All gamers, particularly those old enough to have been gaming throughout the 90’s and earlier, will have an arsenal of fond memories playing through the latest and greatest that gaming technology had to offer at the time.
But as technology moves on, games become more complex, and we as an audience become more demanding in terms of graphical quality, longevity and playability. So when we look back on the games that we spent SO much time playing all those years ago, how many would we estimate would hold up to today’s technical standards?
I’m by no means saying that games now are more enjoyable. I can surely guarantee I spent more hours playing Goldeneye, Donkey Kong Country or Halo: Combat Evolved than I ever spend these days on any title. This is partly due to the fact that back then a game was a special event; I only got one every now and then and I played the shit out of it. These days I find myself churning through a few a week, and although I enjoy them very much, I never quite get that sense of investment that I once had. I guess I’m spoiled by choice.
Regardless, it’s also fair to say that as younger players growing up with games, we likely had a tendency to be forgiving in certain aspects that we’re no longer able to allow, having been exposed to much more well rounded delivery. Graphical quality is often the go-to example of this. Unless the game is styilised in such a way that the aim is not to be hyper-realistic, we expect realism, and failure to deliver that will lose you fans. Similarly a smooth and well designed control scheme is a must these days, but you only have to plug your PS1, N64 or even PS2 in to see how clunky and awkward controller schemes could be. Did it matter? Did it heck. We mastered it because we had to.
There are plenty of lists out there looking at games that desperately need remasters. This isn’t one of them. Instead let’s take a look at some of the amazing games of old that just haven’t aged well for one reason or another. This is in no way a dishonour to you, my 16, 32 and 64 bit darlings. You were products of the time, and you made me the gamer I am. May you rest easy in our memories.
Note: I understand that many games on this list will have had mods released to forego some of the problems that the base games suffer from. I will only be referring to the original games using the original hardware, and not any modded version or updated peripherals.
5. Crash Bandicoot 1 (PS1, 1996)
Crash had an important mission. Represent Playstation as a Global advertising mascot. In a continuous battle for audience approval, Nintendo and Sega were already way ahead with Super Mario and Sonic the Hedgehog respectively. Playstation’s attempt was not a complete failure in this sense, but nor was it as raging a success as they’d hoped for.
If you go back and give Crash a spin now, you’ll probably see why.
There were no twin sticks available at the time Crash was produced, and trying to control a 3d platformer with directional buttons is just plain awkward. Crash was incredibly difficult to maneuver, and there was a dodgy camera angle that didn’t help matters either, resulting in plenty of occasions in which you inadvertently send your polygonal bandicootish hero down a pit of doom as you attempted to land on what were often extremely small surface areas. It also suffered with a pretty appalling save and checkpoint system.
Fortunately this didn’t put an end to Crash’s success, and he went on to star in a host of more successful titles, resulting in the most recently released N-Sane Trilogy, which has taken this first title along with the subsequent two and turned them into something extremely enjoyable by developer Vicarious Visions. Although the remaster has split opinions somewhat, we thought it was great.
4. GTA III (Xbox/PS2, 2001)
GTA III was for me a very important experience. It was the first large scale 3D open world game I’d ever played. It was possibly the first one made, but don’t hold me to that. Regardless, it allowed for endless hours of experimentation and exploration in a city that felt at the time completely limitless. It only takes a quick Google search now to see how the size of the city shapes up against modern takes on the series. However, it isn’t the size of the map that’s the issue, but the missions themselves with often frustratingly demanding time constraints, and the wonky combat and driving mechanics that accompany them that make this a bit of a strain to play. However, you could probably muddle through with a love of the stories, superb voice acting and top notch humour.
GTA Vice City only came round about a year later, made vast improvements in many areas, and even now remains many peoples’ favourite. My favourite experience remains GTA III, but I think the progression of the series has been a consistently positive one, and the hugely successful GTA V (that continues to sell like LSD laced hot cakes) is a testament to Rockstar’s ability to iron out the kinks.
3. Tomb Raider 1 (PS1, 1996)
Another absurdly important classic that paved the way for many of the big a beautiful 3rd person adventures today, and another example which ultimately falls down with its controller scheme. I mean seriously, if you still have this on the PS1, crack it open and see how you get on. It amazes me how resilient we were in our youth. Never mind the number of times you had to step, sidestep, backstep and step again over an item before you could pick it up… What about the jumping mechanics? Do you remember having to make a long leap and utilising half a dozen different buttons in the space of a heartbeat just to make it successfully without –
A. Slipping off the edge
B. Going in the wrong direction
C. Failing to grab the other side. Falling to horrible death.
Just make the bloody jump, woman!
Tomb Raider Anniversary did a great job of taking these mechanics and making them something more playable, but the original is just painful.
2. Planescape: Torment (PC, 1999)
This one comes as more of my personal experience with the game recently and the high praise I’ve heard from so many people, as opposed to my long running history playing the game. Planescape is a game I’ve wanted to play for a long, long time and is sometimes considered the best RPG ever made. My best friend’s Brother had this game when I was a kid, and I remember passing his door one day only to see a small floating head on screen in a gritty and cool world full of monsters. I didn’t leave him alone until I’d asked 100 questions and made him kill at least 20 people with the floating head, innocent or not.
Needless to say that game stayed with me, but it’s only in the last year or so that I got around to giving it a proper go. I’ve now made two attempts to play through this classic, and I simply can’t do it. The isometric viewpoint in this title is painfully unforgiving. It doesn’t have the 3 dimensional depth that some of the Forgotten Realms titles such as NeverWinter Nights and Baldurs Gate have, which repeatedly led to crazy frustration, as more often than not the exit point to a room isn’t at all obvious against the backdrop of other two dimensional details on screen. The quality of the writing in this game is second to none, and the dialogue is funny, dark and brilliant, but the game’s graphical shortcomings hold it back from being something that I can sit and play through with enjoyment after a long day at work.
I hear there are some mods/remasters available for this though, so perhaps there’s a more “playable” version out there.
Before we reveal number 1, let’s take a look at a few honourable mentions.
Resident Evil 1 (PS1, 1996) – I didn’t want to name too many of the polygonal PS1 titles in this list, because honestly, there are too many to mention and I’m not a bully. However, another really good example of how we were so able to suspend our disbelief comes in the form of Resident Evil 1. Remember that terrifying dog through window moment? Yeah… Not so much.
Mortal Kombat (Various, 1992) – Not amazing, but good enough at the time for a mention. I remember this title fondly for its overt violence, cool motion capture character models and “FINISH HIMMMM!” But let’s face it, Street Fighter was always better. The motion capture models caused serious limitations in what your character could actually do, leaving you with some pretty lame acrobatics.
Ultimately, this game relied too heavily on violence to keep it afloat, and although I remember it fondly, I only have to give the Snes version a try now (in which all gore was taken out) to realise that there was very little else holding this shallow title together.
Final Fantasy VII (PS1, 1997) – Just give us the remake. Please. PLEASE!
So here it is – Number 1 as voted by me – *Drum Roll*
1. Goldeneye – (N64, 1997)
Taking the first spot has to be one of my all-time favourites, so it of course pains me to include it in this list. This game did everything right at the time. It revolutionised first person shooters. The graphics were mesmerising (although might have you laughing now. I know I am). The multiplayer was addictive, creative and precise, and the game formed and cemented friendships (as well as long standing rivalries). The campaign allowed for variation in mission parameters based on the difficulty selected. It allowed you to fire bullet hole messages into walls, pile unlimited amounts of remote mines on top of one another, exploding them simultaneously to see just how low you could get the frame rate, and let’s not overlook the fact that they actually managed to make a successful movie to video game transition, which even these days is beyond rare.
So why does it deserve a spot in this list? Well aside from the above mentioned graphics, I don’t know if you’ve picked it up recently, but since we’ve been gifted with mass utilisation of twin stick controllers, any attempt to go back to a single stick alternative is nightmarish. Not only did you use the central stick to move your character, but you’d also have to use the right bumper to enter manual aim mode, which caused you to stand still so that you could look around with the same stick. It’s a beautiful game from a beautiful time, but it’s just not viable without modern controller support.
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