It’s not hugely uncommon for some games – indie titles in particular – to partially market themselves by proclaiming their 16 or 8-bit inspirations. For those who’ve played those inspirations it’s an effective shorthand for what this new experience is probably going to feel like, instantly building interest and expectation for the new title.
While some games set their sights on emulating a pure old-school experience warts and all, others take the best parts of games past and use their foundation to create something special, marrying the classic gameplay of the past with the innovations of the present.
In no particular order, these are 5 Games That Remix The Classics Right!
(Steam) – Mega Man X
So Mighty No. 9 was a disappointment. A great concept brought down by countless behind-the-scenes issues that lead to what should have been the grand return of classic Mega Man gameplay looking decidedly average.
Luckily enough, those who enjoyed Mega Man X’s gameplay already have a superb Early Access game out there that pays homage to the Blue Bomber’s SNES days and then some – Batterystaple & Fire Hose Games’ 20XX.
20XX is a modern spin on the Mega Man X series’ distinctive action-platforming gameplay, adding roguelike elements (e.g. plenty of unlockable stat-boosting items), two playable characters with distinct gameplay styles, procedurally generated levels and both online and local co-op. Like pretty much all roguelikes it’s tough as nails, but each run provides more than enough fun to keep you (and a friend) coming back for more, and with the game set to leave Early Access on August 16th, it seems there’s only more content to come.
If Mighty No. 9 is a Kickstarter game gone bad, Yacht Club Games’ Shovel Knight is a Kickstarter game gone very right indeed.
Shovel Knight is a retro-styled 2D action platformer that wears its inspirations on its sleeve, gleefully blending Mega Man’s hazardous environments, gauntlet stage design and weighty platforming with Castlevania’s frantic 2D melee combat and a sprinkling of Duck Tales’ insanely fun, bouncy dive attacks. In addition to that you’ve got some welcome modern touches too – plenty of quirky, memorable characters, a Souls-esque mechanic that gives you a chance to recoup the gold lost after death and a brilliant soundtrack that’s inspired by the distinctive NES sound, but not constrained by its limitations – much like its gorgeous retro visuals.
Shovel Knight himself has grown into a classic character all of his own, seemingly emblematic of great indie success – especially if the ludicrous number of cameo appearances he’s made in other games is any indication.
With the Treasure Trove edition of the game adding all of the current and future expansion campaigns alongside local co-op for the base game, if you’re looking for some old school fun with a fair bit of challenge to it, Shovel Knight is a great title to consider. Just be ready to die quite a lot.
(Steam) – RollerCoaster Tycoon 3
Okay, I will admit I’m cheating a bit with this one – the “classic” game I’ve said Planet Coaster remixes is from 2004 and it’s also made by the same developers (Frontier Developments), but RCT3 was great if you ask me and Planet Coaster’s technically not part of the RCT series so hey, I’m counting it!
If you’ve been following the “Modern Theme Park Management Sim Battle of 2016/17” as much as I have, I doubt I’d get a great deal of opposition if I said that Planet Coaster blows Atari’s RollerCoaster Tycoon World – the game that’s meant to be the actual successor to RCT3 – out of the water in almost every aspect. Where RCTW seems to have removed more features and polish than it adds compared to RCT3, Planet Coaster expands on its spiritual predecessor in almost every aspect.
While making your park profitable was a bit too easy initially, its rollercoaster building and myriad of other creative features are (in my view) second to none and the addition of the need to maintain security as well as some new super-challenging scenarios has gone a long way to improving the game’s long-term difficulty.
Long story short, if you want the actual successor to the Rollercoaster Tycoon series, leave RCTW aside entirely and take the next shuttle to Planet Coaster.
(Steam) – Harvest Moon
There’s been a lot of awesome Japanese console games coming to Steam lately, but the many titles in the famous farming/social simulation series Harvest Moon are not (and probably never will be) among them. For many years it seemed as though we’d never see a real Harvest Moon on PC.
Then, back in 2015, Eric Barone announced Stardew Valley.
Stardew Valley is a great tribute to the Harvest Moon games that still firmly stands on its own, packing a bunch of charming original characters with plenty of dialogue (and a wide variety of relationship opportunities), a plethora of in-game events, a ton of things to do on and off the farm and a beautifully comfy atmosphere. Oh, also mod support! And (maybe) multiplayer (eventually) (possibly)!
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams
(Steam, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360) – The Great Giana Sisters
The Great Giana Sisters was released in 1987 having seemingly been made with one purpose – to be a PC version of Super Mario Brothers. It wasn’t a complete clone though, despite the first level of TGGS being almost identical to SMB’s World 1-1 – it had a female protagonist and some different (yet vaguely familiar) enemy designs! Y-Yeah!
Needless to say Nintendo suggested that the game was clearly cribbing from their notes and The Great Giana Sisters’ publisher gradually began to remove the game from store shelves.
It seems there were a lot of people out there that still believed in the franchise however, as in 2012 Black Forest Games launched a Kickstarter for Project Giana, which eventually became Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams after being successfully funded to the tune of $186,158.
Giana Sisters: Twisted Dreams ended up being a surprisingly good platformer, completely rebooting the franchise with a unique gimmick that sees players switching between a sweet and evil version of each level (with a cute and gothic version of Giana to accompany them) to overcome a wide variety of enemies and obstacles in addition to some generally fun, speedy platforming. And, of course, then they threw some local multiplayer in there for good measure.
Now THAT’S how you remix a classic!
Parkitect – An Early Access title that looks set to become a modernised interpretation of the earlier RollerCoaster Tycoon games, particularly RCT2.
Cities: Skylines – Only in the Honorable Mentions because I didn’t think I could get away with two “better than the actual sequel released around the same time” entries on this list.
Before “Planet Coaster vs. RCTW” there was “SimCity 2013 vs. Cities: Skylines”. Skylines looked at the 2003 classic SimCity 4 and its predecessors, then took one look at the streamlined, faux-necessarily always online SimCity (2013) and said “Yeah, I can do way better”, removing SimCity’s online multiplayer functionality but adding mod support, far more detailed management options, the ability to deform your region’s terrain and much, much more.
DiRT Rally – Revitalised the rally game genre with an unprecedented level of physics simulation, while still making sure to include some of that old Colin McRae Rally fun.
What games do you think blend classic gameplay with modern innovation the best? Let us know in the comments below!