Play It Again: Classic games that SI's writers would like to see brought back for next-gen consoles

Monday August 11th, 2014

Although the offerings that next-gen gaming consoles plan to serve up in the coming months are both impressive and diverse, it's difficult not to feel like there is still just a bit a charm absent. Sadly, as technology has advanced, many of the franchises that made us fall in love with gaming have been left in the dust -- but this doesn't have to be the case. With this in mind, we asked a group of past and present SI writers to suggest a classic game that they'd like to play on next-gen consoles:

    By Neil Janowitz

    There’s a section in a great “Nintendo Life” story about the making of Uniracers--the best, and presumably only, game featuring racing unicycles--where the creators, DMA Design (now part of Rockstar Games), discussed all the features and graphics muscle they packed into the title:

    These graphics obviously enabled (Uniracers) to stand out from the crowd and to some degree capitalized on the frenzy of interest Donkey Kong Country had created in the art of CGI. However, adopting this new technology put additional pressure on the designers. “Although the unicycle in-game was probably no more than about 32 pixels high, the source 3D geometry had every detail present and correct,” recalls (designer Robbie) Graham. “Even the threads of the screws inside the unicycle frame were modelled … With so much love and care being poured into [Uniracers] it’s unsurprising that DMA actually struggled to fit the code onto the cartridge, as [designer Andrew] Innes recalls: “There was something like 4 bytes free at the end of it all.

    That attention to detail shows. The 3D graphics were rich enough to imbue the tiny unicycles with personality (which ended up boning DMA when Pixar sued them for supposed idea theft), and the gameplay--you race, either against the computer or a Player 2, and perform stunts to go faster--was both simple and deceptively sophisticated. It was, and is, fun as shit.

    Yet despite packing the cartridge with cutting-edge 1994 tech, Uniracers now looks like just a 16-bit whisper. With next-gen testosterone behind it, the game could be a full-blown unicycle yell. Better graphics. More elaborate stunts, perhaps even involving the landscapes. Additional multiplayer options. Expanded stat-tracking. Hell, even unique, fully-fleshed personas for the cikes. It would be taking a near-perfect game and enhancing all the elements that made it so memorable.

    Then all that would be needed is a better legal team for the developer.

    MVP Baseball
    By Jon Robinson
    RBI was my first love, and MLB The Show is my current obsession, but when I think back to the baseball game that truly holds a special place in my heart, it’s EA’s classic MVP franchise. The reason? MVP hit that gameplay sweet spot thanks to groundbreaking features like Owner mode that enabled you to build your own ballpark while managing every aspect of your club, not to mention the ability for virtual batters to read pitches, baserunners who could slide to a specific part of the base, and the first fully playable minor league system, including Triple A, Double A, and even Class A ball. Instead of continuing to lose millions on the dead on arrival NBA Live series, here’s hoping EA Sports gives up the hardwood for the digital diamond, delivering a next-gen baseball game worthy of the MVP brand.

    By Martin Rickman
    If we're talking sports games, we can't ignore giant monsters in favor of racing, baseball, golf, boxing or any other form of sporting endeavor. And it's clear giant monsters are making a comeback, as evidenced by Pacific Rim and the new Godzilla. Rather than try to reinvent the wheel, there's already a perfect series out there just begging to make a comeback. That's Rampage. I used to pour quarters into this game almost as much as I did the Simpsons arcade game and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. You pick your favorite slightly abridged ruffian, whether it be almost-Godzilla, almost-King Kong or otherwise, then you go to town destroying everything and anything. It's part fighting game, part absolute destruction. Can you imagine if it was taken off the 2D platform, given the new gaming power we have today and made into a multiplayer on Xbox One or Playstation 4? For as much fun as the original Super Smash Brothers was, Rampage has the chance to replicate that and more.

    By Austin Wood
    Before the days of Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, developer Platinum Games went by the name of Clover Studios, and was joined at the hip with publisher Capcom. More importantly, this period brought the fighting genre the arcade nonsense and crude humor of Viewtiful Joe and its eponymous sequel. This ostensibly over-the-top pair of GameCube-era fighters brought true vitality to Nintendo’s system, and injected a unique and zany formula into the 2D fighting world through extravagant colors and caricaturized art. We’ve already seen 2D games like Muramasa: Rebirth and Rayman Legends steal the limelight in today’s gaming market despite their simple design elements. And quite frankly, Joe is more than qualified for a spot on next-gen systems, be it PS4 or Xbox One or even Wii U. Platinum Games has only grown in the past decade, so if they were to crank out a comically exaggerated Viewtiful Joe 3, it would be sure to drop jaws.

    NHL Hitz
    By Dan Treadway
    With apologies to beloved classics NFL Street and MLB Slugfest, there is little question that the NHL Hitz franchise was the gold standard for arcade-style sports video games designed for post-2000 gaming consoles. A perfect marriage of gameplay and subject matter, Midway’s fast-paced, hard-hitting style couldn’t have translated any better to the game of hockey, which at its best can make a fan cheer and cringe in a matter of milliseconds. I spent many sleepless nights glued to the game’s absurdly addictive franchise mode and still fondly reflect on how my custom character -- a comically large clown who went by Mr. Bojangles -- rose through the Hitz ranks, leaving nothing but destruction and missed opportunities for me to attend boy-girl parties in his path. With the hockey’s popularity on the rise it would be in the best interest of a large video game developer (looking at you, Rockstar) to purchase the rights to Hitz from Midway, which filed for bankruptcy in 2009, and develop an updated version of the game for next-gen consoles. With its simple button layout, NHL Hitz is the rare sports game that takes seconds to learn and can appeal to even the most novice of fans due to its lack of, well, rules. But beyond that, now more than ever, the world deserves to know what a Zdeno Chara hit would look like if embellished to the maximum extent.

    Mutant League Hockey
    By Steve Etheridge
    Like most guys I know, the raging bloodlust of my American boyhood found its soulmate in violent videogames. But I am a grownup now—and a boring one at that—and any media more vigorous than Ken Burns feels obscene and over-stimulating. Still, I think the gore-happy gamer in me could be reawakened if someone remade Mutant League Hockey. Do you remember Mutant League Hockey? It was like if someone gave GWAR the keys to NHL 94—your typical Sega hockey gameplay but with zombies and land mines and involuntary amputation. There were chainsaws at-the-ready to assist with low-zone coverage. There were Zamboni-size slugs that slithered around during intermissions eating all the severed limbs. There were consequences for winning fights (penalty box), and consequences for losing fights (death). Refs could be bribed, and refs could also be slaughtered for accepting bribes. It was the stuff of Raffi Torres’s dreams. The game’s violence was so absurdly slapstick that even for someone lame like me, cozily nested in a placid sphere of PBS documentaries, a next-gen reboot would still probably feel innocuous. Sure, derricking a mutant hockey player’s eye socket with a pickaxe might look a teensy bit juicier in 1080p. But I’d be happy to give it a swing.

    NFL Blitz
    By Sean Conboy
    The quintessential mid-'90s video game. Completely nonessential and gratuitous, the jewel case smelled of Hummer H3 leather and Josta cola. These were simpler times, an era of JACKED-UP free safety kamikaze missions and homeopathic concussion treatments (just apply some dirt on it!) NFL Blitz obliged, offering gamers an alternate universe where linebackers became so engorged with swagger after a few tackles that they would self-immolate on the field. A world where, just like Madden 25 online, punting did not exist. Grunting was a must.
    With brain trauma changing the fundamental nature of IRL NFL, what better way to satiate the frustrated Facebook Dads than to unleash a next-gen NFL Blitz? Even the bleeding-hearts can enjoy this version, however, because the new career mode will simulate what happens after all those tissue-shearing suplexes catch up with your player's grey matter later in life. Can you withstand 30 minutes in an MRI machine without moving? Put your skills to the ultimate test as you try to remember where you put your car keys and your first-born child's name! Fight for your very livelihood as you petition a medical panel to give you assistance with your mounting medical bills via Xbox Kinect. NFL Blitz 2014: Feel the Consequences!

    Side-scroller fighting games
    By Ben Sin
    In many ways, the death of the sidescrolling beat ‘em up genre of games--like Final Fight, Double Dragon--was unavoidable. They were, perhaps, the least diverse type of video games possible. Every sidescrolling beat ‘em up played basically the same way, whether you were controlling a Predator or Spider-man or Marge Simpson--you move from left to right, pressing buttons to beat up an endless barrage of generic looking bad guys. At the end of the level you face a boss. Repeat anywhere from eight to 12 times and you win. When compared to the open ended, go-anywhere-and-do-anything nature of a game like Grand Theft Auto, it’s difficult to see the one-dimensional beat ‘em ups catching on ever again. But as someone who grew up in the 90s--and I don’t think I’m alone in this--sometimes, that shallow one dimension can be so damn fun.
    I remember teaming up with friends and dropping countless dollars trying to get to the evil Mr Burns in The Simpsons Arcade Game, and I remember, vividly, the joy of wacking throngs of uptight suits with Bart’s skateboard. I remember the giddy “holy shit” my cousin and I screamed when we pulled off the special attack in Streets of Rage, when a police car drove up and dropped a bomb on a group of thugs who had surrounded us. And of course, I still hold dear arguably the greatest game in the genre, Capcom’s Final Fight, and the joy of bashing a car with a pipe and then seeing a thug scream “oh my car!” The home port of Final Fight (originally released for arcades) was severly limited, in that only three bad guys could show up on screen at once (along with the two players, that makes five). If a revival of the game is released today, the degree to which we can up the mayhem cannot be understated – how many thugs could fit on screen at once? 20? 50? Instead of two players – or four, in many beat ‘em up arcade games – we could have up to eight. Heck, maybe 12. We could have a full on royal rumble. Of course, gamers can usually finish side scrollers in a few hours and probably more than three-thirds of the available buttons on today’s controllers won’t be needed, but, man, it’d be a fun, if silly, ride.

Honorable Mentions:

NBA Street, NFL 2K, No Mercy, Blades of Steel, Barkley Shut Up and Jam, Wayne Gretzky 3D Hockey, Ken Griffey Jr. Presents Major League Baseball, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, Burnout 3: Takedown; Mario Hoops; Stanley Cup Hockey, Tecmo Bowl

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