7. Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle
LucasArts released some amazing adventure games in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but few are as beloved as Maniac Mansion and its sequel, Day of the Tentacle. Both are considered high points in the adventure-game genre, and Maniac Mansion was revolutionary by the standards both of graphical adventures and humor in videogames. It’s odd, then, that neither game has appeared on a service like Steam, while later LucasArts adventures, such as Loom enjoy a second life.
Above: Maniac Mansion featured microwavable hamsters long before it was a hipster fad
Maniac Mansion itself can be tracked down if you’re willing to settle for the NES version, which plays OK but saw some censorship at the hands of family focused Nintendo. There’s also Maniac Mansion Deluxe, a fan-created remake that’s free to download online. Day of the Tentacle will cost you a little more, but it can be easily run on modern machines through ScummVM once you have it. It should also be noted that the entire Maniac Mansion is playable from within Day of the Tentacle itself, so it might be worth it to make that investment.
Ideally, LucasArts will take a cue from the recent remakes of Monkey Island 1 and 2 and give Maniac Mansion and Day of the Tentacle the same treatment. While we’re making wishes, it would be nice if somebody also put the old Maniac Mansion TV show on DVD, because we can never get enough cheesy sitcoms from the ‘90s.
8. NiGHTS/Christmas NiGHTS
When NiGHTS: Into Dreams debuted on the Sega Saturn, the genderless jester seemed to have a bright future. The unique flying and platforming game from Sonic Team got great reviews and sold pretty well. There were even a couple comic-book miniseries by Archie Comics. The game was so awesome, in fact, that it had to be bundled with a bulky “3D controller,” because regular controllers just couldn’t handle how amazing the flying was (or the game was just better with analog control. Whichever).
Then a decade passed where NiGHTS was only used as minigame fodder or cameo appearances. In Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing, NiGHTS has the highly esteemed position of “Guy/Girl Who Holds the Flag.” A NiGHTS sequel was finally released on the Wii, which reviewers generally thought was either OK or great, depending on who you asked.
Good luck getting your hands on that original bundle for a reasonable price now, though. Finding the game by itself isn’t too hard, although it could still cost you $30 or more. More valuable and harder to grab is an English version of Christmas NiGHTS, which was essentially a demo disc that featured holiday-themed environments and music if you played it during different times of the year (or just changed the Saturn’s internal clock). That disc still ranks as one of the coolest discs ever included with a magazine.
In a typical case of “Japan got something the rest of us want,” NiGHTS: Into Dreams got remade for the PS2 with widescreen support, all the Christmas NiGHTS content and other nifty features, all for a budget price. Thanks for nothing, Japan.
9. Panzer Dragoon Saga
One of the best RPGs of the Sega Saturn era is also one that the fewest people have had a chance to play. Coming at the tail end of the Saturn’s life, Panzer Dragoon Saga was produced in limited quantities in English-speaking territories and disappeared from store shelves quickly. But even now, Saga is considered to be a fantastic experience, helping to drive up eBay prices to well over $200 for a complete copy of the game.
Above: Saga features some unique combat inspired by more traditional Panzer Dragoon games
The tragedy is that the original source code for Panzer Dragoon Saga was somehow lost. This doesn’t mean a rerelease is entirely out of the question – the game could still be emulated. However, it makes things more difficult, and it makes the likelihood of a port even slimmer. Sega Saturn emulation can be tricky, and it might be hard to convince a company that it’s worth the time and effort.
Case in point, GameTap reportedly has non-exclusive rights to publish Panzer Dragoon Saga, but hasn’t made the release a high priority because of the resources it would take to emulate it. That was the news in 2009, and since then nothing new has been heard about any rerelease efforts. Not the most encouraging thing to hear, but we can dream. Maybe we’ll get a port around the same time we get a Final Fantasy VII remake.
There are a lot of unfortunate cases where Nintendo holds games back from Western releases. But long before campaigns were launch to release games like Xenoblade Chronicles in North America, fans of the Mother series have been flooding the company’s inbox with pleas for those games to receive more attention, starting with Mother 2 (released here as EarthBound).
Above: So is Nintendo’s legal department
Now known as a cult classic, EarthBound didn’t sell well on the SNES outside of Japan, even though it was praised for its humor, pop-culture references and lighthearted RPG gameplay. The inclusion of its hero Ness in Super Smash Bros. helped give the series a little more attention, but it’s never been enough to see English releases of Mother 1+2 or Mother 3 for the GameBoy Advance. Fans have made their own translations available, but that’s not of much use unless you import the Japanese game or are willing to dive into the shady business of emulation.
There were high hopes for a Virtual Console version of EarthBound at the very least (the ESRB even rated it for a US release!), but months went by and it never showed up on the service. Mother uber-fans at Starmen.net have done a great job letting us know what happened. Put concisely, releasing the game exactly as it appeared on the SNES could potentially open Nintendo up to legal trouble (yay, copyright lawyers) and Nintendo absolutely refuses to alter the game in order to rerelease it in English. Barring a miracle, you’ll probably have to pay more than $100 if you don’t already have a SNES copy handy.