Ancient websites for games that somehow still exist

WHAT YEAR IS IT?

I don't know about you, but I used to think anything that went up on the internet would stay there for eternity. Sadly, that's not the case. Servers get switched off, domain names expire, companies go under even technology becomes obsolete. But sometimes, old official websites for video games slip through the cracks and remain live for years after their useful life.

The beauties you see now are like fossils, lurking below the bedrock of cat pictures and fertilising surface mulch of Oculus Rift Photoshops. And they aren't just cached or retrieved from WayBackMachine. These old video game websites are still live, right now (at the time of writing, at least), offering a perfect time capsule of what the net used to be like. So let's do this. Let's time travel!

Animal Crossing (2004)

The Gamecube's Animal Crossing website was designed to look like a newspaper - and feels exactly like reading an old paper, too. Excited prose explains how features like multiplayer work. You have to insert your friend's memory card into slot B, then you can visit their town. WHAT? You can trade items with friends, but Tom Nook has to give you a special code that you type into your game to redeem. DOUBLEWHAT? I'm suddenly incredibly grateful the last 10 years happened.

It's also amazing how much Animal Crossing itself has changed. I mean, considering it hasn't really changed at all, just look at the malformed monstrosities that passed for cute animal residents back then. If anything makes me glad that New Leaf exists, it's this website. Still, nicely done, even if it does seem to be the first version of the site that was surely supposed to be updated. Why haven't the 'coming soon' boxes been filled up? Most odd.

Visit the site here.

Sonic Adventure (1998)

Sonic Adventure was THE most exciting video game in 1998. No, I'm serious. It was the first AAA quality title of the 128-bit generation. Look, OK, that might just have been me. But it has a website. It still has a website. In it, you'll find some still-great screenshots, lyrics for the cheese-tastic theme music and even the 2.6MB video that brought my college's net connection to a standstill in when it took an entire lunchtime to download.

Unfortunately for most people reading this, everything is in Japanese, with the occasional English word in CAPS for emphasis. But at least if you click through the links, it's pretty obvious what you're looking at. There are even some pre-release screens that show things that didn't make it into the final game. And look at the production values. They spent millions on the game, but about 100 Yen on the website, it would seem

Visit the site here.

Metroid Prime (2003)

This website won Macromedia Site of the Week AND Site of the Day on March 29, 2003, according to the banner proudly displayed on the landing page. This is gonna be good. And you know what? It really is! There's a first-person, pseudo-3D flash game to play, where you explore Tallon IV, uncovering suit and weapon upgrades, which play little video clips from the game itself, showing the features in action.

The video clips may be small, but they're of surprisingly decent quality considering the age of this site. And the fact that the game element still works (albeit with a slow-loading server at the other end) makes this worthy of a visit, if only to remember when Metroid Prime was the coolest thing in the world.

Visit the site here.

Ridge Racer: Type 4 (1999/2001)

Yes, it's Ridge Racer. I know. But we have to stop saying it one of these days. Besides, there's something more important to say here: Please be warned that while the site still works just fine (and that even includes the Shockwave-powered animations), minutes after I'd visited this page, Windows stopped working on my PC. Twice. Coincidence? Windows doesn't normally crash on me. So maybe it's best if you take my word for it that this one still works, rather than check it out.

But it really does still work. Look at those little tiles of joy. There's even a short loop of music from the game, which keeps playing forever. This site must have looked sensational back in 1998. Just like Ridge 4 itself did. Aww, man - I love that game. I'm gonna totally add this site to my web ring.

Visit the site here.

Ico (2001)

Clearly nobody was expected to have any screen resolutions larger than a postage stamp in 2001, because this is tiny. But what a treasure trove. For starters, it's brilliant fun reading promotional words trying to explain a game you now know everything about. "Ico is a very different game. It's an adventure game but it has a look and feel that's worlds away from many other adventure titles." No kidding.

But this website actually has a Flash game built into it. It's a bit like Chu Chu Rocket in that you have to guide an automatically-running character by changing the environment in this case moving blocks. As you do so, Yorda's cage gets closer to being within reach. That game doesn't work in every modern browser, but Chrome seems to run it just fine. Is it anything like Ico's gameplay? Hell no. But still, it's a curio and it's amazing it still works.

Visit the site here.

Mario Kart: Double Dash (2003)

Well that's one way of handling screen resolution. This is actually a remarkably slick website, allowing you to choose your favourite character pairing from four options at the start, which customises the colour scheme of the site accordingly. So Web 2.0, it hurts.

Sadly, the music loops waaaay too quickly. You can turn it off, but wait! There's also the option to change it, shifting between 50cc music, 100cc music and 150cc music. All dire, but also better than 10cc music. Yes, you're welcome. But even more sadly, there used to be some kind of Flash game called 'Racing Challenge'... but I can't get it to load. Probably no great loss.

Visit the site here.

The Bouncer (2001)

This early PS2 title may just be a brawler starring a guy who looks exactly like Sora from Kingdom Hearts but it deserves better than to be lost to the mists of time. Square-Enix must think so too, because its original website is still live. It's actually not half bad. But it is 'half a screen' these days.

It's actually a multimedia fest with a Flash animation, complete with raucous music and even a Flash game. That part doesn't work on my machine apparently you'll need Shockwave ver 7.0.2 to make it work. I don't think anybody's had that since colonial times. Similarly, there are videos (using what must have been massive file sizes at the time), but they use Quicktime 4. And an ancient version of RealVideo. I feel so old.

Visit the site here.

Ape Escape 2 (2003)

I was a little disappointed that I couldn't find a website for the original Ape Escape, but the totally-forgotten PS2 sequel is still cocooned in the world wide web, unable to break from its sticky prison, preserved exactly as it was in 2003.

The site appears to be rather basic at first, but it has its moments. The spinning monkey head that transitions between sections of the site is the dictionary definition of 'zany', there's a secret section of artwork if you get a password from doing well in the game itself (clever) and even two 'delectable' recipes for banana-based smoothies. Show me a modern site that does THAT. In fact, I'm off to make one. I'll probably post a pic of it on LiveJournal.

Visit the site here.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Justin worked on the GamesRadar+ staff for 10 whole years. Imagine that. Now he is a contributor, specialising in racing games, retro, and Sanic.
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