Simple Can Be Good

In many ways, you can't go home again.  I grew up with the 2600, moved on to the Atari 400, and kept going up the gaming evolutionary chain, usually a few steps behind where everyone else was.  Cheaper that way.  Many of the games, when I picked them up again, I couldn't even stand for nostalgic value because they'd already been surpassed, even in basic form, by stuff that came after it.  
This doesn't mean that those games were bad for all time, but they sort of served their purpose, and helped bring us here, possibly through mistakes no one wanted to repeat, or through smart features that inspired someone to make something better with them.
Still, there are certain games that I remember having the right amount of gameplay that made them carve out a niche for themselves in a way that fully-featured games can't quite reach.  There's something to be said for simplicity in design sometimes.  Here's a list of games that sort of feel like benchmarks to me that, while improved upon by others, only showed even more how good they were to begin with.  I imagine everyone's list of games like this would be different, and there's always a chance that nostalgia's coloring some of these, but I feel like these hit the right classic note for me.

List items

Posted by ArbitraryWater

I can see your argument for Baldur's Gate, although that game is still more complex than all the D&D games that came before it, as it was the first one to implement stuff like Dual Classing and one of the few to have druids and bards. But of course, that's a more mechanical than game design itself. Compared to the large scale Forgotten Realms set piece of BG2 and the tactical battles of IWD, I guess you have a point.

Posted by ahoodedfigure
@ArbitraryWater:  You ever even get near the old Gold Box games? Other than Buck Rogers I never played those, except a brief point when I inadvertently ruined an acquaintance's save by killing some friendly NPCs. Other than the class stuff I'm not sure what sorts of system changes there were, but I imagine they tweaked spells and stuff. 
Thing with classes in a party-based game is you can have problems filling roles the party needs. Like in Might and Magic, if you picked too many hybrid classes they would wind up not having the high level spells. They could fulfill multiple roles but they would also not be as good at doing that single role no one else could properly do.  They're good for variety, and if the game is flexible enough it'll allow you to choose those sorts of people and not punish you for it, but sometimes a Druid just doesn't hold a candle to A Cleric, even though I think Druids have tons more character. 
Maybe it's the Darklands fan in me, but the wandering stuff was more important to me than the plot or the city stuff. 
Posted by ArbitraryWater
@ahoodedfigure: Due to the magic of Code Wheels being hard to replicate in PDF form, I haven't messed with those games as much as I would like. I actually have Darklands though. Need to play it more thoroughly I guess. I liked what I messed with. Maybe I should do a DOSland Blog on it. Need to redownload the manual though.
Posted by ahoodedfigure
@ArbitraryWater:  That manual, incidentally, is probably one of my favorite in all of gaming, probably because of its mechanical, historical, and design details. 
I mean, there are things about Darklands I wish were done smoother, but picking town options from a list and having something to do in inns while people recuperate is just grand to me for some reason. I like that the natural needs of the party allow for a change of pace, rather than it being arbitrarily enforced on you by the designers of the game when they think the plot warrants it.  I could go on...