5 Old School Games Resurrected in Browsers

Unlike human beings, software never has to die. Sure, people may stop playing a game, at which point it instantly becomes passe and embarrassing to admit you even own it. Seriously, throw out that copy of Fester’s Quest, mmk? But at any time, really, you could totally choose to crack the game open and recapture what it is that made you waste so much time you could have spent, oh, I don’t know, learning how to fix a car or not accumulating 10,000 dollars in student debt.

But what happens if technology changes? You ditch your old computer, or you store your old consoles in the attic where, during a particularly hot summer, they melt all over your collection of Sandman comics and you feel stupid. If you want to play the game you’re kind of screwed. Unless… the current owners of the IP decide to bring it back! And what better way to do so than a cheap, Browser-based iteration?’

Thank the gods, that’s precisely what often happens. Formerly derelict franchises, cancelled IP, beloved, forgotten game scan find a whole new life as a simple to play game you can experience as long as your computer can handle whatever the current version of Internet Explorer is capable of. Huzzah! So, to commemorate those occasions when the video game gods, or at least the developers who serve them, deign to bring back a beloved way to pass the time, here are 5 old school games resurrected in browsers.

Atari Arcade

Hey, grandpa, guess what? Atari turned 40 this year! Yeah, think about that and feel old you old, old person who is extremely old. Well, to celebrate the milestone that must surely make some of you reading this feel like crying, Atari has released this charming Browser app that lets you play a selection from their stock of completely reimagined versions of classic console games via Internet Explorer.

Holy crap, the awesomeness of this. Look, you guys, those of you who grew up post-NES need to realize how truly crummy video game graphics were on earlier consoles. Not that you suck for not knowing, but just that, much like children of the future will gain much needed perspective from spending a week without their cybernetic implants, we can today get a real sense of how awesome living in the future is by checking out the simplicity of the second generation of games. Seriously, if you think Nintendo graphics are charming, you’ll marvel at the 1 dimensional monochromatic brilliance of the Atari 2600.

Obviously, you’re aware of the history of games, but knowing and experiencing are completely different things. Cracking open a 2600 console – as I did last January when I was visiting relatives in the South – you realize that despite the crumminess, those games were a ton of simple, itch-scratching fun that in every way that counts really presaged the era of smartphone casual gaming. Albeit on a console that cost quite a bit. Games like Combat, Missile Command, even dear old grandfatherly Pong, it’s shocking how much time you can lose.

But the graphics do suck, so it’s quite awesome that they’ve been updated so that they play almost exactly as they did on the Atari 2600, but look about like what you’d expect on your iPhone. Go, play now, and enjoy. Just don’t look in the direction of those of us who might be quickly applying copious amounts of putty to our aging faces.

Legends of Zork

Guys, do you like choose your own adventure books? Do you like text-based computer adventure games? Are your fondest early memories full of songs from Supertramp’s Breakfast in America? If the answer is yes – and it totally should be! – then you would be well served by digging deep, deep into the archives of ye olden times games and checking out the venerable Zork series. Created by four MIT geniuses in 1977, it has the distinction of being one of the earliest works of interactive fiction, of helping to codify that genre, and for helping bring Infocom – which also made the brilliant Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy games – into existence.

Zork, incidentally, was originally slang among hackers for unfinished software; the developers picked the name after their first idea, ‘Dungeon’, violated Dungeons & Dragons’ trademark. That turned out to be for the best, because the series was instantly distinguished by its bizarre name. That name hinted at the series’ mirthful sense of humor and willingness to play with the tropes of fantasy. The first Zork ledto several sequels and Infocom was eventually sold to Activision. Activision terminated Infocom in 1989, but continued to release Zork IP into the 1990s. Meanwhile, a series of choose your own adventure style novels were released in the 1980s (I still have a few collecting dust in my mom’s attic), and the series remains a fond touchstone for RPG fans and people who appreciate a good story in their games.

In 2009, Activision launched Legends of Zork, a browser-based MMO set in the Zork universe. It should have been the biggest thing in the world, if only for the same reason Futurama was renewed on Comedy Central and Sifl & Olly now live on Machinima. Unfortunately, it failed to capture the original series’ sense of humor and only bore a superficial resemblance to the premise. Still, it was almost a worthy attempt to revive the series, and almost lasted for 2 years. It was taken down in 2011. Hopefully, Activision will release their claws a bit and let someone who actually likes the series to do something with it. Until then, we’ll pour out some water in memory, and hope that we don’t receive a message telling us “I don’t know how to do that” in response.

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1 Comment on 5 Old School Games Resurrected in Browsers


On September 19, 2012 at 4:50 pm

Or maybe… ALL OF THE GAMES: snesbox.com