Why I Am A Retro Gamer

Originally written in 2007 / Updated in 2012

When the average gamer sees someone who claims to be a retro gamer, they tend to think of them as someone who is a classic gaming elitist that shuns anything new and flashy.

They may also think that classic gamers are stuck wearing “rose-colored glasses”, remembering games from their childhood as better than they really are. I’ve decided to break that stereotype by sharing my view on retro gaming and why I lead the gaming lifestyle that I do.

My Gaming Background

I am a child of the 1980′s so I’m not quite old enough to see the original rise of the arcade or remember much of the console crash in the earliest part of the decade. However, I was a participant in Nintendo’s success in bringing the console industry back to life and one of the greatest eras for the arcades.

When I was a kid, my parents said that if I wanted to have a gaming system at home, I would need to save up the money and buy it myself. I didn’t earn much at all in those early years, so most of my gaming was in the arcades and occasional trips to my friends’ houses to play on an NES.

Even though I greatly enjoyed some NES classics like Punch-Out and Duck Hunt, most of my fondest gaming memories took place in the arcades. My local Little Caesars Pizza had an excellent arcade collection of classics like Double Dragon, Dig Dug and eventually games like Street Fighter 2 and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. I always looked forward to the weekends when my parents would take us out and give us a handful of quarters.

Once I was in my early teens, I finally saved up enough money to purchase a new Sega Genesis and an original Gameboy as my first gaming systems of my very own. Soon after that, I had a tremendous love for my local Funcoland store (which was later bought out by GameStop). For those of you familiar with the Funcoland chain, you may remember their newspaper-like price lists that included essentially every game made for every available system — from the NES to the Sega CD and Saturn.

I would spend hours scouring that list and highlighting the games that interested me and would fit into my budget. Of course, that particular store didn’t have every game in stock, but they had a surprisingly good selection of titles and I was able to start building a good collection of older games on a budget. Once Funcoland ceased to exist, eBay filled its shoes in my gaming life, allowing me to pick up on the Saturn and other games that I had previously missed out on.

Being a collector at heart, I couldn’t help but try to accumulate all the best games that these consoles had to offer. With the eventual rise of emulation I was also able to play the games of my past when I was away from home and try new titles I missed out on. Since then, my gaming lifestyle has snowballed a bit into what it is now.

I Love “Pick-Up-And-Play” Games

While I still like to watch and talk about other types of games, the ones I actually feel motivated to play are those that are easy to pick up and can be played for short periods of time.  (I’m sure my declining attention span has a lot to do with that.)

Arcades are where I feel most comfortable.   I love to just walk up to a machine, put in a quarter, press start and get going.   Arcade games are also typically set up to ramp up the difficulty level in order to get you to put in more quarters.   This added friction either encourages me to meet the challenge or move onto another game if I get worn out.

Vintage consoles like the 2600, NES, and Genesis are also great for this.  After spending time with a 360 or a PS3, it is easy to see the appeal of sticking in a cartridge, turning on the power button and jumping right into the game.  (The Genesis actually had a bit of a credits screen with their animated Sega logos, but at least those were short and entertaining.)

I Enjoy Games With Simple Controls

Maybe it is because I was raised on simple 2D games and I wasn’t really involved in the era where more complex 3D games became the mainstream, but I still gravitate towards simple games.

Just by comparing the controllers for the NES, Sega Genesis, or even the Super Nintendo to the likes of the XBox 360 or Playstation 3 you can see that the dramatic increase in the number of buttons and controls used for modern games. I still enjoy a modern game with complex controls every now and then, but many times after a busy day, I still prefer a quick but engaging game that only uses a few simple controls.

The in-game perspective can also make a huge impact on the game’s complexity. I think most people would agree that three-dimensional games are more complex than their two-dimensional cousins. Fighting games and platformers are excellent examples for illustrating this point. In two-dimensional games, you only have two ways to move — left and right (not including jumping and such). However, with 3D games, you have much more freedom of movement, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. If you WANT more freedom of exploration and such, 3D is great. However, if you just want to focus on core gameplay and twitch reflexes, 2D gameplay excels in this area. For me, it all comes down to what mood I’m in. And most of the time, I’m in a 2D mood.

I Love Sprites

This isn’t a huge deal for me, but it is worth mentioning. Of course, this comes down to personal preference, but I really enjoy spirtes more than polygons. I’m sure it has a lot to do with the fact that I grew up being mesmerized by sprites at an early age, but I just find them to be more charming and artistic than 3D models.

I appreciate sprites more knowing that each individual frame of animation was painstakingly designed by an artist. I realize that likewise, many hours go into developing 3D models, but it just seems different in my mind. To me 2D sprites are more like a painting on a wall or an animated film, while a 3D game feels more like a photograph or a live action motion picture. Both are excellent forms of art and entertainment, but are still slightly different. Again, it’s all a matter of preference.

I’m Fascinated By Gaming History

I was definitely was not a History major in college, but I have always had a casual interest in the history of our country, the developments of business, and the evolution of technology. The same goes for the progress the gaming industry has seen over the years.

Being able to re-visit the most influential landmark games is a great way for me to be able to see how certain gameplay mechanics and concepts have developed and perfected (or butchered) over the years.

From a technology standpoint, it is also deeply fascinating to see the progression from different eras of arcade machine, personal computers, consoles and handhelds.   Graphics and sound aren’t the only aspect of my fascination – seeing the progression of hardware aspects such as controller, media types, technical limitations, hardware design and the progression of the video game industry is always interesting.

There Are So Many Great Games Out There

When I was growing up, I obviously didn’t have all the financial resources to experience all the games of the era, nor did I know about many of the hidden gems that most of us passed by. Also, while I was in high school and college, I didn’t keep up with the gaming world and missed out on a lot of the action in the 32/64-bit era. So once I got out of school, I had a lot of catching up to do if I wanted to experience the best the gaming world had to offer.

With all the major consoles released over the past three decades, each with tens, if not hundreds of worthwhile games each, there are plenty of great games to keep me busy. Just browsing through the endless selection of games in order to experience the most groundbreaking titles in history in addition to discovering little-known gems, it an adventure of its own.

Personally, I see little point in spending a lot of money on new games and consoles when there is such an abundant selection of older games out there — many of which are much better in terms of gameplay when compared to most modern titles. Which leads me to my next point…

I’m A Cheapskate

I admit it. While I’m not the most extreme case of thriftiness, I was raised to be responsible with my money and save for the future. Because of this, I cannot bring myself to spend more than $150 or so for a console (the PS3 is the only machine I’ve paid more than that for – but it is also used for home theater purposes). I also rarely spend more than $20 for a game. Even then, I have to REALLY want the game to spend more than that. With these established financial restrictions in my mind, I have pretty much ruled out buying any consoles anywhere near their launch date.

With such low costs for the more common retro consoles and games, it’s very easy to get started with a fully-loaded console and a starter library of top-notch games for around $100. (See my Cheapest Games Worth Your Time Series for lots of ideas)

The low costs of used games and systems have always been the foundations of my gaming habits. While I bought my first Sega Genesis new, I added my Sega CD and most of that game library via Funcoland’s selection well after the add-on was a failure. I didn’t buy my Saturn and 32X on eBay until the Dreamcast was already on its way. Not only are games in the bargain bins at your local retail stores as a given console goes out of fashion, but gamers that are always up for the latest and greatest are all selling off their older stuff dirt cheap on eBay and used game stores. Their loss is my gain.

Unfortunately, over the last few years, we have all seen the prices of popular retro games increase drastically – especially for complete copies (check out the Rare and Valuable lists for some rather unbelievable prices for boxed vintage games).   Because of this, it isn’t quite as easy to score a full library on the cheap, but there are a surprising number of great titles that are still around or under the $10 price point.

Even if you look at the majority of my purchases for my PS3, they are retro-styled downloadable titles that are rarely above $10 a piece.

The Nostalgia Factor

I would wager than only a small percentage of old-school gamers could honestly deny that nostalgia doesn’t come into play on occasion in their gaming decisions. There are a number of times I pull out some of my first cartridge games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 or emulate some of my arcade favorites like Double Dragon or Rampage just so I can relive some memories. Sure, I did play outside and climb trees as a kid, but some of my happiest and most vivid moments of my childhood memories revolved around certain classic games.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many ways for me to look back at some of my “real world” childhood experiences other than looking at photographs or driving by houses I grew up in. However, with games I just need to boot up an old console or emulator to relive most of the experience in perfect clarity.

On the other hand, most of the old-school games I play now are ones that I have never played before or originally played nearly a decade after their original release. Again, this has more to do with catching up on games I missed, but serves as a reminder than nostalgia is not the only — or even the primary reason I am a retro gamer.

Retro Doesn’t Necessarily Mean Old

Those of you that are already familiar with my gaming habits know that I am interesting in retro games that are actually quite new.  The download marketplaces on the Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo devices have made it possible to market low-cost and high-quality old-school games to the mass-market.

These retro gems are pretty much the only new games releases that I get excited about now. Not only can I play them on my newer consoles and handhelds (and all the benefits and conveniences that they bring), but they also have more eye candy and higher production values while keeping the simplistic but challenging gameplay that keeps me interested.

Conclusion

I hope that by sharing these thoughts with you, you get a better idea of my gaming habits and that it makes you take a few moments to reflect on your own.

Also, for those retro skeptics out there (if by chance there are some that make it to this site), I hope you see how diverse our gaming habits actually can be (and yes, I do enjoy first-person shooters and the occasional sports game) and take another look at some forgotten genres that you may usually pass by.

How ‘Bout You?

What makes you a retro gamer? (If you are one)
Share your thoughts in the comments section below or join in on this forum thread.

69 Comments

  1. This article is absolutely superb!
    I am approaching my 40th year and am old enough to remember the birth of videogaming and enjoyed it’s development.

    My passion for retro games is simple: although it is very much unrecognised by the mainstream media, videogaming is both an art form like music or film. Whilst it is easy for people to understand that music by the Clash or the Doors is still great to listen to despite being 30 or 40 years old, retro games are always seen as being inferior to their modern counterparts. Because graphics have improved, people think gameplay has necessarily improved.

    I would argue against this idea. Even the very first generation of games have some fabulously playable games.
    The kids in the school in which I work, if given free time on the computer, will jump onto a games website and play reproductions of games I was playing 15 years ago.

    The inherent gameplay of something like ‘Frogger’, ‘Centipede’ or ‘Asteroids’ still works today… Fun pure and simple!

    After years of retro only gaming, I have succumbed and bought a Wii and a DS. But I will be playing my Saturn and Dreamcast, my Gameboy Colour and Game Gear, and my Master System whenever the mood takes me and I want to experience a bit of classic gameplay…

  2. racketboy says:

    You made me think of another good point. Back in the early days, game developers had to put more thought into their gameplay to make up for the technical limitations. They didn’t have fancy graphics as a crutch.

    What is also impressive is that there were so many unique games created back then as opposed to the refinements and spinoffs of existing games we have now.

    I like having refined games, but from a creative standpoint, it isn’t quite as impressive.

  3. Davs says:

    Extremely well said. I’m maybe a little older than you (I remember when Donkey Kong, my first gaming obsession, was new to arcades), but I’ve had much the same experience with games during my life. I was drawn to the arcade much more than to home consoles initially, and to this day, I prefer arcade-style games to long, drawn out, RPG-type things (though I am a big Zelda fan). Fighting games are definitely my favorite genre, and they are an excellent example of why I prefer older games to newer, flashier ones. Remember how everyone oohed and aahed over Virtua Fighter and Tekken back in the mid-90s? Well, the early versions of those games look and play like utter crap now, and there’s absolutely no reason to still play them. They’ve aged terribly, as have many polygon-based games from that era. And I’ll be willing to bet that the same will be true of many of today’s games 10 years from now. But a game like Street Fighter 2? It’s still great, and always will be.

  4. Good point Mr. Racket! And can I add that this site goes from strength to strength!

  5. Bergasa says:

    Great read Racketboy. I like retrogaming for most of the same reasons. I’m in university right now, so I can’t afford the new stuff, especially when it comes down in price so drastically in just a few years. I’m all about my SNES and N64 right now, and I’ve been thinking about buying that Yobo NES clone you wrote about before to get in on some cheap NES action.

    My question for you is this though. You seem to be an advocate of emulation, but you clearly also buy games (you mentioned your love of Funcoland). If you use emulation, why bother buying games? Do you test out games thru ROMs to see if they are “hidden gems” and then buy them if so?

  6. racketboy says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much how it works for me.
    Obviously, it’s not very practical to purchase a copy of every single game, so yes I will play a ROM to try out a game. If I sincerely enjoy it an expect to play it multiple times, I’ll pick up a copy of the game (as long as it’s not some expensive collectors’ item)

    Even if I own the game, I will still emulate many of them — either on a portable device or on a machine than make it more convenient.

  7. Matthew Bin says:

    I’m a retrogamer too, and it’s because of the Atari 2600, which my brother and I received for christmas of 1981, the very pinnacle of the first console boom. We got Combat (natch), Asteroids, and Defender that Xmas, and River Raid that spring. We ended up with a couple dozen cartridges but those remain the most memorable ones.

    I can really identify with the need for casual, short-term gaming. I loved GTA III and Vice City, but by the time San Andreas came out, I really didn’t have the time or the patience to see the game through. Now I own an xBox 360, and what do I play? The XBLA games. Geometry Wars, Bejewelled, and Pinball FX are the most-played games for me. I own Call of Duty 3 and Crackdown, and have only scratched the surface of those.

    Luckily, with the greater income of the elder years, I’ve been able to not only recover the Atari and Vic-20 of my childhood, but also an NES, Genesis, Atari 5200, Atari 7800, SMS, Game Gear, C64, TG16… and a pile of cartridges that makes my wife sigh with despair. (Not to mention four full-sized arcade games!)

    It’s good to be a retrogamer.

  8. peter says:

    I think its a desperate attempt to stay in touch with my childhood days where my life was more simple.
    The first console i really enjoyed was my sega saturn in high school. I just remember having my first job and using all of the money to save up for the latest sega saturn magazine and 4mb memory card!
    I guess being a game collecter is a desparate attempt to hold onto the simplicity of these times.

  9. Caleb says:

    I never owned a real console until college. But before that I started playing emulators on my computer. (I now own most of those game carts)

    Then in college I bought a Dreamcast and games for a very low price. Then as time has worn on I have added many other consoles and games to my collection.

    To me games are games. Some of them stimulate your brain more than others but at the end of the day you are sitting in front of a screen with a controller. Why the hell would you pay hundreds of dollars for new games when there are hundreds and thousands of PROVEN games out there that are still fun to play. I personally have never spent over $100 on any video games or systems.

    Retro is a strange term. I mean most people put the Dreamcast in the Retro section…why? It’s like 8 years old in America… It was last gen. Yet people think it’s ancient…

    I also like screwing around with old technology. It take a weird guy to relax by cleaning old Genesis carts bought from a pawn shop for .50 cents but thats me. Getting the stuff and restoring it is fun.

    Games are about fun. Sure new games are fun, but does that make older games somehow NOT fun?

    Paying $49.99 for a game is not fun. Paying monthly fees is not fun. Playing with weird jerks who act like playing games is a JOB is not fun. Photorealism is not fun (impressive but not fun).

    Running around in Mario and jumping on Goombas is fun. Splattering zombies with the shotgun in RE-Code Veronica is fun. Playing FF7 is fun. Playing Soul Calibur with the fishing rod is fun. Screwing around with an old Sega CD, cleaning it and making it work again is fun.

    In the end you are going to be sitting in front of the TV for an hour or two. Why the hell pay hundreds of dollars for a few games and one console when you can play a WHOLE WORLD of games and stuff for the same price.

  10. Timerever says:

    I relate to you and what you said in many ways. That’s prolly why I have this site bookmarked and RSS feeds of Opera, plus I visit it very often.

    Of course being a hardcore retro also gies you that status-quo of a 3leet dude :-D

  11. jeffx says:

    I agree with everything you said racket, and also with almost everything in the comments here. Retro rules. I will stick with “young until I die” forever, and old school games (and gaming in general) is one of the best ways to uphold that.

    On a related note I thought you were much older than me, as I too am a “child of the eighties” ;)

  12. Ramen Junkie says:

    I have to agree with pretty much all of your points. Especially the cheapskate one and the time issue. Between work and wife and kids I just don’t have time for complex games nor do I have time to “get my money’s worth” out of a new $50 title. I’ve been randomly wanting ot sit down with Grand Theft Auto San Andreas for about 6 months now but havn’t played it in a year or more. (Ironicly I bought it new the day I started dating my wife).

    Another factor I think. Game characters today just aren’t as likable. They all just come off as bland and the ultra realness of the graphics doesn’t help.

  13. gnome says:

    Excellent post dear rackeboy. Excellent and one that I generally agree with. As for me well, I never actually stopped retro gaming, as I ‘ve never stopped playing games such as Civ I or Lemmings etc… What I now enjoy the most now, is the variety of the games, the beauty of 16-bit and the genial design of 8-bit visuals and of course the prices…

    Oh, and I’m really into history in general, so I guess it only figures :)

  14. joesin says:

    yeah. I had a master system and nes but it was always fun to go to the arcade. so many great games like tmnt and final fight when i was in third grade. I used to play at the local pizza shop and bodega right next door. they both had tmnt at the same time but you would start with 3 lives instead of 2 like the bodega. I also played sf2 heavy at the pizza shop. i remember times when 30 guys would crowd the 1 machine.

    We also had other gems come through that pizza shop like S.P.Y, final round, golden axe, robocop, ninja gaiden, wwf superstars, wrestlefest, the combatribe, un squadron, sf1, Sf2ce, mortal kombat, nba jam etc. Im from creston ave in the bronx and now that i think about it im surprised such a poor neighborhood was blessed with so many gems over the years. Come to think of it though, i did see a guy get knocked out over a game of wrestlefest.

  15. I play old games because they’re fun. No other justification required.

  16. Eric Milles says:

    Wow, it’s like reading my own biography (nearly). I too grew up around the time of the NES/SMS. Similar to your story, my parents required that I ‘earn’ a NES; however, I merely had to get really good grades rather than having to pay for it myself. So I got my own NES in the 5th grade and haven’t looked back–and was pretty much banned from ever getting bad grades since.

    I too spent so much time at Funcoland (growing up in MN where they started was great). At one point, I knew how to get to no less then 8 Fincolands in my area. Highlighting the price list was practically a weekly habit. Then eBay came around and altered our idea of ‘hard to find’ forever.

    I got a job at McDonald’s when I was 15 purely to earn money for buying games. I bought my first Genesis and SNES at that time (circa 1992). What a great time to be a gamer! There were so many classic (read: FUN!) games release at that time.

    I too never purchased a single system when it was first released, but for a slightly different reason. I figure that the games that come out right away tend to be of the lowest quality, so why waste your money on them. Plus the system is overpriced due to scarcity or to capitalize on those that must have the latest and greatest. I always wait for some better quality games to surface and the price to drop.

    Playing games on emulation is fine (especially for evaluating games quickly and easily), but I too prefer to own the games and play them on original hardware for maximum enjoyment. The only problem I have found is that it is a pain to keep 10+ systems connected at all times in a way that isn’t an eyesore. Plus, I’m still looking for an AV switch that was designed with the retrogamer in mind (none of this 4 input switching crap; I need something on the order of 16 inputs). And how does one possibly take advantage of s-video and composite video on the newer systems while retaining support for systems that only have composite video and not create a giant mess of confusion?

    Like you say, there are so many old games to seek out and play, what is the point of dumping a bunch of cash into new systems/games. I am actually considering never buying a system newer than the PS2/GCN. Maybe the Wii, but the jury is still out on that one in my mind.

  17. I can relate to almost everything, except for missing out on funcoland, due to being a 90’s child.
    I too have a spaghetti mess of consoles, why can’t they make an all in one splitter, I have like 3…so far.
    Since I started working, my retro game collection has grown, and I find fun in getting an old game, cleaning it and making it work again.
    It is nice to see a community such as this, as my friends think I am nuts for not having the newest instead of putting it into retro.
    I love racketboy, and hope more take up our lofty yet golden hobby.

  18. racketboy says:

    Wow — I’m glad you all related to this so well.
    It’s nice knowing I’m not the only one :)

  19. Steve says:

    bravo, well written article. go retro

    ______________
    http://www.howtogetfreewiipoints.com

  20. Matt says:

    Great article, racketboy.

    I agree with all of you said, racketboy, especially with the nostalgia aspect of it. These were the games I was raised on, and were the ones that have taken a large chunk of my memories. Like you, I still went outside and played, but my fondest memories are still with these older games, not with the sports I played or the memories of hanging out with friends.

    However, there’s also how enjoyable the games are. To me, retro games are more enjoyable. It’s a thing of preferences. There are people who will say newer games are better, but I won’t argue with that, since that is their preference. I just find my old games more enjoyable than my newer ones. It’s not like I find newer games to be more boring (which many I do, but there are some I like), but to me they are just not as enjoyable to me as older games are.

  21. Ryan says:

    Awesome article, man. Hefty amounts of truth.

    I was actually having a discussion with my friend the other day about how new consoles lack the feel of old games. I didn’t start out playing things like Xenogears of Devil May Cry, I started out playing Sonic 2 and Vectorman. There’s a sort of charm that comes from such simplistic game-play, and it’s almost like today, too many developers overthink their games, and ironically while in quest to revolutionize, they started to quickly walk away from what made games so great in the first place: playability.

    I do love a number of console games, and I’m not going to lie and say that I lie solely with retrogaming. It just seems to me, though, that if you’re looking for games with heart, you have to look back instead of forward these days.

  22. jd says:

    @ EricMiles: “I too never purchased a single system when it was first released, but for a slightly different reason. I figure that the games that come out right away tend to be of the lowest quality, so why waste your money on them.”

    That has got to be the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard especially when we’re talking about retro gaming.
    NES: SMB, Gradius, etc.
    SNES: SMW, F-Zero, Pilotwings
    N64: SM64, Pilotwings 64

    Those games were launch (or damn near) games and they are freaking timeless. If you’re talking about Sega systems launch titles, yeah, those were kinda crap. Alterbeast? Bug? VF? Godzilla Legends? Yep. Crap.

    But to Senior Racketman, like usually on the site, nice article.

  23. racketboy says:

    Launch titles can be kinda hit or miss.

    The Dreamcast had a great selection, but the Saturn and PS2, for instance, were really lacking.

  24. Mlata says:

    Honestly, Racketboy you rock! Very well said.

  25. racketboy says:

    lol — thanks :)

  26. Pingfa says:

    Another great article, Racketboy. ;)

    I read a quote once, which I can’t quite remember vividly, but the gist was that games don’t age badly, – women age badly (from the quote; not my words, obviously :p) – a game is either good or it isn’t.

    Truth is, if the game is good, most gamers – be it ‘hardcore’ or casual – don’t care about its age or the console it is on.
    Take Sonic. Some might disagree, but I personally find that Sonic, being a great game to begin with and not just for its time, hasn’t aged.
    I’ll also throw in a lesser title but a well known one to elucidate my point:

    Mega Bomberman

    Mega Bomberman is probably no less fun now as it was on release – even spoiled or stuck up gamers can still enjoy Mega Bomberman.

    Ultimately, at this point, I think modern developers have too much power at their disposal, and they don’t know how to harness it properly. Many think just going all out and utilizing so much of that power so as to overawe the gamer will suffice to make a great game. The fact that they can fit so many mechanics along with stunning visuals with the amount of memory they now have makes the temptation to do so too great.
    They do it because they can.
    16-Bit developers couldn’t, so they improvised; they had to be more – the magic word ;) – creative.

    See you next time.

  27. racketboy says:

    Well said, Pingfa — thanks!

  28. GamerGirl says:

    I think it’s funny! I went out and bought a Wii but instead of buying the new games I’m downloading the older games from the virtual consol and playing them… I’ve been spending most of my days playing the origal mario and Zelda and ghost n goblins…. I have a few games that are actually for the Wii but I perfer to play my older games that I downloaded.

  29. veil says:

    Great article. I found myself absolutely in some parts, being also a collector (for each game I beat, I buy about a dozen more) and cheapskate (my limit is about 15 Euro, around 30 dollar I think, which seems much compared to your 20 dollar limit, but unfortunatley, games in Europe are more expensive than in the US, and even when I import stuff, I have to pay the additional shipment cost).

    I was always interested in games, but I had phases in which I was gaming a lot and others where it did not interest me altogether. I also was not that retro, I had the consoles when there where half-way new and even sold some of my older stuff. But even then, I was curious how retro predecessors of series like Metal Gear, Zelda or Final Fantasy played.

    It all changed in autumn 2007 when I saw a link to the irategamer on youtube. I then re-installed my Sega Genesis and Master System, which resided in my wardrobe until then, and let them accompany my PS2. A NES was bought soon after, and I re-bought a SNES. A few months ago, I also added a Gamecube with gameboy player. My library, which until then consisted of a dozen PSOne games und a few titles for the ps2, the genesis, and the mastersystem was growing constantly, featuring now a few gameboy advance and gamecube games and about a dozen games for my NES, SNES und PS2.

    My phases have gone altogether. Though I am still interested in other things, I am engaged in games all the time.

    The funny thing is, that I play less than reading about, tracking down and buying games.

    I am also changing my taste of games because of the circumstances that life brings when you get older. Actually I am a total nut for RPGs, but since I’m in my twenties, studying, working, and leading an intense romantic relationship and do not have that much time, I want to play shorter games in the future.

    I think I’m gonna spend more RPG-time on the SNES, because I do not really have the time to beat monsters like Persona 3 with 80+ hours of game play.

    It is strange. As a kid I was disappointed when I finished a game within a few hours, and nowadays I’m happy if a game is finally over and I can switch over to another, but I think most of you also know this phenomenon.

  30. Des says:

    Wow, it’s like if I had written an article on retro gaming.

  31. racketboy says:

    Cool — I hope you enjoy it and check out more the site ;)

  32. Violent By Design says:

    Great article. I agree with you on a lot of points. The idea that a gamer has to get the latest game all the time is a little silly to me. So many great games just from the current gen are only 20 dollars, much less the older ones.

    I love exploring all these consoles vast libraries. It’s crazy that there are even core gamers that do not know that a famous system like the Genesis has 100s of good games, or that the PC Engine has some of the best “16 bit era” games of its time.

  33. Violent By Design says:

    I also agree with you on the reflex/”core gameplay” point. I prefer stepping right into a game and being challenged off the bat. It’s annoying when I want to play a game right away, and I look at my modern games dreading that I’m going to have to go through a long cut scene or tutorial before I can get into the meat of things.

  34. TENTEN ONE says:

    Just wanted to say thanks for those header titles above each point you wrote, they are great for adhd ppl like myself! If every blogger wrote this way, the world would be a greater place :)

  35. Brian says:

    Same boat here ya’ll. problem is, just got out of the Navy after 11 years making $5k/mo, and now im poor lol. have 1000’s of gaming mags, games, and damn near every console (even blew $750 on Anologue Interactives Oak Neo Geo CMVS lol), and have neither the space or time to enjoy them with 2 jobs and a wife. selling on ebay would break my heart just dont know what to do :( Wish there was a way to donate to some of the college gaming musuems, but shipping and item condition are always an issue. I’d love to help Retrogamer magazine (AWESOME!!!!!!! buy one every month @ the news stand $10/pop ouch!) by giving them whatever I can for articles… Shoutout: “90’s Rareware!”

  36. 3DS Strider says:

    Nice article. I’m 14 and retrogaming is my biggest hobby. People at my school have accused me of everything from being a snob to a hipster. Truth is, I play old games because:
    a. Older games often have more variety than today’s stale rehashes. That’s not to say that this generation doesn’t have interesting games, but most of the high profile games are just brown FPS after brown FPS. I like variety in my games.
    b) I don’t think something good should be ignored just because it can’t display 2 million simultanius polygons.
    c) I’m a collector. I like collecting random stuff.
    One last thing: I love this site and the forums. Thanks for making such a great site Racketboy

  37. mas says:

    This was a great article. It makes me feel how happy I am to be a retro gamer. I gave my kids my ps3 and I’m just sticking with my nes, dreamcast and xbox. My xbox is modded so I play all my arcade games on friday night with mountain dew and pizza. My kids play turtles,xmen,sunset riders anything with 4 players. I love retro gaming. I feel that the games are harder and better than today’s stuff. I made my kids try to beat mike tyson in punch out. lol not one of them can get thru the first 2 minutes.

  38. abadox says:

    I pretty much agree with every sentence. That photo of the sega genesis and sonic 2 made me very warm inside… that was a very awesome Christmas.

  39. Albert says:

    Hi,

    I also prefer simple controls over mulyi buttons pads and 2D vs 3D.

    Guess we are “the rare ones”.

    Well written

  40. You took a moment of pause, wrote about me and so many of us that keep the spirit of retro gaming alive. That’s why I always return to your articles and fantastic website. Thank you Racketboy for sharing your compassion.

  41. Marlowe221 says:

    Great article Racketboy! My retro gaming ways come from very much the same places and reasons.They are also reasons I enjoy modern handheld gaming – you tend to get new games in retro styles.

    The only thing I would add to the list is imagination. Old school games did not (or could not) show the player everything. They usually left certain things up to the player’s imagination. Sometimes it was graphical details that the consoles didn’t have the horsepower to display. Sometimes it was backstory for characters or game worlds. Game art that was often included in the manuals or packaging added to this effect. However they managed it, good game designersof the “retro” eras found ways to get the player’s imagination involved to cover any gaps that technical limitations forced on the experience. They were kind of like a good book in that way.

    The current generation of games (with a few exceptions) has not managed to fire my imagination the way the older generations did and still do.

    All that being said, I am glad to see services like PSN, XboxLive, Steam, and GOG providing an outlet for “new retro” games. May that trend continue!

  42. null1024 says:

    A few reasons. Warning, wall of text, although the starred parts are the only particularly important parts.

    * Access — I don’t have a PS3/360. My Wii is collecting dust. Recent games are expensive [Mind you, didn’t stuff like Sonic 3 cost about $60 back in 1994? We have it pretty good, that’s $90 in today’s dollars!]. Etc, etc.
    * Playability — I do have a bit of a life. Not much, but I can’t sit and play a game too long [yay university…], so I tend to genres that involved shorter play times and those flourished in the 90s — fighting games, shoot-em-ups, etc. I’ll sit and play Virtual On for the Saturn in my downtime because the game can be beaten in about 15 minutes if you know what you’re doing. Games that don’t expect you to spend ages in one playtime are ideal, and being able to pick up and play is more important than anything else on this list.
    * Quality — Games probably weren’t better in general in the past, but like music, people talk more about the best. Rather than deal with sifting through the games of the present day to see what’s good and not, it’s often easier to just look to older stuff that’s well regarded and is considered to hold up nicely after all these years.
    * Cost — Lots of expensive at release games from days past are dirt cheap now, getting older systems isn’t too bad [a Saturn or a Dreamcast costs $40-$60 now, about the price of a new game, probably comes with cables], and there are some great games that are extremely common [for example, Virtua Fighter 2 for Saturn, can be had for pennies+shipping].

    Remembering the past through rose-tinted glasses has little to do with playing retro for me. I’ve gone back and visited games I loved as a kid and think many of them are garbage now, and I’ll more often play something I’ve never heard of, but was made way back when. It doesn’t help that lots of older games were pretty damn bad, just like today. We just gloss over those — a system can have a library of 1000 games, and end with only a handful that are any good.
    It’s been the same then and is the same now. Instead of the generic brown FPS of today, we had things like the generic space shoot-em-up [Raiden clones with nothing to add of their own], generic mascot platformer [like Bubsy], or generic fighting game [probably a crappy SFII ripoff with little animation and no balance], etc.

    And yeah, I know a lot of my reasons are similar/identical to those in the article, but they are good reasons, and they are also my reasons.

    Also, lots of people make the argument that older sprite games are often just better than older polygonal games. That is wearing rose tinted glasses. Sure, older camera control is often cripplingly bad [see: nearly the whole N64 platforming game library, 3D Sonic games before Unleashed], and some early 3D games didn’t know what to do with the third dimension [too lazy to bother listing, lots]. But take games like Virtua Fighter — even the original is one of the greatest 3D fighters out there [and VF2 tops it in every possible way], and R-Type Delta is easily the best in the whole series [very visually impressive too, and the best designed shooter of them all]. Just by virtue of being 3D does not make it worse — even if it might look a bit worse visually in comparison nowadays compared to a 2D game of that era.

    1995 is retro for me [it has been >15 years, the NES was retro in 200X, and it was about that long ago], and that era [early to mid 90s] is probably one of my favorites — things were starting to become quite visually advanced, 2D games had brilliant graphics [hello Megaman X4!], and 3D games were coming into form, and games in the pick-up-and-play type genres I listed earlier were still being made with some level of abundance. Note that most games I’m listing are from about then because I’m most acquainted with that time.

    Modern gaming totally has it’s charms [KOF 13 is sexy as hell, Split/Second is great fun and looks amazing, etc], but there is simply more of an abundance of good older games, because time has shown us which games are good.

    also, full disclosure: I actually see quite a bit of charm in that lo-poly 3D look, you really had to work hard to convey what you wanted reasonably with such low poly counts, it’s a bit similar to spritework, but it’s simultaneously more and less limited.

  43. Rex says:

    Im a retro gamer too, ppl say im nuts, cause I own all other consoles like ps3 xbox 360, wii and will buy wii u too. But NOTHING compares to good old arcade games! Besides that I have the world record on track and field now on xbox live :)

  44. Faintsmile1992 says:

    I’m 20 so nostalgia doesn’t do it for me, but I prefer retro to most modern games like I prefer 2D games over 3D ones – the difference of ‘feel’, the aesthetics and the way you can pick up and play them. Being dyspraxic I have trouble with analog controls and 3D gaming environments as well.

  45. Vallaird says:

    I’m 35 and I grew up with the Sega Master and Sega Genesis. What I like a lot now is the ability to turn on my Genesis and 7 seconds later, I’m up playing a game. I owned an Xbox360 and a PS3 that I both sold to friends and boy, just starting the console, loading the game, waiting for the credits, the intro video, more credits, then seeing the famous “loading” text, I am already fed up and turn off the console. I understand that games are more complex and ressource intensive but the ability to turn on a console and play almost immediately is something I miss a lot from the new gen consoles. Thanks for the great article.

  46. I don’t know if I consider myself a retro gamer, even though most of my time is devoted to retro games. I just kind of play what I like and avoid labels and the such. Great article though!

  47. longnosedgoblin says:

    Excellent article an plenty of great comments. I think as you get older you do value your time more so modern games that run for tens of hours just cant be crammed in to your life. One of my mates still plays everything that is released, and that’s fine for him but he told me he sank 120 hours into fallout 3 as an example, I don’t have that time in a year to play games full stop.

    I do play the odds new game but normally Xbox live games like fez, limbo, spelunky etc, and although they are current they have the spirit of retro games.

    On another note, modern games do seem to get released riddled with bugs and issues, due to time constraints, and just the sheer amount of content and game play elements. So you sit down with your nice new game, oops you will need a gig day one patch before you even start.

  48. HBidoo says:

    Awesome article Racketboy!

    Just a guy talking about a passion and sharing some memories, and that’s a good thing.

    And…i can quite find myself in what you say, so…thanks for those few minutes of fond memories.

  49. Luis says:

    Hi, I enjoy a lot of retro games, I’m not a fan of the retro graphics but I really like the retro gameplay. Also I enjoy many of the modern games, but I know that “newer” doesn’t mean “better”. Like you said, also I like to play the groundbreaking games and the hidden gems, and most of them aren’t pretty new (because the history of the videogames has many decades and the last genreation of consoles only have something like 6 years).
    So, I prefer to play older top quality games than newer medium quality games. Also there are new top quality games but few.
    More than a retro gamer I like to play games from all times, and most of the games aren’t in the current generation of consoles.

  50. DrStyles says:

    Wow, that was an incredible post! At the age of 18 everyone in my door thinks graphics are everything. They just don’t understand what makes games good. So many people fail to analyze games, so it’s refreshing when people actually think about games.

    I guess you could say that I’m a retro gamer because I find more depth in older games. Still playing NetHack because there is just so much to it. Much more than any modern game. Each run is unique; each floor is a challenge. Warcraft 3 will also alway be near the top of my games list. Not only are there tons of custom games made by a fantastic community, but the ladder alone is extremely complex and to understand all the details in different strategies takes a long time. I think the other lacking element in many modern games is creativity. Games like Lode Runner 2 and Rayman 2 may not seem that unique in their basic mechanics, but their unique mix of puzzle/action requires players to think outside the box.

    While there are certainly a ton of modern games that are poorly designed, not thought through and overall sloppy, there are still quality games being released. Some newer games I would say measure up to those old classics are: Spelunky, Limbo, Braid, Amnisia, IWBTG, and SC2. I’m sure there are many more. (With the exception of SC2) most of the quality modern games seem to be overlooked by those who are not so enthusiastic about gaming.

    I remember growing up on games like Pajamaman Sam, Marble Drop, and The Incredible Machine. They always seem amazing when I look back on them. But it’s not just nostalgia; if you look closely at many old games you can find that their simplicity of user interaction does not sacrifice the careful planning needed to win or the carful level designs.

  51. Fabulous says:

    People think it’s absolutely hilarious when I say I’m a retro gamer, because I’m a fifteen year old girl. I wasn’t around to see the early video games. The PlayStation 2 or GameBoy Advance is more my era. But when I was very young, I played Paperboy and Galaga with my dad on the Nintendo. When I was about 8 or 9, my mom bought be a 64 and that sparked my love for old-ish games. My friends think it’s funny that I have absolutely no desire to own a PS3 or the like. They laughed when I asked my parents for an Atari 2600 for Christmas. But I find that I have a much more enjoyable time with simpler games. I relate with this article a lot. Simpler games are fun, and not incredibly straining to my mind. I enjoy them much more. I couldn’t have explained it better than this article does.

  52. I didn’t use to be a retro gamer. I just kept playing the same system as new consoles kept being invented. Now it’s 2013 and I’m still stuck on my NES and genesis. I enjoy playing games that I grew up with

  53. Hattrick Elite says:

    Retro gaming for me is all about enjoying again what I have missed, including titles and platforms I never get to enjoy actually, such as the Sega Genesis, Sega Saturn, as well as the Panasonic 3DO, and the Atari Jaguar. Racing on retro was all about arcade competing. Today you don’t get that value you used to before. And when online gaming became a reality when Windows 98 was around, we can finally play with someone outside our geographical area than how it was by 1989 with the inception of the world wide web that was such a rarity back then

  54. neurotix says:

    I love retrogames and I’m a collector. Also a child of the NES era. I grew up with NES, SNES, Gameboy, 64 and eventually Playstation and Dreamcast. I also grew up in arcades. However, as soon as I found out about emulation in 1997, when it was in it’s infancy, I got hooked on Sega 8 and 16 bit consoles. Sure, I’d played Golden Axe 2 and Streets of Rage 2 at friend’s houses, but with Genecyst I could play them myself whenever I wanted. I played through a large amount of Genesis games using emulation, and then decided a few years ago I wanted the console and wanted to collect for it, just as I did with my NES. Now I have every mainstream Sega console, Master System – Dreamcast and a large library of games for each.

    The other thing is that games were more quality back in the day. They didn’t have fancy graphics so they had to make due with brilliant gameplay. I’m a huge fan of classic Final Fantasy and that’s a great example- look at the non-linearity, classic character roles, optional content, steep challenge and infinite replayability in the original Final Fantasy NES compared to the trash that is Final Fantasy XIII. I’ve played all the remakes of Final Fantasy games on DS and PSP, and none of them have stacked up to the original Famicom and SFC games.

    Another point is music- I love ‘chiptunes’ and classic video game music. It’s so much more melodic and compelling compared to the “epic orchestral” crap in most games today. I love stuff by Yasunori Mitsuda (Chrono Trigger, Xenogears) and Yuzo Koshiro (Streets of Rage, Ys, Etrian Odyssey). The music in games now just doesn’t compare.

    So, I play old games because they’re basically just better all around- no hand-holding, no “return to the combat zone”, more originality, brighter more colorful graphics, vastly better gameplay, no and b/s Hollywood movie aesthetic.

  55. James J. Reefer says:

    My budget makes me a retro-gamer…back in the day’s when a new console hit the shelves I could trade in what I owned for the new stuff but the buy-sell-trade side of the business has changed dramatically from what it was in the mid 90’s, before “E-Bay”… and emulation had pretty much made retrogame hunting pointless, I’m a traditionalist but generally speaking emulation…I’m still on the look out for a 7600…when it comes to retro-gaming simplicity is the name of the game, game-rooms take time and “REAL” dedication ! Or you’ll end-up …

  56. Levi E. Reid says:

    I’ve loved the old and nostalgic aspect of things for as long as I remember. It was mostly due to my dad who was always into older stuff and my cousins who were retro gamers. I enjoy finding the history of things and exploring whats out there. It all comes down to the fact that it was a simpler time. I go retro for the same reason I listen to records and collect old comic books, it was quality stuff. Today it seems that all developers just care about flashy graphics, unbeatable free roamers and online play. I just don’t care for it. Plus, who doesn’t like the feel of cartridge in their hands. I’m 14 and I’ll love retro for the rest of my life. Why not take trip to where it all began, go to an arcade, take pocket full of quarters and prepare for a ride. Excelsior!

  57. t3hyoshi says:

    I grew up during the 90’s and saw the rise of 3d gaming with the Saturn and the Genesis and played the Saturn well into the 2000s. I feel like retro games are easier to play and add more fun in the fact that hardly anything is spelled out for you, making you learn how to play while playing the game. Take Megaman for example, everything is shown to you the screen before.

  58. neoretro says:

    Even though i was born in 1998(december) i am a Retrogamer cuz of my uncle, who, for my 8th b-day gave me a NES clone with a bunch of original games(better than a gcn or a wii or whatever) and i have been collecting nes to gcn games thanx 2 him (nostalgia) but im jealous of 80s or 90s children cuz theyre lucky

  59. i prefer retro games for a few reasons. well first off, NO LOAD TIMES or annoying menus or this and that. just press start key and you are playing. i also love the game genie as i do not like hard games. i can sit through a video game and enjoy it as an entertainment experience, like a movie i am interacting with, rather than a challenge (the new game consoles do not have a game genie type of device available).

    the bad side? non HD resolution. thankfully releases such as marvel vs. capcom origins and mvc2 as well as a few other classics are being redone in HD. i am just hoping street fighter 2 can be redone. what an incredible game. i remember how it lit the arcades on fire in 1991, hence the 91 after my name scir.

  60. Patrick BBE says:

    I’m fan of 90s Sega games/hardware. It’s that simple.

  61. Matt says:

    idk I’m kinda the same way, at the moment theres some nostalgia that I’m playing all the NES or Genesis games I grew up with, but its the gameplay. And u look at retro games in a different way then 360 games, which is the modern console I own and play. I have a pretty small collection games, compared to some, maybe around 200 including my 25 or so xbox 360 games, but with something like Atari, graphics simply can’t be an element of critique. My fav game for the 2600 is Yar’s Revenge, pretty much cuz the gameplay is amazing. Its just so fun to fly that bug up and down the screen, and of all the atari games I have, it just has the best, I think. Other games I have have better graphics like Kangaroo and even Donkey Kong, but god does Yar’s Revenge play awesome. Look at how E.T. failed miserably back then, and the graphics on it are actually quite good for the time, But the whole thing is a mess, the gameplay is shit, its confusing whats going on, u keep falling into those pointless pits, its awful. Great graphics, though. E.T looks like E.T, the guys look like guys, etc. But it was one of the biggest video game failures in history. In Yar’s Revenge, Yar looks like this weird shape, looks nothing like a bug, but its just an excellent game, in general.

  62. Matt says:

    I am, at the moment, on a bit of a nostalgia bender, cuz I never owned a system till the 32/64 bit era. I had a PS1, and my brother had N64, and it’s wat got me into gaming seriously. I had played the NES and Genesis at my uncle’s house, and when I did I played for hours, but my mother never allowed us to own a system till I was 13. And at the time games were in a giant leap from the 16-bit era, but still I look back at tem today, and I don’t care that the graphics aren’t that great on some of the games. It doesn’t matter. At the time, it sure as shit mattered, so it’s difficult for me to truely classify those mid-to-late 90s systems as classic retro systems, but I see where people are coming from when they do. Also cuz they were the beginning of what modern gaming became. So many major game franchises stemmed from Playstation. Tom Clancy, Metal Gear Solid, Crash Bandicoot, Spyro, Tony Hawk, GTA…. N64 was a diffferent world cuz they had kinda been reduced down to bare-bone Nintendo games, which is amazing to me now. A lotta the original Nintendo titles like Final Fantasy and Metal Gear left them to make games for PS1, so there’s not a ton of variety in the N64 library, mainly the core Nintendo characters, Mario obviously, Kirby, Yoshi, etc.

  63. Francisco says:

    Sorry for to things:
    1) I’m apologiesd for fake my info but I don’t want to fulfill my mail with stuff I’m not interested in.
    2) I’m apologiesd again for my bad grammar at English because is not my home language and I never got studies for it.
    And right in the comments section of this article had so many people who are played lots of my favorite games and I never had the money to bought them and now that I’m a “grown up” I don’t had the possibilities for a credit card or the likes for buy games and consoles on the net. Also in my country (Chile) is so dificult to buy something because of the aduana grown to much the intake prices so if I want to buy a console for example that costs 50 dollars it really for me costs 100 only for paid the aduana costs.
    So said I only had the chance to play Commander Keen, Doom, Doom 2 and the others Id software titles by piracy, yes I know it’s sounds awful but it was my only chance to had a little fun in my life. Make story short I must say that commander Keen and prince of Persia 1 was my beloved gems in the gaming world because te went the first games I ever played. Thank you so much and this article really been enjoyable.

  64. Vetus says:

    One main reason I love retro games is because I like simple, pick-and-play games.

  65. Harley says:

    Wonderful article. In all honesty, being 17, I’m one of those games where nostalgia isn’t really a factor. I grew up in the era where 3D was a novelty. But, after the era of the PS2 Xbox and Gamecube…I really stopped paying attention to where the industry was headed. And although I do occasionally boot up my PS and N64 for some good times, I’ve always been more focused on games that predate my birth. The only “current” system I have is a 3DS, but my library of games mostly consists of Virtual Console and Eshop Downloads and continuations of series’ that have been going strong for at least a decade (Mario Kart, Paper Mario, Kid Icarus Uprising). Some of the newer titles do find a way to draw me in (I won’t lie, I LOVE Angry Birds even if I do think it’s a total sell out), but it’s always the classics that I spend the most time on.

  66. Bridget says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I am 19, and have a passion for gaming, past, present, and future. I could really relate to what you said about the history aspect. I am the same way, it’s just fascinating to me how quickly technology has changed especially in the gaming world with how far its come in just 20-30 years! It blows my mind. I may be younger…but since childhood, and my first encounter with games was the NES each day at my grandparents after school with the other grandchildren, it really was the experience and the memories made, which is probably why to this day that I still love gaming, from the NES I really learned to love the art of it all and have been curious ever since. Now I’m an avid collector and sharer of video games and what I love about them, everything from the 2600 to my favorite (the PS2) to frequent news of what’s coming next. I definitely have certain moments, I like my casuals, and love me some dungon crawling in an RPG, and sh’mups always cheer me up. There have been points in my life where gaming has actually literally saved my life, being able to escape into a world that we don’t have here, getting attached to characters or having a sense of control over something, it’s very rewarding and helpful when life shuts you down. I don’t know where I’d be without out all the inspiration I get from games, thank you for sharing your history !

  67. T says:

    Great article!

    I completely agree with the section about how there are so many great classic games out there that can bring someone gaming bliss for a fraction of the cost of new releases.

    One thing that I’ve learned to love in the last few years is the technology behind classic gaming systems. About 5 years ago I started my career as a computer engineer. Learning the tech behind the classic consoles I owned as a kid provides a great learning experience as well as that sense of pride when you conquer new concepts.

    The classic consoles are much less complex than the contemporary consoles. Anyone with a decent attention span and a will to learn can completely understand how a genesis controller communicates with the console, or how an NES reads cartridge data.

    Classic consoles are a gold mine for hackers and hobbyists looking to tinker with electronics. Want to make an SNES controller to USB adapter? Simply read up on the protocol (which is well documented on he internet), grab some electronic parts, and start hacking! It really allows someone to grow his or her skill set in an enjoyable way, and doesn’t involve a team of engineers to complete.