Gaming has become the most innovative and prosperous entertainment industry in the world. There are trends and huge titles that receive a following year after year. Some predictions are made and are disastrously wrong in some cases, while others are right on the nose. The point I’m making here is that gaming is an ever-evolving industry, and we’re all here for the ride. If I were to ask you what common theme have you noticed in the gaming industry over the past few years, what would you say? Besides “games as a service,” and battle royale themed titles, what else has been cropping up more and more? Blasts from the past, that’s what. What I mean is that there are a plethora of retro-inspired games hitting the market with smashing success as well as collections and compilations of retro games that perform fantastically in the sales department as well. Needless to say, retro games are bigger than ever.
With the continually improving console hardware space with borderline photo-realistic graphics, larger storage capacities, and different ways to play, why are these smaller and less graphically intensive games making such a big splash in the industry we know and love? What is the driving force for these games to find a big enough audience and succeed? There are two answers to this question, I think. One is that these games are truly great to play. Graphics and how pretty a game looks should always be secondary when comparing a game to its style and controls. The gameplay rules the roost, as it should, or else who would want to play it? If a game isn’t fun, but looks like a real-life simulation, what’s the point?
Older games that can be found on the 8-bit and 16-bit consoles are still fun to play today, because they have great gameplay. Super Mario Bros., Castlevania, Mega Man, and older RPGs like Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest have been released and ported to virtually any device and platform. The timeless gameplay and graphical style of these games are unmatched in today’s era, these are the games that many in the community were introduced to first, and likely to be the games they introduce their children to as they were.
The average gamer in 2017 is 35 years of age according to the Entertainment Software Association. This is key to note because it ties into what I’ve been thinking. Looking at the statistics provided by the ESA, there are some interesting things to pick out. 72% of gamers included in their survey were over the age of 18, including both male and female demographics. 45% of the total male and female gamers are over the age of 35. I wish the ESA had divided one of their categories up further, because the 18-35 bracket potentially skews some numbers. In the next survey, I hope to see that parameter divided into 18-25 and 26-35 to better represent the age groups of gamers. Regardless of this qualm, it is still amazing that almost half of gamers reported were over the age of 35.
This illustrates that many people haven’t stopped playing and explains my second reasoning as to why these games and collections are so common. Those that grew up with the first wave of arcade and home consoles have continued to engage in the video game industry, just as their children and surely their grandchildren have or will in due time. Because there is such a large number of older gamers, it makes sense to tap into that nostalgia, to take these gamers back to their roots with new games that look like those games of the past, or bring a whole bunch of their favorites under one compilation.
Recently, we’ve seen many 8 and 16-bit games hit the market to critical acclaim like Shovel Knight, Bloodstained: Curse of the Moon and Flinthook; while also seeing new installments in a series with the older style like Sonic Mania. Collections have become known throughout the past decade, but more recently, the Mega Man and Mega Max X legacy collections have been a fast-paced treat for those craving the classic platforming of old. Sega has released a Genesis collection this year, and the Neo Geo Arcade Archives is another great way to experience older games on current generation hardware.
What is even better about these older or older in style games? They’re relatively short and can be completed in a few sittings. These days, gamers are familiar with the dreaded “backlog,” a list of games that have been purchased but have yet to be completed or even played at all. Games these days on current generation consoles are huge and take up a lot of time to complete. Titles build up, forming a stack of shame either physically or digitally on the hard drive. It’s easier to purchase a smaller game, knowing you’ll be able to complete it and move on to something else in a shorter amount of time than it will take you to take a jaunt through a massive open-world game.
Because of their perfect gameplay and nostalgia hitting graphics and style, these retro-inspired games and collections of older titles are only going to get better and better and more prevalent. Don’t shy away from these games, many of them are fantastic and release every year. Take a break from the huge and overwhelming worlds of today and take a trip back to gaming’s early history every now and then. You won’t regret it.