There are a lot of cliche phrases that explain this sort of phenomenon – “everything old is new again,” “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” etc. – but they all refer to the same thing in cultural media: the reuse, recycling, and redefining of once-old concepts. As evidenced by recent video game releases such as Thief, it’s happening in abundance in the realm of gaming. But what’s notable about the most recent wave of this trend is the particular time period that’s being mined for content – the nineties, where many franchises and settings beloved to gamers have originated. There’s a variety of reasons why the decade of the 1990s is being combed over: sure, exploitation of gaming nostalgia for profit is one of them, but the 1990s could also have been considered a creative peak for video games, in both story and gameplay.
Regardless of why the nineties are being exploited, like any trend in video gaming, it has its good and bad aspects, and of course its good and bad games. In honor of the most recent of 1990s video games reboots, the new Thief, this top 10 list will show you the better examples of 1990s reboots, which exemplify this crucial period in the history of gaming rather than simply triggering memories.
10) Rise of the Triad
The original Rise of the Triad was a cult classic in more ways than one. In this classic 1990s shooter, players played the part of a United Nations commando assigned to gun down scores of neo-Nazi cultists occupying San Nicholas Island before they launch their next terrorist attack. The 2013 reboot of this cult favorite of that time period has as much of a focus on humor as it does violence and FPS action. The game had a bit of a rocky launch at first, but the developers have since listened to player feedback and made a number of fixes that make this game ludicrously fun.
9) Shadow Warrior
The logo for the 2013 version of Shadow Warrior.
Shadow Warrior is a relic of the BUILD engine era, that is, of games that were built on the BUILD engine developed by 3D Realms, creators of the Duke Nukem series of games. The original Shadow Warrior was full of Asian mythology-inspired scenery and enemies, ridiculous weapons including the requisite katana, and crude (some might say racist) humor, especially centered around the name of the main character, Lo Wang. The 2013 reboot has the first two aspects of the original in abundance, but the writing and plot are much improved (and actually funny this time around). Also added were some upgrade systems for your character, giving the 2013 remake much-needed depth and replay value over its predecessor.
8) XCOM: Enemy Unknown/Enemy Within
This remake of the classic 1990s strategy game at first drew some apprehension from fans, who feared it might be turned into “yet another FPS clone,” and while an FPS of this series was made (The Bureau: XCOM Declassified – never speak of it again), the lion’s share of development resources were devoted to creating a mostly faithful turn-based strategy game that remained true to the spirit of its predecessor. It found success in today’s market via a variety of factors, from the pedigree of the development team assigned to it (its developers previously worked on the Civilization series) to new graphical touches such as dynamic camera angles and downright thrilling effects.
7) Persona 2: Innocent Sin
Released in 1999, this installment of the Persona series of JRPGs almost never saw the light of day in the West; while it’s sequel, Persona 2: Eternal Punishment, was released in the West soon after its original release in Japan, Innocent Sin never saw Western shores until publisher Atlus released an enhanced remake of the game for the PlayStation Portable in 2011. The remake had a number of new features over the original game, such as remastered graphics, new difficulty levels, and a new soundtrack.
6) Brutal Doom
Brutal Doom is a fan-made creation, and what it does is update the original Doom games with new features that are in modern games! These features include mouse-aiming (and therefore head shots can now be made!), new abilities (such as jumping, stealth kills, and rescuing fellow marines to fight for you), and, to take advantage of modern-day processing power, lots (and I mean LOTS) more blood. Seriously, Brutal Doom is not for the squeamish, but it could be the most badass fan creation ever made.