Backward compatibility tends to go underappreciated by most gamers. Both the Playstation 4 and Xbox One won’t have the feature, and few seem concerned. Why should you care if your new console plays old games? You’re buying the machine for its new games, and the more new games the system gets the less backward compatibility means! Really, when was the last time you popped a PS2 game into your PS3?
But while backward compatibility is easy to dismiss towards the end of a system’s lifespan, it can be an essential piece of the puzzle when a system is young. Massive successes like the DS and Playstation 2 might not have taken off as quickly, and ultimately have sold as well, without backward compatibility.
Looking back, I owe some of my fondest gaming experiences to backward compatibility. These are games I never (and probably never would have) played on the system they were designed for…
System The Game Was Designed For: Game Boy
System I Played It On: Game Boy Advance
Who didn’t play this game via backward compatibility? By the time Pokemon came out in North America it was late 1998. The Game Boy Color came out a month later. I didn’t get into handheld gaming until the Game Boy Advance came along though, so I did the rare two-system backward jump to play Pokemon Blue. If Nintendo hadn’t embraced backward compatibility with the Game Boy and Game Boy Advance there’s a good chance Pokemon wouldn’t have become the most profitable video game series of all time.
The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening DX
System The Game Was Designed For: Game Boy Color
System I Played It On: Game Boy Advance
Like I said, I didn’t get into handheld gaming until the Game Boy Advance came along (well, okay, I owned a Game Gear, but that almost doesn’t count) so if it wasn’t for backward compatibility I never would have played The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, the best 2D Zelda game ever. Yeah, I said it — better than A Link to the Past.
Dragon Warrior VII
System The Game Was Designed For: Playstation
System I Played It On: Playstation 2
Sometimes I feel like I must be the biggest non-Japanese Dragon Quest fan there is, and my affection for the series started with Dragon Warrior VII (older Dragon Quest games were re-titled Dragon Warrior in North America). Dragon Warrior VII looked like an SNES game somehow got lost on the Playstation and here I was playing it on the even more powerful PS2 and yet still loving it. I’ve bought almost every Dragon Quest game that’s made its way to North America since.
The Legend of Zelda: Minish Cap
System The Game Was Designed For: Game Boy Advance
System I Played It On: Nintendo DS
Yup, another Zelda game. Handheld Zelda games have a habit of not coming out until their respective systems have one foot in the grave. I’m glad I ended up playing Minish Cap, because it now stands as my 2nd favorite 2D Zelda game. Whoa, hold on — what are you Link to the Past fans planning to do with all that rotten fruit?
Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance
System The Game Was Designed For: Gamecube
System I Played It On: Wii
My path to picking up Path of Radiance actually started with the Wii Fire Emblem game Radiant Dawn. Early on the Wii was badly lacking in RPGs, so I was eyeing Radiant Dawn even though I rarely played strategy RPGs, but it turns out Radiant Dawn tells the second half of a story started in Path of Radiance. Following along? Well even if you aren’t, the short of it is I picked Path of Radiance and have been a pretty dedicated Fire Emblem fan ever since. Another series that wouldn’t regularly be getting my money without backward compatibility.
Ghost Trick: Phantom Detective
System The Game Was Designed For: Nintendo DS
System I Played It On: Nintendo 3DS
A great little puzzle/adventure game made by the guy who created the Ace Attorney series. Ghost Trick got me through those early lean times when there was so little on the 3DS I was seriously considering buying Steel Diver.
So, those are some of my favorite games I enjoyed on systems they weren’t designed for. What about you folks? What games have you discovered through the wonder of backward compatibility?