With publishers of all sorts absolutely loving remasters, it makes it all the more likely that a video game’s anniversary actually matters. And with each passing year, more amazing games and franchises are celebrating key birthdays.
For simplicity’s sake, I’m going to cap the number of years here at 25. There’s no reason why games from 1991 or earlier can’t make a return, but if we’re being realistic with how the industry works, anything from the mid ’90s onwards is generally going to be a) the most playable and b) the most liable for a second look in modern times.
Sometimes you get outliers — this year would have been the 30th anniversary of Battletoads, but we’ve got that reimagining already. And we’ve already written about how it’s a huge year for Zelda and Pokemon. But this is to make things as manageable as possible. There’s a lot of video games, you know.
Let’s start with the games having their silver anniversaries. And naturally, I’m not going to get every single game, so include the ones that you love and remember the most in the comments below! (I also won’t include some games that are having an anniversary this year but have very recently gotten a fresh coat of paint, like the original Command & Conquer: Red Alert.)
Games Celebrating Their 25th Anniversary In 2021
Diablo (December 31, 1996)
Quake (June 22, 1996)
Bubsy 3D (October 31, 1996)
Super Mario 64 (March 1, 1997)
Resident Evil (September 25, 1997)
Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall (August 31, 1996)
Don’t forget someone rigged up a way to play Daggerfall in your browser. Pretty sweet.
The Ripper (February 29, 1996)
I would love it if someone could somehow make this playable more easily on modern consoles today. Some classic performances in this.
Mario Kart 64 (December 14, 1996)
I wouldn’t expect Mario Kart 64 specifically to get a redo, but surely it’s about time for a new Mario Kart, no?
Spycraft: The Great Game (February 29, 1996)
As far as FMV games go, Spycraft genuinely might be one of the best. Has a great shtick and some puzzles and mini-games that really fit the vibe. Love this one.
Privateer 2: The Darkening (November 30, 1996)
Want more FMV but with an actual fun space game to go with it? Well, Privateer 2 isn’t quite that. The original Privateer played a hell of a lot better. (Fun fact, the Privateer games were headlined by Chris Roberts’ brother, Erin, who headed up Traveller’s Tales and some of the LEGO games before going back to space and leading Star Citizen‘s Foundry 42 studio in London.)
Privateer 2 is still on GOG, but it’s not the best port. Might be worth looking into a virtual machine for this one.
Twisted Metal 2: World Tour (October 31, 1996)
Can you imagine a game like this today with the procedural destruction, size of open worlds, improved physics, better AI and server instancing? Would actually be incredible.
Zork: Nemesis (February 29, 1996)
One of the best FMV point-and-click adventures from the ’90s. The video above doesn’t always paint it in the best light; it’s an old video. But Zork Nemesis was great if you loved the 3D look and appeal of something like Riven, but didn’t want puzzles so frustrating that you had to learn a second language.
And, yes, Zork Nemesis did release in a leap year.
Tomb Raider (November 15, 1996)
Tomb Raider‘s still going strong, but I’d feel awful if we didn’t still honour Lara’s silver anniversary. Also, my Tomb Raider-loving partner would shoot me if I left it off. Fortunately, we can all still honour Lara today by playing the original game through your browser.
Donkey Kong Country 3 (November 22, 1996)
It’s not just Pokemon and Zelda having a big year in 2021. It’s a key anniversary for Donkey Kong Country as well. Dixie Kong’s Double Trouble turns 25 this year, but the franchise as a whole is enjoying its 40th anniversary.
Civilization 2 (February 29, 1996)
There are times where I still prefer Civilization 2 (or 4, or Alpha Centauri) to the modern iterations. There’s just something about it that still works. Also, given the season pass is about to run its course in March and it’s been five years since Civ 6 shipped, it’s probably time to start talking about a new Civilization.
Please go sci-fi again.
Pokemon Red, Pokemon Green (February 27, 1996)
Seriously, how goddamn stacked was February in 1996?
Games Celebrating Their 20th Anniversary in 2021
Halo: Combat Evolved (November 15, 2001)
Halo: Combat Evolved is back on PC now, and there’s Halo: Infinite this year, so this one is bleedingly obvious. But if I don’t mention it, people will probably call for me to be fired. So there. It’s on the list.
Grand Theft Auto 3 (October 22, 2001)
The start of what would become Rockstar’s journey to becoming one of the world’s biggest developers. GTA 1 + 2 were already huge successes, but the transition into a 3D world is what really solidified Rockstar’s status. It was 2001’s biggest selling game with 14.5 million copies and still plays well today. Also, it’s since been re-rated R18+ in Australia. Definitely one to keep an eye on.
Mario Tennis (January 16, 2001)
Mario Tennis Aces is still a thing — largely unplayed now, but it’s there. But maybe we’ll get Mario Tennis in the Nintendo Switch Online games?
Oni (January 29, 2001)
Now here’s a fun one. Oni was one of those games made by Bungie and Rockstar. It was developed off the back of the success Tomb Raider had, but Oni took the anime route, adding a hand-to-hand combat system.
You couldn’t rebind any of the controls and the camera was … not amazing for its time. It’d be cool to see a reimagining of this today, as there’s a lot of potential that could be fixed up with some modern improvements to the controls.
Tribes 2 (March 21, 2001)
This game, and franchise, is never coming back. What a crying shame. Tribes always deserved better.
Super Smash Bros. Melee (December 3, 2001)
I don’t know if Melee is still the best, but you’d think Nintendo will do something to coincide with the game’s anniversary.
Baldur’s Gate 2: Throne of Bhaal (June 21, 2001)
Here’s a blast from the past. Above you’ll see a review from a much younger Greg Kasavin, who you’ll know today for his work at Supergiant Games with Transistor, Bastion, and most recently, Hades. Wild where people end up.
Advance Wars (September 10, 2001)
Wargroove‘s pretty good, but it still ain’t Advance Wars. This is one Nintendo definitely needs to bring back.
Time Crisis: Project Titan (June 20, 2001)
Now this would be fun as hell to stream.
Phoenix Wright Ace Attorney (October 12, 2001)
You can even make Ace Attorney memes/scenes out of dumb Reddit threads now.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 3 (October 28, 2001)
I don’t know if Activision would go for a remaster of this. A huge part of the 2020 remaster was having two games within the same title. Would Tony Hawk 3 by itself move millions in 2021 or 2022? I don’t know.
Burnout (November 1, 2001)
Someone just please let Criterion make a solid racing game again. Or a Star Wars game. Please.
SSX Tricky (November 5, 2001)
Return to Castle Wolfenstein (November 20, 2001)
One of the most amazing multiplayer games of its time, provided you enjoyed that era of Call of Duty, Day of Defeat and other semi-serious military shooters.
Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty (November 13, 2001)
Never gets old.
Silent Hill 2 (September 24, 2001)
I have zero faith in Konami to actually do anything with the Silent Hill franchise. And there’s been plenty of false starts on Silent Hill projects before. But if something’s gonna happen, you’d think this anniversary was the perfect time for it (or at least to announce it).
Myst 3: Exile (May 8, 2001)
I remember a family friend of ours, who used to occasionally stay with us when we were kids, got this for my Mum as a present. I’m pretty sure Mum’s actual family has never gotten her anything better.
Exile is still the best Myst game too. Would be great for a VR conversion, if Cyan’s still going down that route.
Games Celebrating Their 15th Anniversary in 2021
New Super Mario Bros (May 15, 2006)
We’re technically getting something with Super Mario 3D World + Bowser’s Fury real soon.
Gears of War (November 7, 2006)
Gears is in an odd spot. Where does the franchise really go after Gears 5 and branching off into spin-offs like Gears Tactics?
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Double Agent (October 24, 2006)
There’s a solid appetite for more stealth games still, and plenty of fans wanting a new Splinter Cell. Come on, Ubisoft, make it happen.
Guitar Hero 2 (November 7, 2006)
VR’s pretty much the last hope for Guitar Hero. There’s been some cracks at Guitar Hero or Rock Band in VR that kind of flopped, but Beat Saber‘s success might have moved the needle in a better direction. The Oculus Quest 2’s success (and PSVR’s steady base) might help, too.
Bully (October 17, 2006)
I’d honestly prefer a new Bully than GTA 6. God Bully was so good.
Saints Row (August 29, 2006)
Ahh, Saints Row. With how popular open-world games are now — and how advanced some studios’ technology is — I wonder what the appetite for a new one would be. I can imagine a lot of executives not really wanting to greenlit a new Saints Row unless it had some especially wild angle. (Update 12:50pm AEDT: As pointed out in the comments, we are getting a new Saints Row after all — although questions remain on what the angle is precisely. Volition’s been pretty quiet, and I imagine COVID would have slowed development a little as everyone got things into place.)
Sonic The Hedgehog, Sonic Riders
Sonic hit the Xbox 360 in 2006, but before that we got Sonic Riders and Tails confusing the shit out of Knuckles with science about water/hoverboards. Excellent stuff.
Team Sonic Racing kind of hits some of these beats in a way, so I don’t know that SEGA would ever want to return to Racers. But some kind of proper Sonic appreciation for the franchise’s 25th birthday seems very likely.
Games Celebrating Their 10th Anniversary In 2021
Elder Scrolls: Skyrim (November 11, 2011)
Ahh, Skyrim. May the wheels of cheese never end.
Portal 2 (April 19, 2011)
Not just a beautiful game, but also incredible fodder for memes, mods and some remarkable parodies.
Mass Effect 2 (January 17, 2011)
Still one of the best games of all time, and will probably be one of 2021’s best games when the remastered trilogy drops in a few months. Having Mass Effect 3 multiplayer going again will be great, but it’s really the story of Mass Effect 2 and the character drama that makes the series stick for me.
Total War: Shogun 2 (March 15, 2011)
One of Creative Assembly’s best adaptations of the Total War formula, until the Warhammer and Three Kingdoms series came out. I’d love to see those modern inclusions brought back into the Shogun era. Tons of personality with years of engine improvements, UI quirks ironed out and a massive graphical, diplomatic and AI upgrade? Yes please.
Terraria (May 16, 2011)
One of the all-time greats from the early indie era. It’s wild that it’s turning 10 in a couple of months. It completely changed the lives of its creators, although maybe not to the same extent as Minecraft. Still, I’d expect a big event for the Terraria community this year.
Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (November 18, 2011)
I know it’s not the most popular Zelda and the motion controls at the time weren’t … great. But with the Switch, Skyward Sword could work really well in 2021. Breath of the Wild did a bang up job and Splatoon has shown that Nintendo can really make that control system stick.
But Nintendo takes a lot of license with their modern interpretations. Skyward Sword has a metric ton of potential that could be rectified really easily: tutorial bloat, the dousing, and Fi being slightly less annoying.
I’d still prefer Nintendo spend time on Wind Waker for the series’ anniversary, but even a not-the-best Zelda is about a billion times better than most games on the planet, so.
Star Fox 64 3D (September 9, 2011)
Now, if we’re talking modern gyro controls, we have to talk about Star Fox 64. This would be cracking on the Switch in the modern age. Come on Nintendo. People have been dying for more Star Fox.
Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine (September 6, 2011)
Still one of the best Warhammer games ever made. It also runs well enough on a modern Windows machine today, and it’s good dumb fun for an afternoon or weekend.
Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 (November 15, 2011)
One of those games that I loved watching but dreaded playing just because of how frantic all the action on the screen was. The amount of shit flying around a Marvel vs. Capcom 3 screen in any given fight is just impossible to follow for me. Not to mention watching yourself get juggled for 30 seconds straight.
Hell, just listen back to some of the old Evo matches. Wild to watch.
Battlefield 3 (October 25, 2011)
Still my favourite out of all of the “modern” Battlefield games from the last few years. There’s rumblings that DICE is returning to this style of Battlefield for Battlefield 6, which I’m all for. Just don’t bring back that horrendously awful browser-based server. What a shitshow that was.
Batman: Arkham City (October 18, 2011)
The highest rated game of 2011. It’s still kind of staggering just how much Rocksteady nailed Arkham City, both as a superhero game and just as a sequel that lives up to its predecessor.
I wonder if Calendar Man will have a new line of dialogue ten years later. That seems to be his thing.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution (August 23, 2011)
I think a lot of people are appreciating the modern Deus Ex games a lot more in recent times. That’s partially just because Cyberpunk 2077 harks back to Deus Ex so much, and in a lot of good ways.
Between Human Revolution and Mankind Divided, it’s still the former that I love the most. Sure, it still pales a bit to the original if you want to nitpick, and it hasn’t held up all that well. But for its time, Human Revolution was hugely impressive with some outstanding art design. I hope Square Enix greenlights a return to the series — surely they would have seen the appetite for Cyberpunk.
Star Wars: The Old Republic (December 20, 2011)
The Old Republic is still going strong, but you have to wonder what EA and Bioware’s plans for the franchise over the next five years are. Do they just carry on with the platform they have? Seems little reason to change. The Old Republic doesn’t get top billing — or even a mention — in EA’s E3 conferences these days, but fans seem happy with the content that’s coming out.
The Binding of Isaac (September 28, 2011)
From a simple game jam came one of the most incredible action games of the past decade, an instructive tutorial in design for developers worldwide and one of the best mysteries video games has ever produced. Thank you, Isaac.
That’s an awful lot of games, so you’ll forgive me if I stop there. I know I’ll have missed a few of your favourites, so ping me in the comments and let me know what you think should be celebrated once again in 2021! Looking at the list, I’m surprised how much quality there was in 2001 and 2006 compared to 2011. Also, isn’t it kind of wild that Mass Effect 2 and Mass Effect 3 launched within 12 months of each other? That’s a mark of how large Bioware was at the time, and how much staff they had to split across projects.
And I know there’s some major titles in here that have been passed over for one reason or another. Fable 3‘s a good example — we’re getting a new Fable, although it certainly won’t be in time for the anniversary of Fable 3. And games like Duke Nukem Forever … well, Duke may certainly rest in peace. Retro shooters are coming back, but what developers are doing today is vastly more interesting than what a Duke Nukem 3D/Forever redo would be.
What video game anniversaries are you looking forward to?
This article has been updated since its original publication.