The success of the PlayStation Classic and the return of Spyro the Dragon are sure-fire indicators that nostalgia plays a huge part in the modern gaming experience. The biggest problem is that a lot of the classics don’t hold up. Especially when venturing into the territory of early 3D graphics. Tried playing Goldeneye 007 lately? Seriously, don’t. You’ll tarnish those fond memories.
The good news is that there are plenty of recently released games for PC and consoles that tap into the nostalgia of the 80’s and 90’s without forcing you to suffer through poor graphics and outdated control schemes. We’ve selected 5 of the best modern games perfect for that hit of nostalgia.
1. Tetris Effect – PS4
Tetris, the beloved puzzle franchise first appeared on home computers in 1984 and burst into the mainstream when it arrived on the NES in 1989. Fast forward 29 years and Tetris Effect is the ultimate love letter to Tetris. Tetris Effect is named after a real-world phenomenon where players’ brains are so engrossed that images of the iconic falling Tetrimino blocks linger in their vision, thoughts, and even dreams.
The gameplay in this PlayStation 4 exclusive is the same as it has always been. Place blocks in an attempt to clear lines. What makes Tetris Effect special is the immersive three-dimensional worlds that react and evolve based on how you play. Music, backgrounds, sounds and special effects. Everything down to the Tetris pieces themselves, pulse, dance, shimmer, and explode in perfect sync with how you’re playing. It’s like a dance party for your fingers.
Across 30-plus stages, you will venture from deep beneath the ocean to the furthest reaches of outer space and everywhere between. You can even play using a PSVR headset for an even more immersive experience. Tetris Effect comes from the imagination of Japanese developer Tetsuya Mizuguchi – the auteur behind the incredible puzzle series Lumines and music shooter Rez. It’s Tetris, but as you’ve never seen, heard, or felt before.
2. NBA 2K Playgrounds 2 – PC, PS4, Switch, XB1
In the 1990s, NBA Jam hit the arcades before reaching Sega and Nintendo consoles. It was ridiculously popular and opened up the world of basketball to a generation of gamers who had no interest in the sport. Space Jam probably contributed too. There hasn’t been a new NBA Jam title since 2010. Thankfully, NBA Playgrounds stepped up to fill the gap in the over-the-top baller market.
Playgrounds 2 launched back in October, improving on the original Playgrounds in almost every way. It’s probably thanks to the backing of its new publisher 2K Games. The sequel features a massive roster of over 400 current and retired NBA players, including Aussie Ben Simmons, along with improved online matchmaking with dedicated servers, four-player online matches, three-point contests, ten new playgrounds and custom matches. While Playgrounds 2 doesn’t have the iconic commentary of NBA Jam, it does have ridiculous dunks and sets the ball on fire.
3. The Messenger – PC, PS4, Switch, XB1
The original Ninja Gaiden games for the NES were some of the best action/platformers of their time. The Messenger takes inspiration from these games in everything from the movement and combat right through to the pixelated graphics. Launched back in August this year, The Messenger tells an increasingly complex story that begins with a demon army besieging a village. You play as a young ninja traveling through a cursed world, to deliver a scroll paramount to his clan’s survival.
What begins as a classic action platformer soon unravels into an expansive time-traveling adventure full of thrills, surprises, and a great deal of humour. Around the halfway mark, the graphics shift from 8-bit to 16-bit, complementing two generations of games. The Messenger appears simple, but it’s a tough platformer with hidden depth and was critically acclaimed upon release.
4. Screencheat – PC, PS4, Switch, XB1
Back before online gaming, split-screen multiplayer was king. You and three friends would have crowded around a heavy CRT television set all sharing the one display. A common complaint, at least in my household was screen cheating. It’s the term for cheating by looking at an opponent’s screen.
Screencheat is the ridiculous split-screen shooter where everyone is invisible, so you have to cheat to succeed. Along the way, you master a wide variety of one-hit kill weapons including a blunderbuss, a car engine that shoots bouncing plasma balls and a teddy bear loaded with explosives. With colourful maps, unique modes and a vast number of customization options including wacky mutators, Screencheat is the ultimate old-school party shooter. The Aussie-made game also includes a series of solo trials perfect for when your siblings are unwilling to put themselves in that situation again.
5. Octopath Traveler – Switch
Since 1987, there have been 15 main entries in the Final Fantasy franchise, plus multiple spin-offs and even a Hollywood film. Final Fantasy is partly responsible for bringing Japanese gaming to the masses. The studio behind Final Fantasy, Square ENIX is channelling the earliest games in the series with its latest Nintendo Switch exclusive Octopath Traveler.
Octopath Traveler is an old-school RPG with a ridiculous name. It refers to the eight playable characters, each with their own origin, talents, and goals. Where will you begin? Who will you team up with? And where will you go next? All these decisions and more are entirely up to you. The pixel-perfect graphics are modernized with realistic water and lighting effects for a unique and engaging art style.
Octopath’s battles are a fusion of simple, turn-based combat and an original boost system. Use it to target the enemy’s weak points to break their guard or, if an ally’s in trouble, use it to get them right back into fighting shape. Identifying the right time to Boost may be the key to victory. There’s a deep well of strategies to draw from, and your tactics will be rewarded.