Despite the incredible power and performance offered by the current generation of consoles, there are still many games over a decade old that maintain a thriving community of players.
A quick glimpse at the amount of players a game has may not always suggest how good it is, for many of the much older games, it’s an excellent judge of its quality and how well it has held up.
As I find myself constantly getting over-excited about the latest releases, there are many that are content with what’s already out there. It just goes to show that what’s new isn’t always what’s best. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it – although maybe remaster it.
Anyway, here’s five older games that have managed to stand the test of time and maintain a surprisingly large fanbase.
1. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (2004)
Developer: Rockstar North Publisher: Rockstar Games Platform: PC, PS2, PS3, Xbox, Xbox 360, Android & iOS Players: 30,000
Remembered as one of the PlayStation 2 classics, GTA San Andreas was probably one of the most-played games of its generation. Now, 14 years later, it might come as a surprise to see that a single-player game still has such a respectable number of players – but, not for those familiar with the San Andreas Multiplayer (SA-MP) mod.
Released in 2006, the mod (obviously) adds multiplayer to the game as well as a ridiculous amount of new content and changes that take a focus towards roleplaying. You might feel a little overwhelmed when you first play this mod; a lot of the usual liberties you’re given have to be earned rather than starting with them by default. Just imagine how surprised you’d be after heading into a Grand Theft Auto game and discovering you can’t drive anywhere until you pass a driving test.
With all that said, the roleplaying element the mod focuses on adds the potential for some really enjoyable, often hilarious, scenarios. It’s absolutely wonderful to see such a beloved game to still have so much support in this generation of gaming.
That’s right. The first version of this game was released in 2001.
Runescape has gradually evolved over the years, an “Old School” version of the game (the one we all probably sunk a few too many hours into) released in 2013. So, since it’s the OG version, I’m counting it for this list.
Runescape was my first introduction to MMORPGs and it blew me away with its sheer size. I’d never known anything like it. The game had more content back then than what most games have today. Although, what made it truly awesome was that I was finally able to play a game with my friends without having to share a screen.
But, Runescape also introduced me to how cruel online gaming can sometimes be. My unfortunate (gullible) 10-year-old-self fell victim to the “my dad works for Jagex and can make you a member” hoax, sadly losing my first account after exchanging my password for the promise of a membership. R.I.P Starwars738.
Judging by the amount of people still hooked on this game, I feel it’s safe to assume players have since grown wise to this dastardly ruse. It’s still so popular, in fact, that it even has a fully cross-platform mobile version releasing at the end of this month.
Runescape’s extremely addictive, grinding style of play seems perfectly suited for the mobile platform. Being able to play it whenever and wherever I’m sure will come as a blessing – or a curse – for its players. After its release, I think it’s almost a certainty that people will be playing this game forever.
3. The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Platform: PC, Xbox Players: 300
Originally, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was going to take a spot on this list, which has around 800 players. But just below it I saw that Morrowind maintains a respectable 300 monthly players, which for a much older game I found astounding.This may not come close to the numbers of the other games present here, Morrowind being a solely single-player experience makes it just as impressive.
The modding community for this game is likely the main reason why it still has such an active fan base. A quick look on Nexus Mods reveals that it has had 13 new mods added just last week alone. And, honestly, with just a little mod support, the once unsightly graphics can become a thing of beauty.
Although many of Morrowind’s features, most noticeably the magic and combat system, were not continued in its successors, the love people still have for this game is clearly abundant. Considerably more difficult and requiring a great deal more patience than Skyrim or Oblivion, Morrowind failed to initially grasp me when I first tried it out. Now, after seeing how dedicated its fanbase has remained, I might give it another shot.
4. Dawn of War: Soulstorm (2008)
Developer: Iron Lore Entertainment, Relic Entertainment Publisher: THQ, Sega Platform: PC Players: 600
It may not boast as many active players as the others on this list – but, for an expansion to a game released in 2004, Dawn of War: Soulstorm has done well to maintain a loyal fan base. In comparison to its successors, it currently holds over double the amount of active players than in Dawn of War III, which released just last year.
And it’s easy to see why this game is still played. Real-time strategy is the perfect genre to bring Games Workshop’s epic Warhammer 40K universe to life. Once you take control of one of the incredibly rich and unique races, it’s easy to fall in love with this game and lose hours in the addictive, satisfying warfare of the 41st millennium.
It’s just unfortunate that the games that followed never returned to the base-building RTS formula made great by Dawn of War and its expansions. Despite Dawn of War III’s best efforts to do so, it became a disastrous failure when the game’s developers all but jumped ship, leaving any promise of DLC or updates abandoned.
Perhaps one of the most well-known real-time strategy games of all time, Age of Empires II is now almost two decades old and still going strong. Now, you’ll have to cut me a little slack with this one since the majority of its players play the HD version which released in 2013. But, I mean c’mon, it’s basically the same.
For a game that wasn’t even released in this century to continue to receive regular updates and even have several expansions added to it years after its launch, you have to admit is pretty remarkable. Most games can only dream of having its life last as long as this.
Its rich historical based campaign still offers hundreds of hours of content to enjoy. And, alongside that, there’s a thriving competitive multiplayer scene, but you might want to hold off on it until you’ve a good grasp of the game. If none of that takes your fancy, you can always settle down to a good old skirmish; build up an empire from nothing and go out and dominate the world.
If you’re any kind of fan of real-time strategy games, you’re bound to find some enjoyment with Age of Empires II. Don’t be put off by its age. The number of people still playing should tell you all you need to know.
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