10 Facts Why Retro Gaming is growing at an Exponential Rate
Even though video game giants like Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft continue to release their "latest and greatest" hardware in the form of the Xbox Series X, the Nintendo Switch and the PlayStation 5, retro gaming is continuing to grow.
Happily, the last five to ten years has seen the maturing video game industry solve all of these problems in various ways, bringing the first true retro renaissance to the field of video games and to gamers young and old. The ten main factors detailed below have combined to make it easier and more enjoyable than ever to play old school games.
An interesting fact is that retro gaming
Isn't growing only with people who are old enough to remember the original "Final Fantasy" or people who were around when specials about "Super Mario Bros. 3" aired on prime-time television. Retro gaming is also growing among the younger generation of gamers - those whose first consoles included the Nintendo Wii and the PlayStation 2, among others. When you look at all that retro gaming has to offer, it is easy to see just why it is continuing to be such a popular trend in the video game community.
The increasing ubiquity of online commerce
Both giants like Amazon and eBay and niche retro gaming stores that give you just what you’re looking for, has made it easier than ever to connect with other gamers to buy and sell old games and hardware. And in large cities like Chicago, retro arcades are popping up where you can play the original arcade games in their original form (while buying a drink or two…these tend to be aimed at adult rather than kid gamers). So finding ways to play the original games on their original systems is no longer the struggle it once was (especially in the nineties).
There are certain things that modern day consoles can't do that retro gaming consoles can offer in spades. When you talk about "multiplayer" with retro gaming, what you're talking about is what has since been dubbed "local multiplayer." If you wanted to play a game like "Super Smash Brothers" on the Nintendo 64 with your friends, you all had to physically be in the same room.
Online gaming first made an appearance with the Console Genre 6
With hardware like the PlayStation 2. Even then, it was still in a very rudimentary form. While you could play online against other people, the online Gaming with Nostalgia capabilities of these consoles generally amounted to downloading extra content, updating stats in sports games and more. Multiplayer was still handled locally, and many people believe it was better for it.
While the ability to play online with millions of people all over the world will make sure that you're never without someone to play with if you want to go head-to-head in the latest "Call of Duty" or "Battlefield" title, local multiplayer still had its fair share of advantages. It was much more of a communal experience. If you were playing against friends in the same room, it was much more intimate (and oftentimes a lot more fun) because you were all in the same area.
You could trash talk your friends, take turns when you had more than two or four people who wanted to play, use split-screen gaming and more. While certain next generation titles do have local multiplayer capabilities, these titles are becoming few and far between.
Another thing that retro gaming has going for it
is the fact that the games themselves had to rely heavily on gameplay above all else due to the limitations of hardware at the time. While there are a wide variety of different brilliant titles for consoles like the Xbox Series X, the PlayStation5 and so on, it is also increasingly common to see games that exist purely from a graphical standpoint.
They may look amazing and can really push what modern day hardware architecture has to offer, but when you move beyond those graphics, certain titles have very little left to offer. Retro gaming, on the other hand, couldn't rely on graphics because the hardware was much weaker. Instead, video game developers had to offer wholly unique and fun experiences to stand out from the rest of the competition. This is one of the many reasons that certain retro video games, like the original "Super Mario Bros.," are still some of the best retro video games of all time on any system ever released.
They Are Becoming More & More Popular
Yet another reason why playing retro gaming consoles is becoming increasingly popular among video game players of all ages has to do with limitations of current hardware. The video game industry has placed an increasing emphasis on the online capabilities of their systems. There are certain aspects of consoles like the PlayStation 5 and the Xbox Series X that cannot be used without an Internet connection.
Certain games don't have worthwhile single player modes
Because all development talent went towards making the best online multiplayer mode possible. If you don't have a working Internet connection in your home for whatever reason, the online multiplayer mode won't actually do you any good.
Your console will be unable to connect to the Web to join Gaming sessions, rendering the core reason you bought the title in question essentially worthless. Likewise, servers can go down at random intervals, rendering certain parts of a game unplayable. With retro gaming, there was no emphasis on the online capabilities of a system because such technology essentially didn't exist yet.
If you wanted to play some Original SNES Games like "Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars" for example, you didn't have to worry about the speed of your Internet connection at home or whether that connection happened to be working at the time. You could put the game into the console, turn it on and play to your heart's content. You didn't have to worry about anything else.
More and more old games are being updated
For current OSes through platforms like GOG.com, Xbox and PlayStation and Nintendo download stores, and Steam. I can play King’s Quest, Quest for Glory, X-Wing, Star Trek: 25th Anniversary, and Super Mario World, among many others, on my current computer and game consoles (and it is glorious).
What we’re seeing is similar to how other media survive over time: the best games persist, while the mediocre and bad stuff drops off the radar. Most of the games that were fun because they were state-of-the-art but that fade when their gameplay and graphics lose their luster have been laid to rest, but the classics whose core mechanics, art style, and storytelling remain compelling have found second lives, one way or another.
Old games are being remixed, adapted
And inserted into new games (for more on old games hidden inside new ones, see the first link-up top). Sanctum 2, for instance, hides adapted versions of the old Atari Centipede and Breakout games (you have to find arcade consoles hidden within the world, and then you can play them). The NES Remix games are an interesting new development in retro remixing. NES Remix seems based on the premise that there is a lot of fun to be had in really old games—think the ORIGINAL arcade Donkey Kong and (pre-Super) Mario Bros. games, along with lesser-remembered titles like Balloon Fight, Urban Champion, and Clu Clu Land—but that playing them through with all their 80s frustrations and punishing difficulty is maybe not the best way to tap into that fun today.
Instead, they prepare a slate of dozens of small snippets from these old games within the context of a large menu of challenges that unlock new levels and games as you progress. Rarely will you spend more than two minutes with anyone game snippet. The experience is one of dipping into the past for maximum gaming nostalgia with minimal old-school frustration. This isn’t how I want to experience ALL of my retro gaming, of course, but I think it’s a good sign that this approach has emerged in the retro gaming ecosystem alongside other options.
As the industry gets better at reviving old games, it’s given us all a chance to reflect on what made those games good back then and what’s worth reviving about them now. Current developers are incorporating these lessons into making new games (or reboots of old series) that draw heavily on the gameplay, narratives, and art styles of the old, while also benefitting from all the advances of the intervening years.
The rise of mobile gaming
It has provided the perfect platforms for replaying older, simpler titles (and new games based on them). If I’m sitting down at my home entertainment center to play a game on my widescreen TV, I tend to fire up my PS5 more often than some version of a Nintendo NES or my N64 games (though I definitely play my Nintendo 64 sometimes, too). But on the go?
It’s an ideal setting for playing older games whose graphics don’t need (or benefit from) a giant HDTV, and which can be played in small chunks as I commute or kill time waiting in various situations. This is the impulse behind mobile consoles from the Game Boy onward, and the rise of smartphones has increased both the audience and the platforms for this kind of retro (and retro-influenced) gaming.
These ten developments in the contemporary video game scene
Have combined to make this the first golden age for retro gaming. Which kinds of retro gaming do you enjoy most? Are there any you think are bad for gaming? Which retro and retro-style games are your favorites so far? Which titles are still hard to find/play that you’d love to see made more accessible, and how would you like to play them?