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You Don't Know What "Cult Classic" Means, Do You?

Automatic JackAutomatic Jack Registered User regular
edited August 2010 in Games and Technology
Unless my Search skills are incredibly rusty, I'm surprised there isn't a thread for this. Anyway, I've been looking around for a decent discussion of what exactly constitutes a cult classic video game, and I've come to the conclusion that once again, nobody knows what the hell they're talking about- At least when it comes to other forums, articles, and even Wikipedia, where only one person in the Talk section seems to realize how horribly written the page is. So hopefully you guys here on the PA boards will not disappoint me by entertaining any of the following definitions of "cult classic", which I've distilled from other discussions I've read elsewhere on the subject:

WHAT CULT CLASSIC ISN'T:
-Games with "higher artistic goals" that "don't constitute standard video game fare" (Shadow of the Colossus, Flower)
-Artgames (Passage, Every Day the Same Dream)
-Indie games (Braid, Limbo, Cave Story)
-Games so obscure your friends have probably never heard of them (I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream)
-Games that just happen to be old and still remembered fondly (FF7, Chrono Trigger, Super Mario RPG)
-Games that sucked (Custer's Last Stand, E.T., Big Rigs)
-Games that are weird, quirky or offbeat (Katamari, Loco Roco, Seaman, Pikmin)
-Games that were popular in another country so of course we don't know about them over here (Tenmenshu Cherangi Dystoblivion 4: Hero's Revenge... Wait what?)
-Games involving Tim Schafer (Monkey Island, Brutal Legend)
-Games that aren't FPSs
-Games that you personally think are under-appreciated/underrated because you can't find anyone else who has played it (do tell?)
-Games that were fun to play so therefore they must be cult classics right? (Anything by Valve, World of Goo, Neverwinter Nights, Bioshock, Phoenix Wright, LittleBigPLanet 2, Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Silent Hill, effing STARCRAFT?! Note that almost all of these examples were pulled from the aforementioned discussions threads elsewhere on the Internet)
-Games that did really well critically and financially (I saw this definition stated by more than one party, so I can't help but think that there is a segment of the population who actually believes that this is what "cult classic" means)


That's not to say a cult game couldn't be any one of these things, or even a couple of these things. For example, Psychonauts seems to be a popular candidate for cult status, and Grim Fandango. But the things on this list aren't necessarily indicative of a cult classic, which is where people seem to hit a brick wall. Cult classics are the concrete manifestation of Judge Stewart's famous proclamation "I know it when I see it": Once referring to hardcore pornography, now adapted to a variety of materials whose nature defies description, it's pretty much the only way to differentiate a cult classic from a merely bizarre foreign title or a critical darling that didn't make as much money as people thought it deserved. So what exactly is a cult classic, then?

I'm talking about games whose titles act like secret passwords to the initiated, and elicit curiosity from the ignorant. Games that, when you whisper its name into a crowd, one or two people will turn around and look at you with shining eyes, knowing that they are not alone in the universe. Games with a small but devoted fan base that not only appreciate the technical aspects that have held up over time, but have a deep, possibly irrational affection for it despite gameplay that not even a Mother could love. Games that are the interactive equivalent, not of Citizen Kane, but Rocky Horror; grotesque, ugly and incomprehensible to outsiders, but a rallying point for thousands of like-minded freaks to gather and throw toast at the screen. Games that are more that the sum of their parts, making them difficult for critics to break it down into the discrete packets employed by most rating systems. Games that you love that make you love the people who love the game too.

...Or you could just post "i kinda liked the Thief series" here and be done with it.

As a point of reference, here is my current gaming wishlist. Some of the titles are cult classics, some of them aren't; you decide. In either case, I'd like your help to expand it further. The number of games I've actually played in depth that aren't Mario or Zelda related you could probably count on one hand, maybe two, so assume I've played all the games in my signature and leave it at that...
PS2
Silent Hill 2
Okami
Lifeline
killer7
No More Heroes
Nights into Dreams/Journey into Dreams

Gamecube
Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem

DS
Hotel Dusk: Room 215

Xbox360
Limbo
Breakdown
Fahrenheit/Indigo Prophecy

PC
The Neverhood
Planescape Torment
Psychonauts
Pathologic, The Void
Another World
Beyond Good and Evil
Beneath a Steel Sky
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
A Mind Forever Voyaging
Deus Ex

Probably more I'm forgetting.

I don't really expect anybody to come up with a title that fits what I think a cult classic game should be... I'll admit it's a pretty specific order, and there are some titles that I think have a bit of a cultish vibe that don't exactly hold true to my already-vague definition; like Majora's Mask, which is part of one of the most popular franchises of all time, but still manages to hit that sweet spot in a couple of important ways. And I'm sure there's an argument somewhere to be made for Ico. As long as you have the brainpower to think of something other than "Portal, 'cos it was short and funny", you're already doing better than these guys.

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    KorKor Known to detonate from time to time Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    So what sort of discussion are you looking for here?

    You want us to agree that some other forum is retarded or something?

    Kor on
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    ED!ED! Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    How can you on one hand say "I know it when I've seen it. . .", and then say "Oh well this is definitely NOT a cult classic?" The whole premise is subjective (to a point).

    To me a "cult classic" is a game that is just that: a title that appeals to a very limited subset of the gaming world whose particular tastes judge games on a different level than the "mainstream". I look at movies that are "cult classics" that (to me) are absolutely godawful, but has qualities that are actually desirable to a very specific set.

    Having said that I do not think many of those games on your list would qualify. Definitely not Dues Ex, Okami, BGE, Pyschonauts and Silent Hill 2.

    ED! on
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    Captain KCaptain K Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    what is this thread actually about?

    Captain K on
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    Fatty McBeardoFatty McBeardo Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Thanks for starting a thread to lord your superiority over the rest of the forum.

    Fatty McBeardo on
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    Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    It's really hard, and probably pointless, to just define things by what they aren't.

    Anyway, I'll throw down CPMA, Defrag, and Warsow, a trio of free FPS designed for a very specific market. They're the best at what they do, but they will never get mainstream success. The people that like the love them, the people that don't have never heard of them and wouldn't even be interested if they did.

    Actually, scratch that. They're not cult classics and this topic isn't going anywhere.

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    ED!ED! Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I just looked up WARSOW; everything I despise about games like Halo and Unreal. I would probably qualify that as a cult classic.

    ED! on
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    EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Bad Mojo

    Ecstatica (and its sequel)

    I'm sure I'll think of more later but I have to get some sleep.

    Esh on
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    Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    ED! wrote: »
    I just looked up WARSOW; everything I despise about games like Halo and Unreal. I would probably qualify that as a cult classic.

    It's nothing like Halo and any Warsow player would probably take the comparison as an insult.

    But I get your meaning.

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    LaCabraLaCabra MelbourneRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Shotgun Sunrise is totally a cult classic.

    LaCabra on
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    TaramoorTaramoor Storyteller Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    611587-1_large.jpg

    Cult Classic.

    Taramoor on
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    EshEsh Tending bar. FFXIV. Motorcycles. Portland, ORRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Almost forgot Bioforge.

    Esh on
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    ZombiemamboZombiemambo Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I was gonna be so mad if Deus Ex wasn't mentioned in here.

    Keep in mind that a game that is popular here or elsewhere on the internet does not void its status as a cult classic. Psychonauts and Beyond Good & Evil are good examples, I think.

    Zombiemambo on
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    LittleBootsLittleBoots Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    You guys remember that game with the blocks and stuff?

    LittleBoots on

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    ED!ED! Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    What exactly is "cult" about Dues Ex? It's cyberpunk trappings? What about its story or gameplay, made it removed from the mainstream, or treasured by some small group of gamers? I just don't see it.

    ED! on
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    DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    God Hand.

    It's pretty darn popular here on the forums, but most people don't know it ever existed - and if they did, they'd say it was too hard and terrible.

    DarkPrimus on
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    ZombiemamboZombiemambo Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    ED! wrote: »
    What exactly is "cult" about Dues Ex? It's cyberpunk trappings? What about its story or gameplay, made it removed from the mainstream, or treasured by some small group of gamers? I just don't see it.

    I define cult classic in the same way one would define a cult: a small but devoted following. Deus Ex is worshiped by its fans, but you're not going to find a whole lot of people who know what it is.

    Some people seem to look at a "cult classic" as something that happens in the design phase, but I can't imagine why. I look at cult classic movies as a direct comparison: Rocky Horror Picture Show, for example. Of course that movie is quite strange and unique, but I don't think anyone involved said, "Let's make a film that very few people understand and enjoy, but is treasured by those who do."

    Maybe Deus Ex is a little outside the scope of being a cult classic, but it's definitely not mainstream, and most people will never know what contributions it made to gaming.

    Zombiemambo on
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    OrogogusOrogogus San DiegoRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    From Wikipedia:
    The game received near-universal critical and industry acclaim, including being named "Best PC Game of All Time" in PC Gamer's Top 100 PC Games[2] and in a poll carried out by UK gaming magazine PC Zone.[3] It was a frequent candidate for and winner of Game of the Year awards,[4][5][6][7] drawing praise for its pioneering designs in player choice and multiple narrative paths.[8][9] It has sold more than 1 million copies, as of April 23, 2009.

    1 million copies puts it in the same niche category as Quake 2, I think.

    Orogogus on
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    BloodySlothBloodySloth Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    This strikes me as kind of a weird discussion to have considering so many great games are still solidly out of mainstream culture. I mean, how the hell do you define "cult classic" in a medium that is kind of niche already?

    BloodySloth on
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    BombarnacBombarnac Registered User new member
    edited August 2010
    Certainly Homeworld
    Arguably Outcast, Hidden & Dangerous and Tribes
    Perhaps Vampire Bloodlines?

    Bombarnac on
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    Fig-DFig-D Tustin, CA, USRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    250px-Mischief_Makers.jpg

    Mischief Makers.

    Pretty much defines the term cult classic for me. Its an incredibly fun game that has a very loyal player base but it recieved middling reviews and never achieved the financial success that it so rightly deserved.

    That's how I define cult classic. Something that a relatively small group of people is drawn to and receives high praise from its fans, but is largely unsuccessful at achieving mass market success and probably didn't have much of a advertising push.

    There are also, in my opinion, cult classic that eventually break free of their "cult" status and become just "classics." In film, The Rocky Horror Picture Show would be my prime example.

    Fig-D on
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    Xenogears of BoreXenogears of Bore Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    That PS2 version of NMH is such a cult classic that I've never even heard of that version.

    Oh right, that's because IT DOESN'T EXIST.

    Xenogears of Bore on
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    cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Bears The Name FreedomRegistered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Bloodlines is definitely a cult classic, because that's one devout community for a game that sold terribly.
    (And it deserved much better)


    I can think of a ton of games I consider classics, but they don't have anywhere close to the 'cult' following games like Psychonauts and God Hand have; namely Deception III, Growlanser II, etc.

    cj iwakura on
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    stimtokolosstimtokolos Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Page- wrote: »
    ED! wrote: »
    I just looked up WARSOW; everything I despise about games like Halo and Unreal. I would probably qualify that as a cult classic.

    It's nothing like Halo and any Warsow player would probably take the comparison as an insult.

    But I get your meaning.

    I kind of want to shiv him for that comment. I'd also say it is closer to quake than unreal.

    stimtokolos on
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    Xenogears of BoreXenogears of Bore Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Psychonauts sold far too well to be a real cult classic.

    PN 03 is a great fucking example. Little Kings Story or Killer 7 are other ones. Some people don't get them, they sold terribly (and I mean terribly) but others will swear by the game forever.

    Xenogears of Bore on
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    Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Page- wrote: »
    ED! wrote: »
    I just looked up WARSOW; everything I despise about games like Halo and Unreal. I would probably qualify that as a cult classic.

    It's nothing like Halo and any Warsow player would probably take the comparison as an insult.

    But I get your meaning.

    I kind of want to shiv him for that comment. I'd also say it is closer to quake than unreal.

    That's a harsh. If you don't play them then I'm sure even Unreal and Quake would look the same. Hell, people compare CPMA, QW, and Painkiller.

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    SatsumomoSatsumomo Rated PG! Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Esh wrote: »
    Bad Mojo

    Ecstatica (and its sequel)

    I'm sure I'll think of more later but I have to get some sleep.

    Oh man Ecstatica... I wasn't more than 12 when I played it, and despite the high difficulty and weird controls I managed to beat it. Still haunts me as one of the creepiest games I've ever played, it definitely has some very scary scenes.

    Satsumomo on
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    SpoitSpoit *twitch twitch* Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    At what point is a game "old enough" or "sells too much" or crosses the line of obscurity to be considered a cult classic?

    Like say, King's bounty. Didn't hear a peep about it in 2008, when it came out, but after the 1st steam sale people started recommending it, and then a sequel came out, and by this last huge steam spring sale and the couple weeks of rotating 1C deals that followed it, it and men of war suddenly became relatively well referenced and topped many lists.

    How about kotor 2? It probably sold pretty well, considering it's pedigree, but half the time you mention it, it derails a thread because of arguments about a whole bunch of silly goose dander.

    Or what about Alpha protocol? It already bombed, and is likely not to do much better because of the widespread character assassination because of some weird vendetta against it?

    Spoit on
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    BiosysBiosys Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I'd always taken the term 'cult classic' to mean something obscure, that didn't neccesarily sell very well, but garnered great acclaim from critics, and is popular among a small sub-section of people.

    Psychonauts would be a prime example of this, it had almost no mainstream appeal, but among the gaming community on the Internet it's attracted a lot more attention than elsewhere, and as a result is held to be a brilliant game, but only among those who've heard of it (admittedly most of the Internet now, but still).

    I'm assuming this topic is meant to be about the definition of 'cult classic', I'm not really sure.

    EDIT: Quite a few games seem to be considered cult classics purely for nostalgic reasons ie. so many people remember how fun it was during their childhood, they talk about it to others who played and extol the virtues to those who have not.

    The game in question can often be absolutely terrible, but as many people consider it a important game in their childhood, they consider it to be a 'cult classic'.

    EDIT le two: And reading the OP in more detail, I guess I've betrayed his expectations of PA by suggesting not only one, but two definitions of cult classic that are supposedly wrong.

    Although he then goes on to say cult classics can be this things.

    Ah whatever.

    Biosys on
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    DarkPrimusDarkPrimus Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Spoit wrote: »
    How about kotor 2? It probably sold pretty well, considering it's pedigree, but half the time you mention it, it derails a thread because of arguments about a whole bunch of silly goose dander.

    You can still purchase KOTOR2 at Target or Wal-Mart, and not in the budget jewel case section, either.

    DarkPrimus on
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    Page-Page- Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Cult status has nothing to do with good reviews. In film it's often the opposite.

    Page- on
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    stimtokolosstimtokolos Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Page- wrote: »
    Page- wrote: »
    ED! wrote: »
    I just looked up WARSOW; everything I despise about games like Halo and Unreal. I would probably qualify that as a cult classic.

    It's nothing like Halo and any Warsow player would probably take the comparison as an insult.

    But I get your meaning.

    I kind of want to shiv him for that comment. I'd also say it is closer to quake than unreal.

    That's a harsh. If you don't play them then I'm sure even Unreal and Quake would look the same. Hell, people compare CPMA, QW, and Painkiller.

    The shiv was more about the Halo comment. It does draw elements from unreal as well just I feel it is closer to quake. Granted I never played much unreal I know the dash jumping came from that side and not quake. Dodge jump or whatever they had.

    stimtokolos on
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    LittleBootsLittleBoots Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Isn't cult status more to do with a rabid fan base? A fan base that persists despite the objects fall from (if it had a good standing to begin with) popular culture?

    Like Rocky Horror Picture Show, that's considered a cult classic, it's by no means unknown or good or horribly bad (if you like kiche and camp) but it's the devotion of its fan base that makes it a cult classic. It has what could be called a "cult" following.

    tldr: What I'm trying to say is: what determines a cult classic is entirely to do with the fans and not the work itself.

    p.s. I'm drunk.

    LittleBoots on

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    stimtokolosstimtokolos Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    Also if anyone feels like a game of Warsow and lives in or near to Australia hit me up. I haven't dueled in a year or so because the community is pretty much dead. Everyone including myself lost interest when anyone above horribad stopped playing. I was pretty mediocre though.

    Also cg_oldmovement 1 or bust.

    stimtokolos on
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    Automatic JackAutomatic Jack Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I don't care what your personal definition is or what games you talk about here, as long as you can justify your response. Or maybe we could talk about the futility of drawing parallels between game cult classics and film cult classics, since the sort of weirdness that would seem to qualify a FILM for CC status seems to be more prevalent and accepted in games, like BloodySloth suggested. Games lend themselves to weirdness.

    Is KOTOR like the Majora's Mask of Star Wars or something?

    As for the superior tone of the OP, again I suppose I'm defining what I don't want this discussion to be: People reeling off lists of games that they like, without any application of what a "cult classic" means, even to themselves. And I did state that not every game on that list was a cult classic; just games I'd be interested in playing later. Defining things by their negative is merely a demonstration of the elusiveness of the term, and it's probably also because I'm Canadian, where our entire national identity is defined by a negative.

    EDIT: I also wrote this way past my bedtime, so I realize its coherence is... not entirely there. But I can't edit it now or everyone's accusations will cease to make sense. Will elaborate more when I get to work on some of the suggestions posted here; Alpha Protacol seemed interesting due to all the negative press.

    Automatic Jack on
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    SnareSnare Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    So games that only a few people like that is awesome? Hmmm, has a hint of pretentious to it I feel.

    You've tied it down to something so small it's hard to find.

    Maybe the problem these days is games don't remain 'cult' any more because so many people play games it's hard for them to slip under the radar. I was just now reading the kotaku post about minecraft where valve name dropped and it's now a huge hit!

    There, something actually thoughtful written.

    Snare on
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    Cannon GooseCannon Goose I need some GAGS! If only I had my gag book!Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I'd say that Alpha Protocol fits the definition of cult fairly well. Average review scores, misunderstood, fans LOVE it and defend it a whole bunch.

    Cannon Goose on
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    CasedOutCasedOut Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    What about Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee?

    CasedOut on
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    kaleeditykaleedity Sometimes science is more art than science Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    xcom and nethack are too awesome to be constrained by silly definitions

    kaleedity on
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    CasedOutCasedOut Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    kaleedity wrote: »
    xcom and nethack are too awesome to be constrained by silly definitions

    This makes me wonder. I would almost go as far to say that if any one individual would rabidly defend something as a cult classic then it is in fact a cult classic. They defend its status with ardent fervor regardless of how terrible the game might be.

    I mean who is to say that a million people can't be a cult? Or that one person can't form a cult? I mean how many scientologists are out there?

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    Dr SnofeldDr Snofeld Registered User regular
    edited August 2010
    I would say that StarTopia would qualify, because it's a wonderful little game, full of character and very fun, but nobody seems to have heard of it. But most who have really like it.

    Dr Snofeld on
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