The best video games set in the past
It’s an overarching fact that everything old eventually becomes new again, whether that’s the resurgence of side-scrolling video games, Hollywood’s addiction to movie re-makes or even your favourite chocolate bar being brought back into the world. Just because these games are set in the past doesn’t mean they are stuck there, each providing some of the most immersive, detailed and finely tuned video game experiences out there.
Spanning all genres, decades and art styles, here are our 10 best video games set in the past:
GTA Vice City
A tour de force of 1980’s awesomeness, GTA Vice City fully commits to its retro throwback setting by letting players explore the detailed district of Vice City which itself riffs off of popular Miami hotspots. Evoking elements from films such as Scarface and other 80’s mafia crime movies Vice City sees Tommy Vercetti rise from lowly criminal to a mansion-owning gangland boss that wouldn’t feel too out of place in a Bond movie.
Complete with an equally authentic soundtrack that delivers everything from classic Michael Jackson to Frankie Goes to Hollywood, you’ll always feel fully engrossed in the decade of spandex, Hawaiian shirts and neon lights as you gun down your latest hit. Vice City, one of Rockstar’s best for sure!
Call of Duty: World at War
Dark, visceral and downright gritty, World at War may have had the hard task of succeeding Infinity Ward’s critically acclaimed Modern Warfare, but it absolutely succeeded in delivering one of the harshest and truest depictions of war that we’d seen in any other historical first person shooter by that point.
Whether it’s crawling through dead bodies in the aftermath of Stalingrad or storming the shores of Peleliu beach, World at war successfully proves that whilst ideas are peaceful, history is violent. Just don’t torture yourself by playing it on Veteran, its Nazi closets galore!
Assassin’s Creed II
Assassins Creed II would go on to set the template for all future Assassin’s Creed titles to come, Assassin’s Creed II allowed players to take to the heights of 15th century renaissance Italy, letting us explore a true part of history in the way only a video game can allow.
As famed series protagonist Ezio Auditorie Da Firenze, Assassin’s Creed II was a reminder that the past is rich and full of stories to tell, even if they are a little bit fictionalised. A game of fisty cuffs with the pope anyone?
Star Wars Battlefront (2004)
Blasters, Spaceships and clone armies? Have we gone mad? 2004’s original version of Star Wars Battlefront took us back to a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away by letting us experience the various battles sprinkled throughout the Sci-Fi saga first hand from Episode’s I to VI.
Star Wars battlefront is absolutely one of the best pieces of entertainment to have spawned out of the prequel series, feeling epic, meaning full and simply a blast to play especially with friends. Whilst DICE’s 2015 reboot looks gorgeous and detailed, there’s nothing quite like the journey presented in the original Star Wars Battlefront.
Wolfenstein: The New Order
Slightly cheeky due to the fact that this depiction of the past is an alternative take, Wolfenstein: The New Order is a solid and memorable historical first person shooter like no other, allowing you battle mechanised Panzerhounds, robot Hitlers and anything else the ruthless Nazis have the potential of cooking up in their lab.
Wolfenstein is a series with plenty of ground covered in this setting, but its 2014 incarnation is by far the best. Presenting players with just the right amount of zany concepts and ideas, The New Order still manages to deliver an epic and original tale set in an alternative WWII.
A indie game which pretty much single-handedly began what we now know to be the walking simulator genre, Gone Home is a beautifully written and focussed tale of a teenager returning home to her family home in the dead of night, only to discover the times and moments she has missed in their life. Set in the grand old year of 1995, the game masters the art of object storytelling.
Being set in such a nailed down time period, exploring the house reveals various Easter eggs relevant to the time, with talk of arcades, street fighter and maybe the odd cassette player or two. If you haven’t ventured into Greenbriar family home, pull up a chair, grab your headphones and prepare yourself for one of the most finely tuned narratives in indie gaming.
Unbelievably underrated and forgotten about, LA Noire was a crime game which suffered when released due to the story surrounding it’s production somewhat overshadowing it. Set in the post-WWII Los Angeles, LA Noire places you in the role of Cole Phelps tasked to investigate the various goings on in the Mafia underworld.
LA Noire is a bit of a gem simply because there really is no other game like it, even so long after its release. The pioneering facial capture technology while shaky at times, truly gives players the ability to be their very own Sherlock Holmes (hopefully not the Downey Jr version mind you), letting you explore the streets of 1947 LA wronging various rights as you do so!
Valiant Hearts: The Great War
A bold game which chooses to focus on the not so popular World War One setting, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a heartfelt adventure game that really shows what Ubisoft are capable of when they fully put their mind to something. Telling a series of bite-size stories from various interesting and original perspectives, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is just as informative as it is fun to play.
Short, sweet and a fresh take on the horrors of war, Valiant Hearts: The Great War is a charming alternative to other games set in a war period, wrapped in a beautiful cartoon art style that makes every stage a joy to explore and rummage around in.
Taking stealth metaphorically as well as literally, Counter Spy uses its Cold War setting and capitalises on it immensely. Told from a 2.5D perspective, the game sees you attempting the to sabotage the rival country by sneaking and stealthing your way through a series of procedurally generated levels so it always feels fresh.
Definitely inspired by various 1960’ spy thrillers which also told stories of increased tension between the USA and USSR after World War II, Counter Spy requires you to be careful not to ramp up the threat level to maximum DEFCON otherwise you’ll suffer in the long term – Smart, creative, bite-sized fun.
Red Dead Redemption
Whether it’s riding into a newly discovered Western town on horseback or tying up a bandit by the ankles and strapping him to the train tracks, Red Dead Redemption did the impossible by letting us live out our cowboy fantasies in a fully immersive world. John Marston as a protagonist is a bad guy that’s trying to make amends by being good, and it’s an awesome central driving force.
Red Dead Redemption was something never previously thought possible on PS3 and 360 hardware, but the wizards at Rockstar didn’t fail to deliver one of the most detailed and lived in western settings games such as Call of Juarez and Gun could only dream of replicating. It also helps that the game’s Undead Nightmare DLC is some of the best ever released, just saying!