Friday, 14 Aug 2020

Weekend Hot Topic, part 2: Best retro games to play during lockdown

GameCentral readers suggest the best old school games to play in self-isolation, from Monkey Island to Populous.

The question for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Tenhunter, who asked for suggestions of older games that a modern gamer would still enjoy today. What games have aged well and which ones, even if they’re considered classics, have not?

We had lots of different suggestions, from multiple eras of gaming, with Resident Evil 4 and Super Metroid came up a lot. Although a lot of people were very careful about picking games from the earliest era of 3D gaming.

The fate of 2D art
I know what I wouldn’t recommend: GoldenEye 007. When back to that the other month and… wow. Let’s just say technology has moved on, even if the mission design and open-endedness is still impressive. I think in most cases it’s good 2D graphics that stand the test of time the best and I’d personally pick the LucasArts adventures as something that could still entertain someone today and would also be interesting as there’s not much else like them around anymore.

The first three Monkey Islands are the obvious bets, especially as the third one’s graphics are still quite impressive, but I also loved Indiana Jones And The Fate Of Atlantis, Day Of The Tentacle, and Sam & Max. Those were the best ones, before they started to loose their way and then just stopped getting made.

I guess nowadays people would find the puzzles too hard but on the flipside it’s much easier now to look up the answers than it ever was at the time, so I think it evens out. I like the idea so much I think I might even see if I can get them running on my current PC as I haven’t played any of them for ages!

The Nintendo touch
I would suggest Zelda: Ocarina Of Time. Ideally the 3DS version if you can get that, as it’s slightly modernised, but for a 22-year-old game from the very earliest era of 3D console graphics it’s amazing how well it still holds up. I replay it every few years and did so most recently last year, after playing Breath Of The Wild, and still enjoyed every moment.

A lot of games have done individual things better than Ocarina Of Time but I’ve never seen any other do so many things so flawlessly, and with such effortless charm and confidence. That’s the Nintendo touch I think, making and amazing game and making it look easy too.

There’s often talk of a remake but I’m not sure how that would work, as so much of the design is tied to working in quite small, hand-crafted areas instead of the giant open world plains of Breath Of The Wild. You could make sure the graphics were better sure, but the design would have to stay more or less the same or it just wouldn’t be the same game. Which in itself speaks to just how great it is.

King of the animal mascots
I would recommend Sonic The Hedgehog 1, 2, and 3 as timeless classics that I really don’t think have aged, especially compared to just about any other mascot platformer other than Mario. The graphics still stand up really well, as does the music, and the gameplay was always simple enough for almost anyone to pick up and play.

The only real problem is that it can be a bit harder for younger gamers and the reliance and lives and other outmoded ideas may put people off. I’d suggest Sonic Mania instead, but it’s pretty much the same deal, although there is some modern features and balances to even things out.

Although what’s interesting to me is how so few other platform games from that era have stood the test of time. I had the Mega Drive out the attic the other day and things like Rolo To The Rescue are just… not good. Usually if a game is good when it first comes out, and that appeal isn’t purely down to the graphics, then it’ll probably stay good.

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36 years young
If you want to talk timeless classics I don’t think it gets much better than Tetris. All the more so because it’s not just one version of the game but an infinite number of variations on the same theme. The last couple of years have seen two of the best too, with Tetris 99 and Tetris Effect.

Tetris 99 is easily the best multiplayer version of the game there’s ever been, and well worth the price of Nintendo Switch Online all on its own. It’s basically battel royale but with Tetris, where you’re battling against 99 other players and dropping blocks you remove from your screen onto theirs. Winning is very difficult but extremely rewarding and the game’s really well supported, with regularly updated extras and challenges.

Tetris Effect is more of a sensory experience as it’s made by the guy that did Rez and has the same sort of mix of interactive music and backdrops. It’s best in VR, if you have a headset, but it’s still really great for chilling out if you haven’t. I can’t see how either game wouldn’t still be able to entertain people no matter how old they are, despite Tetris itself now being 36 years old.

Your move, creep
After recently playing on my Capcom Home Arcade machine, I haven’t really been on it since the lockdown. All the 16 games are classics and still replayable even to today’s standards. However, what I would like to be remade is the original RoboCop game made by Data East, back in 1988 I think.

For its time it’s a classic that had everything, especially the target section and face recognition, etc. I even bought myself a Game Boy with Robocop and a magnifier, but at my age of 52 now even the magnifier isn’t good enough for my eyesight anymore. I just think the original RoboCop game on my 128K ZX Spectrum was probably my best retro game I fondly remember, that I think definitely deserves a mention for a full modern remake!

GC: This Hot Topic wasn’t about remakes.

Godly advice
Populous. Don’t know what else it was available on, but I had it on the Commodore Amiga. Gameplay doesn’t get more simple but it was ridiculously addictive.

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Playing for sympathy
I’d say that the best retro games are ones which use the least polygons as possible, as that will probably make most young modern gamers cringe with laughter or sympathy. So in other words this rules out a lot of the PlayStation 1 and Sega Saturn era and some Dreamcast and PlayStation 2 era ones also. Though I’d also definitely recommend a good few for the above consoles mentioned.

I’ll play it safe and without going too far back to 16-bit nostalgia I’d stick with Nintendo’s more recent console, the GameCube. I’ll nominate games like Resident Evil original remake and Resident Evil 4. They may want to try Resident Evil Zero but I don’t want to push them too far! (I liked it though).

These set of games don’t take the younger modern gamers too far away from the most recent games in terms of graphics and gameplay respectively, plus it gets them a little background of a franchise which will make the modern incarnations a more interesting prospect.

The Resis I mentioned, like the original remake and Resi 4, are also probably the best you’re going to get in the series as they both show how good a franchise can be at a kind of zenith. I can say from completing all three of the PlayStation 1 games multiple times that it makes my Resident Evil experience all the more wholesome for it.

The characters like Jill Valentine, Leon S. Kennedy, Chris Redfield, and Albert Wesker are so much more interesting and emotional for the new player when they can journey with them before engaging with the more modern Resident Evil games.

I tried not to oversell these games, as too much hype can lead to disappointment, but you also don’t want to put a gamer off by recommending something which is just far too retro.

These GameCube classic games have had remasters so should be available somewhere to download or something. So why not give them a try and see what all the fuss was about.

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The small print
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