To me it's obvious: the only thing a game can be excused for is a direct result of a hardware limitation, and even then there's a better and worse way to go about it.
First, bad 3D animation. The reason artists can use skeleton based animation tools nowadays is thanks to the models having weighted vertices, which means the model "knows" how to deform as its joints are moved. Back in the day that wouldn't be feasible to do, so models were just collections of solid chunks that didn't deform or were animated in a way where each frame was a separate hand-made deformation of the model. The former meant the chunks had to be planned out well and the latter meant the models could easily have a worbly look, as they don't perfectly retain their shape throughout the animation.
Here's the issue, though: Tekken and Crash Bandicoot games exist.
Tekken (especially 3, but even the first one) nails the first technique of animation with very little stiffness and most animations look pretty much exactly the same even in the newest entries.
Crash Bandicoot shows that per-vertex animation is not only doable, it actually has benefits even over much more modern skeleton-based systems because it allows for strech and squash, which is an animation principle that can't always be enforced with traditionally rigged models that became the norm later on.
Side note, 2D animation has even less of an excuse to be bad and Micro Mages is a cool example of a modern game that can look great and animate very well while running on an actual NES.
Second, bad graphics. Here, the hardware limitation is storage and memory, which limit the amount of detail and variety in visuals. The problem with accepting that graphics are just inherently bad on old hardware is this: detail doesn't automatically make things look better and the quality of visuals depends on their artistic merit, not their technical sophistication.
Okami is an extreme example – it simply looks better than any game with realistic graphics ever released purely becuase it has artistic value, rather than being a result of craftsmanship.
But even among non-stylized games, more detail isn't strictly good. A common trend in 7th gen games was to give textures way, way too much detail. As a result, gameplay suffers (enemies blend into the background because everything on the screen is basically a brown tinted noise pattern) and things look aliased. Clarity is way more important than detail and just like 7th gen games only start to look good at 1080p instead of 480, I can already see that games like Prey 2017 will be much more pleasing to look at in 4K, when most details won't be the size of exactly one pixel, which leads to jaggies that constitute 100% of their size.
Third, things that aren't even affected by technical limitations that much.
Like writing. I didn't realise this was a thing, but some absolute quarterbrain told me I'm an idiot for expecting Yakuza Kiwami to be well written after playing Yakuza 0. It shouldn't have to be said, but people have been writing good stories for a really damn long time. We've had this part figured out long before videogames existed at all.
Or a reasonable difficulty curve, interesting and satisfying gameplay, good level design and pacing – these things have been done well forever because having good ideas isn't exclusive to the current generation of consoles.
Lastly, I'd like to mention that even if technological limitations exist, simply pretending like they're not there and continuing to do something that's doomed to be ruined because of them isn't automatically excused.
The Virtua Boy wasn't bad because VR is a bad idea, it was bad because trying to pull VR off without sufficient hardware is a bad idea.
And a technological limitation doesn't always mean something has to be scaled back or abandoned – isometric 3D games looked way better than they had any right to because of the use of pre-rendered backgrounds; a similar logic applies to Donkey Kong Country games.
In short, I disagree that "it's okay because it's an old game" is fair. If something seemed great back then but has been vastly outclassed today, it's usually not because hardware got better, it's probably just that nobody knew any better back then.
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