Link's Awakening
Image: Nintendo Life

We often use the word 'evergreen' to describe a game which never gets old. Despite the passage of time, there's a stratum of untouchables that still feel as vital in the hands as the day they were released. Personal preferences and nostalgia will always, always come into play, but games like Super Mario Bros. 3 or Super Mario World? It's hard to imagine them feeling any better if they launched yesterday.

Critical consensus puts classics like those on a pedestal which seems precarious — they can't be that good, right? — but whenever you return, they do, somehow, stand up. You settle back and relax, relieved. You need never worry that a quick blast through SMB3 won't live up to your expectations.

Super Mario Bros. 3
Still pretty good — Image: Nintendo

Sometimes, though, there's that niggling doubt. What if a treasured classic doesn't hold up? You risk forever colouring your memory with the knowledge that, in fact, it's not the unimpeachable experience you remember.

It's not even the game's fault, really — it's all the other games which came and went since. They iterated on its successes, refining the good and removing or improving the bad. The game hasn't changed, but you and your expectations have - and the bar was forever raised. Is the only way to preserve that perfect specimen and memory, perversely, to avoid replaying it in the first place?

It's hardly the biggest problem in the world — there are more than enough games to play without holding on to past loves and the great times you once had — but there is a melancholy that comes with recognising that a game you've assumed was an evergreen has grown old.

Let's ask Team NL for their thoughts...

Gavin Lane, editor

Image: Capcom

I remember Kate [Gray, former NL staffer and current contributor] playing the original RE4 for the first time and finding it tough to love. I played it a few years back and it held up well for me as a huge fan, but I'm also extremely conscious that going back might be harder after playing the remake. My solution? Don't play the remake, natch. Easier when you're a Switch-first kinda guy, granted.

Speaking of putting off the inevitable, I delayed playing the Link's Awakening remake on Switch since 2019 despite buying it at launch. I fired it up briefly and was surprised by the jittery frame rate (something which is somewhat improved in handheld, it turns out), so I packed it away in the hope that a patch or an updated Switch might come along to smooth over the frame dips. The game and its philosophical questions, not to mention its Twin Peaks inspirations, hold a special place in my heart, so I wanted this replay to be perfect.

Link's Awakening
Image: Nintendo

Going back and finishing it over the last few weeks, I found the simple story and characters just as affecting. But the game itself? It's fine. Fine. But the world is so much more confining than I remember. Without the technological straitjacket of the Game Boy, the eight-way directional inputs feel restrictive in this soft, playfully reimagined world (I notice they've implemented full 360-degree movement in Echoes of Wisdom). And despite always having Old Man Ulrira on the end of the line with hints, solutions to progress felt too obtuse at times, despite Koholint's relatively small size. You never have far to travel, and you've got warps to help you, but the experience felt constrained this time.

Has BOTW's geographical freedom spoiled me? Perhaps, although Ocarina and Majora's Mask still feel fantastic to me. A Link Between Worlds is similarly one of my favourite Zelda experiences ever, but I'm now trepidatious to dig out my 3DS for a replay. Link's Awakening remains an iconic and special game, but it definitely doesn't hit like it once did.

Ollie Reynolds, staff writer

Eternal Darkness
Image: Nintendo

When it comes to survival horrors, I've kept pretty well acquainted with the likes of Resident Evil, Silent Hill, and Dead Space long after the launch of their respective debut titles. There's one game, however, that has eluded me since its release on the GameCube in 2002: Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem.

At the time, I remember being blown away by the experience, including the various periods, the magic system, and of course, the fourth-wall-breaking sanity mechanics. I also remember it being a bit clunky, mind, and I worry that this issue will only be exacerbated if I were to play it now. A bit of jank is part of the fun with survival horror, but the passage of time with this one is so great that I'm not sure I'll be able to put up with it.

Sticking with poor ol' Silicon Knights, I'd also be quite wary of playing Metal Gear Solid: The Twin Snakes these days. The idea of taking the gameplay from Sons of Liberty and inserting it into the first Metal Gear Solid was certainly novel at the time, but I could see some cracks forming even during my first playthrough. Revamping the controls while keeping everything else about the game intact resulted in an imbalanced experience that could be broken at every turn. It didn't bother me so much back then, but I think I'd rather play the original over Twin Snakes now.

Jim Norman, staff writer

Star Wars Shadows of the Empire
Image: Lucasarts

Perhaps a little bit of the ol' recency bias is swaying my mind here, but I was honestly scared to return to Luigi's Mansion 2 for the new HD Switch release. Not owning a GameCube in my youth, the second entry on the 3DS was my introduction to the series and I remember thoroughly enjoying it. The characters were silly, the ghosts were funny and the puzzles were just puzzle-y enough to keep me happy. It was an all-round pleasant experience. So pleasant, in fact, that I would go on to play the other two and fall in love with them.

The problem was, Luigi's Mansion 3 was perhaps a little bit too good. I started to wonder whether those puzzles were actually puzzle-y enough. Was the mission structure a good thing or a nuisance? How painful were the controls again? Before heading into the Switch version, I booted the game up on 3DS to face my fears. And I realised that they were justified.

Luigi's Mansion 2
Image: Nintendo

To be clear, I still like Luigi's Mansion 2 very much. It's the 'worst' in a great trilogy, but I was so spoilt by the brilliance of 3 that going back to its predecessor felt rough. The Switch version does clear up a lot of my complaints, but even with the beefed-up visuals and vastly improved control scheme, things aren't as pretty as they were through my rose-tinted nostalgia goggles. Maybe the original is better left un-replayed, for now.

Of course, that is cheating a bit since I have gone back to Luigi's Mansion 2. One disturbance in the Force that I am never going to touch again is Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire. Now there's a game that I absolutely adored as a kid — come on, the Hoth sequence slaps — but one that my grumpy grown-up eyes would likely have a field day poking holes in. I don't need any more happy memories of a galaxy far, far away spoilt by a repeat viewing (I'm looking at you, Battlefront Classic Collection), so I'll gladly leave this Force Ghost menacingly watching me from afar.

What games have you replayed years later and been disappointed by? Are you actively avoiding replaying something for fear of it not standing up to your memories? Let us know below.

What game do you worry wouldn't stand up if you went back to it now?