10 Timeless Video Games That May Never Age

Gobble down your Memba Berries and enjoy this throwback.

Wind Waker
Wind Waker

Video games have been around for a long time — like, ages. There are many of us who remember the earlier days of gaming, and those fantastic games that we played once upon a time. Games have progressed massively over the last 50 years, but it is still tempting to play those games gone by and enjoy the earlier, blockier ages of gaming.

Sadly, all too often we put on a game from our past and have our rose-tinted spectacles ripped off our collective faces when we realise that the graphics on our treasured game look like old ham. But never fear, there are many games which look just as good today as they always did, and for unknown numerical reasons, we have picked ten games that may just live forever.

 

10. Bioshock

BioShock 1
BioShock 1

Developer: 2K Boston/2K Australia
Publisher: 2K
Platform(s): Windows Xbox 360, PS3, Mac, iOS

Now, I know what you’re thinking: Bioshock isn’t an old game. But I’m sorry to be the one who breaks this to you, but the original Bioshock launched 16 years ago. 16 years ago. It can now buy lottery tickets. Cue that Matt Damon ageing gif.

Bioshock was hugely hyped upon release, and in a rare move which seems to be happening much less these days, it lived up to the hype. Bioshock is still a fantastic first person shooter, with minor RPG elements and atmospheric storytelling, and it has since become a classic of the FPS genre.

Bioshock is still completely accessible today. Firstly, the mechanics of first person shooters on console had been really nailed down at this point, so in gameplay terms, Bioshock still feels great. But it’s where design is concerned that Bioshock comes into its own. The moody underwater of rapture really captures the feeling of being there, this rotting underwater city feels like a real location.

The detailed art deco design of Rapture holds up and looks amazing even in recent years, the gloomy lighting and lush hallways of the city help to tell its story, the story of a city lost of decadence. If you’ve somehow managed to avoid spoilers after all these years, that ending won’t be quickly forgotten either.

 

9. The Curse of Monkey Island

The Curse of Monkey Island
The Curse of Monkey Island

Developer: LucasArts
Publisher: LucasArts
Platform(s): PC, Mac

The Monkey Island series is one of the most adored adventure game franchises ever. Fans fawn over the first two games in the series, and even over the most recent addition to the franchise, Return to Monkey Island. Less love is given to the third game, Curse of Monkey Island, despite the fact it’s actually rather good. Curse of Monkey Island saw the team changed for this entry to the series, and in turn there were several changes to the series, especially in interface, design, and most notable graphics.

The graphics of Curse of Monkey Island are very different from the VGA style look of the first two games, which is a shame as the graphics of this third entry are possibly the best in the whole series, including the Monkey Island remasters. The game had a cartoony, 90s Nickelodeon style vibe, and the fully animated (and wonderfully voiced) cutscenes really makes Curse of Monkey Island a must play, and it looks as wonderful today as it always did.

 

8. Street Fighter 3

Street Fighter 3
Street Fighter 3

Developer: Capcom
Publisher: Capcom(Arcade), Capcom/Virgin Interactive(Dreamcast)
Platform(s): Arcade, Dreamcast

Street Fighter 3 really used to be the black sheep of the series. Much like the original Street Fighter, few people spoke of it, and it didn’t have the launch hype of its younger brethren SF4-6. However, time has shown that Street Fighter 3 is a fantastic entry into the series, and arguably one of the greatest fighting games of all time.

Street Fighter 3, whether that’s Third Strike or its arcade version, is, in many ways, superior to Street Fighter 2, building upon what came before in almost every way. But he did away with much of the roster, with all but Ryu and Ken being new, Street Fighter 3 also had much more high calibre competition in comparison to previous titles, with the likes of Tekken, Toshinden and Virtua Fighter making their way onto home consoles.

It is highly likely that changes to the ‘fashion of video game graphics’ affected the success of Street Fighter 2. While it may not be well documented these days, 2D graphics were often shunned by developers in the late 90s, as they were seen as being ‘old fashioned’. Consoles such as the PlayStation were proud that they were pushing the boundaries of 3D polygonal graphics, and 2D sprite based games were seen by developers and fans as being part of the previous generation. But do not let that put you off: by the time of Street Fighter 3’s release, developers had really mastered the art of smooth and sleek looking 3D sprites, and Street Fighter 3 is possibly the best looking fighting game of the 1990s.

 

7. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island

Super Mario World 2
Super Mario World 2

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): SNES, GBA

The Super Nintendo Entertainment System took Mario to the next level. In recent years, Mario had been a dominant figure on SNES, with remasters of the Mario Bros Trilogy in the form of Super Mario All Stars, Super Mario World, Mario Kart and a whole slew of other titles such as Mario Paint and Yoshi’s Safari. By the mid-90s the next generation of consoles were upon us, but there was still life left in the ol’ console yet, and 1995 also saw the release of Mario’s latest mainline game Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island.

Taking advantage of the Mario IP’s latest iconic character, Yoshi, the player must guide an infant Mario through each level, and the game features new mechanics not before seen in a Mario game, but would become commonplace in later Yoshi releases.

The mid-90s saw developers attempting to push the SNES to its graphical limits, with the Donkey Kong Country series and Killer Instinct both using 3D pre-rendered graphics to create 2D sprites and levels, but Yoshi’s Island stuck to the style of previous Mario games, and using animated sprites instead. But what separates Yoshi’s Island from previous Mario games is the style of the 2D sprites used. Yoshi’s Island employs a ‘crayon inspired’ cartoon style, using pastel colours with thick dark edges, it has the look of a children’s storybook, and still holds up today. The Yoshi series has continued its unique cutesy style, and most recently saw 2019’s Yoshi’s Crafted World employ a ‘craft materials’ graphical style.

 

6. Ōkami

Okami HD
Okami

Developer: Clover Studio
Publisher: Capcom
Platform(s): PS2, Wii (HD Variant: PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Switch, Windows)

Ōkami is one of those games that everyone wished had been a huge success, but was a flop when it came to sales. While it received universal praise from multiple publications, poor sales figures led to the failing to get a full fat sequel, aside from a minor entry on the Nintendo DS. Ōkami draws greatly on Japanese folklore, and the player takes the role of wolf Amaterasu, who must save the cursed land.

Ōkami is an action-adventure, platformer, puzzle title, and there’s no surprise that one of Ōkami’s main influences was The Legend of Zelda. While the game is largely linear, it features many side quests to take on as well as the main story.

One of Ōkami’s main strengths is its artstyle. Much of Ōkami artstyle attempts to replicate the style of Japanese sumi-e ink painting. Strong ink lines, brush strokes and a watercolour aesthetic really give the impression this game is painted on canvas. Ōkami also uses our old friend cel-shading to achieve the ‘painting’ style of art, which allowed the game to have a vivid, bright and bold colour palette. This style seriously helps with the traditional settings of Ōkami, with Amaterasu venturing around forests, villages and lakes. Given the game is now over 15 years old, it still looks fantastic today.

 

5. Tempest

Tempest game
Tempest game

Developer: Atari
Publisher: Atari
Platform(s): Arcade

Playing games from 40 years ago isn’t easy. Let’s be honest now, there’s plenty of shallow gameplay, awful graphics and flat out broken games, with titles such as E.T. and the Atari port of Pac-Man being only two of a sea of terrible, dreadful video games that were available during that era.

There were of course many great games out there too, and many of these could be found in the arcades of the 80s. Space Invaders, Centipede and Asteroids and many others would become gaming legends based solely on their dominance of the early arcade. Many of these games look great still, but definitely a product of the era, there is one game which could easily pass for an indie release in the 2020s however.

Tempest used a graphical style which, seemingly briefly, appeared in arcades in the early 80s. Wireframe vector graphics were often used to replicate 3D objects in video games. Imagine polygons at their most basic, with the mere meshes being used without any textures on the models. It was most notably used in the famous ‘sit down arcade cabinet’ Star Wars.

Tempest is a simple game in which you move a claw left and right around the edge of an abstract trench. Enemies move up the trench and the aim of the game is to shoot them and gain a high score. The simple gameplay helps tempest hold up, but the main reason why it looks so good is those sleek straight colourful lines, against the void like black background. It genuinely looks like a game that could be released today.

We will accept Tetris here instead, which will also just never get old.

 

4. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty

Metal Gear Solid 2 Sons

Developer: Konami
Publisher: Konami
Platform(s): PS2, Xbox, PC (various later ports)

The PlayStation and co all helped to push advancements in 3D graphics, and this in turn saw developers become more and inventive when it came to game design. Games were becoming more cinematic and dramatic, while systems using CD technology could add high quality soundtracks. Metal Gear Solid was the perfect example of this. Hideo Kojima put everything into making Metal Gear Solid a smash hit for the PlayStation, and he was successful, with many gamers having fond MGS memories all these years later. A sequel was guaranteed and four years later, Metal Gear Solid 2 would land on the PlayStation 2.

The PlayStation 2 really saw a maturing of graphics for multiple games, with its graphics being a big leap up from the blocky polygons and blurry, wobbly textures of the original PlayStation. Despite being an early game in the PS2’s lifecycle, Metal Gear Solid 2 still looks great even today. Superb looking character models, clean and sharp textures and some great lighting effects all help to retain the impact of the original release over 20 years ago.

Of course, Metal Gear games have seen improved graphics in the years since; perhaps even the PS2’s Metal Gear Solid 3 potentially looking better. But Metal Gear Solid 2 hits different, with its murky atmosphere, orchestral score, improved voice acting and cut scenes, and still looks great today.

However, Sons of Liberty’s themes and messages are what will keep it timeless above all else. Kojima’s warnings of an overabundance of content for the sake of content and nostalgia-baiting franchising were remarkably prescient, but the messages of staying true to yourself while holding your loved ones close will always be relevant.

 

3. Journey

Journey game
Journey game

Developer: Thatgamecompany
Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment, Annapurna Interactive
Platform(s): PC, PS3, PS4, iOS

Journey made a huge impact when it was released in 2012. Multiplayer gaming has become a streamlined experience on console, and it felt like developers were taking more chances on unique multiplayer experiences a decade ago. While the game was designed to be predominantly a lonely experience, as your character treks across vast deserts, there were brief occasions when you’d meet other in-game players, but with no clear way to communicate with them. The only task is to reach the top of a distant mountain — there’s no other quests or tasks, just explore as you go.

Despite being over 10 years old, the minimalist aesthetic of Journey still looks stunning. Abstract character design gives the character design an ageless quality, and the nature of the character design is the opposite of the deserts you’ll encounter. Physics are a huge part of this game’s charm, as developers were really nailing cloth and sand physics and they look wonderful here in Journey and still do. Journey’s visual and audio was widely praised, but people also praised the emotional impact of travelling with strangers. Journey’s use of light and shadow, as well as a carefully curated colour palette, also help to make this game a gorgeous title to play, even today.

As much a work of art as it is a game, the sense of togetherness and companionship when travelling with others gives the game an unexpected emotional kick that will still be relevant decades from now when we’re all plugged into the Matrix and our brains are being milked by ChatGPT to help it write the next Fast and Furious movie.

 

2. The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker

The Wind Waker
The Wind Waker

Developer: Nintendo
Publisher: Nintendo
Platform(s): Gamecube (HD Variant: WiiU)

The turn of the century saw the popularisation of a very particular art style. Cel-shaded graphics were all the rage and were featured in many video games during the first decade of the new millennium.

This art style wasn’t popular with everyone, and there were many who simply didn’t like its more cartoonish aesthetic. That being said, many cel-shaded games still look great years after their release. We could probably do an entire list of cel-shaded titles that still hold up today, and there were several considered for inclusion on this list. Games such as XIII and Jet Set Radio all still look as fresh today as they did 20 years ago, and that also goes for The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.

Many Zelda fans were appalled by the ‘childish’ big-headed Link running around a pastel coloured Hyrule. Despite the hate for Wind Waker’s art style, it is actually beloved by Zelda fans today, and arguably looks better than some Zelda games that came after Wind Waker. Wind Waker is bright and breezy, with its design now becoming iconic in the Zelda canon. The Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker holds up exceptionally well, and is probably the finest example of cel-shaded graphics.

 

1. Minecraft

Minecraft
Minecraft

Developer: Mojang
Publisher: Mojang, Xbox Game Studios, Sony Interactive Entertainment
Platform(s): Various

In the history of gaming, there have been few video games with aesthetics as recognisable as Minecraft. In the years since Minecraft’s release, the use of simple, blocky video game graphics has been incorporated in multiple releases, but despite the video game market place being deluged with Minecraft-alikes, it is Minecraft who is still associated with this unique artstyle.

Minecraft was one of the very first examples of mainstream early access games, and allowed players to purchase the game for a cheaper price point and its alpha and beta phases. While there have been many updates in the run up to Minecraft’s release (and post release), one thing that hasn’t changed is its graphics.

While other ‘relatively modern’ games are seeing upscales, remasters or even remakes, Minecraft still looks almost exactly as it did back when it first made its debut in 2009. As we’ve previously mentioned, Minecraft’s blocky graphics style has been emulated many, many times over the years, and it is because of this that the impact of these graphics has lessened over time.

But back when Minecraft launched, they were unique, different and impressive, and though their impact has been diluted, you only have to load up Minecraft and take a look around its immersive and huge game world, and you’ll find Minecraft is just as beautiful today as it always was.

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