The classics can take you back in time—and are probably easier to recapture than you think.
By JD Biersdorfer
Video games hit their 60th birthday in October, if you start counting with Tennis for Two, a rudimentary Pong ancestor cobbled together by physicist William A. Higinbotham at Long Island’s Brookhaven National Laboratory.
Games have evolved a lot since then, of course, becoming far more complicated and visual, as well as multiplayer. Yet, sometimes you just want to play an old favourite. Video game companies have caught on to the urge. Nintendo sells throwback consoles preloaded with its vintage games, as do Atari, Sony and others.
Many developers have moved the original game code to app stores for tablets and smartphones. For example, you can play Sega’s Sonic the Hedgehog on an Android or iOS device, although you may have to shell out a few bucks to play ad-free or advance to higher levels.
In addition, some game companies with extensive archives have versions of old games that run on their latest hardware. Dragon Ball Z: Super Butoden and Omega Fighter, for example, are on sale for less than $10 on the Nintendo Switch, the company’s hybrid handheld-console system.
Gamers used to more sophisticated play and richer graphics can also find favourite old role-playing games, first-person shooters and other fare on dedicated online gaming platforms like Steam and GOG Galaxy. Steam has a larger library (and, for $20, access to the Atari Vault of 100 golden-age classics). But both platforms offer games that can be played on Windows and Mac computers. Not all games work on every desktop system and prices vary, but you can find 1990s favourites like Baldur’s Gate for $20, Star Wars: X-Wing for $10 or 2003’s EVE Online for free.
If you have a day to spare, point your computer’s browser to Archive.org, home of the Internet Archive. Click the Software icon for thousands of old games, many of which have been adapted to play right in the browser with a keyboard or a gamepad.