What's old needs to be new again
Repeating the past isn't always a bad thing, and a recent rash of new-school remakes of old-school games have ensured that today's gamers won't forget the classic titles of yesteryear. In the past few years we've gotten reboots (Tomb Raider), remakes ( Rise of the Triad), HD re-skins ( Baldurs Gate: Enhanced Edition , Age of Empires II ), resurrections ( XCOM: Enemy Unknown), reincarnations (Black Mesa), and spiritual successors (Shadow Warrior ).
Not a bad start! But there's no reason to stop there. These 12 classic PC games are just begging for a breath of fresh life—and an introduction to legions of new gamers.
Ah, the best of the Infinity Engine role playing games. Planescape took the focus off combat, focusing instead on dialogue and story. You can even play as a near-pacifist, with the game only requiring you to kill two enemies. It was a bold move that paid off: Over a decade later. Planescape is still rated as one of the best game stories of all time.
An unofficial spiritual successor, Torment: Tides of Numenera, is coming sometime in the near future. Still, Beamdog did a fairly good job of updating the Baldur's Gate games for modern platforms, and a similar project for Planescape (the best of the Infinity Engine RPGs) doesn't seem out of the realm of possibility.
System Shock 2
You want atmosphere? Oh baby, did System Shock 2 have atmosphere—the spooky, derelict spaceship kind of atmosphere, with backstory told through breathless audio logs and ghostly encounters. The sublime gunplay and roleplaying elements could almost be considered icing on the story's delicious cake, if they weren't so juicy in their own right.
The problem is—like so many games on this list—outdated visuals can really hamper the conveyance of that atmosphere, especially if you're not wearing nostalgia-tinted glasses. But hey, System Shock 2 wasn't even on sale through any channels whatsoever until last year, so I guess we should celebrate the minor victories before calling for a reboot. (You can pick it up at GoG.com now.)
Every few years we get an updated version of Myst (including this year, incidentally). But what of its younger, more challenging brother Riven?
When we spoke to creator Rand Miller a few months back, he told us not to hold our breath for a Cyan-crafted remake. The game's simply too big and complex for them to consider building in 3D. All is not lost, however: A fan undertaking, known as The Starry Expanse Project, is slowly crafting the real-time 3D Riven remake I waste every shooting star on.
Is this what it takes? Do I need to call on Disney to make an HD version of Grim Fandango so I can finally and legally buy one of the best games of all time again?
This is Tim Schafer's best adventure game, and Tim Schafer is legendary for his adventure games. Grim Fandango is silly in all the right ways, the writing is simply superb, and its Day-of-the-Dead-inspired art style is iconic. It's a shame you still can't purchase it in any reasonable fashion.
Ah, well. Until the day this itch is scratched, Grim Fandango fans can tease themselves with the colorful, automatically generated poems from the Manny Calavera bot on Twitter.
Descent was released on Steam literally days ago, which reminded me: Descent looks terrible nowadays. Out of all the games on this list, it's probably showing its age the most.
That's incredibly unfortunate, because Descent is still one of the most thrilling games ever released. You pilot your vessel down into the depths of an infested mine, fighting off robots and throwing up because your brain can't decide which way is up anymore in Descent's 3D, no-gravity environment. There's nothing else like it, and there probably never will be.
Unless we get the Descent HD remake we all deserve, that is.
How would cavalry do against tanks? Not well, as it turns out, as Empire Earth proved.
Age of Empires II gets a lot of love, and for good reason, but chances are most real-time strategy players also spent a decent amount of time with Empire Earth back in the day. Where Age of Empires II spanned from the Dark Age to the Renaissance, Empire Earth's tech trees went all the way from the prehistoric age through to the near-future nano age. It made for some great alt-history conquest—and ridiculous scenarios like cavalry-on-tank warfare.
With so many space games on the horizon (Elite: Dangerous, EVE: Valkyrie, Star Citizen, Enemy Starfighter) it seems only fair to call for an appearance from the long-lauded ruler of the space sim genre, FreeSpace 2. The deep space combat of FreeSpace 2 wowed gamers in 1999, thanks to its epic scale and semi-freeform approach to completing missions. Alas, the series has languished since then despite its universal acclaim.
On the other hand the mod community has done such a good job at keeping the game up to date, thanks to Volition's releasing the source code in 2002, that we can maybe let this one lie.
Master of Orion II
The Antarans broke free from prison, and now all they want to do is ruin your day. Crush the dastardly Antarans. Take back their star systems. Blow up their planets. Fight them on land and in the air. Demand tribute. Dabble in diplomacy? Ha! Forget to sleep. Forget to eat. Spend the rest of your life playing Master of Orion 2.
One of the most complex and satisfying 4X games ever developed, Master of Orion 2 made all your dreams of galactic conquest come true. You'll hear people debate whether they prefer Master of Orion 2 or its predecessor, but I prefer the added complexity of the second game. Did I mention you can blow up planets? It'd be sleepless nights all over again if you could do it all in HD.
Clive Barker's Undying
I love horror games, and Undying's tale of World War I veteran Patrick Galloway's hunt for the Undying King is one of the best ever made. Unfortunately, horror games age worse than other genres because lackluster graphics make suspension of disbelief harder. And Undying looks...well, pretty lackluster, especially since this psychological scream-inducer is dressed in a first-person shooter's virtual clothing.
It's unlikely we'll ever see an update to Undying, considering how poorly it sold, but a man can dream for a return to nightmares, can't he?
Chip's Challenge is easily one of the best puzzle games of all time, filled with 149 levels of bloodthirsty monsters, keys, and locked doors a-plenty, and you got it for free. How's that for value? Creator Chuck Sommerville released a semi-successor last year, but it's just not the same. And while we're talking Chip's Challenge, can we get remakes of Jezzball and 3D Pinball, too?
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
There was a time when adventure games ruled over the gaming world, as evidenced by I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream. 1) It's based on a deep and troubling 1968 story by acclaimed sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison. 2) They got the guy who composed the score for The Usual Suspects (John Ottman) to do the music. 3) Harlan Ellison co-designed the game and even voiced one of the characters.
I Have No Mouth's mature subject matter, ethical turmoil, and branching endings would feel right at home in today's market. This game made you question your humanity in pixelated, 1995-era graphics. Imagine how keenly this torturous (in a good way) title would cut if honed to HD sharpness.
Star Wars: X-Wing and Star Wars: TIE Fighter
Rest in peace, LucasArts. You didn't hit it out of the park often, but when you did...
X-Wing and TIE Fighter dropped you square in the space-shoes of a Rebel and Galactic Empire pilot, respectively. These combat "sims" featured some of the most famous spacecraft ever invented, in some of the most famous scenarios ever put to celluloid (Death Star trench run, anyone?). Fans have been clamoring for remakes of these two classics for years now. C'mon, Disney: Rebooting these games would be a license to print money!