Hard probes such as heavy flavor quarks, jets, and virtual and real photons convey valuable information from the heart of high energy nuclear collisions, opening a window into the microscopic nature of QCD matter. These probes have been used to study both hadronic states and also nuclear matter under extreme conditions. In addition, the spin degree of freedom of the colliding proton provides a fresh perspective on the quantum nature of nuclear matter, enabled by the unique capabilities of RHIC. The rareness of hard probes demands detectors capable of high precision and high rate, which in turn drives the design and the innovation of the next generation of nuclear physics collider experiments, such as sPHENIX and future EIC detectors. I will recount a story told by hard probes of nuclear collisions through selected results from PHENIX, the plans for sPHENIX, and the possibilities at the EIC.