What is the purpose of video games? Forgive us for opening with something of a broad and difficult question, but we’ve never beaten around the bush and we won’t start now. Obviously, the answer to this question is different according to who’s answering it. People play video games for a variety of different reasons, which is what makes our storied little industry so wonderful.
All this is to say that when Minecraft launched way back in 2009, many of us here simply didn’t think there would be a market for it. The game was so…sedate. There were no objectives and no driving narrative to get invested in. Instead, Minecraft simply put its players in a big world and left it up to them exactly what they did with it. It was groundbreaking in many ways (no pun intended).
Now here we are in the futuristic year of 2019, and it’s Minecraft’s 10th birthday. Technically, the full release of the game wasn’t until November 2011, but the first time the game appeared in any form was back in 2009. In order to celebrate the 10th anniversary of Minecraft, its current handlers Microsoft and Mojang have decided to make Minecraft Classic available in your browser.
So, what is Minecraft Classic? Allow us to answer. Minecraft Classic is a version of Minecraft preserved exactly as it was from the primitive year of 2009. That means no survival gameplay mode, no accouterments on your buildings, no mining, no crafting system, and no varied biomes. What you’ve got here is a fairly bare-bones release which focuses only on the way Minecraft was presented back in 2009.
If you think Minecraft Classic doesn’t sound like very much fun, then you are sorely mistaken. Allow us to elaborate. Minecraft Classic may not contain all the bells and whistles of its evolved cousin, but it does contain the spirit. Somehow, this game still “feels” like Minecraft. It’s hard to phrase it any other way. There’s a certain something that defines Minecraft, something that’s nebulous and hard to define. Classic has it.
Let’s try to figure out why it is that Minecraft Classic still feels so…well…classic. Perhaps it’s the visuals. If you’re new to Minecraft, the visuals are somewhere between LEGO and old-school NES games. Everything is unashamedly pixelated, from the sky to the ground to the water. Movement is jerky and awkwardly-animated on purpose; the game is going for a sort of Duplo kids’ aesthetic.
Minecraft Classic pares down the visual style of Minecraft and achieves with very few biomes and tools what the new game does – it’s just beautiful to look at. Some people have been a little down on the visual style of Minecraft, but we love it here. Consistency and art style are the key to good visuals, and Minecraft has both of those things in spades. If you’re looking for improved graphics, you won’t find them here, but if you love Minecraft already then you’ll find plenty here to enjoy
Maybe what makes Minecraft Classic feel so good is the central gameplay loop, such as it is. This is a game that has inspired countless derivatives, from Dragon Quest Builders to Terraria, but there’s something undefinable about the original that makes it feel superior. Hitting blocks and carving out caves is immensely satisfying, and although you won’t obtain any actual materials from doing so, there’s still lots to be gained from the sheer feeling of badgering away at the ground with your square fist.
Perhaps it’s the unobtrusive nature of the entire experience. Modern Minecraft is full of skins, options, and gameplay modes. There’s something beautifully refreshing about simply being dropped into a world of blocks and being told you can do pretty much whatever you like with it. Minecraft is at its best when you’re constructing massive palaces with nought but a few blocks, and Classic offers that in spades.
Building in Minecraft is just as rewarding as it ever was. There’s an immediacy to the gameplay here that makes everything feel quick and counter-intuitively exciting. Minecraft Classic eschews flashy animations and lengthy exposition in favor of simply giving players building tools and letting them loose. In that way, Minecraft Classic preserves one of the most important elements of its successor: instant, undoctored fun.
It could be the sedate, quiet music of Minecraft Classic that gives it that all-important “Minecraft feel”. The synth washes and lingering chords of the soundtrack here provide the perfect accompaniment to what is after all the digital equivalent of playing around in a sandbox. In many ways, Minecraft is one of the games that defined the sandbox genre, and playing Classic with all its comforting music and beautiful blocks feels like coming home.
In the end, that’s probably the closest we’ll get to defining why Minecraft Classic feels great: it feels like coming home. It’s undeniable that Minecraft has evolved since its inception, but there’s a quiet, unassuming dignity to Classic that doesn’t quite make it the superior experience but certainly makes it an excellent accompaniment. When you’ve had enough of mining and crafting, come and check out Minecraft Classic. You’ll be glad you did.