The worst things about modern video games

The first home console I owned – after saving up my hard-earned pocket money and pestering my parents for ages – was a Super Nintendo. Gaming has changed a lot since then, and while many of those changes have been fantastic and introduced us to new genres, not every change has been for the better! In this list I’m going to cover some of my biggest pet peeves with video games in 2021.

As always, this list is entirely subjective. If I criticise something you like, or exclude something you hate, just keep in mind that this is only one person’s opinion. Gaming is a huge hobby that includes many people with many different perspectives. If yours and mine don’t align, that’s okay!

Number 1: No difficulty options.

Some people play video games because they love the challenge of a punishingly-difficult title, and the reward of finally overcoming an impossible level after hours of perseverance. I am not one of those people! In most cases, I play video games for escapism and entertainment – I want to see a story unfold or just switch off from other aspects of my life for a while. Excessive difficulty is frustrating and offputting for me.

As someone with health issues, I would argue that difficulty settings are a form of accessibility. Some people don’t have the ability to hit keys or buttons in rapid succession, and in some titles the lack of a difficulty setting – particularly if the game is not well-balanced – can mean those games are unavailable to folks with disabilities.

While many games are too difficult, the reverse can also be true. Some titles are just too easy for some people – I’m almost never in that category, but still! Games that have no difficulty settings where the base game is incredibly easy can be unenjoyable for some folks, particularly if the challenge was what got them interested in the first place.

In 2021, most games have difficulty options as a standard feature. Difficulty settings have been part of games going back decades, and in my opinion there’s no technical reason why they shouldn’t be included. There’s also not really a “creative” reason, either. Some developers talk in grandiose terms about their “vision” for a title being the reason why they didn’t implement difficulty options, but as I’ve said before – the inclusion of an easier (or harder) mode does not impact the game at all. It only impacts those who choose to turn it on, and considering how easy it is to implement, I find it incredibly annoying when a game is deliberately shipped without any difficulty options.

Number 2: Excessive difficulty as a game’s only selling point.

While we’re on the subject of difficulty, another pet peeve of mine is games whose entire identity is based on their difficulty (or perceived difficulty). Think about this for a moment: would Dark Souls – an otherwise bland, uninspired hack-and-slash game – still be talked about ten years after its release were it not for its reputation as impossibly difficult? How many late 2000s or early ’10s hack-and-slash games have dropped out of the cultural conversation? The only thing keeping Dark Souls there is its difficulty.

A challenge is all well and good, and I don’t begrudge players who seek that out. But for me, a game has to offer something more than that. If there’s a story worth telling under the difficult gameplay I’m impressed. If the difficult, punishing gameplay is all there is, then that’s boring!

Difficulty can also be used by developers as cover for a short or uninteresting game. Forcing players to replay long sections over and over and over can massively pad out a game’s runtime, and if that’s a concern then cranking the difficulty to ridiculous levels – and offering no way to turn it down – can turn a short game into a long one artificially.

I’m all for games that offer replay value, but being forced to replay the same level or checkpoint – or battle the same boss over and over – purely because of how frustratingly hard the developers chose to make things simply isn’t fun for me.

Number 3: Ridiculous file sizes.

Hey Call of Duty? Your crappy multiplayer mode does not need to be 200 gigabytes. Nor does any game, for that matter. It’s great that modern technology allows developers to create realistic-looking worlds, but some studios are far better than others when it comes to making the best use of space! Some modern games do need to be large to incorporate everything, but even so there’s “large” and then there’s “too large.”

For a lot of folks this is an issue for two main reasons: data caps and download speeds. On my current connection I’m lucky to get a download speed of 7 Mbps, and downloading huge game files can quite literally take several days – days in which doing anything else online would be impossibly slow! But I’m fortunate compared to some people, because I’m not limited in the amount of data I can download by my ISP.

In many parts of the world, and on cheaper broadband connections, data caps are very much still a thing. Large game files can take up an entire months’ worth of data – or even more in some cases – making games with huge files totally inaccessible to a large number of people.

This one doesn’t seem like it’s going away any time soon, though. In fact, we’re likely to see file sizes continue to get larger as games push for higher resolutions, larger environments, and more detail.

Number 4: Empty open worlds.

Let’s call this one “the Fallout 76 problem.” Open worlds became a trend in gaming at some point in the last decade, such that many franchises pursued this style even when it didn’t suit their gameplay. Read the marketing material of many modern titles and you’ll see bragging about the size of the game world: 50km2, 100km2, 1,000km2, and so on. But many of these open worlds are just empty and boring, with much of the map taken up with vast expanses of nothing.

It is simply not much fun to have to travel across a boring environment – or even a decently pretty one – for ages just to get to the next mission or part of the story. Level design used to be concise and clever; modern open worlds, especially those which brag about their size, tend to be too large, with too little going on.

The reason why Fallout 76 just encapsulates this for me is twofold. Firstly, Bethesda droned on and on in the weeks before the game’s release that the world they’d created was the “biggest ever!” And secondly, the game had literally zero non-player characters. That huge open world was populated by a handful of other players, non-sentient monsters, and nothing else. It was one of the worst games of the last few years as a result.

Open worlds can work well in games that are suited for that style of gameplay. But too many studios have been pushed into creating an open world simply to fit in with a current trend, and those open worlds tend to just flat-out suck because of it. Even when developers have tried to throw players a bone by adding in collect-a-thons, those get boring fast.

Number 5: Pixel graphics as a selling point.

There are some great modern games that use a deliberately 8-bit look. But for every modern classic there are fifty shades of shit; games that think pixel graphics and the word “retro” are cover for creating a mediocre or just plain bad title.

It may be hard to remember, but there was a time when the idea of using a deliberately “old-school” aesthetic would have been laughed at. The first few console generations were all about improvements, and I’m old enough to remember when 3D was a huge deal. It seemed like nobody would ever want to go back to playing a SNES game after trying the Nintendo 64, and while there are still plenty of gamers who love the retro feel, I’m generally not one of them.

That isn’t to say that realistic graphics should be the only thing a game strives for. And this point works for modern graphics or visual styles in general – bragging about how detailed the graphics are, or how unique a title’s art style is, means nothing if the game itself is shit. But it likewise works for pixel-graphics games – an outdated art style does not compensate for or cover up a fundamentally flawed, unenjoyable experience.

Games with pixel graphics can be good, and many titles have surprised me by how good they are. I’ve written before about how Minecraft surprised me by being so much more than I expected, and that’s one example. But I guess what I’d say is this: if your game looks like it should have been released in 1991, you’ve got more of an uphill battle to win me over – or even convince me to try it in the first place – than you would if your game looked new.

Number 6: Unnecessary remakes.

We called one of the entries above “the Fallout 76 problem,” so let’s call this one “the Mass Effect: Legendary Edition problem.” In short, games from even ten or fifteen years ago still look pretty good and play well. There’s far less of a difference between games from 2011 and 2021 than there was between games from 1991 and 2001 – the pace of technological change, at least in gaming, has slowed.

“Updating” or “remaking” a game from ten years ago serves no real purpose, and in the case of Mass Effect: Legendary Edition I’ve struggled at times to tell which version of the game is the new one when looking at pre-release marketing material. There’s no compelling reason to remake games that aren’t very old. Re-release them or give them a renewed marketing push if you want to drum up sales or draw attention to a series, but don’t bill your minor upgrade as a “remake.”

There are some games that have benefitted hugely from being remade. I’d point to Crash Bandicoot and Resident Evil 2 as two great examples. But those games were both over twenty years old at the time they were remade, and having been released in the PlayStation 1 era, both saw massive upgrades such that they were truly worthy of the “remake” label.

I’ve put together two lists of games that I’d love to see remade, but when I did so I deliberately excluded titles from the last two console generations. Those games, as I said at the time, are too recent to see any substantial benefits from a remake. In another decade or so, assuming sufficient technological progress has been made, we can talk about remaking PlayStation 3 or PlayStation 4 games – but not now!

Number 7: Fake “remakes.”

On a related note to the point above, if a title is billed as a “remake,” I expect to see substantial changes and improvements. If all that’s happened is a developer has run an old title through an upscaler and added widescreen support, that’s not a remake!

A lot of titles that acquire the “HD” suffix seem to suffer from this problem. Shenmue I & II on PC contained a number of bugs and glitches – some of which existed in the Dreamcast version! When Sega decided to “remake” these two amazing games, they couldn’t even be bothered to patch out bugs that were over fifteen years old. That has to be some of the sloppiest, laziest work I’ve ever seen.

There are other examples of this, where a project may have started out with good intentions but was scaled back and scaled back some more to the point that it ended up being little more than an upscaled re-release. Kingdoms of Amalur: Re-Reckoning springs to mind as an example from just last year.

Remakes are an opportunity to go back to the drawing board, fix issues, update a title, and bring it into the modern world. Too many “remakes” fail to address issues with the original version of the game. We could even point to Mass Effect: Legendary Edition’s refusal to address criticism of the ending of Mass Effect 3 as yet another example of a missed opportunity.

Number 8: The “release now, fix later” business model.

This isn’t the first time I’ve criticised the “release now, fix later” approach taken by too many modern games – and it likely won’t be the last! Also known as “live services,” games that go down this route almost always underperform and draw criticism, and they absolutely deserve it. The addition of internet connectivity to home consoles has meant that games companies have taken a “good enough” approach to games, releasing them before they’re ready with the intention to patch out bugs, add more content, and so on at a later time.

Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most recent and most egregious examples of this phenomenon, being released on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 in a state so appallingly bad that many considered it “unplayable.” But there are hundreds of other examples going back to the early part of the last decade. Fortunately, out of all the entries on this list, this is the one that shows at least some signs of going away!

The fundamental flaw in this approach, of course, is that games with potential end up having launches that are mediocre at best, and when they naturally underperform due to bad reviews and word-of-mouth, companies panic! Planned updates are scrapped to avoid pumping more money into a failed product, and a game that could have been decent ends up being forgotten.

For every No Man’s Sky that manages to claw its way to success, there are a dozen Anthems or Mass Effect: Andromedas which fail. Time will tell if Cyberpunk 2077 can rebuild itself and its reputation, but its an uphill struggle – and a totally unnecessary one; a self-inflicted wound. If publishers would just wait and delay clearly-unfinished games instead of forcing them to meet arbitrary deadlines, gaming would be a much more enjoyable hobby. Remember, everyone: NO PRE-ORDERS!

Number 9: Forcing games to be multiplayer and/or scrapping single-player modes.

Some games are built from the ground up with multiplayer in mind – but many others are not, and have multiplayer modes tacked on for no reason. The Last Of Us had an unnecessary multiplayer mode, as did Mass Effect 3. Did you even know that, or notice those modes when you booted up those story-focused games?

Some games and even whole genres are just not well-suited to multiplayer. And others that are still have the potential to see single-player stories too. Many gamers associate the first-person shooter genre with multiplayer, and it’s true that multiplayer games work well in the first-person shooter space. But so do single-player titles, and aside from 2016’s Doom and the newer Wolfenstein titles, I can’t think of many new single-player first-person shooters, or even shooters with single-player modes that felt anything other than tacked-on.

Anthem is one of the biggest failures of the last few years, despite BioWare wanting it to be the video game equivalent of Bob Dylan. But if Anthem hadn’t been multiplayer and had instead maintained BioWare’s usual single-player focus, who knows what it could have been. There was potential in its Iron Man-esque flying suits, but that potential was wasted on a mediocre-at-best multiplayer shooter.

I started playing games before the internet, when “multiplayer” meant buying a second controller and plugging it into the console’s only other available port! So I know I’m biased because of that. But just a few short years ago it felt as though there were many more single-player titles, and fewer games that felt as though multiplayer modes had been artificially forced in. In the wake of huge financial successes such as Grand Theft Auto V, Fortnite, and the like, publishers see multiplayer as a cash cow – but I wish they didn’t!

Number 10: Early access.

How many times have you been excited to see that a game you’ve been waiting for is finally available to buy… only to see the two most awful words in the entire gaming lexicon: “Early Access?” Early access billed itself as a way for indie developers to get feedback on their games before going ahead with a full release, and I want to be clear on this point: I don’t begrudge indie games using it for that purpose. Indies get a pass!

But recently there’s been a trend for huge game studios to use early access as free labour; a cheap replacement for paying the wages of a quality assurance department. When I worked for a large games company in the past, I knew a number of QA testers, and the job is not an easy one. It certainly isn’t one that studios should be pushing off onto players, yet that’s exactly what a number of them have been doing. Early access, if it exists at all, should be a way for small studios to hone and polish their game, and maybe add fan-requested extras, not for big companies to save money on testers.

Then there are the perpetual early access games. You know the ones: they entered early access in 2015 and are still there today. Platforms like Steam which offer early access need to set time limits, because unfortunately some games are just taking the piss. If your game has been out since 2015, then it’s out. It’s not in early access, you’ve released it.

Unlike most of the entries on this list, early access started out with genuinely good intentions. When used appropriately by indie developers, it’s fine and I don’t have any issue with it. But big companies should know better, and games that enter early access and never leave should be booted out!

Bonus: Online harassment.

Though this problem afflicts the entire internet regardless of where you go, it’s significant in the gaming realm. Developers, publishers, even individual employees of games studios can find themselves subjected to campaigns of online harassment by so-called “fans” who’ve decided to take issue with something in a recent title.

Let’s be clear: there is never any excuse for this. No game, no matter how bad it is, is worth harassing someone over. It’s possible to criticise games and their companies in a constructive way, or at least in a way that doesn’t get personal. There’s never any need to go after a developer personally, and especially not to send someone death threats.

We’ve seen this happen when games are delayed. We’ve seen it happen when games release too early in a broken state. In the case of Cyberpunk 2077, we’ve seen both. Toxic people will always find a reason to be toxic, unfortunately, and in many ways the anonymity of the internet has brought out the worst in human nature.

No developer or anyone who works in the games industry deserves to be threatened or harassed. It’s awful, it needs to stop, and the petty, toxic people who engage in this scummy activity do not deserve to be called “fans.”

So that’s it. Ten of my pet peeves with modern gaming.

This was a rant, but it was just for fun so I hope you don’t mind! There are some truly annoying things – and some truly annoying people – involved in gaming in 2021, and as much fun as playing games can be, it can be a frustrating experience as well. Some of these things are fads – short-term trends that will evaporate as the industry moves on. But others, like the move away from single-player games toward ongoing multiplayer experiences, seem like they’re here to stay.

Gaming has changed an awful lot since I first picked up a control pad. And it will continue to evolve and adapt – the games industry may be unrecognisable in fifteen or twenty years’ time! We’ll have to keep our fingers crossed for positive changes to come.

All titles mentioned above are the copyright of their respective developer, publisher, and/or studio. Some stock images courtesy of pixabay. Some screenshots and promotional artwork courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Could AI be the key to a Deep Space Nine and Voyager remaster?

The most popular article I’ve written here on the website is about Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager, and how neither series has been remastered. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, The Original Series and The Next Generation were given a complete overhaul and rebroadcast, then re-released on Blu-ray (and HD DVD, if anyone remembers that failed format!)

For a number of reasons, though, The Next Generation in particular didn’t see great sales numbers on Blu-ray. Because of the significant cost involved in upscaling and remastering it, and the lack of a significant return on that investment, ViacomCBS hasn’t been willing to spend money on Deep Space Nine or Voyager. As a result, both series remain in “standard definition,” a.k.a. DVD quality. On today’s ever-larger television screens, the difference between a remastered episode of The Next Generation and a non-remastered episode of Deep Space Nine is incredibly noticeable.

Captain Picard in The Next Generation remaster (left) and Deep Space Nine DVD quality (right). Even allowing for image compression, the difference in quality is easy to spot.

Star Trek has been one of the big franchises that ViacomCBS has used to push its rebranded Paramount+ streaming service. Paramount+ is now the digital home of all things Star Trek – yet two of its flagship series that many folks remember with fondness from the 1990s don’t look great. As I noted last time, that’s a problem. It makes Paramount+ look cheap, as though ViacomCBS simply can’t be bothered to put in the effort.

Netflix runs some shows in DVD quality, but by far the majority of its content is in high definition. As Paramount+ attempts to position itself as a competitor to Netflix, Disney+, and other platforms in a very crowded market, having two big flagship shows in low quality standard definition is not a good look, and it’s something that needs to be addressed.

But last time the company made a significant investment in remastering Star Trek it didn’t pay off, so how should they proceed?

The Next Generation did not sell particularly well on Blu-ray.

There are a few factors at play here. The first is that ViacomCBS (and its predecessor, CBS) measured the success of the remastered Star Trek series purely by Blu-ray sales. The problem with this approach is that, even by the early 2010s, optical media in general was in decline. Fewer people had made the switch to Blu-ray than DVD, and with the rise of on-demand streaming platforms it seemed only a matter of time before Star Trek would be available to watch. I owned a number of The Next Generation stories on VHS, I’d also bought the entire series on DVD, and in the early 2010s I just wasn’t prepared to spend that money all over again on the same show – especially when it seemed inevitable that eventually the series would be available online. I was right.

Physical media sales are a poor measure of success in the days of on-demand streaming, and the value in investing in any project – be it a remaster or the commissioning of a new series – is less about pure sales numbers and more about the number of subscribers it will drive to your streaming platform. ViacomCBS has invested in Paramount+, so why not go the extra mile and remaster these classic shows for the service too?

One of the commercials for Paramount+ focused on Star Trek.

That’s the first aspect of this issue – the business side and how to calculate a return on investment. Raw sales numbers are less and less valid as a metric of success in a world that’s moved on to streaming, so making that calculation isn’t easy. But I bet that remastering Deep Space Nine and Voyager would drive new subscribers to Paramount+, as well as convince wavering subscribers that it’s worth sticking around. Both of those things are what any streaming service needs to survive.

The second point to consider is that the cost of remastering any television series is dropping all the time. There is software that uses AI that can produce creditable results from DVD-quality sources, such as the existing versions of Deep Space Nine and Voyager. Consumer-grade versions of this software exist, and can be bought for less than $100. You can even find homemade upscaled clips of Deep Space Nine and Voyager on YouTube and elsewhere online – and they look pretty darn good.

There are many fan-made upscales of clips from Deep Space Nine and Voyager online.

As software continues to improve and come down in price, the cost of a project like this drops dramatically, and we may only be a few years away from fans being able to fully upscale their DVD collections at home. In some ways, we’re arguably there already. Rather than ViacomCBS having to spend huge sums of money recruiting new artists and animators to recreate whole sequences from scratch, it’s going to be possible to run entire episodes of the show through software and just have a small team of people make tweaks on the resultant upscaled version to knock it into shape. It’s far less of a project than it was ten years ago – so there are fewer and fewer reasons not to do it.

With ViacomCBS having the original tapes of these shows, it should be even easier to get a good result than it is for someone using the DVD version. I’m not saying it can all be done from home for a few dollars – the project will still cost money – but it’s a far less significant expense than it was last time the company chose to send Star Trek to the remastering suite, and waiting even just a couple of years could see those costs fall yet further.

Sisko and O’Brien in Emissary, the Deep Space Nine premiere.

I really hope that ViacomCBS will consider giving both shows a proper remaster at some point in the future. It’s something that would undoubtedly provide Paramount+ a boost, especially if the service were the only place to access the newly-upgraded shows. And it surely would be, because why bother with a Blu-ray release? Physical media continues its decline, with fewer people than ever upgrading to the latest 4K Blu-ray standard, so there’s almost no point. Remaster the shows, stick them on Paramount+, and enjoy a nice subscriber boost.

I truly believe AI and software offer a path to remastering these shows – and a lot of others, too. There are a few other series from the ’80s and ’90s that are yet to be properly remastered, and the same solution potentially exists for those as well. I’m not a tech expert, but I think the results speak for themselves. When I’ve seen upscaled clips online, created incredibly inexpensively by amateurs using commercially-available software, it really feels like ViacomCBS is missing a trick. Maybe upscaling the series this way wouldn’t be as good as spending huge amounts of money to do it from scratch, but it would be something – and the result would almost certainly be a better-looking show than the currently-available SD version.

Paramount+ would get a boost if both shows were remastered.

As I mentioned at the beginning, the most popular article I’ve written is about Deep Space Nine and Voyager needing a remaster – so there is clearly huge interest there from both Trekkies and casual fans. People who watched the shows years ago may want to rewatch them. New Star Trek fans who’ve joined the fandom since the release of the Kelvin films or Discovery may want to go back and watch older Star Trek shows. And of course us Trekkies would love nothing more than to see the two series get an overhaul. There’s a sizeable audience out here asking for a remaster, an upscaling, or whatever you want to call it. AI could be a good solution – saving money while giving fans what we’ve been asking for for years!

At the very least, I think it’s worth considering. And if ViacomCBS never does it… maybe someone else will. These pieces of software get better and cheaper all the time, and we could be in a position in a very short span of time where fan-made remasters of whole episodes, not just clips, will be widely available.

Deep Space Nine and Voyager were a big part of Star Trek’s most successful era to date, and a lot of casual viewers and Trekkies remember them with fondness. While there’s nothing wrong with the DVD versions, as screen technology improves and televisions get larger, what viewers expect from their programming has changed. For a lot of people in 2021, standard definition isn’t good enough – especially on a streaming service that costs $9.99 per month. If ViacomCBS is serious about continuing to invest in the Star Trek franchise, a portion of that investment needs to be directed backward, to remastering these two shows that have been sidelined. Part of the marketing for Paramount+ highlighted that it was the place to watch every episode of Star Trek – some fans will have been disappointed to learn that over 300 of those episodes don’t look great.

AI and software offer a solution to this problem, one ViacomCBS should take advantage of as soon as possible.

Star Trek: Deep Space Nine and Star Trek: Voyager are available to stream now (in SD quality only) on Paramount+ in the United States, and on Netflix in the UK and other countries and territories. Both series are also available on DVD. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.

Ten more games I’d remaster (if I could)

A little while ago I looked at ten games from years past that I wish would be remastered and brought up-to-date. That list was fun to put together, but I ended up leaving off a number of titles that I had considered including. This new list will make up for that!

The same methodology applies as last time: more recent titles – which I’m defining as anything from this console generation or the one preceding it – are excluded by default. And the rest are games that I’ve personally played… albeit I haven’t touched most of them in years or even decades. Remember that this isn’t me saying that these games will be remastered. I’m just saying that, if I had unlimited resources, I’d like nothing more than to bring them up to date and give a new generation of players a chance to experience them.

Number 1: Super Mario Kart (SNES, 1992) and/or Mario Kart 64 (Nintendo 64, 1997)

I’d love to replay the classic tracks of the first two Mario Kart titles using the more modern engine used for Mario Kart 8. A few of the tracks from these two titles have reappeared in recent Mario Kart titles, but not all of them and the two games have never been remastered in their entirety complete with all of the tracks and the same roster of characters.

Super Mario Kart was one of the first games I bought for myself in the early ’90s; I think I’d played a demo of it in a shop and desperately wanted my own copy! Mario Kart 64 is probably my personal favourite entry in the series; it had such an amazing set of tracks. If you want to see some of the best racetracks from these titles and others that I think would be great for the next Mario Kart title, I have an article all about that. With 2022 being the 30th anniversary of the series – and with Nintendo’s love of anniversaries – they could certainly take that opportunity to bring one or both of these titles fully up-to-date!

Number 2: Space Harrier (Arcade, 1985)

On my first list I didn’t include any pre-1990 titles. Partly that’s because I haven’t played all that many games from that era, but partly because a lot of older games were rather basic. Space Harrier is undeniably in that category; it’s an on-rails shooter without any real story, the only objective is to shoot at aliens and creatures. But there aren’t many games like that in 2020, and perhaps with a major visual overhaul it could offer something different to players. The other option would be to take its main character, settings, and alien races and expand on them – turning Space Harrier from a run-and-gun shooter into something more like a story-driven action/adventure title in a unique sci-fi setting.

I never had the chance to play Space Harrier in a real arcade. The closest I got to that experience was playing it in Shenmue – that’s where I first encountered the title. But nostalgia is a big deal these days, and perhaps some people would be tempted to see a reworked version of this classic.

Number 3: Spirit of Speed 1937 (Dreamcast and PC, 1999)

Racing games are a lot of fun, and some modern titles do make an attempt to include older vehicles – classic cars from the golden age of motor racing. I could be wrong, but I don’t think there’s been another game like Spirit of Speed 1937, though, which was set in that era and exclusively featured pre-war vehicles.

I played the Dreamcast version of this game, and it was a lot of fun. It was also something wholly unique among racing games that were either fun but un-serious kart racers in the vein of the Mario Kart series, or modern-day racers and rally games featuring up-to-date cars. I believe that niche still exists today, and it would be a lot of fun to have a classic racer like this to fill it!

Number 4: Star Trek: Voyager – Elite Force

I’ve had an article in the pipeline for a while that I haven’t knocked into shape yet looking at the state of Star Trek video games. To make a long story short, while a number of them have been pretty good, practically none reached out beyond Star Trek’s preexisting fandom. Elite Force was different, and some fans of first-person shooters who didn’t give a hoot about Star Trek played and enjoyed the game when it released in 2000. Its multiplayer mode in particular was something gamers at the time appreciated.

Elite Force had a great single-player campaign too, which included down time in between missions where the player character – Ensign Munro – was able to explore parts of the ship. The story was perfectly Star Trek in its theme, and Voyager would even go on to use a vaguely similar premise for an episode called The Void which aired about six months after the game was released.

Number 5: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (Xbox and PC, 2002)

It would have been hard to imagine in the 2000s, but there hasn’t been a game released in the Elder Scrolls series for almost a decade. Though Bethesda have promised us that The Elder Scrolls VI is in development, it seems years away. The company has remastered Skyrim several times and ported it to every platform under the sun, and while we continue to wait for The Elder Scrolls VI, why not bring Morrowind up to date?

Morrowind is undoubtedly my favourite game in the series. It massively expanded on previous entries, with a huge variety of quests and styles of play. It was possible to be a wizard, sneaky assassin, warrior, and all manner of other things. Beginning with its sequel, Oblivion, Bethesda actually began cutting content, and the most recent Elder Scrolls titles have far fewer NPCs, weapon types, factions, and so on. While we can argue about which game is “better” and get nowhere – such things are subjective, after all – for my money Morrowind offers players the biggest choice of things to do. It’s been eighteen years since I first played it, and I still haven’t completed every quest!

Number 6: Super Mario 64 (Nintendo 64, 1996)

I kept this title off my first list because there had been rumours floating around of a remaster being worked on. Sadly, as I noted when I looked at Nintendo’s lineup for Mario’s 35th anniversary, Super Mario 64 was only included in its original form as part of a bundle. But replaying this amazing game in the Super Mario Odyssey engine is something I really want to experience, and with the game’s 25th anniversary coming up next year, perhaps Nintendo will finally bring Super Mario 64 up-to-date.

I first played Super Mario 64 when it was released; it was the first Nintendo 64 game that I owned. I’m not sure if it was the first ever true 3D game I played, but it was certainly one of the earliest titles I got to enjoy that wasn’t 2D. It has a special place in my heart as “my” Mario game – I played the SNES versions of classic Mario titles, but even at the time they were “old” games, and Super Mario 64 was the first that I got to play when it was new.

Number 7: Medieval: Total War (PC, 2002)

Medieval: Total War is almost certainly my most-played game of the early 2000s. It followed on from the also brilliant Shogun: Total War, but took the setting from feudal Japan to the more-familiar western Europe. It was a game that was very easy to mod – I remember opening up the game’s files in Notepad and editing things like the year the game began, which factions controlled which province, and even the names of provinces! I loved the dual gameplay, which was unique among strategy games at the time – both a grand strategy game that required detailed faction management and real-time battles were present in the same title.

The Total War series is still going strong in 2020, and recent titles like Total War: Warhammer and Total War: Three Kingdoms are carrying the flag for the franchise on a massively improved engine. Medieval II: Total War did bring the series back to this setting in 2006, but even that game is rather outdated compared to the latest entries, and it would be amazing to see a remake of Medieval: Total War using the technology at the franchise’s disposal today.

Number 8: TimeSplitters 2 (GameCube, PlayStation 2, and Xbox, 2002)

Out of all the games I’ve ever played, TimeSplitters 2 may have the best ever multiplayer mode! It was certainly something that was a huge amount of fun to play on the original Xbox, with its goofy time-travel narrative taking players from Prohibition-era Chicago to futuristic Toyko and beyond. The TimeSplitters games were never going to be on par with other first-person shooter titles like Halo or the Call of Duty series, but the series had heart and did what it did incredibly well.

The recent remake of Destroy All Humans shows that there is a market for early/mid 2000s games with a sense of humour to be remastered, and I’d absolutely love to welcome back TimeSplitters 2 after all this time.

Number 9: The Simpsons: Hit and Run (Multiplatform, 2003)

Talk to anyone who was a gamer in the mid-2000s and I bet they’ll remember The Simpons: Hit and Run with a sense of nostalgia! I didn’t actually own this game for myself at the time (being a broke student) but a friend did and we played it regularly when I was at university. The game is basically a Simpsons-themed Grand Theft Auto-clone, playing on the popularity of that sub-genre in the wake of Grand Theft Auto III and Vice City, and while fans of Grand Theft Auto will find the more extreme violence of that series decidedly toned-down and cartoonish, it’s a solid game nevertheless.

Recent games have steered away from tie-ins with films and television shows, and the days of a big-budget game based on a popular series are all but gone. There was a time when many popular titles got video game adaptations, and while as a whole tie-in games picked up a (not undeserved) reputation for being pretty poor, there are some real gems too. The Simpsons: Hit and Run is absolutely one of them!

Number 10: Operation WinBack (Nintendo 64, 1999)

Despite languishing in relative obscurity in 2020, Operation WinBack – known as WinBack: Covert Operations in the United States – is an incredibly influential title. Doom was the father of the first-person shooter, and similarly Operation WinBack is the instigator of the cover-based third-person shooter genre. Titles like Gears of War and Mass Effect would not exist without Operation WinBack, and while its cover system – which was so unique at the time it debuted – is now a standard feature, there are still plenty of reasons to bring back this fun spy adventure.

Operation WinBack had a good story, one that would be at home in films like the Mission: Impossible or James Bond series. 2016’s Doom has proved that there’s an appetite among gamers for going back to the roots of established genres, so it could be time to return to the world of Operation WinBack.

So that’s it. Ten more titles that are – in my opinion – worthy of a remaster in 2020. Will any of them ever get one? Let’s just say if I were a gambler I wouldn’t put any money on it! Well… maybe one or two? Some of the biggest companies in the games industry have recently put lots of money into remakes and remasters, and some games that I’d never have expected – like Destroy All Humans and Command and Conquer – have been brought up-to-date. So there’s a chance. There’s always a chance!

Though several of these games are undoubtedly out of print, each one is worth playing in its original form if you’re able to track down a copy, and even though it’s been years or decades since I got to play some of them, I recommend every title on this list!

All titles listed above are the copyright of their respective developers, studios, and/or publishers. Some screenshots courtesy of IGDB. This article contains the thoughts and opinions of one person only and is not intended to cause any offence.