Written by Brian Huntley
The Before Time
In the beginning, there were my video games. Growing up in the 1980s I played as much as my parents would allow. Video games were new then, and I loved them. That time in my life was special, and to this day, I have fond memories of my childhood. But then, completely without want or warning, it happened. I grew up. After that came responsibility. Many years later, I’m married, have two kids, and things are a bit different. I still have all my games, but instead of being shown off in the living room, they’re hidden in closets or tucked away in cabinets. However, as my family grows, and my boys get older, I see a large part of me coming through in them. You will too. As my sons’ interest in gaming becomes greater, mine are rekindled, and a new beginning is formed. A beginning where they come to me seeking answers to tough questions. Who is Mario and why does he fight a big dinosaur? Why is Sonic fast? What is an Atari? We’ll eventually answer those questions and more, but this month we’re talking about retro gaming. We’ll discuss why it’s popular and the best way to enjoy those classic games now.
The Retro Revolution
Largely in part to movies like Wreck it Ralph and YouTubers playing older games, it’s no coincidence that these “retro” games are now popular among today’s kids like you. (There are a few other reasons, but I’ll get to those in a bit.) My boys were no exception. However, in our house, there’s no shortage of those kinds of games. Even so, I was skeptical when I saw games like Excite Bike, Dr. Mario, Super Mario RPG and Metroid on their Christmas lists. When they’re surrounded by consoles and games that are superior in every way to those of my generation, why would they want a game from 1984?
I think the answer is in the way the game treats the player.
There’s a certain amount of explanation that a good game should provide. Too much explanation with tutorials make the game experience bland. At that point, there’s no true exploration and no sense of discovery. No thinking for yourself. That’s where retro games usually differ. Most retro games don’t over explain. The story usually goes, “This is the game, get the bad guy, and save the day.” The player figures out the rest. You explore, discover, and solve puzzles all without being told what buttons to press.
With that in mind, there are many newer games that have reverted to that way of thinking. Games like Minecraft, while it did have a tutorial, didn’t hold your hand very long. It made players figure out how to make items and survive while using very simple and blocky graphics. Other games like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild start a player out with practically nothing and send them out into a vast world to endlessly discover what they can do.
Here’s the final reason. Retro games aren’t for everyone. Typically, they’re harder to beat, don’t look as good, and on top of that, not everyone has an old NES sitting around to play one. Unfortunately, as the popularity of retro games and consoles rise, so does the price. Remember those Christmas lists I mentioned earlier? Those four games came in at about $115 total. On top of that, you still have the console to purchase. The beauty of this is that all of those factors create a mystery for young gamers like you. Retro games are old, expensive, and they’re told that they won’t like them. Even adults would have difficulty passing up on something like that.
Retro For a New Generation
Since my NES died long ago, and my SNES has seen better days, what did I do? As a collector, I wanted to get both of the consoles. There is something special about putting an NES cartridge in, closing the lid and hitting the power button. It’s a launch sequence that ends in fun, every time. However, logic prevailed and we wound up getting a Retron 5 instead. This system has game emulators for Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Famicom, Super Famicom, Genesis, Mega Drive, Game Boy, Game Boy Color, and Game Boy Advance games. Also, the Retron 5 allows you to save your progress, which you can’t do on some of the older consoles. It also has HDMI output and original controller ports, so you can use all of your old school controllers, although it does come with one in the box.
My love for gaming has come full circle. I now play as much as my kids will allow. I’m making new memories that rival those of my childhood. I can take the games out of storage and share them with my kids. It’s a wonderful feeling to see them experiencing something from when I was their age, and reacting the same way.