Retro Gaming will never go away and if recent trends carry forward, it will just continue to get more popular and start dictating the direction of future games.

And now that I’ve made such a large claim, let me go into excruciating detail for those of you that have an interest in such things.

First, as someone who spends most of his time and money buying and playing games made before the turn of the current decade, just take my word that retro games are selling well. You don’t have to, of course, and I could point you to numerous cases of retro games whose values have doubled or even tripled in the last 7 years, well above the normal inflation rate, but I’ll just assume you don’t want to be bored with the numbers and move along with this conversation.

Instead I’ll give you some reason why the retro gaming phenomenon is thriving so well in an era of HD graphics, realistic video, full voice-acting, and even virtual reality.

First, one factor is price. While I told you that some older and rarer games have grown in value at an unreasonable rate (The Nintendo World Championship cart, for example, would only get you $2K-$4K back in 2009 but now regularly goes for $19K-$25K (and sometimes more) on eBay. And even a more common (but popular) game like Contra which used to be a $5 game now can fetch $30-$40 for just the cartridge itself. The majority of retro games are still very reasonably priced.  If you’re a gamer on a budget, a used lot of 20 NES titles for $40 is far more appealing than The Witcher III for $60.

2361687-nes_dragonwarrior4And speaking of The Witcher III, let me jump into my next point which is the learning curve of retro games versus new ones. I enjoyed The Witcher III as much as the rest of you, but it did take a little bit to get used to the controls and the battle mechanics. Between the cutscenes, the guided intro, and the tutorial at the training grounds, I think it was at least 45 minutes before I knew what I was doing and was really playing the game. Now look back at an earlier medieval RPG featuring different weapons, enemies, spells, and a large cast of supporting characters: Dragon Warrior IV. There is no tutorial and you are off and playing within the first 4 minutes of the game. By the 45-minute mark you’re probably into the second chapter of the story already. That’s not exclusive to that one game; most games for earlier consoles just had so few controls and limited space in memory on the cart that there was either no need for a tutorial or no room for it in the game. Most game makers just had to find a way to make their games intuitive without much instruction.

However, this does not mean that all the games were overly simplistic or basic. Let’s not forget that Final Fantasy was originally going to be the swan song of a floundering company but its incredible story and characters (combined with some great music) sold so well that Square stuck around and Final Fantasy became one of the largest names in RPGs. And other early RPGs like Earthbound and Chrono Trigger (both for the Super Nintendo) are mainstays in the RPG-loving community and are still frequently listed among the best RPGs made to date. And even on controllers with only six buttons, the early entries in the Mortal Kombat series managed to fit in some very complex moves that players had to memorize and perfectly execute long button combinations to pull off. In fact, a lot of games back then seemed to have a very good understanding of when it needed to be simple and cater to the player, and when it was OK to throw in some complexity and difficulty to challenge them.

Another thing that helped with that, that modern games can no longer replicate, is the complete lack of waiting. There were no load screens, no updates or disc installs, and no online connection dependencies – you simply put your game in the system, turned on the power, and started playing. This meant that in games like Mega Man when you died (and you certainly did in that game) you did not have a cinematic death scene or any orchestral fanfare, just a quick death animation and then you were dropped right back into the game to try again. Back then you didn’t really have time to get frustrated at your games because you had to start playing again to avoid more deaths. Games now-a-days have longer load times and much more to render on the screen so something as simple as respawning your character can see you waiting several minutes while the game rebuilds your character and the world around him. Sure, things may look prettier now, but I never remember playing Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and thinking that the game looked bad so how much do the new graphics really matter?

Super_Mario_64_(NA)While we are on the subject of Sonic the Hedgehog 3, let me bring up my last reason as to why retro gaming is still so popular. This is probably the leading and most basic reason and that is, simply, nostalgia. The people who grew up playing video games as video games first came out are the same people that are now in their 30s-40s and have money to invest in rebuilding the collections they had and loved in their childhoods. Sure, immersing myself in Dragon Age: Inquisition is great, and the graphics on Forza Motorsports 6 make me feel like I really am pitting a Maserati against a Lamborghini in my own personal dream race, but those games will never fascinate me as much as Legend of Zelda or Ikari Warriors captivated a much younger me. I still remember seeing Super Mario 64 for the first time and being astonished at how incredible the graphics looked and how awesome it was to move everyone’s favorite plumber around in three dimensions. Yes, newer consoles introduce even more impressive graphics and the introduction of virtual reality and augmented reality made games infinitely more immersive, but these advances for some reason don’t feel as monumental and memorable as the ones we saw earlier on. Plus, some modern games just aren’t as fun. Call of Duty can be great to play with friends online, but for what it’s worth, it will never be as genuinely fun as having a bunch of friends over to play Goldeneye with each other. Being more massive and more competitive is good, but games just don’t capture that spirit of pure fun like some older ones did.

But it’s not just the shelves in your man-cave that are being affected by this revitalized interest in retro gaming; the shelves of your local game store most likely reflect this renewed market. Even GameStop, who cares nothing for games or gamers, past the point of making money on them, has started getting back into the business of retro games. And for GameStop to decide to get into it, they must have seen a large potential for profit.  If you look at other game stores, it’s not hard to see what they saw. The city of Toronto, for example, has 15 independent used game stores. And I am personally friends with the owner, and most of the employees of a local game store near me and in the past decade I have seen him make enough profit off his store to turn it into a chain. He’s been able to open a second location in a town in a neighboring county. So these game stores aren’t just popping up, they’re showing some staying power and are even thriving.

One of the best things to come out of the renewed interest in acquiring and playing video games, and the success in selling them, is that companies are now developing them. Believe it or not, completely new games have been released as recently as last week for each of the following consoles: Intellivision, Sega Genesis, Atari Lynx, Super Nintendo, Sega Dreamcast, Nintendo Entertainment System, Sega Master System, Game Boy, and the Gameboy Advance. That’s just from the five independent game developers that I buy from. Many more companies exist making new games for almost every classic console because the people making these games find those consoles both cheaper and easier to develop for. And unlike the latest generation of consoles which have new updates and patches being released regularly, these old consoles have reached their peak and are now in a constant and permanent state meaning that a game released for them twenty years ago will play the same as one released ten years ago, which will play the same as the new game I received in the mail last week. These developers don’t have to keep up with a changing console or try to provide updates later; they simply make the game they want to make and then release it. Luckily for them, because of the age of these consoles, a slew of information exists documenting every specification of all of the consoles and will guide even a novice programmer through the process of creating, compiling, and publishing a game for their favorite console. And that’s the other part of the appeal for them: not only making a video game that others will get to play and enjoy, but making it for the console that they loved most as a kid.

These are all NEW games released within the last four years.

These are all NEW games released within the last four years.

Don’t just think it’s these companies looking to make new games for old hardware that are capitalizing on this interest in the old-school – new companies have learned what their audience wants and are starting to deliver.

Games like Shovel Knight, Undertale, and Unepic all look like games from the console of yesteryear and luckily play like them too. And even one of the industry leaders in games, Nintendo, saw great success with Super Mario Maker – which was a game that focused on building new levels and worlds using assets from the older eras of the Super Mario Bros. franchise. Just recently, Sega released the logo for a 25th year anniversary Sonic the Hedgehog game and in the background you can clearly see a retro-looking Green Hill Zone, which coincides with the rumors of a very 2D game to celebrate the occasion.

So really, all of this was just a very long-winded way of telling you that the games you loved as a child are back again. And now that a lot of us old-school gamers (I was born the same day as the Super Mario Bros. game made it stateside. Probably. No one actually knows the exact day but my birthday is one of the more likely dates.) are old enough to have kids of our own, maybe we can pass on the joy we once found in these games by starting our kids off with an NES of their own. And heck, since companies like Piko Interactive and 64kb Games are developing new games for that console right now, maybe we can even find a new game to fall in love with and start the circle of nostalgia all over again.

So here’s to talking about our favorite SNES and Genesis games of the year 2016 in another 30 years!

About The Author

Dean M
YouTube Content Creator

Saying I have an obsession for video games is a bit of an understatement. Like Ash Ketchum my goal is to collect them all! I currently have over 1,600 games spanning more than 40 consoles and almost as many years and I have played all but a very small handful of them (I can't bring myself to open the older sealed games - even if it is the only copy I have of the game.) I like all genres and platforms but RPGs are my favorite and nothing beats the SNES if you want to have a good time while gaming. In my time away from gaming I'm a big fan of the outdoors (a bit of a 180, eh?) and a huge fan of animals. I have a dog, two snakes, and a dove and I love to spend time checking out zoos or volunteering at animal shelters.