Given the turmoil video games have been subject to recently and the coming change that will neuter their ability to wow—the #GamerGate imbroglio and all that—it is high time to revisit some of the immortal classics the platform has spawned.
My purpose, here, is to highlight four games that have not been as heralded as other games and why they deserve positive attention.
The Quest For Glory Franchise
Sierra Online released the first game in this series—Quest For Glory: So You Want To Be Hero?—in the late ’80’s. The adventure-roleplaying series is known for its streamlined gameplay, its funny dialogue, and the ability to import your character—along with skills and gold—into subsequent games.
There are five games in the series. The first game is set in a Bavarian-type valley, the second in a Middle Eastern-style city, the third in an African-style savannah, the final two installments in European-type settings. The gameplay is pretty basic, but it’s very accessible and highly enjoyable. The games are fairly non-linear, with plenty of side quests that complement the major story arc. The development of skills is pretty straightforward and well-done. The open environment with respect to the gameplay was a bit off the beaten path at the time.
The games are known for their funny dialogues and—often—bad puns. Every game in the series has characters who pop up in all the games, and there are quite a few Easter eggs that help maintain series continuity. The first three games are pretty breezy and lighthearted, but the fourth game was much darker than the previous three. The fifth and final game wasn’t as dark as the fourth, and ended the series on a decent note.
Rating: 8 out of 10. Easy, breezy gameplay coupled with fun and engaging dialogue, characters, and story lines. You can find a modern remake of the second installment here.
Fuzzy pickles, anybody?
EarthBound was a Japanese SNES video game first released in America in 1995. It was met with poor reviews and was a cult classic until very recently.
The roleplaying game revolves around a young boy named Ness, who begins the game investigating a meteor crash in his hometown with his dog, Pokey. He discovers an alien force has invaded Earth and has spread hatred around the world, turning humans and animals in violent creatures. He scraps together a rag-tag force of three other people who wield slingshots and frying pans against malicious foes in order to save the world from this hateful alien force.
The game is whimsical in many ways. The save points are telephone calls to Ness’s father; in the same vein, Ness’s father wires money to his bank account after successful battles. The game has many funny quirks and quotes—like the aforementioned “fuzzy pickles” quote—and is generally a difficult game in the body of a lighthearted one.
It might be a simple game in the vein of collecting a finite number of X from dungeons to save the world from evil, but it does it in a way that is satisfying, challenging and—at times—odd and eccentric.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10. Top-shelf game.
Exile 3 was released at some point in the ’90’s by the now-defunct Spiderweb Software. The adventure-roleplaying game was based on people who are cast into the caves and recesses beneath a world’s surface. The first two installments revolve around these people mastering their environment; the third and final game is about a group of these outcasts returning to the surface to save the world from its imminent demise.
The upper-world is divided into roughly six kingdoms, each with a major city and a plague of monsters. The first two kingdoms are plagued by slimes and giant cockroaches, respectively. The game gets harder quickly, as giants and golems are the bane of the later-encountered kingdoms. The final—and walled off from the world—kingdom is a society completely destroyed by vicious alien beasts.
While the graphics and sound effects are rudimentary and very simplistic, the game is of high quality and extremely addictive. The main quest itself is very long and highly engaging, while the number and quality of side quests and endeavors rivals the main quest. The map is incredibly large and the number of random cities and landscapes to explore are countless.
Rating: 9 out of 10. If this game had Skyrim-esque graphics, sounds, and interactions between characters, it would be an easy 10/10.
Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri
Alpha Centauri is a computer game created and developed by Sid Meier—of Civilization fame—which extrapolates past the end of his Civilization games.
The game is a turn-based strategy game where a group of humans leave Earth for a human-friendly desert planet. The colonization project goes awry after the rocket ship explodes, casting the seven distinct factions around the planet. Like Civilization, the ultimate goal is to conquer the other factions, either through conquest, diplomacy, economics, or technology (the Ascent to Transcendence).
The game is extremely engaging. It is much faster-paced than Civilization games, making it more playable. The factions are highly distinct and give rise to radically different techniques for playing as or interacting with them. The technology tree is imaginative and logical. City-development is straightforward and streamlined. Battles are quick and efficient.
The game, in a nutshell, is a perfect turn-based strategy game. With virtually infinite maps with radically-varied environments and faction personalities, the game is not only highly playable in its traditional map, but highly replayable. Unlike Civilization games, which might drag on for some time with slow CPU turns, the game progresses with a quickness unlike most Sid Meier games.
Rating: 10 out of 10. The perfect turn-based strategy game.