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Lost to antiquity: Games that have aged badly

Super Mario 64 (N64)
Yes, we know it’s one of the most important games ever made. And yeah, it’s probably got more imagination than all of 2006’s games put together. But put aside your rose-tinted specs for a minute and you'll see the truth: time has not been kind on Mario 64.

How many times do you find yourself slipping down a featureless slope or swimming slowly towards hard-to-grab coins? Mario’s movement may be versatile but it’s a bit clunky and slippery compared to Galaxy. The levels may have multiple goals but this now feels like the cleverest of clever ways to elongate game time. And once you’ve finished it, there’s little reason to go back.

The Mario character model looks awful too - not because of the technical issues, but rather because he was yet to take on the familiar proportions we know and love. The sound quality is now abysmal and the game looks incredibly blurry. Sure, you can play it on Wii where it’s much sharper, but this just exaggerates the angular nature of the environments.

Perhaps the most telling thing is that while gaming newbies can still easily be introduced to Super Mario Bros on NES or Mario Kart 64, trying to show someone today why Mario 64 is so great is very difficult. It’s lost its universal appeal. And we have to admit, we’re starting to feel it too.

 Above: The Wii version is sharper and of course there are some genius moments. But would you really choose to play this instead of Galaxy?

Virtua Fighter (Arcade, Saturn, 32X)
Considering its siblings Virtua Cop and Virtua Racing are still just as playable now as they always were, it’s surprising the original 3D fighter has aged so badly.

Forget the fact that the fighters look like cardboard boxes and the closest we get to any detail is floppy 3D hair (basically a collection of triangles) - the gameplay has aged very badly too. Where are all the moves? Where’s the finesse in the fighting? The speed? The parries and guard breaks?

Granted, there are some recognisable throws, and at least there’s a feeling of solidness about the contact between boxy fist and face… but the crucial thing is the adaptability of the animation. In that, you know, there isn't any. Make a wrong move and you can't seamlessly transition into another. And so it was surpassed by its sequel immediately and has been left behind by everything else. Play VF2 if you want some retro goodness - it’s still lightning fast and deeper than the Grand Canyon. But avoid this.

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10 comments

  • TitaniumDragon - June 21, 2014 7:19 p.m.

    I have to disagree with Mario 64's appearance here. I have indeed played it semi-recently (I actually tried it again after I played the first Super Mario Galaxy, to see if I was right about stuff), and, well, I have to disagree with your assessment of the situation. It is true that the environment is blocky and low res, and it doesn't look great, but it doesn't look anywhere near as bad as PSOne games did. It does have early 3D game syndrome, but... On the other hand, the assessment of the gameplay is wrong. Mario 64's worlds are much more cleverly built than Super Mario Galaxy's, and the fact that you could genuinely go for almost all of the stars right off the bat - being rewarded for exploring, and actually being ABLE to explore, which are both vital in 3D games - was huge. Super Mario Galaxy is very linear and tightly constrained, while Mario 64's more open-ended environments made the game feel a lot more open. Super Mario Galaxy may be "3D", but Super Mario 64 IS 3D. It allows you to explore and go off in any which way (well, almost) and to do stuff out of order. There are shortcuts and sidecuts and ways backwards in the level and it all feels very built up, whereas Super Mario Galaxy feels much more unnatural and very linear by comparison. Not to say that Super Mario Galaxy doesn't have better graphics - it does - but as far as gameplay goes, Super Mario Galaxy is the inferior game. Super Mario 64 isn't perfect, but it is a lot better than its successor.
  • Urameshi - February 6, 2010 3:21 p.m.

    Of course Sonic Adventure is aged, now that's been over 10 years since its release! ¬¬
  • werten32 - July 22, 2014 8:31 a.m.

    Well people still seem to think its one of the best games in existence.
  • Chiropteran - November 24, 2008 1:01 p.m.

    I played Tempest. I thought it was great ... then. Sigh. I still have PS1 games I haven't tried yet. Makes me wonder if I really want to. Except for those features which praise some old games for being so great. Some of which I have. And haven't played yet....
  • blammm - November 25, 2008 12:31 a.m.

    It sounds to me this author doesn't know how to appreciate old games. Not all of the games here have "aged badly". If it weren't for Tomb Raider, 3D Puzzle Action performers we have today wouldn't be as we know it. I enjoy playing Tomb Raider even as of today. And Double Dragon? CRAP? Yeah, I question your taste.
  • werten32 - July 22, 2014 11:51 a.m.

    He isn't insulting old games hes just saying these games are harder to play for one reason or another. When a game has aged badly it does not mean its bad. For example, i still think FF7 is a good game, but the graphics have aged badly so its harder to play
  • tre3 - January 26, 2009 3:04 a.m.

    Why is Orcarina of Time not mentioned, that games is great but, it's starting to get hard to look at
  • MitsuharuSan - December 23, 2008 8:59 p.m.

    MK2 on this list? BLASPHEMY! Damn, it's even way better than the 3D MK games. I'm even willing to say that MK truly died when it became 3D! Really. PS.: I remember going nuts with the non-ending Gauntlet.
  • Stabby_Joe - January 13, 2009 7:49 p.m.

    Erm... Oblivion? Riiiiight...
  • Ravenbom - January 12, 2009 5:25 a.m.

    Yeah, I fired up the old PS2 a couple months ago to play a PS classic, Twisted Metal 2, and I couldn't even tell what the hell was going on. This article is mostly showing how graphics don't age like fine wine, but some older games are almost unplayable because they hadn't figured out standard 3D control schemes. Especially before dual analog controls. The first Armored Core has probably the worst control scheme ever made, but up until Resident Evil 4, that series had some of the worst controls ever. And MGS still has some of the worst 3D controls, and until MGS3 Subsistence, had the one of the worst 3D cameras, and we still forgive Kojima. Of course, we probably forget because we're watching more than we're playing.

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