Video Games

What Makes A “Classic” Video Game?

two ps4 controllers with one in focus

If you hear the term “classic” when talking about video games, I’m sure there are a few games that will immediately come to mind. Calling something a classic is so  subjective, but somehow a lot of gamers will picture similar titles. Super Mario Bros. 3, Halo, Resident Evil 4, Ocarina of Time, are likely some of the games that you’re thinking of now, and most of us will agree that they are indeed classics. But what is it exactly that makes a game a classic? Of course the gameplay must be good, but that’s obvious. Is it because it has existed for a long time? Nah, it definitely can’t be because of that, just take a look at Shaq Fu, that’s old and it sucks. It can’t be because of its review score either, because some games don’t hold up very well over time. So what are the elements found in a classic you ask? It can be boiled down to 3 simple points that must be present in order to call a game a true classic.


The first elements is that the game is so good, you are unable to put down the controller. Once you start playing you don’t want to stop no matter what responsibilities you are leaving behind. Forget about the research paper that’s due tomorrow, this game has got you hooked! You lose yourself in the game world and then when you look at the clock in the real world, you see it’s 4 AM and you’ve been there all night.

While playing the PS3 game, “Catherine,” the gameplay and story was so fun and addictive, I was completely driven to see it through to the end as fast as humanly possible. The entire game was beaten in one, eye straining, sleepless 14 hour sitting. Not my proudest moment, but we’ve all been there before. And it’s easy to see why this motivation to play needs to be present in a classic, because if you’re not foaming at the mouth to continue it, then how good is the game, really?

Secondly the game must have a high replay-ability factor. You’ve played through it once and even though you just finished, you want to play it again. It’s something you’ll go back to and play for years to come. At least once a year bust out my Game Cube, pop in “Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door” and revisit all my old friends from Rogueport. The game always puts a smile on my face and no matter how many times I play it, I’ll never grow tired of the story, gameplay or graphics.

This goes double for games where the focus is on multiplayer, like shooters or racing games. They’re already re-playable in nature, but after the latest iteration comes out, most people will move on the newest version, leaving the old one behind. But there are times, like with Smash Bros. Melee, that people stick around to replay the older versions because they are that much better.

The last and most critical element that needs to be found in a classic, is that the game is timeless. No matter when the first time you play, be it 30 days after it was initially released or 30 years, it’s still an enjoyable experience. The game is not only good for its time, but good for ANYTIME. I recently finished playing “Chrono Trigger” for the first time in my life, a game that was released over 20 years ago. There is so much hype surrounding it, how could it possibly live up to all the expectations? Somehow it did and was one of the best games I have ever played. A 20 year old game, one that you can have no nostalgic connection with, can still be enjoyed by new players. That’s an impressive feat when a game can stand the test of time and live up to its legacy.

If all these elements can be satisfied, then it’s safe to say you’ve got a truly classic game on your hands. Again, this term “classic” is subjective, so if you find a game that meets all 3 of these points, but no one else thinks it does, that’s OK because that game is a classic to YOU. And in the end as long as you’re having fun with a game that’s all that matters. So what are some games that you think fit the criteria of a classic? Sound off in the comments below!

About the author

Mike Jones

As a child of the 80's, my fondest gaming memories are playing Pitfall, Frogger, Kaboom! and Chopper Command on our old Atari 8600. These days I've been rocking the Nintendo Classic and learning some new card and board games with the family.

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