Our pal Andy Bernard once remarked, “I wish there was a way to know you were in the good old days before you actually left them.” Regardless of your feelings about the Nard Dog, in a way, he’s right. When laying the groundwork for… well, anything, humans innately tend to focus so much on the future we forget to appreciate the present — the now.
But there’s a raw beauty in a story’s origin. A dazzling glow radiates from simple memories stitched into our very essence. When revisited, we allow ourselves to think back and fondly remember the times when things were a little simpler. It gives us a moment of warm euphoria we’ve held onto after all of these years.
For gamers, it’s a tried and true response to paying homage to the path that brought us here. It’s why we love retro video games.
There’s no doubt that gaming has come a long way since Pong and Pac Man. Today’s technology brought us brilliant colors, ultra-high resolutions, nearly indistinguishable realism, and connectivity to other gamers around the world. It’s truly an amazing experience we’re blessed with today. It’s why the gaming community has never been more prominent and with no sign of slowing down.
But there is a special romanticism to dusting off an old cartridge, using your mouth to blast air from left to right into the docking slot, popping it into a Super NES Classic, and flipping the power switch from “Off” to “On.” (As a child of the ’90s in the twilight stages of retro gaming, I first got a taste of the gamer life on the Super NES classic alongside the dynamic duo of Donkey and Diddy Kong before moving to the N64 and journeying through Hyrule. Good times.)
The simplicity of taking a game out of the box and knowing it’s ready for plug-and-play is something retro-loving gamers like myself miss most. Today, playing a new game requires scouring data availability, uploading times that can take hours, and sometimes microtransactions just to keep players on par with others. We see bug-laden releases (tsk, tsk Cyberpunk 2077) and times when it takes years before complete editions are finished. Yes, the modern era has been good to us and it’s been worth it due to the extravagant quality of games. It’s why we still consider ourselves gamers. But it just makes us appreciate retro even more.
More to the point of simplicity, who doesn’t admire the hometown-esque feel of 2D pixel art? Seeing the smooth transition of Michaelangelo laying a flying super-kick Beebop’s chops brings that same smile to our face as the one we had when we were 10-years-old sitting cross-legged on the floor in our bedroom. As I said, we love the hyperrealism in games today, no doubt. It’s just fun to take it back in time to see the building blocks that came before.
At their core, legacy games are simple in design, original in story, and sentimental in memory. They hold a certain mystique to them because most times, it was just you against the game. There were fewer tutorials and help guides and more independence and “figure it out yourself.” We loved the challenge. We still love the challenge.
Retro, old-school, classic, OG, whatever you may call them, they’ve held up over time. To this day, retro games are a part of the culture that is very much alive and thriving. They were the first introduction to gaming for many. In reality, as kids, it was us starting a new game as a new player. And that’s a feeling you never forget.