Nostalgia is a major driving force in the gaming industry. That’s not exactly some grand revelation, but it’s sobering to realize how rapidly childhood memories influence what we play.
Consider this. In 2018, Sony repackaged and resold one of its classic consoles to rival Nintendo’s SNES Classic juggernaut. They were joined, somewhat more modestly, by the C64 Mini, the NEOGEO Mini, and the troubled ZX Spectrum Vega+. Meanwhile, Nintendo spun up a selection of “classic” games for the Switch. We got and are getting new, numbered Mega Man and Streets of Rage games. Tetris is everyone’s bloody Game of the Year! Again!
This endlessly profitable dance of recycling relegates older hardware to museum exhibits — dead systems that only paved the way for digital re-releases and loving remasters. But don’t let that fool you. Folks still do original work on platforms as varied as the MSX and the Amiga 500. This article is just a taste of that. Here’s our list of the best games released in 2018 for retro consoles and computers in 2018!
Sega Genesis: Tanglewood
Tanglewood creator Matt Phillips previously worked for Traveller’s Tales. That’s not very surprising. His latest game gives you to explore and experiment with its sparse, evocative environments, just like the modern Lego games. Although it’s a lot harder to uncover this game’s secrets.
Nymn, an adorable fox-like mammal, has been stranded in a dark forest filled with towering carnivores, giddy fireflies, and hidden passages. A host of sentient dust bunnies grant additional powers if you can return them to their nests. And they’re vital to the pup’s efforts to survive the night.
A 16-bit platformer of warm colors, gentle puzzles, and leisurely pace, Tanglewood recalls a less brutal version of Rain World. Both games share a habitat bereft of human presence, yet carry an echo of ecological concern in the ferocious, mutated monstrosities that inhabit it.
Commodore 64: Organism
The most enthusiastically supported of all not-quite-obsolete systems, the Commie (the bestselling single computer model of all time, lest we forget) saw an amazing glut of games in 2018.
Foremost among those releases was Organism. It’s an atmospheric action-adventure title inspired by some obscure sci-fi flick. You know, the one about a tiny extraterrestrial critter bursting out of a dude’s stomach?
Organism starts with our unnamed protagonist waking up at the alarm raised by a dying AI. Just then, their Heracles transport vessel goes eerily silent. It’s up to the player to discover the source of the disturbance. Of course, mounting dread gives way to unbearable tension as we descend deeper into the spaceship’s metal bowels.
Metal corridors are increasingly smothered by alien matter. Encounters with the relatively harmless face-huggers turn into skirmishes with fully-developed xenomorphs. And our companions? Well, they’ve been taken over by intergalactic parasites. The tone is perfectly complemented by Commodore’s perennial strength: a slow-building, gloomy synth soundtrack that feels like it’s stalking your every move. And, as ever with Psytronik releases, the physical edition is to die for.
Amstrad CPC: Operation Alexandra
Forget Battlefield V‘s untold tales; if you want a game about World War II’s hidden history, look no further than Operation Alexandra. After all, the real experts all know the Nazis relied on security drones, bouncy, sentient ooze, and alien brains in floating jars in the later stages of the conflict.
The year is 1976 and, somewhere in the Soviet Union, our comrade Misha is freezing his nose off during a routine patrol. He stumbles across a peculiar signal originating from a seemingly abandoned military base. Unperturbed by the piles of human skulls and wartime German paraphernalia adorning the entrance — not to mention the still-operational defenses — our plucky hero decides to investigate. It’s a fortunate choice, too. It ushers in a 2D action-adventure game with singular, pulpy atmosphere, beautifully animated sprites, and deftly controlled pace. Operation Alexandra is a treat.
Spectrum ZX: Old Tower
From Yoku’s Island Express to Dandara, 2018 had its fair share of puzzle platformers with unconventional control systems. Add Old Tower to the list. The throwback platformer doesn’t just refuse to include a Jump button. It even dispenses with the basic dignity of walking.
Instead, you hurl your blocky explorer from wall to wall, collecting coins and avoiding bats and traps as you climb the titular structure. You only pause to quickly gawk at a set of vivid, crisply defined backdrops — the likes of which the Spectrum’s limited color palette has never seen.
Reminiscent of mobile sensation Tomb of the Mask, Old Tower may not score points for originality. But it’s a technical marvel for one of the most under-powered 8-bit systems. It’s also an absolute joy from start to finish. You can play it for free online, right here!
NES: Little Medusa
2018 felt like a gap year for the traditionally well-catered-to NES. My unscientific theory is that everyone has been waiting for the downright gorgeous Micro Mages to drop in a sort of mesmerized, blissful stupor. However, I quite enjoyed Little Medusa. Although I only got to play the few levels that were available digitally.
This is a fast-paced puzzle game — an homage to the overlooked arcade classic Kickle Cubicle — and visually inspired by Greek mythology. Little Medusa exploits our heroine’s powers of petrification to create paths using the bodies of each stage’s dangerous denizens. Developer Morphcat has updated a classic premise with a variety of modern sensibilities, including boss fights, an unlockable secret world as incentive for speedruns, and achievements.
Sadly, it’s only available as physical cartridge also for the Genesis and SNES). You can, however, try before you buy by downloading the free demo, here!