I have been collecting and play retro games for quite a few years now. For years I could never pinpoint what made them so fun, but after thinking about it I think I have finally found it.
The first reason is the concept of being "easy to learn, lifetime to master". Take most games made prior to the 2000s and they usually are reliant on 5 core game play mechanics and pretty much the rest is left to level design. Take Super Mario Bros, for example, all the mechanics that are used are press the d pad to move, use the A button to jump, obtain the fire flower to attack enemies by pressing B to shoot fire, and Jump on enemies to squash them. Also most retro games (aside from RPGs and Adventure games) take 30 minutes to 5 hours to beat. However, the games make up for this by making themselves hard. Just go to
r/Retrogaming and see all the people who have taken years to beat a 1 hour long game. Super Mario Bros 3 is a 2 hour long game, yet I still haven't beat it to this day due to the perfectly designed learning curve,even if it has been 9 years since I first played it. For a modern example of this, look at Wii sports, a game that introduced me to gaming, along with the Wii Mario games and various other Wii games. The game is easy to learn, but it takes hard work to learn how to get a hole in one on all golf courses or get a turkey in bowling. Compare this to most modern games, where they have fairly hard to learn mechanics, but most of the difficulty in the game comes from long hours of grinding. Minecraft comes to mind, the game has complex to learn mechanics, and takes 60 hours to beat. In fact, if the internet wasn't so advanced in the 2010s, the game might not have been easily beatable. When I played Minecraft, I would usually just play creative or play LAN with my friends. This brings me to my next point.
The second reason is the side by side multiplayer aspect. Anyone who has had a LAN party knows how fun playing with a friend can be. How many times in a movie/TV show have you seen the friends going to an arcade and playing games together? You have probably seen an arcade gaming scene at least once before. There is a personal connection you have with someone who loves video games when playing a local multiplayer game with them. Nowadays, you get online multiplayer only with people yelling extreme vulgarities at you. Whenever I go to my local retro game store, I always hear people talking about video games in ways no one online ever will.
Another aspect of Retro games I love is the creativity put into the games. A fat Italian American plumber thrown into a French Cartoon style world and has to save a princess from a gigantic spiky turtle? A cheese wheel who eats pellets and fruit to chase ghosts? A man who digs through the ground and inflates circular monsters? A saturday morning cartoon style fight with tons of cartoon stereotypes? Two cute dragons blowing bubbles everywhere? A hedgehog who can run at 100 mph? A dark gritty comic book sci fi world where you are the last man standing on a mars? All possible ideas! Nowadays, games try to be like Blockbuster movies and try to always aim for being the most advanced and realistic thing possible for the GOTY award in various award ceremonies. Many retro game left a lot to the imagination. For example, how many retro game characters can you name were male, but you thought were female? Also comes the aspect of in game storytelling. Take missile command for example. It tells the story of Nuclear warfare, entirely through gameplay. In Super Mario Bros, you can see the enemy troops get serious in world 8, due to the increased amount of enemies and the castles in the background. Though some games are meant to be played as interactive quick time movies, such as Uncharted and Dragon's Lair. You know the reason why games like GTA and Saints Row are so fun? It's because despite the serious tone, you can do whatever the heck you want.
History is one of the aspects of retro gaming I really like. One of the things that got me into retro gaming was Smash Bros. I would more often collect the side materials that showed a piece from a classic game than play the main mode. It also helped that I went through a Mario phase a year or two earlier. This soon made me want to look at the history of Nintendo and soon Retro Gaming. Most of modern gaming (PS2-present) is already in the mainstream gaming culture lexicon, but there are many games that have been forgotten. I'm talking about games like F-Zero, Darkstalkers,and any Sega franchise that isn't Sonic or Yakuza. The mysterious aura surrounding these forgotten games despite them being pretty integral to the history of games is what makes them interesting. In fact, most retro games that aren't on a Nintendo console have been forgotten by most gamers, aside from some lucky PS1 games released between 1998 and 2000.
This is why I love Retro games and the culture that surrounds them.
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