Nostalgia is both a blessing and a curse in the gaming world. It can motivate developers to keep beloved characters, settings, and core gameplay in future titles, while finding new ways to innovate. The Elder Scrolls: Arena, for instance, led to the creation of Skyrim, a game based on the old nostalgia of exploring a fantasy world, with the same lore, races, gods, and basic gameplay as the first game.
Then there are other games that have hardly changed at all. Lots of modern games imitate retro titles; franchises that have seen little to no innovation (and are boring by modern standards) but we play and praise them out of nostalgia. This article will likely ruffle feathers, but here are some examples.
10 Resident Evil 2 (Remake)
This was a painful one to include in this rundown, but it’s definitely a game that is loved more for nostalgia than anything else. After the highly successful first-person game Resident Evil 7, Capcom decided to abandon everything new and exciting it had accomplished and create a faithful remake of the 1998 game.
The game does add new features, different plot lines, and modern graphics, but it’s the same characters, the same overall plot and the same monsters. It’s a good game, but one that has taken many steps backward for a franchise that's been struggling to find its feet lately.
9 Final Fantasy Series
This is also a tough inclusion because the gameplay itself has advanced and developed in exciting and clever ways. The recent Final Fantasy titles feel absolutely nothing like the old games, however. In fact, the stories often have nothing to do with each other, as they are frequently set in entirely different worlds and realities. The only common thread is that there’s always someone named Cid.
The biggest evidence that this franchise relies upon nostalgia is that there is no continuity whatsoever (it's considered a franchise solely because they say it is). The developers are relying upon the name Final Fantasy to generate nostalgia and sell titles.
8 Halo 5: Guardians
The original Halo revolutionized the FPS genre, Halo 2 disrupted people’s lives with addictive multiplayer, Halo 3 gave players the Forge. After that? Well, not much has changed.
The familiar characters are all there, the multiplayer is still the main feature and the single player campaign... well, hasn’t seen any real love since the first game. It’s definitely fun and worth the purchase, but it’s hyped more because it’s another Halo and not because it does anything terribly unique or exciting.
7 Super Mario Series
It’s hard to pick any one game for this entry, as many of the games are guilty of relying on nostalgia to push sales. It’s a controversial inclusion, admittedly, because Nintendo has done fun things with the franchise, like Super Mario Kart or the Super Mario Party series. However, ultimately, for the majority of games, it’s Mario and his buddies trying to save someone or something from the big bad by jumping over obstacles.
Nostalgia has an iron grasp on this franchise, for the simple fact that the characters will never leave. Mario, Luigi, Toad, Princess Peach, Princess Daisy, Yoshi, and Bowser will always be around for future titles, because if at least one of them isn’t present, it’s no longer a Mario game.
6 Counter-Strike: Global Offensive
After the Half-life mod that kickstarted the franchise, CounterStrike hasn’t changed its formula all that much since the first game was released in 2004 (other than introducing new weapons and such). A team of players seek to commit a crime and another team try to stop them, just the same it’s always been.
The original game was good, simple fun, but the later titles have failed (or simply refused) to do anything new. Admittedly, nostalgia might not be the only reason CounterStrike: Global Offensive is so popular; it could also be that people were excited to smurf their way to the top in a new game.
5 Pokémon Ultra Sun and Ultra Moon
The Pokémon series has been a juggernaut since Red and Blue was released back in 1998. Even though it’s been two decades since the games graced Game Boy screens across the world, the latest addition to the series is still the same old game.
Sure, there are new monsters, new forms and a few gameplay tweaks here and there, but largely you’re still tapping that same old nostalgic need to catch 'em all.
It could be that the upcoming Pokemon Sword and Shield will take the series in new directions and provide innovative gameplay, but it's not likely. After all, very little has been changed all the way up to generation seven.
Yes, this entry probably won't go down well, but Undertale is, at its core, a bullet hell game with pixelated graphics meant to resemble the retro games of old. In fact, it was inspired by old classics like Mother and the Touhou Project games.
Undertale takes players back to a time when games were simpler, with black and white themes and tongue-in-cheek humor. Compared to modern titles, it isn’t anything terribly exciting. The only reason it’s not higher on the list is that the game did keep track of what you did in eerily innovative ways (and had lots of deep and dark lore hidden underneath its simplistic surface).
3 Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy
One of the better examples of a game developer cashing in on nostalgia, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy took the good old trilogy of games players loved and remastered them, adding much-needed tweaks and graphical upgrades for modern audiences. Other than a few bug fixes, nothing else was changed; these are literally the same games that were released back in the day.
The only reason this is number three on the list is that it’s not as popular as it was before. The old classic platformers players enjoyed in childhood have since been relabelled as 'rage games' by those same individuals as adults, proving that sometimes nostalgia is better left in the past.
2 Stardew Valley
The immense popularity of Stardew Valley has everything to do with players’ love of the classic Harvest Moon games. As in the classics, players inherit a farm that they need to fix up and need to start generating a profit in order to keep it. Along the way, they plant crops, raise livestock, craft items, explore the world and woo the locals in order to obtain a spouse (who provides special perks to make the game easier).
Yes, it improves upon the formula and rights several of Harvest Moon's own wrongs, but it’s not a ground-breaking idea.
Once again, just because a game is only popular because of nostalgia, that doesn't mean it's bad. Cuphead is a ton of fun, but it's also immensely popular because of the sheer amount of nostalgic elements present.
It’s a platformer with run and gun elements, similar to old titles like Metal Slug. This means that gameplay is very simple and straightforward, just like those old classics. The visual aspects of this game are directly based on the old cartoon animation styles from the 1930s, which were famously used by Walt Disney. It’s a game that triggers all the right memories and childhood emotions to create a deeply nostalgic game, despite being a modern title.