Researchers forecast that the international market for video games will grow at nearly 13% a year until, by 2030, it will be worth around $580 billion. With such an incredible amount of money at stake, game developers are constantly trying to find a game that will capture the public’s imagination and be the next big thing.
Ever-developing technology means that games are more and more sophisticated. Companies are spending huge sums in the hunt for success. Games appear and quickly disappear without leaving much of a mark. Yet, despite technological progress, some older games persist and become popular again.
We have recently seen board games (Monopoly is an example) surge in popularity. And some of the reasons why this is true of board games also apply to old video games. Nostalgia is one reason. People remember playing something years ago and want to take another look at it. Often, they are interested in something other than the latest version of an old favorite—they want to play the same game they played way back when. Familiarity is comforting.
Another motive connected to nostalgia is that players know what to expect. They remember the game and know how to play it. They don’t have to study a manual or watch videos on YouTube to learn how to play. A third reason is that these games are often simple and straightforward. The task is clear, and a player doesn’t get bogged down in complexity.
Our list contains games of various types, from challenges to role-plays. Some have never entirely disappeared, and some have made comebacks that seem surprising. Here are ten classic video games making a comeback.
Related: 10 Bizarre Video Games That Actually Exist
10 Pac Man
First released in 1980, Pac-Man became the iconic game of that decade. Because video games were a novelty, almost any game would find players. But Pac-Man’s simple but attractive graphics, loveable characters, and simple game plan turned players into addicts.
It might have been easy to play, but it was tough to master. A player could always try to get a higher score next time. And players spent an endless amount of quarters trying to outscore themselves and their friends. You could never win at Pac-Man because there was no end-point.
So far, Pac-Man has raked in over $14 billion and sold around 48 million copies. In 2005, Guinness World Records named it the most successful coin-operated game of all time.
Its popularity waned as more sophisticated games appeared, but constant tweaks and its wide availability drew in new generations of fans.
9 World of Warcraft
World of Warcraft came onto the market in 2004 and was an immediate hit. Critics and players loved it, and it quickly became the most successful multiplayer online role-playing game ever, with an astonishing 12 million subscribers in 2010.
The developer, Blizzard Entertainment, released World of Warcraft to build on the Warcraft franchise that had started with the release of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans in 1994. This real-time strategy game reached a wide public, but the public turned away from these types of games in the early 2000s. World of Warcraft was the answer that reached a new audience and ensured that the world of Azeroth continued to draw people in.
Expansion packs keep the game fresh and ensure that having made one comeback, it won’t need another.
Doom is a phenomenon. Originally released in 1993, it’s had its ups and downs but remains popular. When Windows released the Windows 95 operating system, more computers had Doom loaded on them than Windows 95. Over the years, the creators have released new versions of the Doom franchise. But the original keeps coming back.
Other first-person shooter games came onto the market, but Doom was always the one they had to beat.
People still find the original Doom entertaining because it’s easy to navigate and not over-complicated.
7 Dragon Quest
It’s said that when a new edition of Dragon Quest appeared on the market in Japan, people would call in sick to get their hands on a copy before their friends. True or not, the tale shows how popular Dragon Quest was in its native country.
Dragon Quest first came out in 1986 and was very popular in Japan. This popularity didn’t spread to the United States, where sales were sluggish despite good reviews. In the States, the game was called Dragon Warrior until the release of Dragon Quest VIII in 2005. Then, Americans started looking at previous releases.
The developers claim that its popularity relies on the fact that anyone can play it at the level that suits them best. You don’t need to plow through a manual before you start playing; it’s intuitive and fun.
A game that gives a player little information, no clear reason to play, and no obvious enemies is destined for the scrap heap. But Myst was a surprise hit, and critics call it one of the best video games ever made.
Players must work out what they should do and explore Myst’s interactive world. There are puzzles that the player has to solve, but there is no shooting. Myst is a mind game that players love.
People loved its impressive graphics and the challenge, but other games came along and overshadowed Myst. But it keeps coming back. The original version is still a challenge and still fresh. Some people turn back to Myst for nostalgic reasons, and new generations of players have a look at it to see what all the fuss was about. But once in, they are hooked.
5 Chrono Trigger
Some reviewers have described Chrono Trigger as a masterpiece. Square, the developer, released the original in 1995 and clearly had invested a lot of time and love in creating what was an immediate success. This role-playing game has a team of adventurers traveling through time to prevent a catastrophe. Gamers loved it.
Despite its age, the graphics still look great today. The well-developed characters and the soundtrack keep the game fresh, and it still compares well with more modern games.
Chrono Trigger has remained popular through the years, but there are regular surges of new gamers discovering it for the first time.
Perhaps American gamers didn’t like being parodied in EarthBound. This Japanese role-playing game was set in Eagleland, a fictional parody of the United States. This 1994 game was a success in Japan—where it was known as Mother 2—but made little impact on American gamers. The developers changed the name in the United States because Mother 2 was the sequel to a game that never appeared on the American market.
The game was intentionally flaky and marketed in the U.S. under the slogan “This Game Stinks.” Americans took the creators at their word and didn’t buy it.
Or most Americans didn’t. It developed a small cult following and made its comeback largely through word of mouth. Critics, most of whom had originally panned the game, came to see it as interesting and different. Its popularity increased, and people are still playing it today.
Sinister and dark, Quake is a first-person shooter game developed by id Software. In the single-player mode, the gamer tries to stop an alien known as Quake. Quake has taken over a human-designed teleporter and is using the device to send kamikaze squads into our world to test our ability to fight back.
When it was originally released in 1996, critics praised Quake, which was immediately popular with gamers. Quake was the successor to Doom and did well for many years as new versions came out.
The original game looks dated, but people have been giving it another look even though it is unsophisticated by modern standards. Perhaps people turn back to it precisely because it’s dated and fairly simple. It’s video gaming’s answer to comfort food.
2 Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic the Hedgehog has scuttled from video consoles to appear in books, comics, and films. Add merchandise to these media, and you have a cultural icon. First released in 1991 by Sega, Sonic and his battles with the evil Doctor Eggman were, for many, their introduction to online gaming.
When it came out, Sonic was the obvious competitor to Mario and became just as popular. Later versions of Sonic have yet to be as well-received as the original. But Sonic has remained a favorite since the beginning.
A recent boost in popularity is perhaps because the first Sonic fans now have children of their own and are introducing them to Sonic’s world.
The Tetris website modestly claims:
“Tetris is the addictive puzzle that started it all, embracing our universal desire to create order out of chaos.”
Originally designed by Soviet software engineer Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris has been frustrating players since 1984. Like Pac-Man, Tetris is a game you can’t win; it will always beat you. The best that a player can do is to better their previous score.
Tetris never went away, but it faded into the background. It was a game that everyone knew, but few played. This has changed. Its availability on virtually all platforms means you can play it anywhere, anytime, when you have a few moments to fill.
It’s simple and addictive. And this is the reason why it’s coming back.