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How Simplicity Makes Video Games Immortal

Remakes are sweeping the AAA gaming industry, but certain games can live on eternally thanks to their simple look and feel.

Still from the remake of Final Fantasy 7, one of the video games to be 'remastered' in 2020.
Youtube / PlayStation

Both older classics like the original Splinter Cell and newer additions like Amnesia: The Bunker employ intricate gameplay mechanics deriving from cleverly combined basic systems.

This simplicity underscores their replay value, a crucial element sustaining popularity despite sequels. Counter-Strike further exemplifies this – originating as a mod for Half-Life due to its easily graspable formula, it endures, with the main changes being graphic updates.

On the other hand, attempts to complicate games overly can yield negative outcomes. Hello Neighbor gained attention for adaptable AI and straightforward gameplay but stumbled when prioritizing a complex story, mismatching mechanics, and resulting in convolution.

Older Games Have Tight Systems

Still of the two protagonists of the game Splinter Cell: Conviction
The protagonists sneak into the White House in Splinter Cell: Conviction‘s finale.
Credit: Youtube / Willzyyy

Older games like Splinter Cell and its pre-PlayStation 3 sequels sell well due to built-up core mechanics. With Splinter Cell: Conviction on PS3, Ubisoft aimed for a gameplay overhaul, altering the franchise’s identity. Instead of refining their successful formula, they changed gameplay.

Splinter Cell was known for slow, puzzle-like stealth. The game’s punishing nature stemmed from its light and sound system. Moving fast meant detection due to noise. The lack of darkness exposed players to guards’ sight.

Newer games, especially indies, take cues from successful predecessors. Amnesia: The Bunker, a smaller game, uses in-game models for cutscenes, not proper 3D animation. Despite this, an impactful map and atmosphere can sustain immersion.

Art Style Lasts Longer Than Graphics

Still from the game 'Bloodborne'
Bloodborne PSX adapts the beginning of the original video game. Credit: Youtube / Lilith Walther

Since the dawn of 3D gaming, studios aimed for hyper-realistic visuals. However, as game engines improved, the idea of “photorealism” evolved. Initially, PlayStation and Xbox lacked fidelity for human replication. Still, they incorporated scanned faces onto 3D models, a technique persistently utilized today for far better results.

The reason these games are still played today is actually because of their limitations. They are so far from today’s graphics that they don’t even need a remaster. In fact, there’s been a trend of “demastering” games to make them look like they were released on the original PlayStation. One of the most famous ones is Bloodborne PSX, a fan-made game based on the actual PlayStation 4 game Bloodborne.

Sometimes older games are brought back into the modern era – for example, the legendary sci-fi game System Shock has been revived. If a game is too old to line up with modern standards, developers can completely remake it from the ground up.

The first four Resident Evil games got remade, and their modern counterparts might as well be an entirely separate series. The writing was slightly tweaked to match the game’s hyperrealistic tone, but it always kept the basic story and character personalities the same. Resident Evil 4 is often regarded as one of the best video games of all time, and its remake is even better, thanks to modern gameplay mechanics and increased screen-time for side characters.

A Game’s Identity Comes from Simple Mechanics

One of the most tragic examples of a loss of identity is Hello Neighbor. The original alpha build blew up in popularity because of its simple but effective concept. The player moves to a new neighborhood and has to open his neighbor’s basement by finding a key somewhere in the house. The map itself is your house, which is just a spawn point, a road, and the neighbor’s house, which has tons of content.

The game quickly became a thrilling horror experience with a lively, cartoony art style that caters to all ages. The tension escalates as players panic during chases. Back then, Five Nights at Freddy’s dominated game theory channels. Hello Neighbor’s creators aimed to capture that market but ended up complicating their game with unmanageable features. Ultimately, the final product worsened compared to the original simple version.

Written By

I'm a University of Southern California alumni. I have a Bachelor of Sciences in Business of Cinematic Arts and a minor in Cultural Diplomacy. I enjoy playing video games, reading comics and manga, and watching anime and movies. I love writing about topics surrounding the film and television industry, and the meanings behind many successful stories.

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