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The List: Five Old School Games

Column By Garrett Fuller on September 11, 2012

Going back a long way I thought it would be fun to talk about the paper and pencil games which led us to MMOs. I remember starting Ultima Online and I get nostalgic about those old days. But lately I find myself going back to my early childhood and the game that really made me into today’s gaming self.

Back in the early 80s most people didn’t have computers, so the paper and pencil industry was really booming after the popularity of Dungeons & Dragons. So this week we will take a look back at some of the older games which laid the groundwork for the MMOs and RPGs of today.

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5. Awful Green Things from Outer Space

Tom Wham, Steve Jackson, and the old school TSR box bring back plenty of memories of this game. You had funny cartoon aliens fighting a desperate battle against well, Green Things. Inspired by the first Alien movie, it laid the ground work for game like Space Hulk, Doom, and just about any other “Oh know the ship is under attack” game. Disguised under its funny cartoon exterior is a very tough game. Most of the time I remember the Green Things winning because the Crew was always trying the different weapons and had to get to them on the board. It really was a fight for your life style of play similar to a zombie movie. Don’t let the cute characters fool you. Awful Green Things from Outer Space was a bloodbath of a game.

4. Axis & Allies

Still an amazing classic, Axis & Allies was WWII Risk on crack. We now have World of Tanks and World of Warplanes to rock out historical combat. But back in the day Axis & Allies was awesome fun. I remember many nights having to stop the game for bed time. It was very frustrating. Still the game made you think and work in great strategic ways. This classic can take us back to early RTS as well and still holds up today as an amazing game with great design and mechanics.

3. Barbarian Prince

There was a short craze in the early 1980s of mini-games. Imagine how Game Apps are today vs. the big AAA titles. Well that was what minigames were. If you only had a few bucks, you picked up something from TSR or Dwarfstar Games on a weekend and tried to play. Barbarian Prince to me was the defining game of this genre, because it was played solo. As the first solo RPG game of its kind, it is a true lost gem. If you can find a copy on eBay I highly recommend buying it. If you are a budding game designer who wants to learn some old school mechanics, check out how this game plays. It really is awesome. Dwarfstar followed up with Star Smuggler as well, a space style version of the game. For me, Barbarian Prince was great fun and also really made you think about resources and gaining allies to help with encounters. It also allowed you to run away from fights, but it costs you sometimes. This game was a true classic and everyone should check it out. I think you can download the game for free and try and play.

2. G.E.V.

G.E.V., O.G.R.E, and Battlesuit were some of the most fun minigames on the market. Steve Jackson games produced these futuristic tank battle games and created a dark landscape of the future. It really was the precursor to Warhammer 40K and many other space combat style games that took place on the planet surface. Mechs and tanks, and all kind of weapons were used across a variety of vehicles. G.E.V. stands for Ground Effect Vehicle and it definitely had an effect on gamers.

1. Dungeons & Dragons

You cannot mention any RPG list without putting this game at the top. It truly started any RPG we play today: the idea of a character with stats, the dungeon crawl, the party, the holy trinity of classes. It is amazing to me just how many games still follow this mentality when being created. I mean if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. This style of game still works amazingly well across generations. I know many people will say Magic: The Gathering was one of the top influencial games, but honestly, we would be no where without D&D. A true classic and one of the best games ever played. Going back to some of these old games really reminds you why you play in the first place, I highly recommend a trip down memory lane every now and then.

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The List
Sometimes less than serious, in this space, we look back at the genre's history and far into the future to bring you a new list each week. Our countdowns are written by assorted members of the MMORPG.com Staff.
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