What exactly do I mean by, "Timeless Classics?" you ask beseechingly. Well, simply put, games that in my experience I have actually gone back numerous times to play, regardless of how dated they might have become or how poorly their later installments were developed. While not always the case, it does of course happen. This is also not necessarily a complete list, but more of a symbolic list if you will (and I will!). Some of these games I also chose more for what they meant in terms of advancing the gaming experience. Some of them of course leading us to where we twiddle our thumbs in dismay today. Well, enough justification. Let's begin shall we.

Remember I mentioned selection based on the above mentioned criteria? Here's one for importance. While by no means the first, nor best, of all fighting games, you can't deny the importance of this series. Until this title, almost all fighting games relied heavily on a linear 2D vector. This game introduced the more spatial idea of side stepping. While it was by no means impressive, it was really just a shift from the foreground to the midground plane, this brought on the more spatially concious style of fighting games that led us to today's very popular style games like Soul Calibre, DOA, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, etc. ad nauseum. (that was repetitive). The series itself also introduced us to tag team concepts and a variety of other conventions we all take for granted in modern fighting games. Besides, it's "TiiieRRY frikkin BeauuuuGARD (that's obscure)".

Now, I have to validate by letting you know that by and huge (I play loose and fast with English adages and turns of phrase) I don't play sports games because I hate sports in the first place. Why do you think I play video games? Blades of Steel was a sport game that I ACTUALLY liked. The controls worked well, and it incorporated little twists into game play that made it far more entertaining and competitive. Come on, how many sports games actually let you throw down the protective hand sheathe, figuratively and quite literally. This was a sports game you could enjoy with friends, in that there was the sporting part as well as the one-on-one fighting aspect. I've actually gone back to this game via emulator and still enjoyed it just as much as when I played it on the NES.

The original "beat the living piss out of everything that moves, doesn't move, or just looks at you funny" game. Double Dragon popularised the beat em up genre, without which we wouldn't have fighting games like Street Fighter, or a particular series of historical games that teaches us great hatred and fury towards archers.The ridiculous storyline, the Mad Max inspired characters, everything came together well to make a great coin sucker in the arcades. Proof of its timelessness is easy, you can get it on Xbox Arcade and relive the glory days, especially the origin of the "falling kill" everyone remembers from next to the bridge.

I always preferred Phantasy Star to Final Fantasy because it incorporated a more interesting mixture of sci-fi and fantasy elements. Why I include it on this list? It was one of the better ports of dungeon crawlers to a console system. While I am of the opinion that almost all console "RPGs" are actually visual novels, I do have to admit to loving this game, and this series. The motifs employed were great, the roster of characters was limited so as to not make the game too broad as to completely destroy any chance of character development, and there was of course some beautiful cartoon-style art. While not the best of the series, the first one I played almost religiously until I got Generations of Doom on the Mega Drive. Not many liked Generations of Doom, but I loved it because it introduced us to the idea of playing through your progeny in the game. While this concept has not been reused often, it was a rather interesting concept, and one that should be employed more in games.

The definitive platformer of any generation. PERIOD. Don't even try to refute it. Castlevania remains to this day one of the most challenging and engrossing platform games. The music was awesome, the horror theme was divinely inspired (and of course rather important in popularising horror in video games), and the series has made actual improvements as well as fantastic advances in blending platformers with elements of RPGs. I even re-purchased it for the GBA so that I could play it on the fly. It was a game, unlike other platformers such as Donkey Kong or Mario, that could be appreciated by older generations as well as younger generations thematically. Most of the later iterations have been stellar, creating a franchise that continues to deliver, excluding that fiasco on the N64, but then again perfection being an impossible ideal, this isn't unreasonable. And besides, even the worst games can have positive points.

In the time it was released, this game had pretty impressive graphics. Contemporary games all utilised 2.5D graphics (the faux 3D from games like Wolfenstein or Doom) or pre-rendered live-action films (like 7th Guest, Mad Dog McRee, or Mortal Kombat). But despite the graphics now being very dated, the first game in this series still impresses with a great sense of atmosphere. This game really made it not only possible, but very immersive, to play in the dark. The chills and thrills were non-stop in this classic romp through a darkened mansion. Your heart raced as you ran around, desperately searching for a more effective means of defending yourself from whatever might possibly be waiting for you around the corner. The cthonic themes within the game also brought in elements of classic horror that of course provided some influence on later gems, such as Eternal Darkness, a game which I would have to admit, is about as close to perfect as a game could be. It's a shame the later games eschewed the finer points of the first game in favor of focusing on a more combat heavy game like Biohazard.

As with sports games, I've never really been interested in racing games or driving simulators. Stunts changed that. Like Excite Bike on the NES, you could design your own race courses, but on top of that you had a variety of vehicles to choose from to alter your experience. Another reason I included Stunts on this list was the sequel, Stunt Island. This was a decent flight simulator and offered a variety of interesting "races", but the defining feature was the fact that you were effectively making movies. How sweet was that? You could use all sorts of fantastic film making techniques as well as edit in music and cut shots to make sweet little films. Who doesn't remember the great fun you had filming the stunt using the duck and dropping the egg on the red car?

With these last three, it was difficult to assign a real ranking, so consider them all tied for #1. Space Quest, the fantastic series from Sierra, gave us a fantastic Sci-Fi adventure game that was not only imaginative, but incredibly well written. Compare any Sierra game to any modern game, and I could almost guarantee that the dialogue and actual writing was far superior despite being nearly 20 years old. Companies like Sierra and Lucasarts should be applauded for writing games with such incredible humour that they could be appreciated by ALL ages. The Space Quest series constantly delivered solidly amusing games throughout its history. You would be doing yourself a disservice in not trying this series, or completely forgetting about it.

Monkeys, pirates, ghosts, and fine leather jackets. What more do you need from a game? Fantastically witty one-liners? Got those covered. Third wall humour that is occasionally more than simple advertising? But of course! Verbal sword fights, treasure hunting, and grog! This game, and the sequels, followed the same vein of the Sierra adventure games in providing such stellar humour and writing to the game, that it really feels more like you are directly controlling a cartoon. The gameplay itself is slightly more advanced than the early text parser adventure games from Sierra, but it still provides plenty of entertainment and challenging puzzles that could probably still tax your brain today. It's hard to choose between this exceptional series, the Space Quest series, and of course the next and final game on the list...

Quest for Glory, originally of course known as Hero's Quest, was singularly the BEST game ever made. Don't even try to argue that. The game has adventure, humour, fighting, puzzle solving, mini-games, and role-playing. In fact, this series is probably the closest to actual being a real RPG. You make your own hero, you aren't given one out of box, and you are also not forced pointlessly into a group of side-characters you care little about because they were only added as a gimmick. Being an older game, you were limited to only three main character templates, but because of the point based attribute system, you had so much room to hybridise your character. One of the greatest features of this classic is the fact that you could take the SAME hero through ALL 5 GAMES. That's right, all your progress actually flows over into the next game in the series. This is a facet of RPGs that has been used in other games, to marginal success, but if it were used well, it would vastly improve the immersive quality of the given game. And despite the set story of each game, you felt that much more a part of it because of the variety of ways to progress through the story. One final point, no levels. It's all based on skill and training. Somehow, that just makes the game feel that much more real. You get better at doing things by *gasp* DOING them. Some modern "RPGs" should take a lesson from this series.

After reviewing this list, one might be inclined to reflect upon our current situation. Without these classics, we wouldn't have many of the games we are so addicted to today. But take a moment to compare them, and perhaps you will realise what I have realised. Our modern games have become lazy, gluttonous and forgettable. We study history so as to not repeat past mistakes. Shouldn't game developers study their own history MORE to give us games we'd not only want to buy, but HAVE to buy? Since when did every game have to be some combat-extravaganza or a visual novel (Square-Enix and Capcom, I'm talking to YOU)? But looking over this, you may learn to appreciate Bethesda and Konami that much more. That's a little beside the point though. These games are all games that I have found to be entertaining and solid enough, that I play them again usually at least once a year. Considering for some of them the fact they were made in the 80's, that's some VERY IMPRESSIVE reply value. Don't ignore these games because they are old and dated, give them a go, and maybe you'll find a new perspective about modern games.

List by CthulhuDreams99 (04/20/2009)

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