While graphics is great it doesn't make a game fantastic. Gameplay does, storytelling does, the atmosphere does and the mechanics is of a good quality. No game is ever perfect. I dare say the game would be harder to make these days then back many years because of the increase of hardware being made which requires drivers to be installed. Sometimes it is the graphics driver that is causing a terrible time in a game. Or perhaps a bit of both of the graphic driver and the game (I'm looking at you Rage).
Two friends of mine and I recently installed Morrowind together separately on our machines. I've never met them but we talk through steam voice chat and we all started playing the game at the same time. I haven't played Morrowind in years and I remember of how good it was compared to the recent Elder scroll games. The graphics at the time the game was released was grand, the mechanics and structure of how the game works was spectacular and wasn't that hindered to provide content for players to enjoy. In other words it wasn't graphic orientated. It focused on the content. There were some obvious problems with the game that when you jump the slope will carry you on and it will make you take fall damage (or die) but the positives stood out more than then negatives.
I was mentioning to a friend of mine of a game called Lands of Lore. An old RPG adventure game which I've had most of my life.
It was a pretty basic game but with huge impact to me. It was very Roleplay and had puzzles for you to work out. What made such an impact to me was that the game scared me at many points. Like say, you leave the castle you start in. Ready to go on an adventure and begin your epic quest! You get hit with this music http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tW23EFk09l0 and a dark eerie forest. The only bloody things out in this forest are 1 warthog (most easiest thing to kill) and 3 thugs. THAT'S ALL. The whole atmosphere petrified me as a kid and I couldn't pass that area until I was braze enough. The next area you are hit with this song http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H0iXDa1IvDE at which I am confused because it is still a forest but the music is happy, cheery and everything. BUT THERE ARE SO MANY MORE MONSTERS HERE and much more deadly too. Aside from that song the game had more creepy ass music that made you wish you weren't there to begin with.The enemies were frightening due to being very lethal and because of how freaking ass they look. How they attack and the sounds they make are very foreboding. Download the game or watch it on youtube to see exactly what I mean, although it is more effective if you play it.
It has become a tradition that old games or the first game of the series is the epitome of the series compared to sequels and/or prequels that came after the game's release. Dungeon Keeper, Halo, Crysis, Heroes of Might and Magic 3, Borderlands (I found the second game to be disappointing imo) and the list goes on. A few exceptions of games actually being just as good or better than the first would be the Starcraft series, Mass Effect series (excluding the 3rd game) and in some cases Pokemon (it is the anime that is getting worse imo).
When it comes to the really, really, really old games. I LOVE all the ones I played as a very young boy. Bartman on the NES, Super Mario Land 1,2,3, Super Mario Land on the gameboy, WarioLand 2, Legend of Zelda Oracle of Seasons/Time, Another World on the SNES and Super Mario Kart (before Mario Kart 64). Hell we even had Pacman, Chip's Challenge, Lose Your Marbles, Jazz Jackrabbit on our PC. We had a lot of games back then that I miss. They were classics that started a lot of grand games that are still around today, or forgotten by many. I miss those games.
If anything both eras of games, there and now. Both are good. Good games are still being developed with more funding but the classics started it all. Influencing the game developers of today.