As video games become more lifelike and futuristic, it sometimes seems like they’re moving further away from the simplistic joy that gamers used to experience from sitting down with their favorite console back in the day. As stunning as the graphics and sound design may be, the complex combat and loot systems in modern gaming can be a little much for the nostalgia fix some folks want out of the hobby.
Thankfully, not every game has taken that direction.
Whether you’re craving the classic feeling of a magical RPG adventure with friends, the thrill of a Star Wars dogfight, a throwback to the samurai movies of yesteryear, or something else altogether, there are still plenty of titles that’ll provide a nostalgic trip back to a simpler time.
With the next generation of titles on the horizon, here’s a handful of the latest games that will still have your inner child squealing with delight.
Ghost of Tsushima
Look, the last entry in Sony’s generation-long domination of story-driven single-player games isn’t a children’s game by any means — but if you grew up watching samurai flicks and dreaming of extensive sword fights in feudal Japan, it might just be the best game ever for reliving those fantasies.
“Our chief goal with the design of the game was to give players the experience of being a wandering samurai in feudal Japan,” said Nate Fox, creative director for Ghost of Tsushima at Sucker Punch Productions. “Every aspect of the design was created to support that core fantasy. From intense duels to soaking in an Onsen, we wanted to give players a chance to feel what it was to live the life of a samurai.”
The game lives up to that goal in virtually every way, giving players the option to handle combat and explore Tsushima as they see fit — all while providing breathtaking visuals and cinematography that would make Hollywood jealous. To go even further, the Sucker Punch team even employed experts in Japanese history to make sure that everything about Ghost of Tsushima would provide as accurate of a depiction as possible.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2
If you didn’t grow up playing the original Tony Hawk series, the amount of excitement over a remake of some 20-year-old games might seem ridiculous. But for those who remember competing against their friends to see who could get the highest score while Goldfinger’s “Superman” or “Police Truck” by Dead Kennedys blared in the background, there’s really no other title that could match this release.
Modernized and loaded with new features, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2 is everything gamers wanted in the early PlayStation and Nintendo 64 versions. It’s newer, shinier, and smoother than ever before, but it still feels like the same game that helped to popularize the sport of skateboarding itself — and it’s a return to form after the series had gone away from its roots in the last couple of releases.
“I remember when Tony Hawk first came out,” said Jason Alejandre, owner of Game Mechanic Studios. “I was reading the first Harry Potter book, watching Fight Club, listening to Eminem make fun of boy bands, and playing Tony Hawk while passing the controller around to see who could get the highest score. Those were good times!”
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition
The original Crystal Chronicles was a unique and borderline goofy twist on the Final Fantasy series, which gave it a serious cult following that supported five sequels and spin-offs across two other platforms. The game’s unique multiplayer functionality — which saw players connecting their Game Boy Advance systems to a GameCube — meant that the game’s full potential could only be reached with serious teamwork and cooperation from siblings, neighbors, and friends, which only enhanced its charm for those who loved it.
In Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles Remastered Edition, gamers don’t need any additional hardware to team up for online co-op, making the 2003 title more accessible than ever before. Of course, your caravan will still rely on plenty of teamwork and a wise use of spell combinations to survive the most challenging dungeons, but the new UI and online features make playing together significantly less of a burden for those of us who can no longer pull multi-hour gaming sessions after school.
“It retains the atmosphere the game had back then, but at the same time, it’s been thoroughly upgraded so as not to be inferior to what people may see through their ‘nostalgia filter,’” said Ryoma Araki, director and producer for Square Enix. “We perceive the most important experience to be having fun through playing with friends, so all of the additions and adjustments for this remastered version were planned to lead to that point. I hope you invite people close to you, like your friends and family, and enjoy the co-op gameplay together.”
May the younger siblings forced to carry the chalice all those years ago find their freedom in the remaster.
The Outer Worlds
Although The Outer Worlds isn’t quite as “new” as the other titles on this list (it’s almost a year old, after all), it’s got a brand new DLC chapter, “Peril on Gorgon” and another on the way for those looking to begin or revisit the sci-fi RPG.
Those raised on the cheesy science fiction movies of the 20th century will feel right at home in The Outer Worlds, where the retro-futuristic universe offers the setting of what we thought the future might look like before the age of smartphones and WiFi. Plus, with pretty substantial variation both within the characters and the narrative depending on the choices the player makes, it’s the kind of title that gamers can play through in a weekend or two and have a very different experience any time they feel like it.
“The Outer Worlds draws a lot of inspiration from pulp science fiction,” said Carrie Patel, senior narrative & game director at Obsidian Entertainment. “You can see it in the colorful alien worlds; in the insectoid and reptilian monsters; and in the finned, retro design of our shrink ray gun. It allows us to bring vibrancy and a sense of fun to a grim world with some rather dark themes. Also, dressing the player’s exploits up in classic pulp trappings lets us lean into the player’s role as the hero — or anti-hero — of the story. They’re the dashing adventurer on the cover of a comic book or the mysterious rogue leering from a movie poster.”
Star Wars: Squadrons
Alright, so technically Star Wars: Squadrons doesn’t come out until next week, but we couldn’t honestly pass it up for a list of games that provide some serious nostalgia. After all, few things reach the level of Star Wars when it comes to fond memories that a large swath of people all turn to for emotional support.
For everyone who’s ever wanted to sit in the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE Fighter and blast away at your enemies in a dogfight set a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, Star Wars: Squadrons is an unrivaled opportunity to do just that. Add in full VR functionality and HOTAS (you know, flight controls) support on both PlayStation and PC, and the latest Star Wars game is sure to give players a more immersive experience than ever before.
“We created this game for every Star Wars fan who has ever dreamt about soaring across the galaxy in their favorite starfighter,” said Ian Frazier, creative director at Motive Studios. “Through the collaboration of the teams at Motive and Lucasfilm, we’ve been able to create a high-fidelity starfighter experience with an authentic storyline that invites Star Wars fans to explore never-before-seen corners of the galaxy in their own ship.”
Does Marvel’s Avengers have some bugs? Sure it does. Is it the kind of polished major release that can expect to compete with games like The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima to win major awards this year? Probably not. But if you’re looking to group up with a few of your friends and smash some bad guys as the most iconic Marvel superheroes, it’s still a whole lot of fun.
Although the loot system, level-scaling, and endgame content may be a little more complex than the enjoyment of opening up a comic book or watching the latest installment of the MCU, there’s no shortage of smiles to be had while beating an enemy with his fallen comrade as Hulk, pinning someone to the ground with Thor’s Mjölnir or stepping into the Hulkbuster as Iron Man. Among all of the issues prevalent at launch — many of which are likely to be fixed in upcoming patches — there’s no denying that Marvel’s Avengers still lets players channel the superheroes they always wanted to be growing up.
“We spent countless hours and weeks taking feedback and rating with each other what felt like the Avenger versus what felt like the player’s personal stamp,” said Lauryn Ash, game designer for Crystal Dynamics. “When you are reading your favorite comic book, it’s not just the feeling about what that hero would do but also your reaction to why they did it and thinking to yourself what they should do. We got to do something really special in our game, where we can highlight the feeling of watching a blockbuster action film while also giving players that sense of becoming the version of the heroes they remember reading or watching, not just the ‘iconic’ versions.”