Older games generally supported either DirectInput or Windows messaging. Raw input wasn't available as an option until Windows XP.
As for the reason why, at the time DirectX was new and risky technology. It had only recently become available (the first version of DirectInput dates to 1995, Quake dates to 1996), and driver support (for everything, not just input devices) was absolutely dreadful back then. Particularly under Windows 9x, it was perfectly possible for a misbehaving driver to blue-screen the OS. There was no WHQL, no WER, no real certification process, patchy support, and device capabilities were all over the map.
Providing Windows messaging as a fallback option (or even as the default with DirectInput being for those who like to live dangerously) made total sense: at least there would be an option that worked! The alternative was input possibly not working at all, or potentially even crashing your OS.
This all seems like ancient history nowadays, and everything has moved on a lot since then: technology isn't static, and improvements do come in with newer software revisions. The cult of "older = better" is sometimes right, but more often wrong.