There are hundreds of games that want to cash in on your nostalgia for bygone adventures. Here are a few that are worth your while.
Games inspired by nostalgia are everywhere. The last few years have been absolutely lousy with them, as tools for making games became more accessible and independent creators began crafting games heavily influenced by the stuff we all played on our old-school Nintendos growing up. In the long run, this has been pretty great—as games get more complex and time consuming, the wealth of familiar-looking 2D games has been a bit of a salve, a catalog of shorter games that better fit into your busy life. On the other hand, there are a lot of them, and it’s hard to know what’s good and what’s just empty imitation. So we picked a few. (In the interest of keeping this list brief, we’re limiting it to a handful of titles that have come out or were re-released in recent months.) These aren’t the only good games that are nostalgic in smart ways, but they are exceptional.
Celeste is all about how fun games can be when they’re not easy. A difficult game where you play as a young woman on a mission to climb the titular Celeste mountain, you’ll spend your time running a gauntlet of tricky platforming challenges, hopping and dashing and climbing your way across gorgeously lo-fi environments and meeting strange people. Celeste isn’t the kind of game that needs a story—the old NES platformers it’s modeled after certainly didn’t—but it has one anyway, one that’s equal parts charming and melancholy, a story about a woman’s determination to get to the top, and whether or not ambition comes at the expense of others. It’s the sort of thing that pulls you through by reflecting on a question that’s, weirdly, relevant to people who both climb mountains and play hard-ass platformers: Why do we do difficult things? The answer, of course, is because it’s worth it—and Celeste is worth it. Unlike the old games it emulates, this one makes failure fun, encourages it, even. Playing Celeste is like choreographing your own dance on the fly, and there’s a strange pleasure in screwing up until you get it right—the game even lets you tweak just about everything to make its challenges easier for you if you need to. That, ultimately, is what makes Celeste so good: Those old games were just as hard, but never this kind.