25 Reasons Why Retrogaming Is Better
Old vs. New. Which one do I choose? This is a big question in many facets of our everyday lives, especially in the world of video gaming. Today, some developers face the challenge of how to make games feel new and different while others try to harness the power of nostalgia without reliving too many old concepts. Every year represents a change in gaming, an update in quality and an advancement in technology, further distancing today’s gaming landscape from yesterday’s wired controllers and hand drawn animations.
While today’s youth may have very little interest in anything before the Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3, seasoned gamers who grew up in the ’70s, ’80s, and/or ’90s are often dealt the toughest question of all… Should I play the old faithful [insert retro gaming hardware here] today or should I power up my [insert newest and greatest technology here]? While there’s an undeniable luster and draw to the Xbox Ones, PlayStation 4s, and Wii U’s of the world, there’s an equally undeniable love and devotion to retrogaming. After interviewing a number of retrogaming enthusiasts, I’ve compiled the Top 25 reasons why Retrogaming is better than new-age gaming!
Editor’s Note: What makes a game “retro?” It’s a tricky question, but for the sake of uniformity, we here at Nerd Bacon consider any game released before the year 2000, with some of the Dreamcast games, late Nintendo 64 and PlayStation games being the exception. Neo Geo Pocket Color and Game Boy Color games also fall into this category.
In no particular order, here are the top 25 reasons why retrogaming is flat out better than modern gaming:
1. Right Here, Right Now
Because you can’t just pick up and play anymore. In the day of the retro game, you could just pick up a controller, hit the power button, and start playing a game in a matter of seconds. Today you have to wait for brutally endless screens to load, rummage through countless options, endure random software updates, and sleep through 20 minutes of pre-game cinematics. I will forever cherish the days of playing a game on a whim with little to no effort. One game comes to mind… X-Men 2: Clone Wars for the Sega Genesis. When you press the power button, the game starts RIGHT AWAY by dropping your randomly generated X-Men mutant into a blizzardy mess. To-date, that is still one of my favorite intros. – Nerdberry (David)
2. A Sense of Finality
New games are almost impossible to not win. Lives are a non-issue. If they are, continues aren’t. A virtually infinite number of checkpoints ensure completion, and some games will go so far as to assist the player after a requisite number of deaths. Sure, all this means that nearly everyone can experience a developer’s hard work, but “beating the game” doesn’t really mean anything anymore. I suppose that’s why we have achievements, trophies, and the like, but there’s a certain satisfaction that comes with beating a retro game, knowing that only a few missteps could undo all of your hard work and send you straight back to the beginning. – The Cubist (Patrick)
3. Games That Will Make You Want to Cry
How many times have you heard the phrase “Today’s video games are too easy?” There’s a reason for this. Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but when you look at the video games of old, it’s hard to deny the legacy they left behind. What feeling, what accomplishment, when you could finally set down that controller and proudly proclaim “I have fully completed all six Mega Man games for the NES.” Early on, save batteries – even passwords – were not common; therefore, many games were expected to be beaten in one sitting. This gave us near infinite replay value as we would toil away feverishly with one goal in mind: To win. Sure, they may not have been as lengthy in content as some games we have today, but the experience sure as hell lasted just as long, if not longer. For the most part, one thing we can say for sure is the single-playthrough form has been lost to the obscurities of time. – ZB (Sam)
4. Retro Games Are Our Childhood
When we’re kids, the things we’re exposed to during our formative years have a huge impact on how we develop into adults. Games are no different. Their impact can be as minor as a simple aesthetic preference later on in life, or as major as giving a shape to our moral and metaphysical beliefs. As a gamer, do you remember picking up role models from video game characters? If so, imagine not having that game as a child and not being inspired by that figure who acted as your moral compass. Do you think that you would become the same person that you are today without that influence? It’s easy to forget how much games affect us until we think about where we would have been without them. Retro games appeal to us in large part because they come from that time of our lives when we were still learning everything and our minds were ready to soak up the life lessons like a big sponge. Modern games don’t have that kind of ingrained connection, they’re just games to us. Therefore, by virtue of our lifelong connections with the older games, Retro games are better. – Action Zero (Don)
5. Experimentation & Risks
♣ The experimentation with accessories was fascinating. Like the NES satellite accessory; it was the innovative thinking that got controllers to finally be wireless, but back in the late eighties when the NES Satellite came out, it helped extend controller range. Pretty cool stuff and the power glove was just too far ahead of its time to work properly, but would have been amazing if they could remake it today. Also with ROB, make it compatible with more games and it would have been KILLER! – bbpower (Brad)
♣ Back in the day, even making a video game company and getting a team together to create one was a huge risk. At first, the idea of video games was seen as a passing fad, and when the industry crashed in the ’80s, a lot of people thought that was that. Nobody was willing to take them too seriously, and so the people who kept putting their time into their little projects had quite the degree of executive freedom, mostly because nobody cared enough to try and meddle with it. You would see concepts that were innovative for their time and then you would see the games that never should have left the drawing board, but did anyways. Good or bad, these older games were nets cast to catch gamers and appeal to a market that serious businessmen considered dead, and today, the video game industry is inundated with executive control, dictating everything from the names of these games to the choices allowed to the developers, even to the release dates and where they’re being shipped first.
Modern games have a higher standard of quality assurance compared to the older games (at least, if they’re made by people who aren’t being rushed to ship it tomorrow), but without the crazy mistakes and missteps that the older games made, we wouldn’t have a basis of “lessons learned” that we can apply to the games of tomorrow. And without the surprising landslide successes of once-laughable concepts, we wouldn’t have entire stables of games that were founded in the early days that still see success from its current iterations today. Because of their intense contribution to the success of today’s gaming market, and the way they continue to shape the games we know and love today, Retro games are better. – Action Zero
6. Limited Selection
Frankly, we didn’t have a great deal of choice when it came to picking only good games, or games without a ton of frustrating difficulty. The game market wasn’t as saturated with options back then, guides and reviews were limited access (especially before the internet’s more common usage came into play), and as they were expensive, you had to get your money’s worth out of them. So we learned to tolerate or love things even if they weren’t that good to begin with. – Avara
7. Cheat Codes
They just don’t make ’em anymore, and fucking around (after finishing a game, legit, of course) is something I’ll truly miss (or need, depending on the game…DON’T JUDGE). – Doobs (Chris)
8. Less is More
The modern game controller has two potentiometer-based, pressable sticks, one d-pad, four face buttons, and four shoulder buttons, two of which are pressure sensitive. That’s if you don’t count the “start” button. The Atari VCS controller featured one stick and one button. That’s not the only way games used to be simpler. There were times when you could fire up your game system, run through a few rounds of your favorite game, and having effectively gotten your “fix,” switch it off and be on with your day. Even as games moved into the 16-bit era, there was a certain “pick up and play” aspect that would seem to encourage casual gaming.
There’s nothing wrong with “more.” Life can be seen as an everlasting quest for “more.” Modern games are amazing, with their ever more detailed sandboxes containing ever more lifelike characters and worlds. But we’ve gotten to a point that, if you allow them to, video games can literally displace your life. In real life I drink, go to the store, contact people on the phone, pay bills, etc. Pretending to do these things in a game seems redundant and intrusive, unlike blasting away a grid of aliens. – Space Invader (Angelo)
9. Feel the Past
10. Bright Colors!
I’m all for the realism that today’s games offer, and Nintendo is still keeping things lively on their front, but overall I really miss those old 8 and 16-bit color palettes. There’s just something about those bright, vivid colors that lets me know I’m really playing a video game and not some type of simulation. It’s also amazing to see what some artists did with these small palettes; think of the diversity in NES games like Metroid or the Mega Man series. I don’t need all those drab shades of brown and gray. Give me those wildly bright greens, blues, yellows, purples, and pinks any day! – The Cubist
The Homebrew scene has kept the dream alive. As recently as the start of 2016, a new game was released for the Sega Dreamcast, and many others are currently in development. Homebrew developers have continued to deliver fantastic new games to our favorite older systems. At the same time, the amount of tools and guides out there for budding homebrewers can help anyone wanting to get started in the industry. – Doc Croc
12. A Time When Imagination Reigned Supreme
Clu Clu Land, Mappy, Bubble Bobble, Joust, Dynamite Headdy, Ristar, Kirby, Sonic, Mario… look at all these diverse, colorful, out-of-this-world concepts and characters. Before studios started pumping out mass-produced titles with true-to-life graphics as their primary focus, we were immersed in whimsical lands with bizarre, creative heroes and villains. Back in the day, graphical limitations forced developers to push their imaginations to their fullest capabilities. Now it seems most of the major titles are a blur, all photocopies of real life. It’s no longer fun and imaginative, but instead a race to see “how real can we make this?”
If you want real life, why don’t you step outside and look around you? I don’t want to see title after title with photorealistic settings and life forms. Take me to Dreamland, where a round, pink, protagonist travels via stars, floats, and absorbs his enemies’ powers. While I must hand it to indie developers who are bringing back a more innovative and creative style, it just isn’t quite the same as it was at the height of ’80s and ’90s gaming. – ZB
13. The Rom That Shipped Out is The Game That Exists Now. Period.
How many times have you plugged in a disc and found that the manufacturer insists you download a 6MB patch just to get the game to work properly? It’s happened to me a handful of times, but I didn’t really notice until I moved someplace that doesn’t have Internet access. I rented Wolf Among Us on the Xbox 360 only to find an unplayable, endlessly buffering, bugged-out experience that didn’t at all resemble a game. I bet there’s a patch that makes it how it’s supposed to be.
Until recently, this wasn’t an issue. Can you imagine Sega shipping out Vectorman in such a state? With no way to go back for an easy do-over, it was out of the question. When I plug Mortal Kombat II into the Genesis, the same game that’s always been, always has been there, and always will be there comes up. – Space Invader
14. A Good Story
HD Graphics, 60 FPS, and Professional Voice Acting didn’t trump the importance of a good story. It seems like these days a game can get away with boring characters, flat dialog, and an unimaginative story as long as Troy Baker voices the protag and the graphics are detailed enough that you can see every character’s skin folicles in HD. – Doc Croc
♣ They’re so simple… and so much harder than nearly everything there is nowadays. How can a game be so simple, yet EXCRUCIATINGLY difficult at the same time!? – Doobs
♣ It doesn’t take 14 buttons and multiple control schemes to make a great game. I sincerely miss the days of “jump” and “attack.” Newer games may be easier, but they are infinitely more complex, and sometimes that learning curve just isn’t worth it. I don’t feel like figuring out which button draws which weapon, or which button cycles through and endless supply of ordinance, or even which combination of buttons dictates an arbitrary environmental interaction. Give me an A, give me a B, and give me a D-pad. In a way, developers back then had to be more creative due to their limitations, which is what makes the greats of the retro-world true standouts. – The Cubist
♣ Give me an A, give me a B, occasionally a C, and a D-pad. What more did we need? – Nerdberry
16. Channel 3 and the White Noise
When I play a game now, I switch the television to the proper inputs, and until I power up the console, the television stares back utterly blank. This isn’t to say I don’t appreciate the clean, perfect picture quality of composite or higher inputs. It’s nothing like the childhood anticipation of finally getting to play a video game after a long day of, well, school. The TV goes on, there’s that ugly sound of white noise over the snow that was once channel 3. Sometimes I’d relish in these precious moments, pontificating upon the possibility of being sucked into the screen a la Poltergeist. Then, the console is on, and the relief of digital silence ensues. Then the utopia of digital noise. Ah, joy. – Space Invader
17. Fresh Picked Ideas
Older video games had the advantage of, well, being there first. The video game industry is still relatively new, but in the ’80s and ’90s there was so much room for innovation and ground-breaking gameplay mechanics, it didn’t take much to offer up something fresh. It was a new frontier, with plenty of un-traversed territory to explore.
Take Mario, the most classic example, for instance. By today’s standards, the original Mario games are not much more than really tight, well-designed platformers. But back when it first came out, Super Mario Bros. was a game-changer, setting a standard for future platformers to come.
We’ve made it to a point where a good majority of games are simply retreading the same grounds as those that came before. Because so much has already been done, it’s difficult to whip up a fresh concept; therefore, instead of taking risks, most major studios simply rehash the same old played-out formula we’ve seen time and time again. Whatever sells, I suppose. – ZB
18. Classic Appeal
Let’s look at something that the mainstream media considers acceptable to be nerdy about, without actually being nerds for it: Classic Cars. These restored beauties marvel bystanders because they represent a special moment in the history of the automotive industry. Video games have similar appeal, as evidenced by practically every recognizable name in video gaming. Super Mario Bros., Sonic the Hedgehog, Banjo-Kazooie, Doom, just to name a very scant few, games like these and many, many others represent moments when the budding video game industry changed forever, along with being very good games in their own right, just like the aforementioned classic cars stand out as groundbreaking achievements as well as being dreams to experience behind the wheel. Modern games have the potential to be this, but to really stand out, they need time and recognition to become classics, and that’s why, for this purpose, Retro games are better. – Action Zero
Back then, the cartridge based systems were durable and reliable. Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, and other systems are very reliable and have less moving parts to malfunction. CD’s can get scratched and not hold up as long. Sure, you have to get the dust out once in a while, but usually they do not go out completely. – bbpower
20. Something About a Cartridge…
If you have a game on a cartridge, you fucking own that game. It’s not sitting on some waiting-to-crash hard drive, or floating in someone’s cloud somewhere, or even on a disc just waiting for that fatal scratch that causes a read error. There’s also something magic about the “clunk” of inserting a cart into your console.
A cartridge is forever. Just read the back of an N.E.S. game. According to the warning, what do you have to do to destroy one? Submerge or crush it. Hell, when they finally dug up Atari’s landfill in New Mexico, they found operational copies of E.T. In the rubble – buried under concrete for 30 years. What do you have to do to invalidate a disc? Scratch it with your fingernail. – Space Invader
21. The Music
♣ I’m sorry, but… just listen to those tunes! 8-bit and 16-bit hardware gave us not only a unique sound for the ears to enjoy, but some of the most righteous, memorable tracks a gamer could ask for. I am a music lover. I collect vinyl, CDs – I would go so far as to call myself an audiophile. And before I even liked music, I was rocking out to Snake Man’s stage from Mega Man 3. You know why? Because there’s nothing like old video game music. It’s so good, in fact, it has inspired a whole genre of music based on its sound – chiptunes.
Sure, you can have something equivalent to a movie score in today’s video games. And that’s nice and all, but where else can you enjoy the epic, digital opening of Double Dragon 3, or the urgent, synth-laced finality of Wild Guns’ boss theme? No instrument can properly recreate the amazing sound the hardware of old gave us. – ZB
♣ Good GOD the music is WAY better and more catchy than these fucked up ridiculous gospel choir themed abominations that play along while you perform the most basic of actions. This is kind of a little off the wall and I lack ANY proof of said statement. It just SOUNDS good in my head and I FEEL like it’s true. – Doobs
22. Buy It, Own It
♣ When you buy the game, you actually own it versus downloading it and only owning a “virtual copy.” – bbpower
♣ There’s something exciting about owning a hard copy of a game, and it’s even more exciting when that game is old and maybe rare. Why? Because you just don’t see that anymore. It’s rare to go to someone’s house today and see a shelf full of Sega CD games, boxed NES cartridges, an Atari 2600 joystick, and more. – Nerdberry
23. Built to Last
Retro consoles were built to last the generation, not the year. I’ve heard some horror stories about folks having to replace their current and 7th gen consoles for manufacturing issues. Hell even when the first iteration of the Nintendo DS came out, Nintendo’s CS line even admitted that the handheld had faulty, weak joints. Yet, somehow I’m sitting here with the same Nintendo 64 playing the same games without issue for almost 20 years? – Doc Croc
24. Solid Investment
Retro games are appreciating, so not only is it a good time, but a decent investment at this present time and could gain value over ownership to sell/trade toward more vintage games. – bbpower
25. Passion vs. Greed
Companies are companies, so money is always a motive, but it may just be that people making the games were more passionate about it back then, less the indie developers in today’s world. Some people have a story to tell, or want to make something insanely fun, or so on, while some people just want to make money. People are weird and varied like that, but as a company gets bigger, so does its say-so in development and need for cash to pay everyone, aye? – Avara
As you can see, these retrogaming enthusiasts feel strongly about their old games! If you’ve never experienced the wonderful world of retrogaming, it’s never too late. Even if you can’t or don’t want to physically own the bulky hardware and cartridges (looking at you Neo Geo), many of the best game’s can easily be downloaded via Xbox Live, PSN, or Nintendo Virtual Console.
What do you think? Did we miss any reasons? If you have a good reason why YOU think Retrogaming is or IS NOT better than modern gaming, let us know in the comments below!
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