Playing classic games can give us that nostalgic feeling and remind us of our childhood gaming days, but classic games can also serve to show us how game genres were influenced over the years. We’ve put together 10 classic games you should play at least once, based on their originality and gameplay that either innovated or significantly contributed to game genres of their time.
If you owned a Nokia phone in the 90s to early 00s, no doubt you were addicted to Snake. But if you lived under a rock during that time, or weren’t born yet, you can play the original Snake version in your web browser. There are a ton of Snake-like games out there which add twists on top of the original gameplay, but the original Snake is a fairly simple concept that has inspired a lot of indie game developers over the years with its simple controls and growth-based gameplay.
Omikron: The Nomad Soul
This 1999 classic by Quantum Interactive was one of the earliest attempts at a 3D open-world game. The plot is set in a futuristic society plagued by serial killings, and spirals into all kinds of weird territories involving space-age politics and alien souls. Most appropriately, it featured an original soundtrack by the late David Bowie. Far out, man.
Despite being well-received by critics, The Nomad Soul only sold around 600,000 copies. A sequel was planned in 2001, but was scrapped in favour of other projects like Fahrenheit and Heavy Rain.
System Shock 2
Before BioShock, there was System Shock 2, a hybrid survival-horror / RPG developed by the then-unknown company Irrational Games. Taking place onboard a derelict spacecraft, System Shock 2 was chock-full of clever jump scares true to its name. While the original graphics are certainly way past their expiration date, dedicated fans have released modern HD texture packs and high-polygon game models.
A twist on the classic Breakout title by Atari, Idle Breakout is an idle clicker game with incremental mechanics. Each block is worth points, which you accumulate to spend on releasing more balls into the playing field. You can zerg rush the field by releasing dozens of the cheapest balls, or save a bit for the expensive block-smashers. It’s a fun idle twist on a classic title, and you can play here.
Back when ARPGs were called “Diablo clones”, Dungeon Siege set itself apart by having familiar Diablo-style gameplay, but letting you control an entire party of up to 8 characters. You also didn’t choose a character class when starting, instead leveling up skills the more you use them. It allowed for some chaotic party synergies, and with the action happening in real-time, it was a real test of RPG skill to manage everything on-screen.
Aliens vs Predators 2
While Monolith Productions are best known for the F.E.A.R series, Aliens vs Predators 2 certainly put them on the road to that future. Released in 2001, AvP2 featured incredible graphics (at the time, those flamethrower flames were unreal), and a highly unique online deathmatch mode that allowed you to play as marines, aliens, or predators.
While class-based online shooters are pretty common nowadays, and you’ll never be able to recapture the nostalgia of how unique AvP2’s online mode was for its time, the single-player Marines campaign was incredibly eery and atmospheric, a preview of future horror titles like F.E.A.R and Condemned from Monolith Productions.
Motocross Madness 2
This classic from Microsoft was the best of their ‘Madness’ games (Midtown, Motocross, and Monster Truck), due to how customizable the game assets were. The fan communities for Motocross Madness 2 content were absolutely huge, with hundreds of community tracks, bikes, and rider skins available for download on glorious 768k ADSL connections.
While motocross games aren’t as popular as they once were, Motocross Madness 2 was to late-90s PC gamers what Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater was to consoles in an era of extreme sports.
We had to include at least one 80s game on this list out of respect for history, and Sierra’s Space Quest deserves the spot. Sierra has been in the game industry for about 40 years, they’ll always be best known for their graphical adventure games like Leisure Suit Larry, King’s Quest, and our personal favourite, Space Quest.
It was a great combination of Sierra’s recipe for graphical adventure games, mixed with a humorous sci-fi story like something out of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Avernum was a 1995 demoware RPG that received a lot of praise when it was released. If you weren’t alive back then, shareware was all the rage, and you could download all kinds of terrible game demos on that newly discovered “internet” thing. Avernum was a real diamond in the rough – an episodic, turn-based RPG by an indie developer, before indie was ‘cool’.
Fatal Frame II
Fatal Frame II was released during the Japanese horror wave of the 2000s, when films like The Ring and Grudge were at peak popularity. Fatal Frame took all that was scary about those films (creepy schoolgirl ghosts with their hair covering their faces, abandoned shoji-screen houses) and dialed it up to 11, then armed you with a camera.
The only way to battle the ghosts in Fatal Frame II is to snap their photo at their most vulnerable moment, which happens to be when they’re inches away from your face.
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