Retro games suck.
Space Invaders is repetitive. Pong is boring. Asteroids is as much like space flight as taking a bath is like being a dolphin in the ocean. And the famous gameover screen on Missile Command is more likely to induce seizures than nightmares.
On a related note, I’m far too young to remember those games as new.
Most of the vocal proponents of retro gaming share two traits. They remember the games from when they were cutting edge technology, and they don’t actually play the games they hold so dearly.
You might have seen, around various gaming forums, the members whose contribution tends to be along the lines of “modern games suck, games like the original Donkey Kong had real gameplay”. These people never play Donkey Kong now – and don’t let the fact that they have a NES and an original Centipede arcade cabinet in the garage fool you, their gaming is all on modern systems. They’re outspoken and devs listen, and out comes the newest HD version of Pong. But the reaction is always the same: “its not as good as the original”.
Nostalgia overlooks the flaws or drawbacks of a game, by remembering it as it seemed at the time. The games that were bad even for their time are largely forgotten, while the better ones become heralded as classics.
This is holding modern game design back.
Games like Snake weren’t designed with 4 directional movement and block graphics because people thought that was a great look for a game, they were built that way because computers of the time couldn’t handle anything more advanced. They pushed the boundaries of what was possible for coin-ops, and people dreamt of the day when the graphics and gameplay could really simulate the world the designer had envisioned.
That day should already be here, but remakes and re-releases hold gaming back in a way that no other medium is suppressed by.
Gamers and developers alike should stop using outdated technology and nostalgia to shape the market, because those games already exist, and modern machines are capable of so much more.
Got something to say about this article? Are you the gamer with the unused NES – or perhaps one that’s brought out daily for marathon Pacman runs? Let us know in the comments below.
While I agree that some of the oldest classics (Donkey Kong for sure) have some huge issues, I’m going to have to disagree with a large portion of your opinion.
I’m definitely someone with an NES still laying around, but I actually play it, all the time. I generally focus on NES, SNES, and Nintendo DS games. I find that those games are honestly my favorite, and while I fit your description of someone who is shaped by nostalgia perfectly, I sincerely believe that games of that era are my favorite. I’ve played Super Mario World at least 10 times beginning to end since I was 18, and I still think it’s one of the greatest games ever made. Super Metroid on the SNES, beats every game of the genre that’s ever attempted to reach it.
That being said, I completely believe that if developers stuck to the amazing gameplay these games had, and upped the atmosphere, sound effects, size, and detail of the games, that they could easily outdo themselves. I think the reason this doesn’t happen though, is because the graphics take so much time these days, that projects get rushed, and gameplay lacks. Either that, or modern game developers just don’t have the skill that people used to have back in the SNES days. Back when graphics were limited, they finished them pretty easily, and spent enormous energy focusing on the gameplay, because that’s all they could do. Whether that’s the reason for amazing gameplay or not, I truly believe that these games were and still are more enjoyable to play.
That being said, I see the points you’re getting at, and I agree with the ones that don’t interfere with my above thoughts. If developers built upon these older games, rather than tried to match them, they’d do great. A great example of where this fails, is Castlevania. Castlevania Symphony of the Night is easily the best 2D Castlevania game to date. Yet, there’s a bunch of 2D Castlevania games after it. If you pay close attention to the design, they all try to match what Symphony of the Night did, but all fall short. If they would just remember what made it fun and build a new game, while paying tribute to what made the old game fun, they’d easily beat it.
Overall, I think there’s too many variables on why in my opinion, modern games don’t reach the greatness of some of the semi-classics. Either way, there’s always exceptions, and some truly great games exist in both eras.
I totally agree with this post. In fact i think most regular people who re-play an old game are mostly disappointed with how annoying/ugly/repetitive it is than they remember.
In fact, I’ll also say this is also a sickness with indie game developers nowadays.
Sure, pixel art in itself is great but I think its become ridiculous a lot of indie games that are coming out have crap graphics and are full of smug “hey look I can remake the 80s” hipster-cool.
“On a related note, I’m far too young to remember those games as new.”
And you’ve just disqualified yourself as having any kind of meaningful input about gaming. Most modern games are all about spectacle and many have the depth of a puddle. Take Space marine 40K for console and PC. Graphics and art is stellar but I put it down not even half way through the single player campaign because the game just got so monotonous. All the levels are straight corridor with pretty set pieces. There is no real ‘game world’ in many modern games just a corridor funneling the player from cutscene to cutscene.
It’s not that retro games suck, it’s that you don’t even understand what it is that attracts you to the games you play. Most like you’re just stuck on graphics (i.e. you can’t stand the aesthetics of retro games) which is understandable since most Retro gamers also have issues with older games aesthetics being spoiled by more modern production values.
But don’t try to pass off those older games as crap, almost all modern games are still at their core just updates of those old games. FPS games? All of them are just prettier versions of Wolfenstein 3D. RPG’s you say? All of them just updates on wizardry, eye of the beholder, ultima, Final fantasy 1. Racing games you say? Just updates again. Sports? Just updates again.
In fact you’d be hard pressed to go find a modern game that ISN’T just an update of those retro games you like to bag on. You’re only beef is that modern games have enormous budgets and their graphical and story production values can’t be matched by old retro games. In that case you’re not speaking about the game but about the special fx and hollywood bling. Which is a totally separate issue.
I’d say that being too young to remember retro games when they were new gives me a view on them that isn’t affected by nostalgia.
You could argue that every tennis game is an update of Pong, but its hard to make a case for Pong being a better game than Virtua Tennis 4.
I have to say when you talk about retrogames, games like pong, tetris, pacman, donkey kong etc. are way too old. You can think about the 8-bit and 16-bit era games. Games like Super Mario 3, Contra The Hard Corps etc were so good that I feel most of the modern games are not as innovative and creatively made as those. Not only in terms of gameplay, even the soundtracks of those games were so cool and catchy although they were made only using MIDI or some other obsolete sound format. New games have all the access to modern hardware and advanced softwares but only a few games have good tracks.
Let me put it this way : In the past, most of the games released (especially for consoles like nes, snes, sega genesis etc) mostly had good gameplay. When you purchase a game, you wouldn’t be too concerned about whether they were good or not (and usually they were really good). We even used to buy games if the names of the games sound appealing or even if the cover art was cool. But modern games these days, I feel are way too monotonous and too similar. FPS especially, seem all the same (with different graphics and storylines).
Games made for the Nes, SNES, Genesis were so good that even today I still play them over and over again. However, with most modern games if I have finished the campaign once, I hardly have any motivation to play it over again. The replay value of games have deteriorated with most modern games.
My point was that everyone sees ‘retro’ games differently, based on when they remember gaming from.
I know several people for who the original Playstation had the “best” games – because that’s what they grew up with. And I know some for who the PS2 had the best games, because that’s the console they had as kids.
The FPS genre barely existed on 16 bit consoles, so that’s not a fair comparison to make, but the one Genesis FPS I did play was pretty awful against today’s FPS games. You could equally argue that most 16 bit RPGs were pretty much the same; if you like the genre, that doesn’t make them bad games.
Most 16 bit titles don’t still hold up well today. Some do; I’m fan of games like Streets of Rage, Sonic, etc too. But the majority of them are just nostalgia kicks for people who remember playing them as a kid, which I assume is shaping your view on them.
That’s fine, for you, I’m not saying players shouldn’t enjoy the games. But for the industry to keep designing games based on what was cool 20 years ago is a mistake. It holds game design back from what can actually be done on modern systems.
So the bottomline is, most of the games released in the 90s were really good whereas in the current generation, good games come out rarely.
I was wondering why so many people love retro games. It’s nice to play a game from your past once in a while, but I don’t understand the logic how those games are revered to be better than modern ones. I grew up playing Mortal Kombat and titles like NBA Jam, look at the latest MK on PS3!! Or NBA Jam. They look awesome and have the same gameplay. If people actually enjoy retro games, that’s fine give the market what it wants, but to me it’s like some 80′s-90′s kids want to hold on to their childhood while others like myself have moved on and want things to advance. You will always have your memories.
Who in the hell plays Gen 1 & 2 games, pretty well all “retro” gamers play Gen 3-5. It’s these gens that had fantastic games Mario 3, Chrono Trigger, Final Fight, Street Fighter 2, ect. I didn’t grow up with these games and yet I can still identify quality gameplay, design, art direction and music. To say that it’s almost all nostalgia based seems incredibly ignorant.