It’s the offseason, which means this blog has unleashed a flood of offseason content generator posts. From the great staff that brought you “mid-major teams as Asian restaurant items” and “times to eat lunch, ranked”, we now want you to play some classic video games.
This is a good time for video games. Right now, there are endless amounts of excellent multiplayer and single-player games on the market, all with stunning visuals and engaging storytelling. By all means, continue to sink time into them, if that’s what you want to do.
But here’s the thing: The human brain likes a diversified palate, even in video gaming. There’s no way you just want to play Overwatch every day. Okay, maybe some of you really do want to play Overwatch every day, but for the majority of people, it would get old. That means you should have time to branch out your horizons, or maybe even shift them back in time. Also, there is no Pokémon on this list. Everyone knows playing those old games is a good time.
Did I mention all of these activities are (somewhat) free? That’s important. The way to keep this free, however, is through emulation of ROMs, or basically programs that will run old video games on your computer. Now, I’m contractually obligated to say you shouldn’t use emulators, but I feel like the moral faults of emulation really start to degrade when the games are over 10 years old and no longer being manufactured. I also understand the purists’ argument that emulators corrupt the original intent of the game as a work of art or the true experience. That’s true, but also, who cares? I can’t go out and buy an original SNES. At that point, we’re in historical document territory in terms of technology, and those games might as well be in the public domain unless you are an avid collector. You can even play many of the games I’m recommending through your browser, no download required. This site is good for not terrible or corrupting downloadable emulators. If you own one of these games, then even better.
You can also purchase many of these games online in the Nintendo Virtual Store, or whatever they’re calling it these days.
Thus, in no particular order:
1. Golden Sun (Game Boy Advance)
This is, quite possibly, the best RPG released on a handheld gaming device. In classic JRPG fashion, there is a fantasy plotline involving a cast of playable characters saving the world. It relies on the typical random encounter system and has magic and stuff like that. The real benefits for this game are in the game’s atmosphere, design and soundtrack, which are all top notch. People, these songs are killer. I have a fever, and the only prescription is more Isaac’s Battle Theme.
If you want to sink into a Final Fantasy or Chrono Trigger-type game for two weeks, this is the one. If you’ve already played it, play it again!
2. Tecmo Super Bowl (NES, SNES)
This is just a reminder that you can play the original Tecmo Super Bowl for the NES and SNES, a.k.a. the best sports games released in the first two generations of consoles, online. If you hunt around, you can even find updated rosters for the most recent season.
3. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (SNES)
Oh wow, he’s recommending a Zelda game. How trite. Look, I understand Legend of Zelda is the G.O.A.T. video game series, but, in my opinion, as monumental as the NES installments were, the series didn’t hit “life-changing experience” until A Link to the Past for SNES. Now, my introduction to this was through the Game Boy Advance port that was released over a decade later, but either way, it was immediately clear that this game was unbelievably good. People say you need to play Ocarina of Time once before you die, but I feel like A Link to the Past should also have equal status. And you can find it quite accessibly.
4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time (Arcade, SNES)
Do I really have to explain why you should play this game? Anyone who’s been to a half-decent arcade in the last 30 years has likely seen this somewhere.
It’s the best. I would suggest getting some friends together and playing this in a nearby retro arcade. Or you can play the SNES version, which is still very solid.
5. Super Bomberman (SNES)
Why did Bomberman go out of style for so long? (Answer: Bad development, outdated name, etc.) Until the release of Super Bomberman R for the Switch in 2017, there were no non-PSN Bomberman games between 2008 and 2017. Well, you can relive the glory days when Bomberman was everything with Super Bomberman for the SNES, the classic Bomberman experience.
6. Banjo-Kazooie (N64)
This game, as my friend contractually obligated me to say, is perfect. The adventures of Banjo and his friend Kazooie are endlessly fun and the predecessor to huge puzzle platformers like Portal. Banjo-Tooie, the sequel, is also worth your time.
7. The Advance Wars games (GBA)
Alright, we are getting into obscure territory, but these two games, Advance Wars and Advance Wars 2: Black Hole Rising, are my favorite turn-based strategy games ever made. For people who enjoy chess, military strategy, Fire Emblem, or any type of strategic thinking, the Wars series is perfect for you. Basically, the game is a turn-based tactics game in which you command an army. The two Game Boy Advance installments are known for their cute military graphics (yes, that’s real) and increasingly absurd tank designs, but this is the deepest strategy game ever devised. There’s terrain consideration, a budgeting system, special CO powers: it’s a blast, and you should try it.
For those who want to find a new challenge, there is a free version of the game online called Advance Wars By Web, which is basically online chess but for Advance Wars. Yes, I have spent countless hours poring over the metagame to beat random strangers.
8. Assorted Hamtaro games (GBA)
Are you tired of repetitive, retread sports games that don’t do anything fun or innovative? Allow me to pitch you on the Olympics...but with hamsters. Hamtaro, for those who didn’t come of age between 1997-2006, is a Japanese children’s series based around a talking hamster. They made some kickass video games for said hamster, including Ham-Hams Unite!, a game about the virtue of labor unions and Ham-Ham Heartbreak, a surprisingly depressing and difficult game in which you try to mend broken relationships (Sharon, please come back to me, I have a hamster who will solve all our issues).
But the aforementioned Ham-Ham Games, easily the most best concept of the lot, is a game where you compete in fun Olympic-themed minigames with Hamsters. And it’s awesome. It’s tremendously stupid and flawed. But it’s great. You need to go through the full week at the Hamtaro Olympics one time. Hamster tennis! Hamster synchronized diving!
HAMSTER BEACH VOLLEYBALL
9. PaRappa the Rapper (PS1)
I mean, who wouldn’t want to play this masterpiece? The first true rhythm game, PaRappa the Rapper features strange graphics, and the endless quest to rap god-dom. Playstation emulators are good now, and so is PaRappa. The game also has numerous remakes. Or you can play Metal Gear Solid, if you want something more intense.
10. Mega Man 6 (NES)
You can play this one in your browser. For big fans of classic Mega Man games, Mega Man 6 is one of the least remembered, as it was released near the end of the NES’ life cycle. However, it did get to build on previous Mega Man classics and correct some of the problems with 4 and 5. What you get is a very fun game with a great soundtrack and better graphics than any of the NES entries. I realize the best games for nostalgia’s sake are Mega Man 2 and 3, but I sincerely think 6 is the most fun to get a foothold in the Mega Man NES space.
11. Worms 2 (PC)
As you can tell by now, I love strategy games, and there’s truly no better fun, nostalgic strategy game than Worms 2. You control an army of worms armed with modern weaponry and try to defeat the other worms.
Sure, you can go on abandonware sites and find Oregon Trail and things of that nature, but I suggest at least trying Worms 2, and the various ideas for new multiplayer servers that people have integrated.
12. Day of the Tentacle (PC)
Finally, we end with Day of the Tentacle, a game you can buy on Steam for $15 or iOS for $5, released by the now-defunct LucasArts Games. I picked this up during a Steam Sale a long time ago because of its amazing reviews. It lives up to the billing. This is an point-and-click adventure game, really one of the peaks of the genre as a whole, before they were relegated to mediocre Club Penguin sideshows. Time travel, diabolical puzzles, reflections on American history, and a giant purple sludge trying to take over the world (not Pat Fitzgerald)...Day of the Tentacle has it all and does it incredibly well.