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Weekend Hot Topic, part 1: Best retro games to play during lockdown


Super Metroid – the ultimate 16-bit game (pic: Nintendo)

GameCentral readers suggest the best old school games to play in self-isolation, from Elite to Psychonauts.

The question for this week’s Hot Topic was suggested by reader Tenhunter, who asked for suggestions of older games that a modern gamer would still enjoy today. What games have aged well and which ones, even if they’re considered classics, have not?

We had lots of different suggestions, from multiple eras of gaming, with Resident Evil 4 and Super Metroid came up a lot. Although a lot of people were very careful about picking games from the earliest era of 3D gaming.

Perfect suggestion
For me the obvious choice here is Super Metroid. It’s a cast iron classic and it’s one I’ve never heard anyone say anything negative about, to the point where almost everyone seems to consider it perfect. And that’s not a word that gets used about video games often. Especially ones that are 26 years old.

But apart from being a great game it’s also an historically important one that I think many people would be interested in on that level. I see a lot of people are often confused by the term Metroidvania, as neither Metroid or Castlevania are prominent franchises anymore. But here you get to experience the best entry in the Metroid series and fully understand what it’s all about.

You also get a crash course in the absolute pinnacle of 16-bit gaming tech, since Super Metroid came out right at the end of SNES’s life, less than a year before the launch of the PlayStation 1 in Japan. It literally never got any better than this. And no Donkey Kong Country doesn’t count, because it’s all style and no substance, unlike the perfect Super Metroid.
Kilton

Leon vs. Lara
It’s got to be Resident Evil 4. It’s a total masterclass in pacing, which I still play regularly to this day. The rigid controls might frustrate a new player but stick with it, let your gaming brain adjust and you are in for such a thrill ride!

I also find myself regularly returning to the first Devil May Cry and Konami’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles on the Game Boy Advance – it’s like hanging out with old friends!

Just before the lockdown I started replaying the Tomb Raider HD Trilogy on PlayStation 3 (which includes the PlayStation 2’s Legend and Anniversary) and while I’m enjoying them they haven’t aged that well, especially Legend. I find the constant chat of ‘Team Lara’ very annoying now (weak compared to the excellent banter in Uncharted) and the motorcycle bits do go on a bit with the bizarre control option of holding down the X button to accelerate (which actually hurts my thumb!) instead of using a trigger!

Anniversary is better but boy is it tough with all those evil traps threatening to chop or smash Lara to pieces! I’ve also got hold of the Splinter Cell HD Trilogy (only got round to completing the first two on PlayStation 2) so will check them out somewhen!
LastYearsModel

Pre-Skater
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2 on PlayStation 1. Great game, great music (if you are into sort of pre-pop punk). Tricky to get into, hard to master. Works on PlayStation 2 as well, so no extra cost if you own one. Still controls well for the most part and doesn’t look like complete poop on a large HDTV.

Really, any Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater game would do but later games got a big buggy and the music quality started to decline after the third game. Or sub it out for one of the BMX games, Matt Hoffman Pro BMX or Dave Mira Freestyle BMX if you aren’t into skating.

Or if you are feeling musically inclined, Music 2000 on the PlayStation 1. Obviously I am as inspired/talented as one of those factory churned out boy bands, but if you want a cost effective music production software suite then give Music 2000 a go and see what you can turn out. Also works on PlayStation 2 with a PlayStation 1 memory card for saves.
bobwallett

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Sequel preparation
An interesting question this, because you have to take into account a few different things beyond just the game’s quality. I think my pick would be Psychonauts. The controls are a bit wonky, but then they were at the time as well. But otherwise it’s a third person platformer kind of game that should still be fairly accessible for modern games and yet isn’t really like anything else around at the moment.

The story is the best bit but the variety in levels is also really good, with lots of different style that go between puzzles, action, platforming and everything in between. It’s also really funny, which very few games ever are. Plus you get the bonus of be ready for the sequel, which, pre-coronavirus, was still supposed to be out this year.

It seems to be fairly easily available on every format except the Switch too, so it’s quite easy to pick up and definitely worth the £9 it’s going for. One of those games that was ignored when it first came out but is now rightly considered a classic.
Cornish

Elite veteran
I’ve been thinking about all this week and I think my pick would be Elite. There’s lots of fan made clones and such, so it’s easy to get hold of and considering it’s now **checks notes** 36 years old it’s still a lot of fun to play. I first played it on the Amiga, so it was already technically retro by that point. It looked old fashioned next to a lot of my other games but I still really enjoyed it and found myself playing for what must be dozens of hours.

It’s essentially an open world game and one where you play the game however you want. And because there’s very little story you end up making your own, imagining what kind of character you are and why you’re doing the things you’re doing (pirating other innocent ships, if you’re me).

There have bene plenty of games like it since, including its modern sequel, but I found it to be overcomplicated and boring. The original had a fun sense of humour and that’s missing from Elite: Dangerous, which seems to take it all a bit too seriously.
Chapman

Beyond disappointed
One of my favourite retro games is Beyond Good & Evil. It’s not really a clone but it’s one of my favourite Zelda style games and I was really excited to finally see the sequel… until it turned out it didn’t seem to have anything in common with the original. And had the most bizarre potty mouth trailer I’ve ever seen.

I can’t imagine anyway they could’ve put of fans of the original and those that didn’t know what it was any more. And now it’s probably not coming out anyway, or at least I haven’t seen anything new on it for what seems like at least a year now.
Watson

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Discovering a classic
With Final Fantasy 7 in the news at the moment my answer to this would be Chrono Trigger. It’s very well known by role-playing fans but especially in the UK, where it was never released when it originally came out, it’s nowhere near as well known as it should be. But for me it’s easily the best Japanese role-player ever, and miles ahead of any Final Fantasy game.

It was streamlining content years before any others, it doesn’t have random battles, it requires very little level grinding, and it’s not a 100-hour adventure full of padding and collecting crystals. It’s got its story to tell and it does it, and while the plot is a bit convoluted the characters are very strong and memorable and help it feel like a real story, rather than just a bunch of action figures with a back story.

It’s available on DS, PC, and smartphones, so very easy to pick up now. I’d advise it to anyone looking to while away some time during lockdown and learn about one of the true classics of Japanese role-playing. A game that’s had a huge influence but never been quite as famous as it should be.
Maintenance

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

You can also leave your comments below and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter.

MORE: Games Inbox: Final Fantasy 7 fan verdict, Final Fantasy 7-2 sequel, and Alien Isolation 2 dreams

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MORE: Games Inbox: Best Call Of Duty Modern Warfare, Final Fantasy 7 Remake forever, and SNES game on Switch

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