It's a great time to play games.
Sure, we stand at the dawn of next-gen consoles, but the last generation was good to us, too. During the last eight years, machines that launched with barebones interfaces evolved to become entertainment hubs. Many games grew bigger, more ambitious. The consoles ushered in the downloadable games revolution.
With so many games released, it's easy to forget some of the sparkling gems that, for whatever reasons, got lost along the way. They are games big and small — games produced by teams of dozens or hundreds and games created by small teams of just a few.
They hold up. And as the years have gone by, they've remained just as fun. If you're looking for some deals on holiday gifts, here are some safe bets. These are our lost classics.
The lost classics
Red faction: Guerrilla
The lost downloadable classics
The Last Guy
The Last Guy is kind of the perfect downloadable game. It's easy to pick up, difficult to master and charmingly presented. You play the titular Last Guy, a little dot on the screen who herds sheeple out of buildings and into Safe Zones in the wake of a "zombie" invasion. I say "zombie" because The Last Guy plays fast and loose with the term, using it for every monster. Making your way around the maze of actual cities presented from satellite photos requires a succession of quick decisions, gut instincts and planning ahead — at least until those later levels when the zombies start moving and spraying and reeking more havoc.
Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX
Pac-Man has been one of my favorite games since the early 1980s. It never gets old. So I was excited when I heard that the original designer, Tōru Iwatani, was returning to make a new version of the game for consoles. I had absolutely no expectation that the game he'd produce, Pac-Man: Championship Edition would, in many ways, improve on the original. Then came Pac-Man: Championship Edition DX, which was even better. These games took my one of my favorites and made it better. This is what happens when you weaponize Pac-Man Fever.
Shadow Complex is the answer to what a 16-bit-era platformer would look like on modern hardware. It stands on the shoulder of giants, wrapping the level gating and hidden item-filled, labyrinthine maps from genre-defining franchises like Castlevania and Metroid in the power of Unreal Engine. The downloadable title adds half a dimension to the 2D platforner formula to update the combat (with sometimes mixed results), and it folds in the connected nature of modern consoles, so you're constantly aware of how your performance stacks up against your friends list. It proves that a genre of games many of us played as kids remains viable. Now where's that sequel?