More than six years ago, I put together a list ofand especially deserving of a new lease on life. At the time, online stores such as Steam and GOG.com had only just begun to reach into the vast catalog of retro games to rerelease favorites from the '90s and early 2000s.
With the recent rerelease of Grim Fandango, now available for PCs and the PlayStation 4/PS Vita ($14.99 in the US, £11.99 in the UK and AU$22.95 in Australia), a major entry on our 2009 list of the missing has been crossed off. Like many retro games, especially PC ones, this is not just a simple time capsule release, but a "remastered" game. Similar to the recent 20th Anniversary Edition of Gabriel Knight: Sins of the Fathers and the latest high-res version of the original Resident Evil, that essentially means a graphics face-lift laid over the original game mechanics, with at most a handful of menu and control tweaks for modern audiences.
Still, it speaks to the strength of the original game, first released by LucasArts in 1998 (yes, I still have my original Windows game discs), that Grim Fandango hardly seems to need more than some higher-res textures for the 3D characters and options for more modern directional controls.
Yes, the backgrounds still feel decidedly low-res, which is a shame, and stretching the original 4:3 aspect ratio to 16:9 works about as well as it does for an old TV show, which is not very (you can just stay in 4:3 mode, which I recommend). But the game also has clever characters and writing, a thoughtful metaphysical mystery plot and an aesthetic style that avoids overused game cliches. Even with only a handful of concessions to the last 17 years of game design, this slightly revamped version of Grim Fandango has been worth the very long wait.
Of the games on our, Grim Fandango marks the third entry out of five that has been rereleased since then. With new versions of classic games coming to PCs and even consoles all the time (including a long-awaited collection of vintage "Star Wars" classics just recently), it's a shame that a couple of our must-haves are still not available. Here's how our list has fared since it was originally published:
Blade Runner (Virgin Interactive Entertainment, 1997)
Still missing in action, this movie tie-in, with film cast member cameos and more than a dozen possible endings, probably isn't as interesting as I remember. Rights issues among various defunct publishers have kept this one under lock and key.
Ripper (Take Two, 1996)
A cheesy classic at best, but a great example of the early days of big-budget games, when B-list Hollywood actors could pick up some easy work in front of a green screen. This six-disc monster starred Christopher Walken, Karen Allen, Burgess Meredith, John Rhys-Davies, Ossie Davis, and even Jimmy "J.J." Walker (plus a very early appearance by Paul Giamatti).
Grim Fandango (LucasArts, 1998)
Available on PC, PS4, Vita
Finally rereleased in a slightly modernized form in January 2015, Grim Fandango retains much of its original charm.
Phantasmagoria (Sierra, 1995)
Available on PC
This point-and-click horror adventure game played like a low-rent Stephen King novel, and frankly hasn't aged particularly well. A downloadable version of the game, with no graphical or gameplay updates, was released in 2010.
The Gabriel Knight series (Sierra, 1993-1999)
Available on PC
Two modern versions of the first game in this occult mystery series (originally starring the voice of Tim Curry) have been released. First, a straight port of the , and in late 2013, a 20th Anniversary special edition, with new high-resolution graphics and menus (but few other gameplay changes). The second and third Gabriel Knight games are available digitally in their original forms.