When it comes to my gaming, I almost always find myself going old school. Sure I play modern games. I’m always up for shooting a hooker in the face in the latest GTA clone, and being a comic book fan I’m a sucker for a new super hero game. Nine times out of ten though I find myself preferring 16 bits to hi def. So here are my five reasons, in no particular order, why retro games are just plain better.
Yeah, let’s just get this one out of the way. I’m honest enough to admit that no matter how much I try to look at things objectively, I am a human being and I bring my biases to the table. As a child of the late 80’s and early 90’s, I grew up in a golden age of gaming. While these classics are awesome and have stood the test of time far better than I suspect most modern games will, I fully admit that part of the appeal is that I grew up with them. After all, you never forget your first love.
2. Built to last
This seems to be true of electronics in general, not just video games. But it seems like all our high tech gadgets are garbage these days. Sure they can do more things, but it all breaks down in no time. I remember as a kid I had a Sony Walkman. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I dropped that damn thing down the steps, but it still worked until like 2005. Meanwhile if I even look at my MP3 player wrong it erases all the songs on it for no damn reason and has to be rebooted before I can put them back on.
Think about the XBox 360. Remember the “Red Ring of Death”. That was a thing we all just dealt with like it was in anyway acceptable or normal. Your 360 would just die, for no discernible reason whatsoever. Do you ever remember hearing about a Super Nintendo or a Sega Genesis just breaking for no damn reason back when they were a year old. Of course you don’t. And you can still find working systems going all the way back to Atari. Do you think any 360’s will still work in 30 years?
3. Enduring characters and franchises
It’s amazing really how many of the franchises launched back in the cartridge era still endure to this day. Mario has been going on for over three decades and people still love him. People still get excited when a new Zelda game is coming out. Even something like Kid Icarus, a franchise that remained dormant for decades, was greeted with fanfare when it was recently revived. These characters have such staying power they still find their way into non video game media to this day.
Mega Man has a comic book right now that sells pretty well, and even Pac Man recently had a cartoon series, although the less said about that the better. And it’s not just the franchises that have staying power, but the individual games themselves. Go play Super Mario World and tell me it doesn’t still hold up over two decades after its release. Do you think for a moment anyone will be playing Destiny two decades from now? I’d be amazed if anyone gives a damn about it two years from now.
Games from the cartridge era didn’t hold your hand through tutorial levels, they didn’t walk you through endless mindless quick time events. In short, they didn’t screw around. You know what a Mega Man game’s idea of a “tutorial level” was? You would go into a room that had a certain trap, and that was meant to prepare you for the next room that had like four or five of those same traps. If you grew up in the NES era, did you ever beat Zelda II? Did you know a single damn kid who did? Of course you didn’t.
These games were relentless ball busting torture chambers meant to teach kids that life is just plain fucking hard sometimes, and the only way to deal with it is to plow the hell through it over and over again until you got it right. Or you could puss out and put the Game Genie on, having it awkwardly stick out of the Nintendo like a set of training wheels, letting everyone know you were taking the easy way out. You pussy.
5.The console wars
What’s that you say? We still have competing consoles? Not like back then you don’t. Back then it was a hell of a lot more “no holds barred” than it is now. Did you know that there was an expansion module for the old ColecoVision that let you play Atari 2600 games on it? Because that was apparently okay back then. Even in the Nintendo/Sega wars things were more heated and definitely more interesting than they are now. “Genesis does what Nintendon’t.” was all over the Sega commercials. I don’t think I’ve seen any commercials lately where Playstation and XBox directly attack each other.
Not only was the tone rather harsh, but you would just get some of the oddest differences between the Genesis and the Super Nintendo. Nowadays if something comes out on both the XBone and the PS4, it’s basically the same game on either system, with maybe a few minor changes. But back then, you would get two completely different games. Jurassic Park on the Genesis and the Super Nintendo for example are completely different and even made by different developers.
Even when it was the same developer it could be completely different. Ever play the Konami game Rocket Knight Adventures on the Genesis? If not you should, it’s amazing. Well, it had a sequel named Sparkster on both the Genesis and the Super Nintendo. Sorta. Even though it was the same name, Sparkster on the Genesis was a true sequel, and Sparkster on the SNES was this odd amalgam of the two Genesis game, filtered through SNES sensibilities. Whether you got a Sega or a Super Nintendo was a big deal back then. It molded your gaming experience in ways the choice between Sony and Microsoft never gets close to.
Gaming has come a long way, and that’s great. I’m glad games have evolved both technologically and as an art form. But still, I contend that we’ve lost some of the innocence, some of the charm, and some of excitement along the way. Or maybe I’m just getting old.
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