#5. Games were simpler in the past
Video games have undoubtedly become more ambitious and impressive in recent years. When you look at the likes of The Last Of Us, it’s impossible to overstate how far video games have come since people played Pong forty-odd years ago. But despite all the innovations within the medium, and all the new ideas and ever more elaborate control schemes, there’s something to be said for how much simpler things were in the games we played as kids.
Gaming today can be difficult for people without the muscle memory that comes from years of dedicated gaming. Give your mom or dad a PS4 controller and if they’re anything like mine, they’ll spend half their time playing the game looking down, trying in vain to remember where all the buttons are. Use the left analog stick to walk, hold X to jog, or tap X to run. L2 is aim and R2 is shoot, but R1 becomes shoot if you’re driving because in a car, R2 is the throttle. R3 (that’s when you click the right analog stick) allows you to look behind you and to bring up the menu you have to hold down on the trackpad. And that’s just part of the control scheme for Grand Theft Auto 5, one of the best-selling games of all time.
Even for seasoned veterans, the increasing complexity of games can become a turnoff. Super Mario World remains as intuitive as it was in 1990 because the inherently simple design and nature of the game made it timeless. You can give the controller to a kid who has never played a Mario game and in seconds they will have figured out how to play. This simplicity is an attractive concept, which is almost certainly part of the reason retro games like Shovel Knight and Axiom Verge are so popular today. The simpler a game is to play, the more inclusive and immediate the fun is. Retro games have that in abundance, and that’s why I’m still playing Super Mario World twenty-six years after release.
#4. Retro games have better music
As game production values have increased over the years, we’ve seen the medium change in many ways. We made the jump to 3D, now we have voice acting and elaborate cut-scenes that tell complicated stories that rival those seen on television or on the big screen. Today’s games feature fully-orchestrated scores or soundtracks to popular music that are every bit as impressive as we’d see in other media, but it seems we’ve also lost something along the way.
I can still hum the theme song to Treasure Island Dizzy on the Commodore 64. I was playing that game almost thirty years ago and haven’t played it since (and still never beat it, dammit) but I can still remember the theme song that plays background in its entirety. I played games last week and I couldn’t even tell you if they had music.
Due to the simplicity of the early games and without voice acting to tell a story, the music had to be good. Aside from some poor quality sound effects, the in-game music was the only auditory stimulation the games provided. There are still great game soundtracks today, but they seem few and far between compared to the games of my youth. Mega Man, Castlevania, early Final Fantasy games, and iconic titles like Zelda, Mario, and Sonic the Hedgehog – all of these featured memorable tunes that stay with us long after we last played them. I still remember how the music of the Commodore 64 classic Prince Clumsy changes when you save the princess at the end of the game like she was playing yesterday. We can’t really say that about Shadow of Mordor, can we?
#3. Games that used to work right out of the box
One thing that the games of yesteryear certainly did better than the games of today is that, well, they worked. You’d think that should be a pretty fundamental aspect of any product released, but it’s truly amazing how many games in 2016 ship broken, requiring days or weeks of server tweaking to get multiplayer to work, or huge day one. . patches to fix all the errors that made it to the disk. Nowadays, if you don’t have a decent internet connection at home, some games are genuinely unplayable and many others are severely hampered.
Street Fighter V launched earlier this year, and Capcom promised that the single-player Arcade mode, a staple of the series, would be available to download in July. What if you don’t have an Internet connection? Well, then you have half a game. That’s not a problem we faced when Street Fighter II was released on the SNES in 1991. Back then, we didn’t have the internet acting as a safety net for developers. The games had to work right out of the box.
Going back and playing Global Gladiators today is as simple as putting the cartridge in your Genesis and turning it on. It works now as then; exactly as it should, and without any problems. This is one of the many great things about retro gaming; if you have the game and the hardware, you’re good to go. You do not need to download drivers, updates or patches. You put the game and then you play. as you should
#two. Games used to be more of a challenge
Today, anyone who keeps up with the latest trends in gaming is likely familiar with Dark Souls and Bloodborne, and the reputation these games have for punishing difficulty. Gamers flocked to the Souls series, excited to play a title that challenged them and refused to take them by the hand. There are no extended tutorial sections. There is little in the way of help. You can’t pause. And all the enemies can make mincemeat out of you unless you learn their attack patterns and act accordingly. It’s exciting for a game to provide us with an uphill struggle like this, but I’m old enough to remember a time when all games were like this. And worst
Modern games tend to spell things out for the player, often to an almost insulting degree. Inserting a disc into a PS4 in 2016 means waiting for the install, then the day one patch, and then when you finally have a controller in hand, you spend the next two hours wading through the early stages of the game like a kid on his first day. of classes. Everyone likes a little help from time to time, but there’s something to be said for simply being thrown to the bottom and told to sink or swim.
Nostalgia can seem like an escape response; after all, looking back into the past with rose-tinted glasses is often what fans of anything retro are criticized for. It’s easy to dismiss nostalgia as a way to justify the view that everything was so much better for its time, but the truth is that nostalgia is an immensely powerful agent and shouldn’t be ignored.
Today, we watch crap movies and lament the obvious use of CGI, but we’ll happily sit through Raiders of the Lost Ark and not bother to mention that the melting Nazi at the end looks like he’s made of clay. We listen to the dreadful pop music of our youth with thoughtful smiles on our faces as we sneer at Justin Bieber’s latest video. And we’ll talk about Final Fantasy VII like it’s the second coming of Christ, completely ignoring all the flaws in the game that we’d crash a modern game for. Nostalgia is a strong enough influence to make us believe that Sonic the Hedgehog was really good. Now that’s serious.
The reason many of us like to play old games is simply because of the feeling we get from playing them. I have played hundreds, if not thousands of games in my time as a player. And I’m smart enough to know that in that time video games have improved in almost every way. But that doesn’t change the fact that if I load up Street Fighter II I remember the days when I used to play it during the summer school breaks with all my friends. I remember the day I completed Toejam and Earl with my brother every time I hear the first few bars of his ridiculously funky theme song. And I remember the giddy emotions we felt when we first got the kills working on Mortal Kombat II.
Playing old games, just like watching old movies or listening to old records, takes us back to a time in the past that we like to remember. Whether it’s memories of old friends, loved ones, people we get to see every day or have lost touch with, every old game we load up is a window into the past and that’s special. The latest Call of Duty will never compete with that.