Jonah Schuhart, Contributing Writer
Nothing appeals to people more than things associated with the simpler and more enjoyable times of adolescence. So, in celebration of nostalgia, here’s a couple of my most nostalgic game series as a kid who grew up in the early 2000s.
Disclaimer: I’m refraining from including any series that have maintained relevance over time with new releases. That means the bulk of Nintendo franchises are off-limits. The same goes for “Call of Duty” and similar games.
“Lego Star Wars”
In 2005, the world was graced with “Lego Star Wars,” one of the greatest family-friendly game series of all time. It was the first in a series of licensed games that retold classic movie franchises like “Indiana Jones” and “Batman.” They had no dialogue and relied on visual storytelling. What resulted were kooky, Saturday-morning-cartoon renditions of classic movies that had 9-year-old me hunched over with laughter.
Combine that “Tom and Jerry” style visual comedy with simple gameplay, a host of iconic characters and a myriad of collectibles in every level. The result is a classic game that anyone can pick up, play and immediately enjoy.
Nowadays, licensed Lego games are still released on a regular basis, spreading joy to children of all ages. They’ve added full dialogue to some newer releases though, so I’m not sure if they still carry that unique formula for slapstick cartoon humor.
In a world where rhythm games were dominated by Japanese arcade machines like “Dance Dance Revolution,” one game series sought to rise up and overthrow the status quo. Enter “Guitar Hero,” a Western game that lets anyone live out the fantasy of being a rock ’n’ roll guitar god. Boasting a unique controller, the series hit the market like a meteor in 2005, becoming a sensation overnight. Everyone loved “Guitar Hero.” It had a unique visual style with a sly sense of humor, an awesome collection of classic rock songs to play and a multiplayer mode perfect for parties.
Today, the “Guitar Hero” franchise isn’t doing so well. Those kinds of rhythm games fell off the radar years ago, and the failed experiment that was 2015’s “Guitar Hero Live” isn’t bringing them back anytime soon. Luckily, an underground community has kept the hearth warm, creating and playing custom songs on the independently-made “Clone Hero” for the PC.
The “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater” franchise is easily one of the greatest sports series of all time. It took one of the biggest athletes of the 20th century and added arcadey gameplay in creatively designed levels stuffed with collectibles and missions that kept players hooked. It also helped that every game had a custom soundtrack with some of the greatest music of that era and a character creator that encouraged players to make ridiculous custom skaters. In those games, the player can do a double backflip 900 off a skyscraper to the tune of N.W.A.’s “Express Yourself” while playing as a 7-foot-tall purple giant in his underwear. That’s a special kind of experience.
Unfortunately, the current state of “Tony Hawk’s” games is very similar to that of “Guitar Hero.” The franchise is basically dead, and its last release didn’t do it any favors. Again, a niche underground community is still shredding in “THUG Pro,” a modified version of “Tony Hawk’s Underground 2” for PC.
“Star Wars Battlefront II”
No, not the new one made by Electronic Arts. I like to pretend that game doesn’t exist. I’m talking about the original that came out in 2005. While games like “Lego Star Wars” let players relive the franchise in a new cartoon way, “Battlefront II” let players relive almost every conflict in the saga from the perspective of the nameless soldiers that get cut down by space wizards like Darth Vader. And if players did well, they could become that space wizard.
This game may not sound very different from its modern successor, but it contained great single-player content in the form of “Galactic Conquest” and the “Rise of the Empire” campaign mode. More importantly, unlike the new one, it didn’t gouge your wallet with obscene loot box systems.
The original Wii promised something new for gaming. It was the first time motion controls were used as the main control scheme for a console. “Wii Sports” was one of the launch titles that helped solidify the Wii’s success. It promised a new type of healthy gaming that promoted exercise and led to games like “Wii Fit” and “Wii Sports Resort.” In reality, all it took was some very casual wrist-flicks to play most of the game modes “Wii Sports.”
It was a real challenge to get pro status in all of the five separate game modes — especially in boxing, where the player could throw a haymaker that would flatten Mike Tyson, and the character still popped back up like a zombie rising from the grave and knocked the player’s eyes into the back of their skull.
The series has kind of worn itself out at this point. Despite the fact that a fitness game came out for the Nintendo Switch this year in the form of “Fitness Boxing,” I can’t see myself spending hours and hours flicking my wrist and flailing my arms in my living room, only to lose grip of my controller and hurl it through my parent’s television. Always wear the wrist strap.