Great things do not come with an expiration date.
Or at least that is what we think.
Our all-time favourite movie from the 90s, which we watched as a child may now dawn upon us as a cheesy and badly written blunder. And we have all been embarrassed at some point about the choice of music, or our favourite song from a couple of decades ago. Such is the case with videogames as well.
We have fond memories of games that we played for hours together when we were young, and we gleefully recall how good they looked and how exciting the gameplay was.
The truth though is that one visit back to those games and things may not look as bright and shiny. Especially in the videogame domain where every passing year brings new innovations in the way games are made, our favourite work of art don’t really age well.
Be it in terms of visual fidelity or game mechanics and gameplay, old game lose their sheen very soon most often than not. So, a ten-year-old videogame typically looks and feels much older than it actually is.
But, just like some movies and music out there, we do have games that are timeless. Games that have aged like fine wine and hold up to this day. Games that make our jaws drop in their own ways. Today, we’ll look at a few such games. These games may not necessarily be the best looking in some cases, but they sure do have their own way of captivating their audiences. Let’s begin with..
GTA San Andreas
To a lot of people, GTA San Andreas is THE definitive GTA game. And rightfully so. Released back in 2004 following GTA 3 and Vice City, which were revolutionary in their own rights at the time, San Andreas was an instant hit, thanks to its setting, gameplay and massive open world. The game was certainly a product of its time, right down to the story and the structure in how the game was designed. That said it was a giant leap forward for the industry and a shining example of how innovation and passion were deep-rooted in the industry (at least back then). Its gameplay has been mimicked in various other games since and holds up well to this day. It is a given that a person who once finished San Andreas has finished it at least a few more times. And then there is the army of gamers who never really finished the story but have sunk in hundreds of hours just wandering through its world. The game is much fun to play.
San Andreas has a strong following to this day and has been the most talked-about game in the franchise for reasons good and, well, controversial. GTA V may be the best selling in the franchise, but it did enjoy a broader spectrum of audience, a spillover to a new generation of consoles and strongly supported by various updates to its online mode. San Andreas had none of this in its time yet managed to turn heads and made this industry watch how it is done.
Super Mario World
One of the best Mario games ever made at least in the 2D side-scrolling space. Released way back in 1990, Super Mario World is a joy a to play even today. The game introduced a plethora of new mechanics while refining the then-existing Mario tropes. With its bright cartoony visuals and quirky sound design, this game is just as much fun to watch as it is to play. Released for the SNES, the game certainly made use of every ounce of graphical fidelity the 16-bit console could muster. And the result is a glorious, mechanically robust Mario game that still holds up 30 years later, which, in the world of technological advancements in videogames and game design is like 3 centuries ago.
There is something so endearing about this game that gets you every time you boot it up. Nintendo truly outdid themselves with their formula of keeping things simple and charming with super Mario world. Watching Yoshi hatch out of that egg, and to ride him while having him gobble up enemies and spitfire is vintage gaming gold.
Metal Gear Solid 3 Snake Eater
Considered the best MGS game by many, Snake Eater is Kojima at his best. This is a game that was oozing with style and there was nothing like it in its time. The lengthy cutscene that sets the game’s story up ends with Naked Snake air dropping into the jungle in dramatic fashion and the game doesn’t look back from that point. This setting was so intriguing. Within an hour into the game, you are left in awe with how atmospheric the game looked. The various perils of the jungle are put to great use as game mechanics. And just when you thought you have seen a lot already; the true beginning of the game then hits you with the game’s title complete with a James Bond-style opening song. I had never seen anything like it until then. And this was on the PlayStation 2.
Although the visuals look somewhat dated today, the game still has no issues selling the atmosphere to the player, because it clever relies less on graphical fidelity and more on nuances like sound and jungle-based gameplay elements like dangers and assists from its flora and fauna. The gameplay and RPG-like elements hold well to this day, and as a result, the game is just as much fun to play today as it was back in 2004. The story was not the most straight forward, but you do get the gist of what is happening. Even if you are new to the franchise, the story will get you to care for the characters and have you clawing at every healing item and camouflages you can get to ensure Snake’s survival, and have your best colourful villainous characters before delivering that gut-punch of an ending.
Okami may be the least popular game in this list but it is on the list for a reason. Released back in 2006 for the PS2, this game was nothing short of magic in display on your TV. While most of the game’s pedigree may be attributed to its visuals (and rightfully so) which comprises of a hand-drawn, watercolour art style and looks as charming as beautiful today as it did fourteen years ago, the game delivers in terms of gameplay and story as well. Okami is not your typical third-person action game with a gun touting macho protagonist moving from one big set-piece to another. It tells the story of a wolf, an incarnate of the sun goddess, who needs to fight a force of evil to save the province from destruction.
It is a classic good vs evil tale told with utmost passion and all of it is visible in the way the game has been put together. The game’s emphasis on ancient Japanese culture and folklore elevates the story, and the musical score serves the premise very faithfully. The visual style is reminiscent of Japanese painting, and the 20+ hours of gameplay is a whole lot of fun even today. And all of this in the PS2 version of the game. Luckily this gem of a game has since been remastered for the subsequent generation of consoles, including the PC in the form of Okami HD, which is great and all, but if you want a slice of the good ‘ol times of the PS2, find a CRT TV, fire up your PS2, play Okami. And get lost in pure bliss. The original Okami can still do that to you.
Resident Evil 4
Like GTA San Andreas, Resident Evil 4 is a game that not only was a fantastic entry in its franchise, but also one that was pivotal to the industry. It’s over the shoulder perspective was a big risk that Capcom braved at the time, considering the last three games in the franchise had a completely different, fixed camera perspective and they thrived in that format, but it turned out to be a risk that paid off big time. Resident Evil 4 propelled the franchise from catering to a niche audience to mainstream audiences in style.
The game excelled in its setting, gameplay, and most importantly, atmosphere, all of which made for a nerve-racking horror experience which could be rivalled only by few other games at the time. Like MGS 3 snake eater, here was another Japanese game that delivered the goods not with graphical fidelity, but with nuances like sound, setting and character design. To hear the chainsaw during an intense gunfight was nothing short preparing yourself to lose all hope and die. Like Okami, this game has had its fair share of remasters, but the original PS2 version still holds up and delivers the chills.
What more can I say about Metal Slug? One of the most fun 2d side-scrolling shooters ever made, that oozes charm in every frame. Check out our Retro love series on Metal Slug to learn more.
Also, check out Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (a bonus game for you) in the same series if you are into metal slug type of games.
There are of course many other games that would fit in this list, but the above games have been the most impactful culturally and for me personally, growing up. We will discuss more such game and other game-related topics. Check back to Ixie gaming blogs soon, for more like this.