What is Retro Gaming? Read this to learn more

Just what is a retro video game anyway?

To put it simply, a retro video game will refer to any game released between the 1980’s and the 1990’s. Undeniably, the greatest era of retro games due to the innovation and classic franchises it spawned. Due to this, retro gaming covers multiple generations of older consoles from the first to the fifth.

Many retro games tend to share similar features; a pixel art aesthetic, bright colours and simple pick up and play mechanics. Many consider these games to be harder than their modern contemporaries and a lot more unforgiving.

However, it can also relate to games released prior to the most recent console generation. Regardless of popular opinion, it is undeniable that the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360 are now over 15 years old! Comparatively, the SNES and Mega Drive were both considered retro and were 15 years old when the PS3 released. But why are the 1990’s considered the greatest era for retro gaming?

What is retro video gaming? - The SNES remains one of the most popular video game consoles of all time
The Nintendo SNES, first released in 1990, remains one of the most beloved retro video game consoles of all time

Why is the 1990’s considered the greatest era for retro gaming?

In general, the 90’s era sparked a plethora of technological advances and this was especially true for the video game world. We were treated to the 16 bit era of the Nintendo SNES and Sega Mega Drive. Before being blown away by the 32 bit Sony Playstation and 64 bit Nintendo N64. Never before had gamers had this much to be excited about.

Graphics and gameplay of the fourth generation were leaps and bounds ahead of the second. Games like Super Mario World for the SNES and Sonic the Hedgehog for the SEGA Mega Drive introduced gamers to whole new worlds of colour. For more info why not check out this retrospective review on Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Whilst Super Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat 2 brought mature audiences to a world seen to be for kids.

“Many still have a lump in their throats when ‘the man with the machine gun’ plays for the first time”

The fifth generation expanded further still. Games became more cinematic and music was employed to elicit new emotional responses in games as TV had been doing for years. Many still have a lump in their throats when “The Man with the Machine Gun” plays for the first time in Final Fantasy 8. Such was the power of this new era.

Final Fantasy 8 - The Man with the Machine Gun
The Man with the Machine Gun. Final Fantasy 8 is considered a Playstation classic

What is the most popular retro console?

This typically boils down the individual, for example SEGA has always been a personal favourite. Growing up, my family owned a SEGA Mega Drive and in recent years I have added many other 90’s era SEGA consoles to my collection. Others may like Nintendo and will spend their time looking for the SNES and N64 variants. 

“Sega has always been a personal favourite.”

There are even those that prefer the rarer specimens, the Turbo Grafix by NEC and the Philips CD-I to name but a few. Further still there are those that only have eyes for the handhelds of this era – Nintendo Gameboys and SEGA Game gears.

Will you have a personal favourite? It will depend on the kind of games you like and the reason you are investing in retro games. For fun; go for a SNES or Mega Drive. For rarity; look for the Mega CD or Pikachu N64.

The Nintendo Game Boy  Color came in a number of variations over the years
Collecting different variants of the Nintendo Game Boy Color has become popular in recent years.

How do I start playing retro games?

The simplest way to begin playing retro games is to find re-releases on the PSN, Nintendo store or Xbox Marketplace. Titles like River City Ransom and Sonic the Hedgehog have been re-released with some swish little upgrades – like autosaves plus graphical improvements.

If you want that authentic experience, you’ll need to begin acquiring some classic consoles and some new peripherals to help you play them. 

Either way is a fantastic start, whichever you choose it is recommended that you do whatever you feel most comfortable with.

Anthony Jansen
Anthony is a gaming advocate. He has been playing video games since the early nineties and has a real passion for the 16 bit era. He believes that every game deserves a chance (except Treasures of the Deep - which scared him as a child).


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