Everyone has happy memories of their first games: their first rpg, their first fps, their first Final Fantasy…. and often we spend the rest of our gaming lives trying to recreate the feeling of our very first games. Which is, of course, the inevitable lure of nostalgia. You’ll find it across all aspects of pop culture, but with games it can be an insidious problem when the game buying public get their way.
I realize I regularly complain about nostalgia being a bad thing when it comes to games, and while that isn’t always the case, game nostalgia can often be a detriment. Especially when nostalgia is leading the way for game development, because nostalgia often means forsaking innovation in order to cater to rose-tinted memories. I’m no stranger to wanting games to play like old favorites, but I also realize that having a brand new game release with Morrowind‘s horrible journal system for quest tracking would drive me up a damn wall. I love replaying Morrowind, and I do it far too frequently for anyone’s good, but I only appreciate that janky system because of how painful it is.
Now, there are ways to cater to the nostalgia crowd without completely eschewing innovation. Mega Man 11 does a pretty good job of being a new version of the classic Mega Man formula, though it does have a few problems. The storyline and unskippable intro cutscene are frustrating as all hell. But the overall classic feel is more than enough to satisfy most hardcore series fans. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate brought out every single character that’s ever been in a Smash game alongside every single map, with all the original mechanics, which made for an absolutely satisfying gaming experience. Though a few too many fighters and maps are nearly identical. But the lure of all the familiar characters and stages led to Smash Bros. Ultimate breaking a ton of pre-order records.
And while nostalgia has not prevented innovation, a ton of the most iconic titles of 2018 were new games made with all the advantages of modern gaming, quite a few were clearly pandering to that “classic gamer” crowd. And it’s only getting worse in 2019. Kingdom Hearts III plays exactly like Kingdom Hearts II, with a few tweaks. Devil May Cry 5 brings back all of the original series combos, humor, and sexism. We’ve got more remakes, remasters, and ports coming than you can shake a stick at.
Which means the list of fully original games is slowly shrinking, year by year.