GiffTor)

I haven’t gone back and played some of the more recent games for comparison, but after playing some of the stuff from the Sega Collection on the PS2 and other games I’ve downloaded off of XBLA that as fondly as I remember some of those classic games, they haven’t stood up at all to what we have now and how I remember them. It’s not an issue of graphical fidelity or storyline, either, it’s difficulty-by-accident that ruins, or at least negatively affects the fun factor for me. Golden Axe and Altered Beast are prime examples of “I loved the crap out of this game, but I’m dying a lot either from cheap jump-related deaths or mechanical issues related to the refresh animation rate of your character. That said, I do think that the Mega Man series has held up admirably as has Contra. I think the other one that we shouldn’t forget is the original Legend of Zelda and Zelda II (my favorite).

Golden Axe

That Dragon still looks kinda bad ass.

Ethan

That’s exactly why I’m also avoiding games like Altered Beast and Golden Axe, games that more of less set the standard for how I view battling monsters. If I played them again, I think I’d be either hyper critical or look past the flaws that I hadn’t noticed in childhood.

This is why I kind of like some remakes, such as the King’s Quest remakes that came out a while back. They didn’t change the games, just upped the graphics and tweaked a few things in order for the games to feel right in today’s world. I think more games could benefit from a spit shine and mechanical tweak.

Andrew (Coopopolopolis)

So I had an interesting situation come up last night. My mother in law was at my house and decided to take over the TV with the Oscars, when resulted in my heading back to the office since I really care nothing for the Oscars. I sat there for a while sitting at my PC trying to decide what to play. After a lot of hard thought I settled on Half-Life 2. To be honest I never played it. I bought the Orange Box for Portal and Team Fortress 2. As the opening in-game animation sequence started up I was actually surprised. It was definitely a dated art style, but was way better than what i thought it would be. The game felt pretty good from an initial movement standpoint and the character animation was at least as good as Fallout 3 (which was terrible, but acceptable). If I would’ve played it back in the day it would have looked fantastic, but even now it wasn’t bad enough to be in that just looks like a terrible 3D game. I didn’t get far enough into it to know if the story is worth anything, but let’s be honest, I don’t care much about that anyway. I’ll definitely finish it out at some point.

Rob

I just played through HL2 that a couple of months ago. I played through to the end and loved every minute of it. In my opinion, the game held up VERY well. Like Coop said, there have obviously been advances in graphics and character animations since it was released, but nothing about it bothered me by any means. I had played through it when it first came out, so I have to admit there was a little bit of nostalgia for me. Nonetheless, I think it is still great.

Brandon (H21)

A lot of the old RPG games still seem to hold up pretty well to me. Some notable games like Shining Force and Phantasy Star are just great.

Phantasy Star

I will kill you with my menus!

One thing I noticed, which I don’t know if it’s because of our ages, is that games from the 8 to 16-bit range seem to hold up a lot better than some of the more recent games when you go back to them. For example, Assassin’s Creed is almost unbearable to play through again after you have played some of the more recent games. The game is still solid as far as story, but the game just didn’t age well.

What makes a game age well?

JP

I think that the previously mentioned nostalgia factor has a lot to do with games holding up today. I agree with almost every one that the Playstation and even Dreamcast era games look very rough today. I think Brandon also made a great point. It is very frustrating to go back to a game from this console generation to find that the game did not hold up at all.

Rob

This may be venturing into a different topic, but is along the same lines. I downloaded the demo for Goldeneye Reloaded and gave it a try this weekend. I couldn’t even make it through the demo… it just wasn’t fun to me. I don’t know what it was about it, really… but it’s definitely not how I remember the original. It’s probably just because Pierce Brosnan isn’t in it any more. No offense to Daniel Craig, I think he makes an awesome bond… but come on. The last time I played Goldeneye was… I don’t know when, so maybe the original doesn’t even hold up. I’m convinced that it holds up much better than the remake though. I wish they would have just ported the original to Xbox Live.

Justin L

I dunno, JP, nostalgia factor doesn’t guarantee a game will hold up. I think it only increases our bias. I was kind of shellshocked the other day when my girlfriend (who has sat through some of my more recent gaming adventures with modern games) gave me a “what the hell is this dumb looking game?” comment when I loaded up a few SNES games. Granted, she’s coming from a completely different perspective, but for a game to age well, nostalgia only takes you so far.

To Rob’s point, I kind of love it when remakes fall flat and remind us to just go play the original. Keep CoD out of my Goldeneye.

Finally, Brandon just kind of opened my eyes a bit in that there are already plenty of games from this generation that haven’t aged well at all. Besides Assassin’s Creed, Perfect Dark Zero, and Mirror’s Edge come to mind as almost trial and error by developers to get to know the platforms. I’m curious to see how “classic” this generation becomes down the road or if it will be viewed as an inbetween generation.

Perfect Dark Zero

Shoulda stayed Dark.

Rob

I’ve heard CoD in your Goldeneye can actually give you Pinkeye.

JP

Justin I think you are on to something. What are the parameters to consider a game classic? Now of course we have to look at classics by generation, but what about games from this generation you held on a pedestal, are they (or will they be) classics?

Justin L

I guess in general, I think games from this generation will be a lot more playable for a lot longer than games from the last two. But I may be too close to it to make that call right now. It kinda feels like when we broke into polygons around the era of the 64 and PS1 that that generation and the PS2 era were just laying the ground work for this one. Not that there weren’t timeless games from those generations, but just moreso from this one.

JP

I’ll argue that pretty visuals and eye candy don’t make a game hold up. When we get 2 to 3 generations removed from this one, we may start calling out the ignored flaws of past games.

Brandon

Egoraptor said it best that games of the old relied on game design (not to be confused with graphics) and game play to be considered good. I just feel like now games rely too much on technology to try to carry them through mediocre game elements. Which at the time they seem good, but when you come back to them they leave a little to be desired.

Adventure

Age may be starting to show.

Justin L

I feel that it is getting better recently though, Brandon. Going back to play early polygonal games with bad camera systems, repetitive questing, broken boss battles, or genuinely boring gameplay have rendered a ton of games unplayable. I compare it to early arcade or Atari games up against the NES era. Designers were getting learning how to create great gameplay and it took them quite a while until that 8-bit and 16-bit golden era. Think about it, how many Atari era games are worth playing now compared to 8-bit era games. Once the PS1/N64 hit, designers had to start all over again to adjust to the third dimension and a bigger leap in technology. I think we’ve seen the training wheels finally start to come off this generation.

Justin G

I’m actually pretty impressed with this generation, which has been around for 6 years now; even some of the early releases (e.g., Gears of War) stand up pretty well, but I think the point about the gameplay & design being central is spot-on. The games that we’ll still play from 25 years ago are the ones with great game design and play (Mario, Contra, Zelda, Mega Man, even Sonic 1 & 2), the ones that don’t stand up came from places where someone was paying more attention to ooh, shiny! than to “Is this game fun to play, regardless of how it looks?” Eternal Darkness would look rough now, but because of the gameplay and storyline, I think it’d still be fun to play. I think the “guts” of a game is the deciding factor here, not the skin.

Community Responses

@Scoooorn – I think Resident Evil 4 is still amazing (if you can get over the controls) and Goldeneye is not that great anymore.

@IncreaseBlueMGS3 I thought it was still good after a few years. I’d say Aero Fighters for me has aged well (top down shooting)

Conclusion

Determining the difference between our nostalgia for games and games being timeless is too subjective for this crew. Although, there are a handful of games and eras that we feel strongly about.

REPLY TO ALL – Our weekly conversation where our writing staff offers up their opinions on the gaming topic of the week.

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