games / Columns

The Top 8 Historical Games to Show Non-Gamers

September 3, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison
Halo: Combat Evolved

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball! This week I’m here to talk about retro games, specifically an idea about showing a non-gamer the best representation of a genre. So, like what’s the best sneaking game you could show someone? Probably Thief or Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay. For this column, when I say “Retro”, I just mean games not from this console generation. Also, I’m using more console games than PC ones because that is what I know better in a historical sense. Let’s begin:

#8: Forza Horizon 1 (Racing)

Forza Horizon 1 is actually the newest game on my list, coming out just on the last generation of Xbox 360. I picked it because it’s still a great blend of sim-style racing but with a real arcade bent. You can mess around with tuning setups and fiddling with gear ratios if you want to, but you don’t really need to. I think it’s just a fantastic open world for you to drive around in. There are the usual racing events like a lapped race or a point-to-point race, but there are slightly goofier stuff, like racing against a plane and stuff like that. Other good alternatives might be Gran Turismo 3 (I personally don’t like how it controls) or Burnout: Paradise. I kind of really don’t like Paradise though, so a better option would be Burnout 3, which I played religiously when I was in college.

#7: Rogue Galaxy (RPG)

This is probably the most controversial choice on this list but I have a few reasons why I picked it. I can imagine the legions of “Durr, Final Fantasy 7!” fans already awaiting me in the comments. I picked Rogue Galaxy because it’s a really good distillation of a JRPG with a *not* bad story. The key phrase there is “not bad story”. That eliminates FF7, FF8 and FFX immediately. I can’t judge FF9 because I haven’t played it. And while I do like FF 12 quite a bit, its Gambit system is beyond arcane. The only other games I could think that would fit into this slot are: Chrono Trigger (haven’t played), Persona 4 (great, but daunting), and Suikoden 2 (again, also a tad daunting). Rogue Galaxy actually starts off fairly simple but then gets more complex, from a story perspective. While it’s basically Star Wars-lite, the characters are still unique and the writing/voice acting is good. There are other RPGs I like more, for sure, but Rogue Galaxy is actually a decent entry point for the RPG genre.

#6: Resident Evil 2 (Horror)

Resident Evil 2 being on here is interesting because it’s the only game that is a direct sequel to its predecessor. While it certainly does fill in the backstory and other parts of the game, playing or having knowledge of Resident Evil 1 isn’t explicitly needed. The game excels at creating a moody atmosphere, inside an insanely designed police station, as you control both Leon and Claire and try to escape from the zombie infested Raccoon City. I think modern players will have some deep problems with the camera/control system but for the limitations of the time, it kind of makes perfect sense. Also, this game had much higher production values of the first RE game, or console horror games of its era, with better voice acting and CGI sequences. The only other somewhat game of its era that people might argue with is Silent Hill, but those people are objectively wrong.

#5: Halo: Combat Evolved (FPS)

As a guy that doesn’t even like Halo that much, despite finishing almost all of them, even I can recognize how impactful it is in the gaming world. For a “new” player, they could see how damn near every modern FPS game has been drawn from this one, namely the two-weapon inventory system, recharging health, and (in general) multiplayer system. There are obvious other, important FPS games (Quake/Unreal Tournament) that might be more historically impactful, but the first Halo really cemented FPS games on a console.

#4: Super Mario Bros. 3 (2D Platformer)

I think, in general, Super Mario World is a better “skilled” playing game. However, visuals aside, Mario Bros 3 is actually a much more interesting overall game. Each world has fairly distinctive themes (desert, ice, giant, etc.), there’s an inventory system, some light mini-games, and a LOT more suits/power-ups. If you discount the possession thing from Mario Odyssey, I think this game has the highest number of suits/powers that Mario has ever gotten in a game. Also, SMB3 is timeless as all hell. There are a lot of other timeless 2D platformers out there but this is still among one of the best.

#3: Tetris (Puzzle)

How could it really be anything else? This is probably the most timeless and (deceptively) simple game on this list. It’s easy to pick up but hard to master, at least according to my Tetris 99 rankings. The game was pretty popular when it came out in 1984 Russia, but it was the eventual licensing and porting to worldwide computers/consoles that brought it to everyone’s attention. The most well-known version is the Game Boy one, being the pack-in game for much of the console’s lifespan, so that’s probably the one I would show to a new player.

#2: Super Mario 64 (3D Platformer)

In my view, this is the first 3D platformer that got it “right”. There are obviously 3D platformers before this, Tomb Raider, Jumping Flash (to some degree), Crash Bandicoot, the “3D” aspect of these games are AWFUL! Tomb Raider might’ve been technically impressive for the time but playing that game, even then, was a goddamn nightmare. It says a lot that even current Mario games are still kind of following the basic framework of Mario 64 of “Go to world, find the collectible thing, rinse and repeat”. The game really just *works*, Mario controls really well, the camera is still impressive (beating most 3D platformers every today), and it has a bright look with a great soundtrack. The newer 3D Mario games are all great, except for Sunshine, but this was the landmark 3D game and set the standard going forward.

#1: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (Non-Linear/Adventure)

From a subjective view, Link to the Past is probably one of the greatest games ever made. Like with Tetris, it is as timeless today as when it was made (in 1991). There is just such a breadth and scope to the game, especially running on a SNES, which almost no other game even dared to approach. While there is a set order to the game: get the Magic Pendants – get Master Sword – Rescue the Maidens – Defeat Ganon, you can somewhat pick the order you want to approach stuff. You don’t have to follow the numerical order of the Maidens, unlocking them in a sequence. You can get later ones, if you wish, provided you have the right gear for their respective dungeon. Or you could just…not. There is a lot of side stuff you can accomplish in the game, from hunting heart pieces to getting new items/gear, to uncovering secrets that the Hyrule has to offer. From top to bottom, this game can be appreciated by anyone, and frankly it should be.

For comments, list the old games you would show new game players and why.

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Top 8 Current Games to show Non-Gamers