Perfect Ten: Older PC games that would make for great MMOs
Video games had a huge impact on my childhood and teenage years, imprinting themselves onto my psyche for all of the struggles and elation that they produced. While I did play consoles in my youth, most of my gaming time was spent on the PC, particularly during the 1990s.
As such, I have a strong fondness (nostalgia goggles alert!) for older games, to the point where I still play and blog about them. While some definitely have not withstood the test of time, you’d be surprised how many older PC titles are still quite enjoyable and even downright compelling today.
I think we all have our lists of game franchises that we wish were made into MMORPGs, and today I’m going to look at 10 of some of my favorite older PC games (most, but not all, from the ’90s) and give a few ideas how each could work as a proper MMO.
1. Deus Ex
Still an incredible game to this day, Deus Ex truly delivered on the promise of playing your way, with multiple paths and techniques that could be used to progress in missions. It also boasted a deep, thought-out cyberpunk world that is a fertile ground for future exploration. A Deus Ex MMO would need to allow for maximum player ingenuity and options, definitely eschewing set classes for mix-and-matching skills. It would be pretty awesome to see how teams of players might use their combined skillsets to overcome challenges above and beyond using brute force.
2. Heroes of Might and Magic
Part RPG, part board game, and part base builder, the Heroes of Might and Magic series was incredibly addictive in the 1990s. I think it’d be quite interesting to see a massively multiplayer version, perhaps with the “game board” changing every day to keep things fresh and providing infinite frontiers to explore and exploit. Each player might only be able to control one hero, but wouldn’t it be cool to hear your friend send out a call asking for aid when her city came under attack by angry minotaurs and vicious harpies?
“What is this madness, Justin!” you exclaim. “Zork was a text adventure game!”
And so it was, but what an iconic and descriptive game it was! I look at it more as this series holding a wealth of worldbuilding that could be used in a 3-D MMO environment, particularly with its sense of humor and alternate take on a fantasy world.
4. Planescape Torment
Hands-down one of the best CRPGs of all time, Planescape Torment was another game that excelled in crafting a unique, exciting world that enticed you to explore every nook and cranny. The Planescape D&D campaign setting has been criminally underused in video games before and since, and even if an MMO version would be light on combat, I would totally immerse myself in such a universe, especially if similar attention was given to the stories and dialogue as in this title.
5. X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter
My suggestion for a third full-fledged Star Wars MMO? Make it 100% in space, taking a cue from Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed and the classic X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter games. By doing this, a studio would be side-stepping direct competition with SWTOR and cultivating an underused part of the Star Wars IP. Imagine playing such an MMO, where you’d have a ship that would cross the galaxy doing missions, taking sides, docking for meet-and-greets with other pilots, and engaging in massive space battles. Goosebumps thinking about it.
Stealth and thievery is usually just a sliver of MMO gameplay, usually doled out to Rogues and the like. Yet here is a game that is 100% all about subtlety, sneaking, and ingenuity rather than running into rooms with guns blazing, and that could make for a fascinating MMORPG experience. I’m also nominating this franchise for its steampunk world of The City, which skews hard away from generic fantasy.
One of the reasons why I wanted to do this column is because we have seen many older franchises revived in recent years, some to great acclaim. The newer X-Com games have reintroduced the 1994 classic’s concept of squad-based fights against alien invaders with plenty of great modern twists.
So why not an MMO in which you control a whole squad instead of one character? To make it even more interesting, I can envision two types of servers, one where you can resurrect fallen teammates and one (iron mode) that says “dead is dead.” Plus, blasting aliens never gets old.
I don’t care if this is the most obvious choice for a spot on this list, it needs to happen. Fallout is such a great franchise that combines humor, retro style, and the apocalypse in one awesome package. We’re so starved for proper post-apoc MMOs in that vein, and Fallout has the IP brand recognition to make a proper go at one.
9. Rollercoaster Tycoon
Here’s an odd pick but one that I’ve thought about over the years. What about an MMO that is mostly about constructing an amusement park and visiting others’ creations? Players have already shown themselves to be incredibly creative at housing, so can you imagine what the community could do if given a toolset to build a whole theme park? I’d encourage socialization by giving players “quests” to accomplish various tasks in others’ parks as the only way to obtain new rides, decorations, and utilities for their own parks.
10. Quest for Glory
Right now I’m playing through this fascinating adventure game/CRPG hybrid from Sierra (there are five games in the series and you can import the same character through all of them). I love the mix between adventure, stories, and RPG mechanics, as well as allowing players to mold their own classes and solve quests in a variety of ways. We could do a lot worse as a genre to call heroes to such an MMO.