By every measurable standard, video games and the way we play them have advanced with technology over the last few years. They are more detailed, more complex, and more immersive than ever before.
But newer isn’t always better. Some games are, quite frankly, timeless. Even with their less robust graphics and simpler game play, they are just perfect. Years later, fans are still in love with and playing their favorite games. And while we’d never want to stop anyone from staying current in gaming, it’s important to remember where we started and that some people are super into that starting point.
That being said, here are 7 video games with crazy cult followings:
Fans of EA Sports’ NHL franchise got the awfully short end of the stick after the game’s 2004 installment—for PC players, anyway. Editions ’05 to ’09 were poorly received by gamers everywhere, and in 2009 (after the release of ’09 in 2008), they discontinued the PC version of the game completely.
But that didn’t stop fans from getting together to release NHL 2004 Rebuilt, a heavily modded version of the fan-favorite, complete with updated rosters, player photos, arena designs, and a whole new in-game interface called, probably illegally, ESPN. The game’s creators say about 15,000 players hit the ice daily, and it even has its own website and active forums where people eagerly await updates.
NCAA Football ‘14
You wouldn’t know it if you’re not a “football person,” but a lot of people actually prefer the NCAA (college football) to the NFL. Athletes competing at the college level are looking for their way into the bigtime, so you’re watching guys who give the most shits. Long story short, it’s always interesting to watch.
The competition between EA Sports’ NCAA and Madden franchises was equally interesting to watch, while it lasted. Some people preferred Madden, while others opted for NCAA. That is, until EA was forced to stop production on the game after NCAA Football ’14 because of a lawsuit filed by former athletes whose likenesses were used without what they believed was due compensation. Bummer.
To this day, fans still release cover art in the hopes that they’ll someday have the opportunity to step back into the wonderful world of college sports and earlier this year, Aaron Tallent at Athlon wrote an open letter to EA arguing for the revival of the franchise, citing fan usernames and their in-game accomplishments.
Over the last two decades or so, game modifying has exploded into a subculture all its own. People all over the world—everyone from devout fans of the originals, to people simply learning the art of game modding—are reinventing the classics in order to keep them alive for newer generations of gamers. Perhaps no game is more notable for this kind of creative culture than Doom, one of the world’s first-ever first-person shooters.
It was wildly popular when it first came out in 1993, and new editions of the franchise are still released today. But what makes the original Doom games so special is that id, the developer of the classic sci-fi horror game, made the Doom engine open source and free to the public, allowing people to freely modify the platform. There are entire websites dedicated to the phenomenon, along with forums of tens of thousands of threads, hundreds of mods for both Doom and its 1994 sequel, and a dedicated, very active sub-Reddit. To these diehard fans, Doom is a lifestyle. Over the years, we’ve seen everything from Wild West remakes of the game to Seinfeld versions. No, seriously, somebody made a Seinfeld level of the game.
In its heyday, Donkey Kong was far and away the most played video games in arcades across the country. Today, though small, the loyalty of the arcade classic’s fan legion is fierce. Take, for instance, the 2007 documentary King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, which tells the tale of video game extraordinaire Steve Wiebe as he tries to take the Donkey Kong world scoring record from the famous Donkey Kong king Billy Mitchell. And if you think the obsession with the arcade classic stops there, you’re wrong. Just last May, 35 years after the original Donkey Kong made its way into arcades the world over, famed Kong King Wes Copeland re-claimed the throne with a new all-time high score of 1,218,000 points—a score many, including Copeland’s rivals, think will never be topped.
Super Smash Bros.
The Super Smash Bro franchise is one of the most popular in Nintendo history. The reason it makes this list is the incredible amount of people who still play it. Super Smash Bros. first appeared in 1999 on the famous Nintendo 64 system, then received a second treatment in 2001 with the release of Super Smash Bros. Melee on GameCube. In 2008, the third installment (and super popular) in the franchise, Super Smash Bros. Brawl was released for the Nintendo Wii, and in 2014, Super Smash Bros Wii U/3DS came out.
There’s a lively and occasionally angry argument in the community about which one is best, but no matter what iteration of the game you’re playing, there is a mob of uber-competitive gamers who play it religiously. Smashboards is a fan run site with message boards, guides, and world rankings. It’s home to 225,000 members and has more than 19 million posts in its forums. There’s also Super Smash Con—a convention dedicated to the historic franchise, where players win actual money playing in tournaments. There’s enough energy and enthusiasm around this series to guarantee that you’ll be able to kick the crap out of Nintendo’s most famous (and completely obscure) characters for a long time coming.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
With Nintendo’s recent announcement of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, set for release next year, this is the perfect time to remind everyone that 1998’s The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is the best Zelda game ever made. It’s the first of the 17 total Zelda games (no, we’re not joking) to make it to the third dimension and is also the most highly revered of the series. Ocarina of Time wove together beautiful video sequences, an excellent plot, near-seamless gameplay, and tons of action, setting a standard modern puzzle/action-adventure games are still trying to live up to. It’s widely considered a masterpiece—even by people who don’t care for Zelda—and rightfully so.
When Nintendo was looking for a guy to carry the mantle of the 2011 3DS re-release’s marketing campaign, they got none other than Robin “It’s not your fault” Williams. He’s such a big fan of the franchise, he named his daughter after the titular princess and the two of them made, quite frankly, the most adorable commercial ever filmed.
If Robin Williams isn’t enough and you’re looking for more proof, check out the rules, categories, and dates on the Ocarina of Time speedrunning site. The most recent edit, at the time of this writing, was July 14th of this year. All this for a game that’s old enough to vote.
Pac-Man is a household name, and there’s a very good reason for it. Pac-Man is not only the most widely sold arcade game on the planet, but is also the most widely-sold Atari game. Literal generations of children, teens, and adults have spent so many millions (maybe even billions) of hours shuffling through Pac-Man’s mazes, avoiding ghosts, eating dots and fruits, and working their ways from level, to level, to God-forsaken level. Billy Mitchell shows up again here, acing Pac-Man the same way he did Donkey Kong. In 1999 (19 years after the cabinet was released, by the way), Mitchell was the first to get a perfect score of 3,333,360. That’s every dot, fruit, and ghost it’s possible to eat and we’ve barely made it to the part where the maze changes color. Since then, six players have done the same, showing everyone that, with a little hard work and perseverance, you still won’t be as good at Pac-Man as these guys. For every nerd who calls themselves a gamer—classic or modern—there is an unspoken level of respect for the Little Yellow King. Period.