10 Amazing Games Stuck on Old Hardware

God Hand
God Hand

In the world of video games, change is a constant. While other forms of art and entertainment like books and movies have evolved new ways over the decades to experience the countless works available, new video game hardware debuts every seven to ten years, often with monumental technological improvements and innovations that upend the playing field yet again.

But gaming’s inexorable march of progress comes at a price. Every console generation will see its share of blockbusters and cult classics, but as publishers and audiences move onto newer hardware, these games will inevitably be left behind. Backwards compatibility has improved this generation, at least on PS5 and Xbox Series, and together with the proliferation of digital re-releases over the past decade, many old classics have been able to find their way to new generations of gamers. Both avenues, however, are still inconsistent at best, and fail to fully cover gaming’s vast history. It’s still often down to a publisher’s whims as to what beloved classics get resurrected on newer systems. In this list, let’s take a look at ten amazing games that are still trapped on older systems.


10. Shin Megami Tensei: Digital Devil Saga

Digital Devil Saga
Digital Devil Saga

Atlus may be known these days for Persona, but its parent series, Shin Megami Tensei, is still going strong with a dedicated following. Fans of the series will champion Shin Megami Tensei Nocturne as one of the best JRPGs out there, with its challenging combat and unforgettable atmosphere. Nocturne wasn’t the only Shin Megami Tensei release on the PS2, however, as Atlus would take the foundations of this entry to create a more narrative-focused duology — one that’s relatively obscure in comparison.

Though the Digital Devil Saga duology retains Nocturne’s iteration of brutal turn-based combat, it ditches the moral alignments, multiple endings, and sparse storytelling in favor of something more involved. The duology follows the story of one of several tribes from a land known as the Junkyard — all of whom are soldiers who awaken to emotions for the first time after being infected by a virus.

Like Nocturne, Digital Devil Saga utilizes the press turn combat system — landing critical hits and striking enemy weaknesses scores extra turns, and missing your attacks (or hitting enemies with elements they’re immune to) makes you lose turns. But while Nocturne and other mainline Shin Megami Tensei games feature demon recruitment, Digital Devil Saga has your characters outright transforming into demonic forms. These demon forms learn new skills from items called Mantras — and the process is sped up when your characters devour the enemy.

Digital Devil Saga remains one of the Shin Megami Tensei’s series more story-focused games, and though these PS2 classics have had a digital release on the PSN for PS3, no other versions have been released since then, and the duology runs the risk of slowly being forgotten.


9. Tales of Graces f

Tales Of Graces f
Tales Of Graces f

Originally a Japanese-exclusive Wii release, Tales of Graces received a PS3 port that added bug fixes and a sizable chunk of new content, including a lengthy epilogue story. In contrast to the usual darker Tales stories that deconstruct JRPG tropes, Graces f is far more light-hearted. It’s known for its cheesy narrative that uses friendship as its central theme and a likable cast that amps up the comedy far more than any other entry. This shift won’t land well with everyone, but Graces f is also one of the most polished and content complete Tales games of the HD era, as later titles were rushed and feel underbaked, missing out on several series conventions in the process.

Graces f also features a flashy, stylish combat system, and is arguably the point where Tales combat became much faster paced. Its CC system has a high skill ceiling, and incentivizes an aggressive playstyle while also discouraging mindless button mashing. A robust gear crafting system, boatloads of titles (essentially a character achievement system that doubles as a source of stat boosts and passive skills) for each party member, and multiple difficulty modes add a lot of replayability as well.

Tales of Graces f has yet to receive a remaster of any kind for modern systems, and unfortunately, its availability has only been getting worse over time. It’s still certainly possible that we’ll see a re-release down the line, given that Namco released remasters for both Tales of Symphonia and Tales of Vesperia.


8. Kirby Super Star Ultra

Kirby Super Star Ultra
Kirby Super Star Ultra

Nintendo’s pink fluff ball has had some surprisingly experimental games over the years, and the beloved Kirby Super Star was one of the earliest examples. Rather than present itself as a traditional platformer experience with levels and worlds, Super Star instead split itself into different modes. While they all maintain the basic Kirby gameplay we’ve come to know and love, each mode has a different gimmick — such as The Great Cave Offensive being a Metroidvania experience, or Milky Way Wishes turning Copy Abilities into key items that can be used at will once acquired.

Super Star Ultra brings all of that to the DS with refined visuals, FMV cutscenes, and a whole heap of new content. While the SNES original is available on NSO, Ultra is the best way to experience one of Kirby’s best games, which makes it all the more unfortunate that this particular version hasn’t seen any re-releases outside of a digital download for the now defunct Wii U eShop.


7. Elite Beat Agents

Elite Beat Agents
Elite Beat Agents

Developer iNiS’s rhythm game Elite Beat Agent remains one of the DS’s most beloved cult classics. A westernized take on the Japanese-exclusive Osu! Tatake! Oendan!, Elite Beat Agents stars a group of government agents whose primary function is to help those in need by motivating them to overcome their problems with the power of dance.

As that description might suggest, Elite Beat Agents doesn’t take itself too seriously, with each of its episodes being presented with campy comic book style scenes that set up the scenario. As a DS game, it made full use of the touch screen and stylus for its gameplay; where other rhythm games usually have you pressing buttons with the right timing, Elite Beat Agents instead has you tap circles on the touch screen.

Though acclaimed, Elite Beat Agents has yet to see any sort of re-release or sequel in the west — with its low sales figures and use of covers of licensed music likely not helping matters.


6. Panzer Dragoon II Zwei

Panzer Dragoon 2
Panzer Dragoon 2

With a runtime of about 1 to 3 hours, Sega’s cult classic rail shooter series embodies the idea of short but sweet. Set in a world of warring countries and ancient technology, Panzer Dragoon infuses the genre with a unique and memorable atmosphere, as well as a surprising amount of lore that its sequels would build on.

Panzer Dragoon was beloved for its gameplay and gorgeous art direction, and Zwei, a prequel, went on to refine the experience by improving the frame rate, introducing branching paths and a dragon evolution mechanic for more replay value.

While the original Panzer Dragoon has since seen a full remake, one has yet to materialize for this acclaimed sequel. A remake was announced to have been in the works, but almost no news has been heard in the years since — as a result, Panzer Dragoon II Zwei remains trapped on the Sega Saturn.


5. God Hand

Gene God Hand

Capcom’s Clover Studio may be known for the likes of Viewtiful Joe and Ōkami, but their final game, God Hand, was unlike anything before it. Created by none other than Shinji Mikami (who directed Resident Evil 4), this 3D beat ‘em up stars Gene, a fighter grafted with an arm that holds the power of God within. Tasked with stopping the resurrection of the Demon King Angra, Gene now has to fight his way through a colorful variety of enemies — including ninjas, luchador gorillas, and even robots.

Initial reviews for God Hand were a tad lukewarm, but the game has since gone on to become a cult classic. Narratively, God Hand may be a surreal experience with over-the-top humor that doesn’t take itself too seriously, but its gameplay pulls no punches. Already known for being “ball-bustingly hard”, the game features a dynamic difficulty system that adjusts depending on how well you perform in combat, as well as surprisingly in-depth and robust mechanics for the genre.

Sadly, Clover Studios was shut down in late 2006, and unlike their magnum opus Ōkami (which went on to receive a sequel, Wii port, and an HD remaster that itself was then ported to even more modern platforms), Capcom seems to have forgotten about God Hand, aside from a digital re-release on the PSN for PS3 consoles.


4. Brave Fencer Musashi

Brave Fencer Musashi
Brave Fencer Musashi

Experimental games are becoming increasingly rare outside of the indie space, and it’s all the more problematic when the quirkier games from the big studios are left behind by history. One such title is Square’s Brave Fencer Musashi, a PS1 action RPG. With unique gameplay mechanics (like the ability to absorb enemy abilities via Musashi’s sword), a striking art style courtesy of Tetsuya Nomura, and an impressive amount of voice acting for 1998, Brave Fencer Musashi is beloved and remembered among its fans for being a unique experience that stands out from the company’s usual Final Fantasy fare.

The story begins with the titular Musashi, a young boy whose past incarnation defended the Allucaneet Kingdom from a monster known as the Wizard of Darkness 150 years ago, being summoned by Princess Fillet to stop the invasion of the Thirstquencher Empire. Between Musashi’s attitude, the punny names of the setting, and the absurd scenarios Musashi finds himself in, it’s a far more whimsical experience compared to the darker RPGs like Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears that otherwise dominated Square’s output in this era.

While Brave Fencer Musashi has seen a release on Japanese and Korean PSN stores, western territories have yet to receive the same treatment. A sequel did materialize for the PS2, albeit without anywhere near the same level of acclaim as this PS1 classic.


3. Super Paper Mario

Super Paper Mario
Super Paper Mario

Super Paper Mario has been a divisive entry over the years — it abandoned the beloved turn-based combat of the first two entries in favor of adding action RPG elements to the plumber’s more traditional platformer gameplay. As the series moved into even more controversial territory with Sticker Star and Color Splash, however, this game has seen something of a vindication by the fanbase.

This was the last Paper Mario game to feature a wide variety of fictional races and wholly original character designs, as the following three games would almost completely abandon the concept and simply repurpose existing Mario IP characters and races to take the roles of supporting characters and NPCs. And by extension, Super Paper Mario was the last game in the series with a darker, more complex plot before things were simplified in Sticker Star onwards.

Super Paper Mario opens with new villain Count Bleck abducting both Bowser and Princess Peach and forcing them to marry each other, as their marriage was foretold by the Dark Prognosticus to herald the appearance of the Chaos Heart, a powerful artifact that Bleck uses to summon an interdimensional rift to destroy the universe. As ever, it’s up to Mario to save the day by gathering the seven Pure Hearts.

This entry in the series translates the RPG mechanics into platformer gameplay — most of the game takes place in 2D, with Mario able to transition the area into 3D for limited periods of time to find secrets and bypass obstacles. Joining him and his allies are fairy-like creatures known as Pixls, that provide a variety of attacks and abilities to fend off enemies and navigate the environment.

With the original Paper Mario available on NSO and The Thousand Year Door having gotten a full remaster, Super Paper Mario stands as the best candidate in the series for a future re-release — the game is stuck on the Wii otherwise.


2. Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance

Path of Radiance
Source: chrisgamereviews.com

Among Fire Emblem fans, Path of Radiance (and its Wii sequel Radiant Dawn) is beloved for its storytelling, worldbuilding, and for the fact that it marks the debut of fan favorite protagonist Ike. Set on the continent of Tellius, Path of Radiance stars a band of mercenaries who find themselves involved in a war to drive out the forces of Daein from Crimea.

Compared to later entries in the series (barring perhaps Three Houses), Path of Radiance features a darker story that explores topics like racism and prejudice. It’s also got some solid worldbuilding, something that later entries like Fates was a bit lacking in. And while Path of Radiance doesn’t rewrite the book on the series’s trademark strategy gameplay, it did feature its own nice quality of life features, like a bonus EXP system that could help weaker units catch up, or allow players to hyper invest in their strongest character.

While Path of Radiance and its sequel are beloved within the fanbase, lackluster sales for the franchise overall nearly made Awakening the final entry. Awakening would revitalize the franchise and cement its place in Nintendo canon, and with Fire Emblem’s future being relatively secure, now would be a great time for Nintendo to revisit the Tellius duology in some form. Unlike Sony and Microsoft, Nintendo still lacks a dedicated avenue for rereleasing GameCube games digitally, and like many other entries on this list, used physical copies of Path of Radiance and its sequel will be far outside of many players’ price ranges.


1. Super Mario Galaxy 2

Super Mario Galaxy 2
Super Mario Galaxy 2

New 3D Mario games tend to only come once per console generation. Direct sequels are even rarer, with only Galaxy 2 and 3D World holding that distinction. Super Mario Galaxy 2 began life as an expansion of sorts to its direct predecessor, only for new ideas to push the game’s scope towards a full sequel.

In contrast to the first game’s hub world system, Super Mario Galaxy 2 streamlined things by returning to a format reminiscent of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario World, with a world map housing the game’s 49 different galaxies. Galaxy 2 also introduces its own new power-ups, such as Rock Mario and Cloud Mario, as well as the ability to ride around on Yoshi, complete with the abilities that would entail.

Though seen as a bit of a step back narratively, Super Mario Galaxy 2 is nonetheless a polished and stunning sequel that features a grand orchestral soundtrack like its predecessor.

It’s all the stranger, then, that this game hasn’t received nearly as much love from Nintendo in the years since its release. Though both Super Mario Galaxy titles received digital releases on the Wii U eShop, the Wii U itself wasn’t exactly a best-seller, and the eShop has since been shut down. While the original Super Mario Galaxy made its way onto Switch as part of a limited-time collection with Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Sunshine, Galaxy 2 was nowhere to be seen. And with the port of 3D World, that leaves only Galaxy 2 (and 3D Land) as one of the missing pieces of the puzzle, as every other 3D Mario game is playable on Switch.

Perhaps Nintendo might be holding out on releasing a remaster or port until the Switch’s successor arrives — though only time will tell.

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