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Eight Classic Games That Did Age Well
You know how sometimes you get super nostalgic and decide to revisit a childhood game, not really sure it’s going to be as good as you remember? We know the painful truth: sometimes they’re not. But what about the games that are every bit as engrossing, beautiful, and smooth as we remember them? Join us as we take another stroll through the past, this time honouring those classic games that have stood the test of time and still delight (again, in no particular order).
(Note: since it would be really easy to fill this list with a bunch of third and fourth generation titles, we’re limiting entries to fifth and sixth generation classic games, with no titles released after 2004.)
Super Mario 64
When considering candidates for our list of games that didn’t age well, I kept coming back to Super Mario 64. And every time, I couldn’t think of a reason to include in that list. Sure, graphically it’s nothing to gawk at any more, and at times the archaic camera angles can lead to our persistent hero’s demise, but those two factors aside, Super Mario 64 is every bit as enjoyable today as it was in 1996. Many of the mechanics carried over into later 3D Mario games just a tad more polish, but Mario’s debut in the 3D realm still plays well, it’s star collection system is still being used within the franchise (and has been copied by others, like Banjo-Kazooie and Donkey Kong 64), and the open level designs are a highlight, even compared to later instalments.
Final Fantasy Tactics
Though not one hundred percent age-proof, a game doesn’t remain so highly regarded and played seventeen years later if it ages poorly. Final Fantasy Tactics may have a couple of problems stemming from its age, but it’s still incredibly playable and a ton of fun. Its status among Final Fantasy fans prompted Square Enix to release an enhanced port on the PlayStation Portable, rife with all sorts of goodies absent from the original. To this day, it is unique among the franchise for its strategic combat and traverse-able battlefields. This is also, in my opinion, the best utilization of the job class system in any Final Fantasy game, so props go to it for that.
Super Smash Bros. Melee
It may seem a bit odd that I included Super Smash Bros. Melee on this list given its predecessor made my list of games that didn’t age well, but if you’ve ever played Melee, you know this is 100% true. In fact, many Smash Bros. fans still prefer this beauty to Super Smash Bros. Brawl, its successor for the Wii. With fast-paced matches, improvements over the original in literally every department (most notably the quality and quantity of both characters and stages), and loads more options, it blew many a gamer away. About its only disadvantage to Brawl is a smaller roster and set of stages, but its mechanics and pacing keep it a fan favorite almost thirteen years later.
Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door
Really, I could just as easily have put the original Paper Mario here, but The Thousand-Year Door has aged just as well (if not slightly better) and is a huge improvement over the original. A decade later, this role-playing game holds up extraordinarily well, due in no small part to its unique art style that preserves it despite its age. Building upon the trend set by Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, The Thousand-Year Door features timed attacks (just like its predecessor, as well as the Mario & Luigi RPG series) centred around traditional turn-based combat. New to the Paper Mario series, the Thousand-Year Door plays on the paper theme by allowing Mario to fold up like a paper into different shapes (the most notable being a paper air plane) to progress through the game’s world. It was a fabulous addition to the franchise, and it probably remains the strongest Mario RPG game, barring Super Mario RPG.
Really, any of the games utilizing Infinity Engine could make this list, but we’re going with Planescape: Torment here, if for no other reason than its cult status and unique setting. Even the story, though based on the whole “hero has amnesia” trope, offers something extraordinary. And for whatever reason, isometric games in general have just seemed to stand the test of time. There is also something to be said for a role-playing game where many of the conflicts can be avoided with the right dialogue choices.
System Shock 2
Allow me to start this by saying my hands-on experience with System Shock 2 is limited. However, a list like this couldn’t really be comprehensive sans its inclusion. After all, its failure to meet commercial expectations has retroactively been cited as the game being too ahead of its time. And really, the most dated thing about System Shock 2 is the graphics. The rest of the game is represented quite well through its spiritual successor, BioShock, a series which calls to mind the old adage, “If it’s not broke, don’t fix it.”
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Game Boy Advance
My dire need to include a top-down Legend of Zelda title is here fulfilled by one of my personal favorites from the franchise, The Minish Cap. Developed by Capcom in lieu of Nintendo, The Minish Cap adopted the style of the traditional games while include a cel-shaded art style inspired by The Wind Waker. And like The Wind Waker, this choice largely preserves the graphical quality. Unlike the more traditional games, The Minish Cap adopts the use of button assignments seen in the 3D games, creating a tasteful blend of old and new. It may not have the strongest dungeons or most clever puzzles, but The Minish Cap stands alongside its console counterparts and is a delight to play even today.
Ah, Diablo II. Fourteen years later, it is still arguably the best in the trilogy. While spec-wise its successor is superior in just about every way, it’s still Diablo II that fans of the series rave about. With only five character classes, the game may not seem to offer customization, but its myriad approaches and somewhat randomized level generation allow for plenty of re-playability. Its dark fantasy imagery carried over from the original contributed to its success, and today continues to mystify its faithful followers.