Critically Endangered small

Older video games designed and played on platforms and devices that are no longer supported, especially those with complex but obsolete rights management or system dependencies. This group includes also older editions of games still published in newer editions

Group: Gaming

Trend for 2021:

Consensus Decision

Added to List: 2019

No change No Change

Previously: Critically Endangered


Trend for 2022:


No change No Change


Imminence of Action

Action is recommended within twelve months, detailed assessment is now a priority

Significance of Loss

The loss of tools, data or services within this group would impact on people and sectors around the world.

Effort to Preserve

Loss seems likely: by the time tools or techniques have been developed the material will likely have been lost.


SimCity; Wolfenstein 3D; Lemmings; Animal Crossing

‘Practically Extinct’ in the Presence of Aggravating Conditions

Complex hardware dependencies or bespoke hardware; dependence on obsolete, low usage operating systems with no emulation pathway; complex intellectual property rights; use of older magnetic media; free distribution on magazines; loss of underlying code or gaming engine; limited or no commercial interest; dependency on remote servers that are closed.

‘Endangered’ in the Presence of Good Practice

Emulation pathway; source code; trusted repository; large user community;

2021 Jury Review

This entry was added in 2019 as a subset of the previous 2017 entry for ‘Gaming,’ This entry for older games encourages greater consideration of the technical complexities which arise from preservation of software and hardware environments as well as the historic value that games have acquired. There is an active specialist market for older games which enables preservation but also skews it around commercial interests. The 2021 Jury also noted the need to clarify that the meaning of ‘older’ is open to interpretation, but certainly any version more than ten years from release should be included here, even if and perhaps especially if there are more recent releases.

Additional Comments

It can be difficult to distinguish these from the related ‘Offline gaming’ entry, as some may be played not only offline in a self-contained way but also online or with online elements, which is why this entry is separated to note additional complexities in terms of systems dependencies that need to be considered. It is one thing to be able to get older software running on a different CPU architecture (emulation), but another thing entirely to recreate the peripherals (Wiimotes, plastic guitars, steering wheels, even bongo drums!) that are required to play the games as intended. There is a sort of kinaesthetic issue: one could perhaps use the accelerometers in modern smartphones to simulate the functionality of a Wiimote, but it will feel different in hand.

It might be possible to sub-divide between games that have a dependency on communication with servers that no longer exist (loss has already happened) and others where the dependencies are to do with old hardware/software where there is more potential to preserve the interaction.

It is unclear who is responsible for preserving what, and games may be falling between the cracks. Often this is when the fan community steps in because developers will only update games that have real commercial benefit.


See also: 

  • The Videogame Heritage Society, led by the National Videogame Museum, founded in 2022 to bring together organisations and collectors working with videogames. It provides advocacy, expertise, and support in collecting, preserving and displaying videogame. online at

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