Weekly Discussion: Cult Classic

Right now I am watching Pulp Fiction in an attempt to appease Lewis over at ScreenDemon. This has got me thinking about cult classics. Of course Pulp Fiction isn’t really a cult title, it received far too many award nominations to really be classed as that; it just feels like it could easily have been a cult hit.

So back to cult classics, lets look at games. Just as there are with movies and books there are certainly cult titles in games. I think it’s a little harder to identify in gaming sometimes, particularly given the way that until relatively recently I would say that the general perception was the whole industry had a cult status. Of course there’s a lot that’s changed after the last couple of console generations and I don’t think anyone could argue that the gaming industry is niche or cult any more.

The undisputed kings of cult in gaming are Team ICO. They’ve only produced two titles over the past 9 years, and both Ico and Shadow of the Colossus seem to be hugely loved by fans without really shifting a significant number of copies. Yes, it probably is a shame that those titles haven’t shifted the huge volume that titles like Call of Duty manage, but it doesn’t really diminish their value as games. In fact it probably increases it, as it makes those kinds of titles rarer and feel more special. If they became popular you’d just get a group of similar titles, making ICO’s titles feel more part of the gaming landscape instead of feeling pretty different from the majority of other titles.

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As always when we discuss gaming in the modern era download titles should get a mention. Titles like flOw and Flower are certainly the cult hits of modern gaming, and they’re games that would almost certainly never be made if they were going to be released on physical media. With the freedom that digital releases give developers there’s the potential for more cult hits to emerge, although it may be hard for them to move beyond the initial niche market where most cult classics start off.

I know I’ve certainly missed out some pretty significant cult hits here, so lets hear your favourite cult titles. Do you think that we’ll see more of these kind of titles with the opportunities that digital distribution allows?

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58 Comments

  1. I think with the way that modern gamming is going with publishers putting all there efforts in guaranteed commercial successes, as we’ve seen recently with devs being closed and only the AAA titles getting sequels, we will see less and less cult classics, unless they do go down the digital distribution route. Which would make sense and can be done as it shouldn’t be limited to smaller releases, with the size of HD’s and the bandwidth available, full titles could be released digitally, that could potentially be cult classics.

  2. I personally think we are going to see less and less “cult” titles. My only basis on this is view is the fact that everything is accessible on the internet. By this I mean when a title comes out that is great, a lot more people hear that it is great.

    Where as when it was still a minority that owned the internet, when a great game came out, it was very easy to go unnoticed.

    On to my cult classics,SOTC is the most obvious one (ironically I never bought it, did I help that become a cult!?). No other titles I can think of could really be classed as a cult I don’t think. Carmaggedon? Bonanza Bros? Doubt they really fall into the cult bracket.

    • Machinarium & Time Gentleman Please are 2 downloadable PC titles which were released in the Internet age, both are great but haven’t gained any mainstream traction over all the Facebook nonsense.

      I think the Internet will aid the creation of cult titles as the hivemind rushes from one fad to the next, missing some real gems in the process.

      On the console front because titles are released throughout the year particularly on the PSN it can be hard to miss anything, PJ Shooter2 released tomorrow will (probably) be great and most people who want it will buy it, but it will almost certainly dip below the mainstream radar so perhaps titles like that can be considered cult hits

      • Machinarium…very good call there Mr Star.

      • wasn’t there talk of machinarium coming to console?
        i was looking forward to seeing that on ps3 or 360.

      • Ive been waiting for machinarium on the PS3 since they mentioned it way back.

      • You can play Machinarium flash game online in PS3 browser but it’s very slow. Lovely game though.

  3. I definitely think Double Fine’s Psychonauts deserves to be in there – great solid story and lovely visuals. It never seemed to gain the popularity I thought it should but its fans really love it.

    • I seen it used in Gamestop once…. ugh I should’ve bought it but I seen DOA2 and primal..

  4. I don’t really know theres loads of them…. maybe Maximo and Outrun but I’m not sure about the sales then theres LoK….

    • i don’t think outrun qualifies as a cult game, outrun has been a huge success as well as being a great game so i don’t think it’s really a cult game.

  5. Psychonauts! A critical success that bombed commercially. Which is a shame as it was a truly superb game, so original and genuinely great fun.

    I think the rise in digital downloads has already opened the door to innovative games we otherwise wouldn’t see. Already games like Braid, Limbo and Flower exist, none of which could have appeared as retail games. Tim Schafer has continued to make gems, unrestrained by the constraints of a disc based pressure. Brutal Legend was a perfect example of trying to make a commercially appealing game, and was the worse for it, so it is great to see downloadable titles like Costume Quest and Stacking returning to form.

    I think the rise both in downloadable games, along with the general rise in gaming, will lead to less games being considered “cult” though. I wouldn’t really consider Flower or Braid etc as cult games, as the accessibility has made them so popular. You will still get the odd few stunners that slip past the public eye, but I think a lot of these “cult” games will start to get the mass recognition they deserve.

    • Haha I took so long to write my reply, Psychonauts has already been mentioned, along with my “less cult games” point. To expand though, if we look at the upcoming releases of the Team Ico Collection, and Beyond Good and Evil, they are games previously considered cult classics that will sell very well now! Partly due to accessibility, partly due to a increased gaming population and partly due to the rise in internet chatter, as kjkg mentioned. I think, sadly in a way but nice for the developers, that cult games will be few and far between soon.

    • I’m loving Stacking, it’s my fave game of 2011 so far, sure some of the puzzles are slightly simplistic but doing them all can be incredibly challenging.

      It’s just so unique and seems so unlike anything else out there, which must be quite difficult to do these days.

      Whether it’ll go on to be a cult hit or not is a different matter

      • Totally agree about Stacking, it is superb. Randomly quote lines from it with the kids almost every day. GOOD DAY SIR!

      • Stacking really was a breath of fresh air, and the sound of extra DLC for it is very welcome (I maxed out on it 100%). I love my FPSs, but the imagination and great story (with a moral) that went into Stacking was just great.

        My love of Double Fine started though with Psychonauts.

      • Stacking DLC, best news of the day.

  6. The reason I own a PS3 is for Flower, The Last Guardian and Heavy Rain. Sony have a track record of funding ‘odd’ games, and pretty much without exception their patience has paid off and utterly unique titles have been created. It’s probably the main reason why I don’t feel the need to buy an Xbox. PS3 has Flower, Heavy Rain, Journey, hell even really odd stuff like .detuned and Linger In Shadows, all funded by Sony.

    Microsoft backs Gears and Hale, two space marine shooters and spends a fortune getting the COD DLC exclusive for a month. The closest the got to anything unique was Alan Wake and that was hardly groundbreaking.

    I’ve turned this in to a MS sucks rant – it isnt, I just dont beleive MS could ever come up with a game like Flower – or if they did, they would take one look and run in the other direction for fear of the unknown. For cult classic games, has to be Sony and with the advent of the PSN we will see more quirky games arriving. Bravo!

    • I do agree with you, there is this opinion that Sony back riskier projects, and that’s the type of stuff I much prefer. I’m not sure on the reality of it though as Sony back FPS just as much if not more than MS recently as they’re desperate for a slice of the worlds largest gaming market in the US where FPS tend to do better than elsewhere.

      Don’t forget that for every Flower there’s a Limbo and titles like Sam & Max, Braid, ‘Splosion Man, Super Meat Boy and hundreds of others are on the XBLA several years before they appear on the PSN.

      • Was just going to mention Limbo. There’s stacks of esoteric, indie-style stuff on XBLA, you just have to look harder.

      • None of which were actually financed by MS were they? They got some nice advertsing deals in exchange for exclusivity but MS didnt actually pay for their development. And Id hardly class Super Meat Boy as ‘orginal’. Braid is anice platformer, nothing more.

      • The last season on Sam & Max wasn’t even on XBLA. The ‘hundreds of others’ comment was also a typically wild exaggeration.

    • I wonder if Journey will find its way into cult status when it’s released.

  7. It’s tricky to define a cult game, having only recently been an observer of games sales, shouldn’t a cult title be shunned at launch and then become a hit via word of mouth and building interest?

    I think Dead Space probably falls into that category, despite being published by EA, I believe the game had quite a weak launch and then built up over time to the point where the sequel became hugely anticipated.

    • I was thinking this too. Some of the niche games that are so highly spoken about aren’t real classics (to me) but constantly need mentioning so people don’t miss out on them.

      Also agree with the general consensus that cult classics might be harder to come by due to how we buy games these days (and the prevalence of the internet, etc).

      Regardless, we have some true classics and it’s always heart-warming to hear them spoken about so fondly and so frequently still.

  8. To define a cult game is a game that doesn’t sell well initially but has a strong following. I’d have to say ‘Singularity’ from Raven, recommended by yourselves if I rememnber rightly, well worth a look as its quite cheap on amazon. The multiplayer servers could do with improvement though….

    • Thought Singularity was a great game. Huge Bioshock homage (rip off!) but when you’re cribbing from the masters what’s wrong with that and it had some cracking ideas of its own. Really enjoyed the story and game mechanics.

    • Singularity was great but a cult classic? I don’t think so. Beyond good and Evil is a genuine Cult classic, not may people bought it and yet the anticipation for the HD remake is high.

  9. Demon’s soul comes in second IMO.

  10. Street Racer on the PlayStation. Greatest game ever after Manhunt and other games better than it.

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