Many developers have been going darker with the tones of stories lately. It's time we stop asking definitively if this is a good or bad thing and consider the artistic value at hand.
5 Classic Games I Can’t Stop Replaying
I’m always excited to play new games that push the boundaries of modern technology and design, but as I’ve grown older I’ve noticed that there are certain games from the past that I keep going back to time after time — experiences that no modern game has ever replicated or replaced. There are certain games that never go out of style, and that will always offer a superior and nostalgic gameplay experience. Everyone who has been playing games for a decade or more can probably list 5 games that they’ve gone back to more than once over the years. Here are 5 classic games that I’ve played through numerous times over many years, and will probably continue to do so as long as I have thumbs.
Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!! – NES
Punch Out!! has been released in several iterations on different platforms, but the Mike Tyson version on NES is the one I’ve replayed at least once every five years throughout my entire adult life. Punch Out!! was the first boxing game to prominently feature pattern-response mechanics, and it still presents a real challenge each time I play through. Regardless of how much fun this game is, it’s the characters that really make this game stand out. Everyone I know remembers Glass Jaw Joe, King Hippo, Bald Bull and the host of other unique, entertaining and often annoying opponents who try to pummel Little Mac out of the ring. Punch Out!!’s characters come to life through their unique movements, postures and 8-bit portraits that range from menacing to downright mangled. The game is designed to get the heart pumping, and victories in later stages grow increasingly more gratifying as the opponents become increasingly difficult.
Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars — SNES
In my humble opinion, this epic 16-bit RPG features some of the best design and storytelling I’ve come across in all my years of saving worlds and kingdoms. Super Mario RPG brings familiar characters to life by telling the story of a grand adventure which includes including Mario, Princess Peach, Bowser (as a good guy!) and a few new faces. The environments, music and visuals combine to create an unexpectedly immersive title for this traditionally platforming franchise. The combat is probably what impresses me the most. As far as turn-based RPG combat goes, Super Mario RPG includes all of the depth and strategy that Final Fantasy players have grown accustomed to, but the range of different weapons and unique player abilities make it more customizable and varied. Gaining extra hits with timed button presses adds an action element to the turn-based combat, making it all the more compelling. What’s more, all of the combat sequences are initiated by actually bumping into an enemy in the world, throwing out the traditional random-battle mechanic that has always driven me crazy. In this game, you battle when you want, and you travel when you want, rather than taking ten steps at a time while constantly being thrown into random battles.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – Xbox, PC
The Elder Scrolls is a massive franchise in a massive world, and each entry in the series has introduced innovations in design, storytelling and technical achievement. That being said, I have noticed a gradual simplification of the core game mechanics over the past two iterations, Oblivion and Skyrim, which makes it difficult for me to embrace the two recent titles as strongly as I do Morrowind. The depth and complexity of Morrowind’s gameplay keeps me coming back to create new characters every few years, whereas I’ve only played the next games once through. Character customization is much more advanced in Morrowind, with a vast number of possible armor, skill and stat combinations, whereas Skyrim takes a more limited approach. Morrowind feels like a much larger world, even though that is probably not the case. There’s something about the design of the world, cities and dungeons that makes Morrowind a “bigger” experience. The variation of themes in different parts of the world has a lot to do with that, as does the greater complexity in reputation management, world politics, play styles and character builds.
Pirates! Gold – Sega Genesis
The beauty of Pirates! Gold is that no two games will ever be the same, which was unprecedented in the 16-bit console era. This game is all about building a career as a pirate in an open world with limited sandbox features. The number of possible combinations of eras to play in, factions to side with and skill options to choose means that the entire world and your character’s traits can be different each time you play. The gameplay is so open that players can do anything they want at any time, creating their own quests, objectives, play styles and reputations. There is structure to be found in the game, but it’s up to the player whether to embrace it, ignore it or rebel against it. The point of the game is simply to be the best pirate you can be until you retire, when you are rated based on your accomplishments and reputation. The ultimate quest is to become the greatest pirate in the world by achieving ten epic pirate feats at some point during your career. The game doesn’t tell you what these feats are, so back in the pre-Google days I spent countless playthroughs trying to discover what they all were just by being as epic of a pirate as I could.
Half-Life – PC
Half-Life was a revolutionary entry in the first-person shooter genre, taking storytelling and player immersion to new depths while making creative innovations in FPS level design. Half-life was a defining moment in my gaming experience, setting the bar for all FPS games that followed. Other games have come close, but no other FPS has given me the immersive experience of Valve’s 1998 masterpiece. Half-Life puts players into a world where danger lurks around every corner, often popping out unexpectedly in intense horror/suspense sequences. The sheer scale of the multi-level environment in Half-Life makes the story feel epic, and it’s hard to stop playing this one once I get going.