20 Classic Games That Desperately Need to be Remade on Next-Gen Consoles
After 7 years, next-gen consoles are finally making an appearance and tempting us with incredible entertainment technology like individually modelled paint flecks and completely reversible marketing campaigns.
It's notable that, for all the shiny new graphics, oomph under the hood and the revolutionary ability to watch other people playing instead of doing it yourself, triple-A console games tend to come in very few flavours, mostly falling into one or more of the following categories:
- Alpha-male seeks to shoot the world in the face whilst simultaneously blowing it all up.
- Delinquent seeks to drive really fast whilst admiring new paint job (now with aforementioned paint flecks).
- Devious sneak seeks to murder folk with his bare hands and/or a variety of amusing tools.
Granted, there are a few outliers involving the recreation of sports fantasies or pantheons of faux-Disney characters, but that doesn't suit the purposes of this flimsy segue into calling for the resurrection of some classic games left abandoned in the forgotten crypts of the last century.
Games From the Past, Technology From the Future
What if next-gen console gaming technology were applied to the simpler (and lets face it, better) game concepts of yesteryear? Don't let smartphones have all the retro fun.
Like the title says, these games desperately need to be made. How desperately? We've got Kevin the Gameskinny word jedi tied up in the stationery cupboard and we're not even going to let him take a toilet break until the following demands are met:
- We receive a firm commitment from the game industry that all of the following concepts will happen.
- Kevin stops claiming that digital witchcraft can heal the world.
That's how desperately.
Here's a countdown of our top 20 classics desperate for a reboot:
Space is full of rocks, one of which may well kill us all. After all, they already took out the dinosaurs and Bruce Willis. They've got to go – all of them – to ensure the survival of our species.
A case could be made that the creation of the Asteroids arcade game in 1979 was due to a primordial defensive instinct. It was one of the first commercial arcade games created and ensured that the initial generation of game players were groomed to cultivate a deep suspicion of moving rocks.
This ancient enmity has been borne out through the ages as man has mined rock and rock has fallen on man. The threat is ever present and this training should continue so that when the day comes, the human race will be ready.
Modern games machines could support a far more involved plot which could see players work together to formulate complex strategies to cull any encroaching asteroids. They could follow in the footsteps of the greats voices of the anti-Asteroid movement; with the option to adopt the Sean Connery (Meteor) and Morgan Freeman (Deep Impact) roles as leaders of men or take the more hands on approach and go toe-to-toe with the evil space pebbles as exemplified by Willis (Armageddon) and Duvall (Deep Impact).
“The sleek spacecraft bursts through the cloud cover, screaming down toward the harsh alien landscape. The vessel unleashes a barrage of weapon fire, eviscerating a squad of descending invaders as the pilot scans the landscape for signs of stranded humans. Beyond a mountaintop in the distance, another wave of invaders can be seen rising to escape velocity, their bellies full of prisoners ripe for their ungodly experimentation. The pilot slams the thrusters to full, locks on and primes the smart bomb...”
Defender (1980) was a sideways scrolling, frenetic shooter that saw a single ship attempting to thwart the abduction of astronauts stranded on the planet surface below. All the classic gaming tropes were present: 3 lives, a high score table and difficulty that just kept cranking until your nerves were shot.
Defender has seen numerous reinventions over the years, from LucasArts' 3D Rescue on Fractalus! (1984) and updates, with the most recent being a 3D version released in 2002.
But a decade later, a next-gen Defender could be a frantic multiplayer game featuring competitive teams (alien abductors versus human defenders) who fight an aerial conflict and when shot down become stranded on the ground until rescued or abducted – cue impromptu “Enemy Mine” survival sub-games.
Gorf was a bastard.
Probably a potty-mouthed abusive bastard, but no one could tell what he was going on about with unintelligible robotic speech which made a Speak-and-Spell seem eloquent. It was hard enough to understand this revolutionary synthesised voice in a quiet room. In a busy, bleeping amusement arcade, there was no chance.
There is little doubt this multi-levelled shoot-em-up was a troll from beginning to end. As well as the use of the (barely) spoken word, the brazen disrespect of its peers was easy to see, with the earlier Space Invaders and Galaxians both clearly being ripped off. Sorry, paid homage.
Even the name probably stands for something rude. They claim it was 'Galactic Orbiting Robot Force', but there are doubts.
Since Gorf's heyday, internet culture has embraced his trolling ways and it's time the pugnacious robot invader came back to show us earthlings how it's really done.
And now there's so much material to which he can “pay homage.” In a satirical rampage, Gorf could become the Wayans brothers of the games industry, weaving incomprehensible dialogue into retreads of classic shooters like Battlefield, Call of Duty and Medal of Honor but with Robots! From Space!
17. Space Harrier
At the dawn of the 3D gaming age in 1985, Space Harrier stood head and shoulders above all else. Mainly because it cheated by having the denim-wearing hero fly with the aid of a half-pomegranate into a pseudo-3D world populated by bizarre sprites.
Space Harrier also has the dubious distinction of being an early adopter of using the third-person perspective to enable the main character to block your view of whatever it was you were trying to look at or shoot.
The gameplay was little more than a glorified tech demo with no coherence. The randomness of the action and the bizarreness of the enemies suggests that the game design was largely based on the strategic application of hallucinogens to programming staff.
Space Harrier updated for the current generation could do the world a huge favour and deal a killing blow to the narcotics industry by providing a trippy experience that'll make you think you're travelling back through time to Woodstock on a magic carpet made from John Lennon's nosehair.
Berzerk was the original hard mode.
“Coins detected in pocket!” would be your summons to the arcade cabinet. It was a simple maze game requiring the player to guide his avatar through a sequence of randomly generated rooms and corridors in a hopeless quest to escape the army of hostile robots encountered at every turn.
It wasn't impossible, but standing still was never an option. The enemy robots would fire indiscriminately yet accurately, often destroying their brethren or hitting the electrified walls, and they were relentless. But that wasn't the problem. The player could return fire or trick the robots into robocide.
The big problem was Evil Otto – quite possibly the most fear-inspiring single-colour sprite in the universe. Perhaps a direct ancestor of System Shock's SHODAN and Portal's GlaDOS, Evil Otto would appear on screen after a short period and home in relentlessly on the player's stick man avatar.
Evil Otto couldn't be bargained with. He couldn't be reasoned with. He didn't feel pity, or remorse, or fear (in fact the smug circle would smile the entire time). And he absolutely would not stop, ever, until you are out of lives.
Evil Otto pre-dated James Cameron's Terminator by 4 years. Coincidence?
The ever-present fear of what was behind you - that unbeatable inevitability – cranked the pressure up to joyously intolerable levels.
Bring Evil Otto back. Give Halo's Master Chief a run-out into an electrified maze of killer robots with the constant knowledge that something truly terrifying is somewhere behind him, then we'll see how evolved his combat is.
Once a manic but mindless chase around an endlessly repeating maze populated by ghosts, pills and fruit, the tale of The Pac-Man could be rebooted to become a terrifying psychological horror and a cautionary tale for our time...
The tragic tale of a man trapped in his own mind, his sanity slipping from him. His reality shifts as he desperately tries to cling to what is real. What is real? The walls? The fruitbowl?
The tablets aren't helping. The doctor said it was dangerous to stop taking them so he keeps popping them in like an obedient little patient; one little, bland, stabilising, corrupting pill at a time.
The images of his past whisper to him. They slide along the walls, their gaunt faces and silently screaming mouths coming closer as their outstretched arms threaten to snatch away his mind once and for all.
A relapse? The other pills. Take the other pills. Chase the ghosts away.
But they'll be back. He knows it.
How long can this go on?
Aah-aah-ooh-aah. Wup. wup.
Freefall was a zero-gravity beat-em-up set in a critter infested airlock. In fact, it's creator claims it was the very first beat-em-up and he went on to co-create the genre-defining space-sim Elite, so who are we to argue?
Given the available technology, Ian Bell did a fantastic job of creating a tense, atmospheric environment, as the player takes control of an astronaut who is floating inside a rotating space station and preparing to fight off the incoming alien hordes with his hands and feet.
It was a groundbreaking game on many levels, from the fidelity of the collision detection to the granularity of the control system (3 thruster buttons, 4 limb attack buttons and a grab control). The finely balanced game design sees the astronaut struggle against increasing station rotation, ebbing energy levels, alien toxins and bombs.
In its day, the physics were astounding, but today the concept could be taken to a whole new level. A dark space station, zero-gravity, ambient sound and lighting and full limb Kinect could see a new generation of sci-fi heroes fighting against space bats and star crabs.
13. Donkey Kong
The birthplace of a certain irritating Italian plumber (originally called Jump Man), Donkey Kong was the legendary platform game which really put creator Shigeru Miyamoto – and Nintendo - on the map.
The premise was simple; scale the girders and dodge the barrels hurled by the titular giant ape in order to save Pauline from Donkey Kong's presumably unwelcome advances.
Now revisit this concept on the Mirror's Edge 2 free-running engine and boy, have you got yourself a game. Complex and devious puzzles, high risk decisions requiring split-second reactions – they'd all be part of a fully realised 3D world where the winner can be the first to have the opportunity to analyse the true nature of the relationship between Donkey Kong and Pauline in the examination of a complex love triangle to put Mass Effect to shame.
Why not go further? Make it competitive multiplayer with a race along multiple routes to the top. Oculus Rift support and streamed player-cam footage could result in hilarity as flustered players fall repeatedly to the floor suffering episodes of digitally-induced vertigo.
Of course, Mirror's Edge could go one step crazier...
12. Chuckie Egg
Chuckie Egg: the ultimate retro platform game for self-harmers.
This game was like being able roleplay a hyperactive child during a chocolate egg binge at Easter. There was something immensely satisfying about being able to throw your fat little avatar around the monochrome levels, stealing eggs with absolute confidence that you would careen and bounce gleefully without fear of death.
Unless you landed on a sinister purple ostrich, then it was game over. Progressing through the first nine levels would see you repeat the layouts, but this time with the previously caged giant yellow duck who had been observing your antics patiently from the corner of the screen. Now possessed with the spirit of Berserk's Evil Otto, the avian nemesis ignores all terrain, bouncing relentlessly in pursuit of the egg-snatching player.
This is another total conversion opportunity for the Mirror's Edge 2 engine. A fully-realised 3D version of Chuckie Egg (Chuckie's Edge?) coupled with Kinect technology and a rubber room could deliver awesome livestreaming opportunities for people with no sense of pain.
“Warrior needs food. Badly.”
In 1985, true swords-and-sorcery multiplayer was born with the “hack and slash” dunngeon-crawler, Gauntlet.
Up to four players could join forces to assume the roles of Thor the Warrior, Merlin the Wizard, Thyra the Valkyrie, and Questor the Elf as they slaughtered their way through dozens of dungeon denizens in search of food, potions and treasure. But mostly food.
The true genius was in the multiplayer, with co-ordinated tactics and friendly fire becoming critical to the success or failure of the team.
It is amazing to think that, despite the incredible success of Gauntlet, the games players of the world never again got to enjoy the thrill of playing the role of a sword-wielding warrior, a pointy-hatted wizard or green-garbed elf.
After Gauntlet and a number of weak ports to other platforms, the swords and sorcery fantasy genre disappeared forever, leaving the world to wonder how the modern gaming landscape would look if games developers had possessed the foresight to churn out endless faux-medieval multiplayer games in a desperate attempt to produce yet another retread of the tired World of W... Gauntlet concept.
Now is the opportunity for that oversight to be corrected. Surely the world needs more elf-worrying men in leather skirts.
In what was undoubtedly the most long-sighted and ambitious viral marketing campaign in media history, the origins of man as told by the 2004 Battlestar Galactica reboot had the first seeds planted in 1984.
In the closing scenes of the incredible sci-fi drama, see William Adama watching primitive humans as the viewer comes to terms with the fact that Cylon and Humans share the same origin. The series also introduced a new pre-watershed expletive in the exclamation, “frak!”
The platform game, Frak!, was a deceptively simple tale of a caveman called Trogg who must negotiate his way across treacherous levels with only a yo-yo to help defend against the incoming daggers, rising balloons and menacing but static poglets and hooters. Three keys must be located on each level before progressing to the next. There were only three levels.
Somehow, this is all a metaphor for humanity's struggle against the Cylons and its own nature. The seeds were planted so long ago and now it is time for the final mystery to be unravelled on next-gen consoles as Trogg the foul-mouthed caveman reveals his undeniable link to the lexicon of BSG.
Was Starbuck a poglet all along?
Combat was bundled in with the 1977 of the popular Atari VCS and was the Wii Sports of its day – although other games were released for the console, Combat was always the one which got loaded up at Christmas.
Combat family round-robins would result in a gleeful caterwauling of childish screams as annoying younger siblings (and nonplussed parents) were utterly crushed by unstoppable superiority of the young Generation X gaming geek. At least that's the way I remember it.
A return to these competitive times could be enhanced with livestreamed webcam feeds showing the face-chewing rivalry and sneering hatred that can only come from competing siblings.
We don't want to see random strangers competing in some professional eSports nonsense.
In a reality TV phenomenon, which could become the Hunger Games of our day, we could watch as once united families are torn apart in the blissful dance of armoured helldeath.
Multiplayer quick matches might see father versus son, children versus parents, or a bloodthirsty race to kill Grandma as she reverses into another wall.
Let the little sisters spend their pocket money on micro-transactions to add pink armour and frilly caterpillar tracks before they are eviscerated by the wiser brother's choice of the high explosive rounds and a bigger cannon. Hell, let them buy ponies. Gee-gees in a tank deathmatch would be comedy gold.
May shell velocity be forever in your favour.
Frogger (1981) is another simple game concept which could benefit from a next-gen update.
The premise of getting wildlife across busy man-made or natural structures has so much potential depth and scalability it seems incredible that its never been expanded upon. Levels could vary hugely; types of road and traffic conditions, canals, rivers, lava streams, stampedes (The Lion King level could be hilarious), civil unrest, warzones and so on.
Equally, the stable of animals doesn't need to be restricted to frogs. Why not have an enraged rhino on a busy interstate or a vampire bat passing through a fireworks display?
Opponents could take control of the environment, unleashing elephant-stopping monster trucks, gazelle catching poachers or turncoat dogs.
Whilst researching this piece, I looked up the recently released Animal Crossing thinking it might already fill this niche, but instead I found a twee little cuddly game which seems to be Sim City for carebears. There is apparently zero possibility of roadkills, so I'm not sure where the animal crossing actually takes place.
Get the folks behind Happy Tree Friends involved in Animal Crossing: Roadkill Revenge and we could be on to something.
7. Missile Command
Taking the cold war-fuelled concepts behind Missile Command (1980) is nothing new. There's been no shortage of nukes in video games. However, with clever marketing and a complete lack of ethics, international enmities and brand rivalries could be gamified (Gamificated? Gamerised? How the hell do you conjugate a non-word like gamification?)
Imagine a tactical world map with each country or region showing the number of console owners online at any given time. Players could target entire regions or specific individuals to launch a salvo.
The targeted player or players would then be notified of an impending nuclear strike, which they would be required to fend off. They could do so actively by playing the free version of Missile Command (which ships with every console) or passively by paying a premium for a nuclear defence system.
Failure to repel the strike will result in the console being powered off (even if they're playing a different game) for a period of time depending on the severity of the strike, creating an infuriating yet oh-so-compelling nuclear/gaming winter. People would hate it, but you do realise this article isn't entirely serious, right?
Really, this is a concept that would have worked amazingly well with Microsoft's previous always online policy for the Xbox One, but a multiplatform nuclear cold war between an Xbox-prevalent US, a PS4-heavy Europe and an Asian Wii U would be meta-gaming gone mad.
“Shall we play a game?” - Joshua, War Games (1983)
(A note to any morally flexible marketing folks actually considering this: think of all the units you could shift when a losing territory realises the only way they can ensure regional domination and uninterrupted gaming is if they buy all their friends and family the same platform. I now right? Macro-transaction exploitation to the max! Ethics be damned, suck those whales dry! Going to hell doesn't scare you, does it?)
6. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back
After being entranced by George Lucas' re-imagining of the Battle of Britain in the final act of Star Wars: A New Hope in 1977, all boys wanted to be X-Wing pilots when they grew up. Sadly the technology wasn't yet available to make that possible.
The very first Star Wars video game was based on the sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, which opened with another battle against seemingly overwhelming forces. Plucky Snowspeeder pilots took to the icy wastes of the planet Hoth in a desperate attempt to slow the unstoppable approach of Imperial Walkers.
In 1982, Parker Brothers released the game of every boy's dreams and gave us the chance to fly a slab of snowspeeder-shaped pixels at menacing and blocky AT-AT pixels. The Star Wars legacy grew and dozens of games have been seen since, with the focus rightly returned to the iconic X-Wings and TIE Fighters.
Arguably still among the best Star Wars titles were the X-Wing and TIE-Fighter series, which saw the progress of a single pilot's career in a developing mission-based storyline.
Admittedly, the Battlefront series have explored elements of the Battle of Hoth, but a dedicated Snowspeeder game on a next-gen console would certainly delight many an inner 8-year-old.
A fondly-remembered 80s classic, Joust (1982) gave the world the opportunity to fly giant ostriches and commit multiple murder by tactically sitting on opponents in flight. Apparently the lance every ostrich rider carried was entirely useless in combat, but woe betide anyone who is confronted by a feathery rear-end.
The simple left-right-flap control mechanic was an elegant example of easy-to-learn-hard-to-master gameplay and the two-player versus mode allowed for hours of hilarious bird-bumming.
Over three decades later and a multiplayer flying mount jousting game could set the world alight. Forget World of Warplanes, give us Realm of Mythological Flying Creatures. An accessible control system but a breathtaking flight experience could be a magical and visceral gaming experience.
The player could still start off with a basic lethal-arsed ostrich, but could build a stable of higher tiered trainable creatures, providing a Pokemon-esque collectible appeal and allowing for 1v1 arena combats and team-based sporting events (who said Quidditch at the back? Get out!)
Think dragons, wyverns, griffins, giant eagles, rocs, winged horses, quetzalcoatls, pterodactyls (yes, I know that one's real) and whatever else can be pilfered from the world's story books. A Legends mode could see battles between famous hero creatures; I'd love to see Tolkien's Smaug tearing the stupid grin from the face of that fluffy excuse for a dragon in The Neverending Story.
4. The Sentinel (aka The Sentry)
Games players of yesterday were a different breed. They were designed within much more restrictive technical constraints, but that adversity bred innovation. The strangely terrifying The Sentinel was one such game.
The fully-realised and explorable 3D worlds that we take for granted today were technically unachievable in the early-to-mid eighties. But Sentinel delivered a solid, convincing 3D environment that could be explored via a mechanic whereby the player-controlled Synthoid could transfer its consciousness from one static object to another.
Starting off in a low geographical position, the player was required to build up energy by absorbing trees whose base squares could were in line-of-sight, in order to create a new Synthoid shell at a higher location. Only objects at a lower location could be absorbed.
So far, so proto-Minecraft.
The real thrill came from the presence of the Sentinel, an all-powerful Sauron-like villain located at the highest point on the map, who periodically rotated to face the player with the intent of absorbing him when fully aligned.
Both the player-controlled Synthoid and the Sentinel have inordinately slow turning speeds, meaning each level would become increasingly tense as the ominous sound of the turning Sentinel distracted from the furious absorption and creation process that might lead to the opportunity to turn the tables.
Do you waste time to visually check on the Sentinel's viewing angle or do you press on with your task? How long do you have? The ominous sound of the sentinel shifting his gaze again squeezes more tension. Go on, take a look... Another turn... Fffffff......
Hair on the backs of necks were raised. If you've seen The Grudge or similar Japanese Horror titles, you'll understand the lip-chewing emotion evoked here.
Would today's console audience have the patience for something so measured? I'd like to think so.
3. Captain Blood
I'll be blunt here. French games were often mental.
In the eighties and nineties, video games by French designers generated more consensual WTFs than any other. There were several titles that were as bonkers as they were beautiful.
Captain Blood perhaps used this Franco-lunatic charm to best effect, creating a quite convincingly alien vibe to what can only really be described as perhaps the world's only Diplomacy-em-up.
The story saw the TRON-like digitisation of the player-character, who gets absorbed into his own game about space exploration and the discovery of alien life. In order to escape his digital prison, the player – now dubbed Captain Blood – must track down and destroy five clones of himself. To do so requires locating and interrogating assorted alien species, none of whom speak English.
A complex library of glyphs and icons must be used to establish diplomatic relations with alien ambassadors and unveil the locations of the lost clones.
Captain Blood was like nothing else on the market. It was practically non-violent and a beguiling game experience that I still don't understand to this day. But I remember it like it was some kind of magic.
Tapping into its secret sauce using today's processing power could open doors into a gameplay style which could appeal to an entirely new demographic of video game players.
2. Dig Dug (and Friends)
Digging. It was a thing.
Subterranean shenanigans was once something all the cool kids were doing. Dig Dug started it and gave the gaming world its first fully destructible environment, Mr. Do soon followed and then Repton, Boulder Dash and others.
They all shared a love enclosed spaces, collectible objects and the of dropping rocks on things to solve (and cause) problems.
I posit that this desire to dig is perhaps a primordial drive we all possess, perhaps as part of a foraging instinct. It would certainly explain the success of Minecraft. And every gold rush ever. And the constant presence of roadworks on major highways around the world.
Stimulating the human desire to dig needs more gamification. Although Minecraft has perhaps flirted with the concept, there are a surprising lack of mines involved given the title. Also, the lack of physics allowing players to collapse tunnels and create elaborate traps is perhaps a limitation.
Next-gen consoles could deliver a multiplayer MineBoulderDigCraft, which sees mined resources used to build overground structures, whilst strategic digging can result in the collapse of topside structures or secret entry into enemy fortifications.
Pursuit of geological accuracy should not impede gameplay design, but the odd earthquake might be quite funny.
Possible titles could be Sapper Attack or ClaustroMania.
Probably the one video game everybody has played. Hell, if you've stood in queue, you've technically played Snake – the Alternate Reality Game.
A variation of Snake has appeared on just about every digital device since the dawn of the silicon age. Rumour has it that the only reason Michael Collins, pilot on the Apollo 11 moon-landing mission, didn't get out to stretch his legs was because he was desperately trying to beat Buzz Aldrin's high score on the command module version.
The premise is simple; guide snake to eat food, snake's tail grows, if snake hits own tail, snake dies. It makes no sense - a snake that flawed has little chance of avoiding extinction - but as a simple, single-player game, it was (and still is) incredibly addictive and a part of popular culture. Even being the clear inspiration for TRON's light-cycles.
Snake has become a gaming tradition to reinvent Snake for every generation of gaming platforms. The next-gen platforms could go nuts or just go classic. It doesn't really matter.
Snake is immortal.
Your Favourite Classic, Rebooted...
It has been great fun dreaming up ways to reinvent favourite video games from my childhood. But I'd bet, now you've got to the end, you're thinking "wait, how could he have left out... "
I completely agree. I could have done another 20, but many editing pixies died trying to get through this, so I leave the rest up to you, dear reader.
How would you like to see your favourite classic video game reimagined?