Retro Gaming: It Never Dies

Have you noticed that retro gaming never seems to die? No matter how much time passes or technology improves, there are always people willing to sit down and enjoy titles from years gone by. 

The challenge now is to work out why this is. It seems strange that with all that experience, developers can’t cook up something new that encourages people to switch en masse to the new platform. 

Artistic Cycles

One interesting theory is the concept of artistic cycles. Certain genres bloom and then nobody can improve on them, no matter how much time passes. 

The classic music era is an excellent example of this. Between 1650 and 1800, it flourished in Europe but then fell into decline in the 20th century, and hasn’t really picked up since. 

The same goes for Gothic architecture. It was at its peak during the 1400s but never really found its feet again. The same can be said of 1960s rock ‘n’ roll or 1930s art deco in places like New York. We will probably never see a flourishing like them again. 

It’s this same pattern that played out in video games between 1975 and 2000. Developers managed to hone all the niches and discover formats that players loved. It wasn’t a challenge for them because it was something they enjoyed. 


But, of course, artistic cycles aren’t the only reason people love retro gaming. There’s also the nostalgia element. Many players love the fact these games remind them of the past but still entertain them today. 

People love playing spider solitaire, minesweeper, snakes, and old strategy games because of how good they are. It’s like going back to a happier time in childhood when the world didn’t seem as complicated. 

Interestingly, you see this trend playing out in the modern video game space. People want titles that reflect the magic of the games they enjoyed when they were much younger. That’s why games like Final Fantasy VII are making a comeback. People want to experience them in three-dimensional glory, how the designers originally wanted them to appear. 

Mario is also a continuing franchise, allowing players to retain control of the Italian superstar seemingly indefinitely. Clamors abound for a return of Link and other characters from the early days of mass gaming. 

Unique Art

Another thing you get when you abandon photorealism is unique art and style. Older games grew out of pre-existing artistic movements but also had to make the most of the processing power available on contemporary PCs and consoles (which was hardly anything). 

Because of this, retro games seem much moodier than today’s slick and polished options. The graphics also take more liberties, making them more visually interesting, even if they aren’t as realistic. 

That’s not to say that modern games completely fail on this front. Some indie games with retro graphics mimic the styles of old. However, the main AAA all essentially look the same because they are all trying to recreate realistic environments. 

Challenging Gameplay

During the period 1970 to 2000, games were genuinely challenging. It was hard for players to make progress and winning a level felt like a real achievement. 

Doom II is an excellent example. Winning the game in nightmare mode was virtually impossible and only a handful of people managed it. 

Another good example of difficulty was Tetris. The 1980s game didn’t allow you to win by constantly speeding up the rate at which new blocks entered the play window. 

Nowadays, making games as hard as that wouldn’t go down well with mainstream audiences. Most people want to enjoy a game but don’t want it to be impossible. That’s just not fun. 

Playable Anywhere

Retro games also have the distinct advantage of being playable on any device with an emulator. Apps no longer require players to have state-of-the-art graphics cards. A simple modern chip will run most games. 

This minimal equipment requirement means retro games are your friend no matter where you are, whether you’re on a flight to a distant location or at the park. You can enjoy them without having to drag thousands of dollars worth of equipment around with you. 

Cult Favorite

Finally, retro gaming refuses to die because it is a cult favorite. Many older titles have legions of players who’ve been enjoying them for decades and can’t get enough of them.

And the fact many games have these sorts of followings makes them even more popular. Gamers can join communities and test their mettle against other keen players. It’s easy. 

About the author

There’s a lot of music out there - good music. At Essentially Pop our remit is that we cover music that deserves to be heard, with a particular focus on independent artists. That doesn't mean we won't cover your old favourites - rather we hope to give you some new favourites as well.

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