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We talk fondly about the classic video games from our childhood, but which ones, if we pick them up for the first time without all the warm, fuzzy feelings of nostalgia, are still worth playing today? The Area of Effect staff has weighed in with their thoughts to give you this exhaustive and entirely probably not very unbiased list.
1. Chrono Trigger (1995)
At it’s prime, there were numerous other JRPG games available, but Chrono Trigger clearly rose to the top to be among (if not the) best of the bunch. So much of the game itself is iconic; the story, the gameplay, even the music all culminates into something that, ironically, maintains greatness outside of time. Each character has a unique and interesting story, none of them are red shirts or hold some “mysterious past” that you never get to see, hear, or feel. Combined with a near infinite amount of duo and trio skills, your party shines. To say it simply, Chrono Trigger a story about time travel that truly remains timeless. —Kyle
2. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1998)
If you’re wondering whether it’s still worth playing this game that everyone talks about from their childhood—it is. The first Legend of Zelda game with 3D graphics is all puzzle-solving, dungeon-exploring, item-finding fun. Plus you could play the remake for 3DS, which has prettier graphics and rearranged dungeons. —Allison
3. Secret of Mana (1993)
Plucky characters, a magic sword, a quest to save the world! It’s the classic tale of a boy in the wrong place at the right time who receives an old, rusty sword and a quest. Only in this case, the boy is joined by a strangle little sprite and a lovely young woman who is less a romantic interest and more the firebrand warrior who makes up for the hero’s lack of skill. The sword is complimented by a host of weapons that all gain levels and become stronger as you beat bosses. The game is played in real-time combat and upped the RPG solo game into a 3-player experience (though it can be played solo). —Dustin S.
4. King’s Quest (1984)
It broke ground in adventure gaming and did fairy tale mashups before it was cool while weaving in its own original storylines. Its fandom is so powerful, the production company allowed a fan-made conclusion game to be made (and it was approved by the original creator, Roberta Williams).
The characters in the series—all from the same family—are fun, original, and memorable. The villains are intimidating and in some games, voiced by Disney actors such as Robbie Benson and Tony Jay. To this day, King Graham, the main protagonist, is my favorite video game character. —Victoria
5. Rise of Nations (2003)
Personally, I think it is one of the most well balanced RTS games I’ve ever played. It was the standard for my friends and I when we would LAN. Each nation had its own feel but never felt to be particularly dominant. Plus, I really enjoyed the realistic feel of taking people’s cities and the complex resource system. —Dustin A.
6. Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon (2002)
Hindered by the fact that it was a tie-in to a so-so film, the game offers exciting tactical combat in a steampunk universe where tall ships sail between planets and “space whales” are an omen of good luck. The missions are diverse enough to offer plenty of replay value and the challenges are often of the edge-of-your-seat, am-I-going-to-make-it variety. Few other games offer the same savage joy as landing a well-timed broadside on a pirates exposed quarterdeck. I was thrilled to find it available on Steam a couple of months back and, judging from the reviews, I’m not the only one. —Kevin
7. Myst (1993)
Solving puzzles and exploring never gets old. Despite the fact that Myst was released 24 years ago, it’s still fascinating to play. You can’t deny the beauty of each age as you travel to new worlds searching for clues about the characters’ backstories. If the outdated graphics bother you, you can pick up the remake on Steam. —Allison
8. Paper Mario (2001)
The original Paper Mario for Nintendo 64 built off the bones of the Super Mario RPG for SNES with the action timing in combat and ability to affect the world around you with your jump and hammer. The game was simple to learn but hard to master. It also took Mario into a completely different world and art style than had been shown before, and was very early in giving Mario and co. a sense of humour. I played this endlessly when I was a kid and having fired it up and replayed it again multiple times as an adult, always forgetting some joke or plot twist, it felt new again. Though I do love the complex micromanagement of a tactics game, sometimes playing a light and delightful RPG that doesn’t take itself very seriously is just the ticket. Plus, you get to play as Peach for a while, baking cakes, answering trivia contests and outsmarting Bowser and his cronies to aid Mario. Is there anything else you could ask for in a Mario game? —Jason
9. Baldur’s Gate (1998)
The Baldur’s Gate series is a classic RPG crafted by gamers in a time when the level of quality and attention to detail was far more important than release dates, financial gain, and hype-generation. The rich storyline, exceptional character development, freedom of choice and engaging dialogue make Baldur’s Gate an engrossing entertainment experience. This combined with the large world and challenging, exciting combat system deliver a game absolutely worth playing despite it’s aging graphics. —Tim
10. Earthbound (1994)
Because playing it “could only cost you your life, and you got that for free!” It’s a weird ride of colour, sight and sound that is equal parts apocalyptic horror story and sarcastically light-hearted romp. There’s deep adult humour woven throughout the game, from the moment your friend’s mom kills your tiny little guide because she thought it was a dung beetle to a village of paintbrush wielding, blue-robed cultists called Happy-Happy. It has these bizarre moments of almost nonsense items used in weird ways and tongue-in-cheek names for almost everything that will elicit something between a groan and a chuckle. And at the end of the day you’re still just a kid with a baseball bat being assisted by some crazy friends with yo-yo’s and psionic powers…everyday kind of stuff. —Dustin S.