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With all the
hype of new systems and new AAA titles to go with them, I was getting
bandwagoned out. So for a change of pace, I decided to go back in time and list
(in no particular order) the top twelve accessible games that most people have
either forgotten about or never knew about in the first place. Let’s begin.
Publisher: Lego Media
tie-ins really do go back that far. Legoland was basically a Lego-skinned
Rollercoaster Tycoon. The player plays as a new Legoland assistant park manager
who has to rebuild his park after Professor Voltage has accidentally destroyed it
with his time machine. Players are tasked with everything from paving roads and
setting up trash cans to making sure that the mini-figs enjoy the rides and
have enough food to eat when they are done. Along the way, Professor Voltage
keeps bringing back new ideas for rides from his trips through time, from a
passel of Western attractions including a log flume to a bona fide pirate ship
and everything in between. This game functioned as a nice, easy introduction
for younger players into the world of sims. Because of its simple
point-and-click nature and its fairly straightforward premise (select a
building, place it, repeat), the game was very accessible. And while the story
was somewhat flimsy, the cast of wacky characters still has the capability to
draw players in if they still have a system on which to play this
of the Rings: The Third Age
Publisher: EA Games
Platform: GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox
may be one of the more well-known titles on this list, it still deserves to be
mentioned because in most cases it was overshadowed by the release of the very
well-received Two Towers and Return of the King movie-tie-in games. Instead of
a hack-and-slash mechanic, Lord of the Rings: The Third Age functioned much
like Final Fantasy, giving players a story in which they played as a soldier of
Gondor who was sent out to aid Boromir and thus experience everything just
behind the characters in Tolkien’s masterwork. For example, one of the first
major bosses in the game is the Balrog, whom players help Gandalf defeat, while
the rest of the original Fellowship flees from the mines of Moria. Players will
gather a party of characters along the way, from the familiar dwarf character,
Hadhod (who is basically Gimli) to completely new characters like Idrial (the
she-elf who plays out similar to Legolas). The reason The Third Age was so
accessible was because it was very much a classic RPG. There were no time constraints
and no need for combos. The combat was turn-based, allowing players to play
with only the use of a couple of buttons.
Gladiator Episode I: Final Crusade
way around it. Star Gladiator was a blatant Star Wars rip-off. But that’s what
made it so good. Instead of the punishing combo systems of games like Street
Fighter, Star Gladiator represented an easier style of arcade fighter. In fact,
it has often been criticized for being too easy. But as a nine-year-old who was
just getting into gaming, I loved this game. I loved being able to beat it. In
fact, it was probably the first console game I had ever beaten. Players were
treated to a simple, arcade-style fighter with gorgeous graphics, where combos
were not necessary and where the cast of intriguing (if familiar) characters battled
their way through a traditional ladder-type system that always ended with a
climactic battle with the maniacal Bilstein. The other thing that I remember impressing
me about Star Gladiator was that it was the first arcade-style fighter I had
seen which used weapons. This added a whole new degree of much-needed depth to
the game, because not every character had the same basic moves. Overall, Star
Gladiator was accessible because of its ease and simplicity, but that doesn’t
mean it’s not worth a look for anyone who is into retro PlayStation games.
Publisher: Philips Interactive Media,
for obscure? I couldn’t even find a screenshot for this one. But even as an
adult I have wasted too much time on this game even to bother mentioning. The
premise is simple. The player is one of the four Polo brothers on a quest for
wealth. Players can start in a number of cities along the historical route that
Marco Polo took, and there’s no winning the game—there’s simply how much money the
player can make before the journey comes to an end. When players start the game
they are asked how many weeks they want their journey to take, and from then on
everything is measured in days. If players want to stock up on pepper, they may
have to buy out a merchant one day and then wait three days for him to restock.
They could then move out of the city, travel to a place where pepper is in
demand, and sell at a profit. The thing that makes this process so interesting
is the fact that this game is absolutely oozing history. Along the way, they’ll
meet historical characters like Genghis Khan who will ask for certain goods or
certain missions to be carried out. The choices players make also impact them.
I can remember being shocked as an eight-year-old when my high-scoring
play-through came to an abrupt end when my entire caravan got tied in sacks and
trampled by a Mongol horde because I refused to drink the goat’s milk the
leader had offered me. All of the in-game dialogue is carried out using a real
voice actor narrating still photographs of live actors. Because of this, its
simple graphics style, and point-and-click nature, I’d recommend Marco Polo to
anyone who wants to play a good DOS game.
Lego game on our list, Lego Creator, is probably most similar to Minecraft’s
create mode with a Lego skin and a third-person overhead perspective. It is purely
a sandbox. Players can build whatever they want using virtual versions of the
world’s most popular toy, from established sets to completely new creations.
Once they create them, they can then set buttons and action cues to animate the
moving parts of their creations. Want to create a busy highway and then have a
five-car pileup? Can do. Want to take over a mini-figure pilot and fly your
plane around the city to see what needs finishing? The game can do that too.
But if you had my sense of humor, what you did is create massive stacks of
solid yellow mini-figs standing on each other’s shoulders with dynamite buttons
about every five mini-figures. Press play, hit the detonate button, and all of
a sudden it’s raining naked Lego characters. Because of its simple
point-and-click nature and its open-world, sandbox feel, Lego Creator would be
completely barrier free if it came out today.
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Metal for children. That was Bumper Wars. And you know what’s awesome? I got it
at a school book fair, at a school which had a very strict zero-tolerance
policy towards violence. He he. Players played as an unseen driver who was
imprisoned by the evil Zedites and forced into a gladiatorial bumper car game
for their amusement. But this ain’t no kiddy ride at the fair. This is a
no-holds barred, hit ‘em until they explode or blow ‘em up with rockets driving
game that would satisfy most hard core PC gamers today. There were several
different cars to choose from and a plethora of different weapons to take into
various modes. In fact, it had simpler versions of everything that makes the
Twisted Metal games such blockbusters. But its forgiving nature and simple,
highly-customizable controls meant that I was able to beat it while still
enjoying the challenge. Bumper Wars is a game that any combat racing fan would
enjoy, given the chance.
Wars Galactic Battlegrounds
No, this is
not a precursor to the blockbuster first person shooter that everyone keeps
moaning they want a third installment for. On the back of its case, Star Wars
Galactic Battlegrounds boasts “Accessible gameplay built upon engine adapted
from the popular Age of Empires® series.” As a result, the game plays like Age
of Empires, looks like Age of Empires—ok, it’s really just Star Wars: Age of
Empires. But it did have a better story than Age of Empires, because it
employed more than one voice actor. And instead of being based on history, it
was based (loosely) on the Star Wars universe and the events surrounding both
trilogies. The game had all the accessibility of the RTS genre and gave players
the opportunity to experience it in a Star Wars universe, where instead of
building barracks and castles they built Jedi temples and star docks. Although
it did play a little bit fast and loose with the story to have fifty Jedi
running around slicing up imperial storm troopers, if you’re not a hard core
fan boy and you like RTS games, this one is definitely worth a look.
make the argument that this game is too well-known to be on the list, but since
I’m literally the only person I know that has even heard of the game, I would
say it qualifies. THQ’s third person dungeon crawler was as accessible as
possible, giving players lots of character customization, an easy-to-see art
style, and a control scheme that could be easily executed with a single hand. It
had all the features of Diablo II with one added bonus: it took place in a
mythological world. Instead of running around slaying zombies and demons,
players play as a Perseus-type character tasked with destroying virtually every
monster in Greek, Egyptian, and Roman myth. The game features random level
generation, an upgradable loot system, and even super-rare loot drops that
players only have a miniscule chance of finding. Like Diablo, even though it
uses a color-coding system, it was still possible to look at each item
individually to determine which item was better, meaning that the color-coding
system was simply a redundant convenience.
No excuses, this
is an extremely nerdy entry. But I loved this game on the Encarta series of
encyclopedias! (That’s right, boys and girls, there really was a time before
Wikipedia, when you actually had to install an encyclopedia on your computer.) Mindmaze
was a trivia game included in most Encarta software that tasks players with
finding their way through an enchanted castle using a point-and-click
interface. At each door the player would be faced with a trivia question and
four possible answers. The possible points would get lower and lower with every
wrong answer until the player either answered correctly or was given the answer
by the computer. If the player was given the answer, the player would have to
repeat the process with a new question. The task was to navigate through a maze
of rooms and eventually find the key to disenchanting the castle. Although the
game was too hard for me when I was first introduced to it, I later appreciated
its value, as it is the kind of thing you need to do if you want to be really good
a Trivial Pursuit.
Majesty: The Fantasy Kingdom Sim
Platform: PC, Android, iOS
better-known title on this list, Majesty was my first foray into the sim genre.
Set in a mythological kingdom, players don’t control any units but they do
build the buildings in their kingdom and set what units they want built. Once a
unit is complete, it would function autonomously doing whatever it could to
help the player’s cause. You could prioritize monsters that needed to be killed
or areas of forest that needed to be cleared, but that was the limit of the
player’s control. This approach had extremely positive effects on the game’s
accessibility. Instead of having to worry about micromanaging individual units,
players could simply set priorities and watch actions unfold. It was like
SimCity, but better. SimCity didn’t have dragons. Beyond that, the game didn’t
have much of a story, so hearing impaired gamers shouldn’t have a problem with
it. And the cartoony art style made everything clearly visible, even for those
with visual impairments.
Lego game. I promise. (I can’t help it—these were the games that shaped my
childhood!) But how can a game that is designed to teach kids chess be any fun
for adults? Simple: character. This game is dripping with character, from the
whimsical character of the king who narrates all the chess lessons (explaining the
knights, for example, as having BMX bikes that can jump over other pieces), to
the individual matches which featured either classic, pirate, or Western-style
Lego-themed chess sets. But the best part of this game was the little cut
scenes that initiated every time a player captured a piece. Whether it was a
pirate pawn mini-fig sneaking up behind a pirate queen and dumping her into an
open sea chest or another zany scenario, this game encouraged players to make
stupid moves in taking chess pieces just to see how the different combinations
would interact. But it also taught good chess lessons along the way. The game
is as accessible as the non-digital board game of chess. Point-and-click
mechanics with no time limit (unless you wanted one) and an art style that made
sure you knew what each piece was and where it could move when you selected it
made this game extremely accessible.
Platform: PC, Xbox 360
Legacy was the perfect mix of PC flight sim and starship technology. Players
were tasked with taking control of ships from all five television series as
they battle the Federation’s age old enemy, the Borg. They also take part in
historical battles against the Klingon Empire in the Kirk years and against various
rouge factions that pop up throughout the game. The best part about this game
was the staggering amount of selection that the player has to choose from.
There were dozens of Federation, Klingon, Romulan, and Borg ships to choose
from, all of which handled a little differently and had unique strengths and
weaknesses. The game had a thorough subtitle system, and because of its sparse
interstellar background it would be easy for visually impaired players to keep
the main ship-to-ship combat in view. When played on PC, the game was even more
accessible since the controls were completely remappable. It even gave players
a scenario mode in which they could answer the age old question, “Which would
win in a fight? Voyager or the Defiant?”
For more articles on game accessibility, please visit DAGERS, or find us on Facebook or @dagersystem.
I loved Encarta Mindmaze. I used to play it for hours on end.
Oh man, I have spent countless hours with Lego Creator back in the day. I wish I could play it again. Minecraft is the next best thing.
I remember playing Lord of the Rings: The 3rd Age. I mostly loved it thanks to my LOTR fandom, but otherwise I didn't get a HUGE kick out of it. Never thought of it as accessible, but then again, I never think of most games' accessibility without having read an article of yours Josh. Boy, I can remember Lego Chess and Star Trek: Legacy as 2 games that I always dreamed of having yet never did thanks to not having the systems to play them on: PC and 360. Anyway, great retro list here. I DID hear of a few of these! :)
Lord Of The Rings: The Third Age.... Not many people remember that game. I loved that as a kid. It's so nice finding others who remember it. And I spent WAY too many hours on Bumper Wars.lol
I actually have or played about half of these. To be clear -- all the LEGO ones, Galactic Battlegrounds, and Third Age. I actually still want to go back and play Third Age again with my friend's old GC some day.
The only thing I think I would have liked here was a nice description as an intro that explained your focus and what you meant by accessibility? Accessible to people with disabilities? Accessible to people because of simplicity in game design? Accessible due to low learning curve? All of these? Something of that nature.
Otherwise, a fascinating list with a lot to consider. It has me wondering which games I own or considered favorites that were also very accessible. Nintendo has a history of making games that you play, in effect, with just one or two buttons creating a lot of accessibility on that front.
Boom Blox comes to mind, along with Ninjatown--which is a very simple (in set-up) tower defense game that gradually builds on it's complexity and challenge.
Lego Creator and Mindmaze pretty much define my childhood. Glad to see I'm not the only one to have played them! Galactic Battlegrounds deserves an upgrade along the lines of Age of Empires II HD as well. Great list!