Warning: this is one of my geekier posts!
Brett Thomas over at bit-tech wrote a nice piece on games he felt needed a “remaster” job. Remastering, in this context, means the gameplay is just fine, but the graphics and sound need an overhaul. I liked his list for the most part, and its inspired me to make my own. In addition to the “remaster” category, I’m adding “redo” (which means the game has a good storyline, but should be rebuilt using current tools and interface concepts), “rerelease” (if the game is perfect as is, but might need new drivers to work in XP or Vista) and RIP (which reflects a game that was great, but should remain in our memories – kinda like the movie “The Dark Crystal”).
I’m not exactly sure if this is my “all-time” favorite games list, as I’ll probably forget as many great ones as I remember. Also, the list is in no particular order:
- Civilization 2. It’s now 10 years old, which means I’ve been playing it for 10 years. The original version is actually still installable on XP, although it seems there was a ‘refresh’ edition in 2002. The graphics are poor, the sound is bad, but the gameplay is terrific (although I’d love it even more with a non-cheating AI) and I wouldn’t sacrifice the speed of the old version just for prettier icons.
Verdict: Rerelease (already done)
- Wing Commander 2. Still the best “space shooter” I’ve ever seen, with a fun, vivid storyline and great gameplay. I really liked the ‘mortality’ aspect of the story arcs – failing a mission early on had long-term impacts, something that I find lacking in more modern games. Would love to revisit the game in HD. By the way, never, ever, ever watch the movie.
Verdict: Remaster (especially on an Xbox 360)
- Ultima 4 and 6. Best. RPGs. Ever. Both were playable and beatable without needing cheats or hints. Both took tremendous time investments to play, but had extremely rewarding storytelling (I literally had chills when I beat Ultima VI). Check the links for both games – apparently both can still be run in DOS emulators. I’m happy to have my fond memories here, especially because I just don’t have the time anymore!
- Out of this World (aka Another World). This groundbreaking game was probably the last game I ever really got into until this past year, as I didn’t game all that much in my 20’s. Again, I loved the storyline and the polygon graphics were state-of-the-art at the time. I believe with a refresh it’d do very well in the current crop of games and gamers.
- Kaboom!. Nothing made better use of the Atari paddle controller than Kaboom. Nothing.
- NHL 94. While the modern versions of EA’s NHL series are wonderful to behold, they are so much more complicated than video game hockey used to be. I still think hockey is the best video game sport to play, as the games have the most auto-intelligence (in other words, if the guy you are controlling screws up, the rest of the players still play “right”). I’d love to see NHL 2008 leverage the simplicity of the original, but with the gorgeous graphics the series boasts today.
- Bubble Bobble. How about turning it into a first-person shooter? Just kidding.
- Blood Money. This is the first of the Amiga games I’m mentioning. This great side-scroller had one of the most amazing soundtracks I’ve still ever heard in a video game. No real need to bring it back to life, but if you get the chance to hear the sound, check it out.
- Cyberball. I like this game so much I actually had a full free-standing arcade version of it in my home in Pittsburgh, back in the late 90s. Football. Robots. Explosions. Multiplayer. Awesome. Bring it back as it was, or refreshed, or whatever it takes. Just bring it (supposedly coming to Xbox this year)!
Verdict: Remaster or Rerelease.
- Gauntlet II. I think I gave up more allowance quarters to Gauntlet II than any other game in history (maybe Ikari Warriors, but it’s close). I played and beat the Secret Room Challenge enough times to win a t-shirt! Atari revived Gauntlet a few years ago, but I don’t think it had the same magic as the original. Red warrior needs food… Badly.
- Lode Runner and Lemmings. Two games that suffered through way too many derivatives and sequels, none of which touched the original. Both allowed “user-generated content” (ooh!) and both had virtually endless replayability. Unfortunately something tells me they’d both be best left preserved as they were.
- Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. I know most people seem to pick Zork for the legendary Infocom games, but Hitchhiker’s was my favorite. The humor combined with the amazing challenge (I did need to resort to a hint book for the damned “dark room” early into the game, as well as the whole “tea – no tea” thing) just made for a wonderful combination. In fact, I think this game and the original BBC TV series both rate higher for me than the original books! I’d love to see a new take on the content with all the current technology, or just see how ‘the kids today’ handle the difficulty of the original (which is playable online).
Verdict: Redo or Rerelease
- Populous. The second Amiga game on the list (even though it was ported elsewhere, the Amiga version was hands-down the best. Why? The breathing). Invented by Peter Molyneux, the guy who then created Black & White and other amazing AI-heavy games, Populous was the original RTS game in my book. I recall struggling for hours to get serial-to-serial connections or 9600 baud modems working just to play it multiplayer. You can actually still play the DOS version (downloads here), but this would be spectacular if recreated today.
Verdict: Redo or Remaster
- Total Annihilation. The king of RTS games. Better than StarCraft, WarCraft, Total War, and Command & Conquer. Once called the best game ever made, it’s definitely in the tops of my lists. The fan base even today is amazing, and there is a “spiritual successor” coming in 2007 in the form of Supreme Commander. Getting the original TA to work in XP is a pain, and should be supported.
- Wizardry. My favorite “old-school” RPG. Gave players all the geekiness required to enjoy D&D, but in a very playable way. The story was so-so, but the game was very addictive because of the simplicity of the interface. Back when you had to actually make your own maps in a game (I miss grid paper).
- Zak McCracken/Maniac Mansion. Two of the funniest “adventure” games ever made, back when LucasArts was a bit more of a light-hearted studio. Took the whole concept of in-game puzzles and easter eggs to a new level, so much that you didn’t really care if you didn’t “get” all the inside jokes around you. Both games’ plotlines were extremely well thought-out, and would do great today.
- Mind Walker. Now I’m going old-school. Considered by some to be the original Amiga game (by the way, I never even owned an Amiga, but yet 3 of their games made my list!), Mind Walker lived in a category of its own, and still doesn’t fit in any genre. Should be refreshed and put on the market for every console ASAP.
And I’d like to give a special mention to Nethack, for my all-time most-played game (I still play it occasionally both on the PC and on my PPC-6700!). Now, nobody touch it, please. If you’ve never played it, you are missing out. It’s free, and you can start playing immediately. It has more depth than any other game, in the history of games. It doesn’t need any pretty graphics or surround sound, and I don’t think it ever will get either! And with that nod, I officially out-geek even myself.