This might be the age of the PS3, the Xbox 360, the Nintendo Wii, and thanks to developments like accelerometers, virtual-reality-like motion gaming is no more the domain of science fiction. But that’s no reason to forget some golden oldies that may not have had the spit, polish and realism of current-day games, but each was memorable in its own right. The following are some of my personal favourites.
Diablo (1996): Unspeakable things plague the dungeons beneath the village of Tristram. But one day a mysterious stranger walks in — you. Playing as a warrior, a rogue or a sorcerer, you must battle the creatures of the Lord of Terror before he literally unleashes hell on the entire world. An action role-playing game, Diablo is more than a simple point-and-click hack-and-slash. Players make decisions on the kind of skillset to develop for the final battle, though admittedly the options are limited compared to character development in Diablo II or the likes of the Elder Scrolls games. There are 16 levels of dungeons and various quests to complete. A random map generator ensures that you get a different dungeon each time you play the game and a different set of initial quests. Diablo had an expansion called Hellfire, though that wasn’t available in India as far as I know. The original game, along with Diablo II and Diablo II: Lord of Destruction is available in a single Diablo Battlechest package, that includes an amazing strategy guide. Well worth owning if one is a fan.
Myst (1993): Myst was what started me off on gaming. It is not just another adventure game — it is a journey into a surreal fantasy world. The player is dumped on a deserted island with a mysterious note addressed to someone else. Following clues, solving logical puzzles and using special Linking Books, one travels to a number of different worlds known as ‘Ages’ and pieces together a story of betrayal. Navigation in Myst consists of clicking and moving through pre-rendered images, but its enduring popularity saw a remake in 2000 as realMyst, which featured free-roaming 3D graphics. It is available for a number of platforms, including an iPhone/iPod version. Myst spawned a number of sequels that carried on the story — Riven, Exile, Revelation and End of Ages.
The Sims (2000): This vastly popular life simulation strategy was what knocked Myst off its pedestal as the best-selling PC game of all time. The 2D gameplay of the original Sims might seem awkward and laughably simplistic compared to the later versions, and old-time Simmers will always recall in amusement the necessity of making out obsessively till the pop-up to have a baby appeared. And — horror of horrors — kids never grew up! But it was all we had at that time — and its seven expansion packs — and it was pretty amazing too.
Dink Smallwood (1997): Who says pig farmers can’t have fun? Dink Smallwood is an adventure RPG where Dink sets off on his own after the death of his mother, but gets caught up in a quest to cleanse the world of an evil-intentioned group called the Cast. Dink takes on monsters, saves innocent lives and gains powers as he progresses, ending up in the Darklands, face to face with the evillest of them all. But there is a surprise in store… To find out more, download it (it’s now freeware). Dink is a tad tacky, and definitely don’t expect high-end graphics — just a lot of fun and action.
Deus Ex (2000): A personal all-time favourite, Deus Ex is an action RPG with first-person shooter elements. You play the role of JC Denton, a United Nations Anti-Terrorist Coalition agent. He is nano-augmented and can pick up some cool augmentations with time. JC gets caught up in a complex conspiracy that makes him question his own loyalty, and the game weaves through various locations around the world, finishing up with three possible endings depending on the choices you made. Deus Ex‘s story line was riveting, and it won plenty of awards and critical acclaim. The sequel Invisible War was, however, slightly disappointing, and one remains hopeful about Deus Ex 3, which is expected in 2010.
This is far from a comprehensive list, of course, and completely subjective.