Ever since the first player lost their first life, gaming has been on an incredible journey. Over the years games have become more technically impressive and developers have found new ways to push gaming in new directions. Yet retro games continue to increase in popularity.
For every modern classic that is released, lauded and forgotten, there are retro games that remain infinitely replayable. Why do we keep playing retro games? Why is retro gaming so popular? What makes a retro game better than any modern game today?
“Why do we keep playing retro games?”
Many will put it down to nostalgia or lack of appreciation for newer consoles. But for everyone that loves their emulators or retro collections, the truth is much different.
What is a retro game?
We’ve answered this before in our article “What is a retro game?” but putting it simply. A retro game is typically defined as any game released before the year 2000.
This definition can vary by person and you yourself may have a completely different opinion. But generally, games released in the 90’s and the decades before are all retro.
So why are retro games better than their modern counterparts?
1. Retro games are from a simpler time
The beauty of any retro game is that it will usually be simple to pick up and play. Once your console of choice is set up, simply plug in the cartridge or slot in your disc and hit start.
There are no day one updates and no big install periods (especially on early consoles!). In fact you don’t even need an internet connection (unless you want to use an emulator). You can be up and running with a retro game in seconds. This simplicity is beautiful and a major benefit over newer games and consoles.
2. Retro games are good for friendships
Ok so beating your best friend at Worms isn’t going to be the best for your friendship. But you’re together in the same room, having a good time. No lengthy waiting times as you and your friend find a lobby. No untangling of headphone cables so you can talk. And absolutely no trolls.
“I have never had as much fun as being able to gather friends together to play Goldeneye on the N64”
The simplicity of a retro game can extend to how we interact with each other. I have never had as much fun as being able to gather friends together to play Goldeneye on the N64. Even when compared to the best online lobbies of Call of Duty.
Take some time to meet with your friends in person and play Mario Party, Worms Armageddon or Crash Team Racing. You won’t regret it.
3. Retro games are beautiful
The technical limitations of early consoles meant that developers had to do more with less. Early retro gaming could capture the imagination with bold colours and beautiful world building in a way that is so much better than modern worlds.
Sure, the near realistic view of Horizon: Zero Dawn is awe inspiring. But is just not as exciting as the visual splendor of Dynamite Headdys toy land.
4. Retro games are accessible for all
From the youngest member of the family to the eldest, retro games are usually easily playable by all ages and backgrounds.
Games like Sonic the Hedgehog have simple running mechanics with a single button to jump. Same for the early Super Mario games. Metal Slug has exciting yet simple run and gun action. As does Doom and Wolfenstein. These games require nothing but a controllers D-Pad and a few button presses to complete every action.
“These games require nothing but a controllers D-Pad and a few button presses”
Compare this to modern games multiple functions, switches and button layouts – they have to create accessibility in games that are fundamentally difficult to play.
5. Retro games are more creative
Want to play as a funky dancing alien? ToeJam and Earl is for you. How about a star with stretchy arms? Try Ristar. Do you have a thing for knightly possums that can fly? Rocket Knight Adventures is where you start.
The beauty of retro games is that were produced during a time of amazing creativity. In recent times this creativity has been kept alive by indie development teams. However more modern games tend to feature the same tried and tested commercial formats.
Want something more creative? Do yourself a favour and play a retro game.
6. Retro games are more challenging
Do not write off any retro game because it is simpler or more accessible. Retro games will give you the greatest challenge of any generation. Before developers started to consciously create harder game modes (Who remembers Dante Must Die?), older games were just harder!
Many retro games were developed to promote multiple rentals in an industry that was dominated by brands like Blockbuster or Choice video. Other retro games were naturally harder or made harder for different audiences across the world. Famously Sonic the Hedgehog in Japan is much harder than in the USA due to the speed of the game.
“Many retro games were developed to promote multiple rentals”
Other really hard games that are famous for their difficulty are Battletoads, Contra and (rather unbelievably) The Lion King.
Retro games are so much better
Modern games have spoiled us with their autosaves, easy modes and cookie cutter style for a long time now. To get back to the core of what makes a good game, it is important to look back on these retro games.
Indie developers are doing this with impressive results and can create beautiful games that incorporate the best elements of all generations.
After all these years, retro games have the same wonder and challenge that made them the beloved icons of gaming. Seriously, do yourself a favour and get started with retro gaming now.