Some videogames succumb to the ravages of time in a matter of years, but certain classics are more than capable of standing up over time, even managing to hold up quite nicely by modern standards.
At the rate technology moves, a truly timeless videogame is no mean feat – it’s a testament to everything from the quality of the sound and visuals, to the design and control.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the following games – all stone cold classics that are every bit as fun to play today as they were when they were first released.
Super Mario World
Both Super Mario Bros and Super Mario Bros 3 still totally hold up, but neither one has stood up to the test of time quite as brilliantly as the seminal Super Mario World for SNES.
Maybe it’s the gorgeous 16 bit graphics that still look great today, or the impeccable sound design – maybe it’s just that Super Mario World remains an absolute blast to play, and still offers more fresh ideas in one level that most modern platformers can manage in an entire game.
Whatever the case, Super Mario World is still the definitive 2D platformer for many gamers to this day. Long may it reign.
Sonic The Hedgehog
Much like Super Mario World, the original Sonic the Hedgehog is kept young largely thanks to the ageless quality of bright 16 bit visuals, and one of the greatest videogame soundtracks of all time.
Seriously, Green Hill Zone’s music will forever remain burned into the joy receptors of every single gamer of a certain age – it’s truly magical.
But look beyond the obvious, and the gameplay of Sonic the Hedgehog has – surprisingly – aged wonderfully. With the upcoming release of Sonic Mania, it would seem SEGA agrees that the retro days were some of Sonic’s best.
Where the shortcomings of the blue blur’s modern exploits often become apparent after a very short time (the Adventure games have aged poorly), the original Sonic remains a masterclass in tight, speedy platforming.
What more even needs to be said about the behemoth that is Tetris? First unleashed upon the world in 1984, it’s arguably the perfect videogame: Instantly accessible, difficult to master, and more addictive than crack.*
Oh, and there’s a soundtrack that will remain lodged in your brain for all of time. Sometimes, when I close my eyes late at night, all I can see is rows upon rows of falling blocks, accompanied by that damn music.
There have been many, many, many versions of Tetris over the years, but there’s a good reason the essence of the game has literally been unchanged across each iteration.
*crack is probably more addictive than Tetris, but I can’t say for sure.
A Link To The Past
To many, The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past remains the ultimate Zelda title in the same way that Super Mario World is still the ultimate plumbing adventure.
It has the distinction of being the first truly massive leap forward for the series, introducing a set formula and gameplay elements that remain with the franchise today – something that even Nintendo is now starting to see might be a problem.
Still, A Link to the Past came years before the Zelda series started to go a bit stale, and some of the ideas on display (now decades old) still somehow feel as fresh as ever in this SNES epic.
Oh, and it’s yet another game that benefits from the timeless visual quality of the Super Nintendo era – it’s still very pretty.
Street Fighter 2
Capcom’s Street Fighter franchise is probably the most well known and well loved videogame scrap simulator around (though an argument could be made for Tekken).
The pioneering brawler was remarkably refined for the time, and laid the groundwork for the likes of Mortal Kombat and Marvel Vs Capcom – a gorgeous visual style and easy to pick up/difficult to master controls also helped to ensure that Street Fighter 2 would remain one of the greats for years to come.
In fact, if you can pick up and play Street Fighter 2, then pretty much every modern Street Fighter game will be instantly accessible to you – that’s some pretty fucking good design right there.
Diablo III was initially a smash (after some initial hiccups anyway) but hardcore fans of the series quickly realised there wasn’t much to keep them playing – something even Blizzard acknowledged.
Diablo II, on the other hand is still being played over a decade after its release. For the most part, it controls and runs like a dream, and while technically inferior to Diablo III it just has a certain kind of charm I can’t quite put my finger on.
Still, the fact that Diablo II is playable after a decade, whereas Diablo III left me cold after a year definitely counts for something.
Banjo Kazooie is probably one of the only Nintendo 64 games that has aged gracefully – it turns out polygons really don’t hold up well over time – who knew?
Thankfully, the level of polish and attention given to Rare’s platforming masterpiece has paid off over the years. The stylised graphics haven’t aged as well as a 16 bit game might have, but Banjo’s colourful world remains relatively easy on the eye compared to games like Ocarina of Time and Super Mario 64, which really show their age these days.
On top that, it was probably the first 3D platformer to really nail tight, precise controls, and a camera that actually worked more than half the time – incredible.
Fallout may be a very different beast now that Bethesda is running the show, but for my money, all the best parts of Fallout 3, 4, and New Vegas come from the timeless classic that is the original Fallout.
The isometric camera view may not be as immediately engaging or immersive as the full 3D worlds of latter Fallout titles, but stick with the original and you’ll quickly find yourself drawn into a world of fascinating moral choices and incredible characters.
Fallout truly is an iconic RPG with an ageless quality. Long after Fallout 4 begins to show its cracks (some would say it already has) the original will remain a firm favourite for many a gamer.
It really isn’t an easy task, to design a videogame that will remain ‘timeless’. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with being one of the greatest games of the moment, year, or even decade – but to be the kind of game that kids will pick up and love 20/30 years later… that’s something special.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.