Hope's Top Four Free Classic Gaming Picks | Console | ROM | PC
Not many people know this, but I used to write for gaming magazines for a living. I love video gaming, truly love it. When I'm not writing, I'm avoiding the harsh glare of the outside world and loosing myself in what is fast becoming the new literature of the modern age, the video game.
These are my favorite four classic games and / or franchises worth playing if you can get a chance. All of them can be played on a PC with a couple of simple emulation programs, the necessary ROMS, and in the case of PSX games, a BIOS. These games aren't technically free, but if you ever owned them in the past, then it is not illegal to have a copy on your PC. Alternatively, if you want the full experience, you can now buy a PSX and a Nintendo 64 for around 10 bucks each tops. That's pretty cheap gaming, and I have to tell you, these classics are on par with, and often better than the next gen stuff that is coming out today.
THPS (Tony Hawk Pro Skater) Playstation (PSX)
Amazing, brilliant, awesome series. The skills learned in any given THPS game can be applied to any other game in the series and they actually are 'skills'. There are two types of game in the world, those which require an in game character to up skill, and those which require the player to up skill. I find the latter to be truly far more satisfying than the former, and THPS has mastered this style of game. A THPS player who knows what they're doing can pick up a controller anywhere in the world and whip the pants off their opponents at a moment's notice. That's how games should be.
Some people shy away from this franchise because of the fact that it is about skating, and they have no interest in skating. I don't have any interest in skating either, THPS isn't really about skating, its about balance, finess, control and style.
Abe's Oddysee (Oddworld) Playstation (PSX)
The original version that came out for Playstation, mind you. This is essentially a scrolling platform game, but it takes the genre Mario and Luigi made famous and beats the heck out of it with innovative design and a gripping environment that really makes you feel like you're there. Abe is perhaps one of the most sympathetic characters of all time. You can't help but like the little guy and want to help him and his little mudukon friends out of their opression. In between the explosive farts and head exploding chants, you'll fall in love with the Oddworld series.
Ocarina of Time (Zelda) (Nintendo 64)
A more immersive, gripping and thoroughly enjoyable tale I have never found. Majora's Mask (the next game in the series)isn't bad either, but the time switching thing inherent in that game makes the whole thing seem, I don't know, unreal on some level. (I know you can manipulate time as Adult Link and Kid Link, but that's not the same thing as being able to go back to the first morning of the first day. Playing Majora's mask is a bit like being in a cartoon Tarantino movie on acid.) As any Zelda freak knows, Hyrule is a real place, and it was made real by Ocarina of Time. This isn't just a game, it's art. Five minutes into the thing and you'll be hooked, ferrying your cute little cartoon link about the land, using an impressive array of tools, weapons and songs to save Hyrule.
FFVIIII (Final Fantasy 8) Playstation (PSX)
I know FFVII is considered to be the classic, but I've always loved FFVIII. Unlike THPS, the FF series doesn't maintain the same sort of experience throughout the series. X.2, for example, in which you play an all female team which gains and looses powers based on what clothing you wear and requires mastery of a ' garment grid' made me actually want to stab my own characters. Snotty little mismatched eye girls that they were.
FFVIII has perhaps a little too much unnecessary interaction between the characters, all of whom are about as cool as that kid who always brought candy to class to bribe some friends, but there's an innocence to the game, which when matched with an interesting story line and fairly intricate game play, makes for an excellent gaming experience.
One of my favorite aspects of this game is the way that you can simply trudge your way through it, putting all the finer functions on auto pilot, or you can really get down to the nitty gritty, customizing your characters and their skills to be perfectly tuned for any situation.
If you like role playing games, you'll love this. If you don't like role playing games, you'll probably love this too. Did I mention that characters have the ability to summon giant angry genie creatures?