What is retro? Most people would say it’s something from the past that remains fashionable or has come back into fashion. Whether it’s clothes, music, films, books or whatever, they can fall out of popularity for one reason or another, but then years later everyone is interested again. Polka dot dresses for example have made a return to form and have become a must have item. We often see old characters, stories and franchises come back to the cinema, with this year alone bringing back It, a remake of Disney’s Beauty & the Beast, a new version of Murder on the Orient Express, a new Jumanji film and so on.
Games haven’t been around that long as a medium. Beginning in the sixties at earliest, but they would take a while to come into their own. The seventies brought Pong and Space Invaders! and then the eighties we had Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Tetris, Super Mario Bros. and others. I could list all the major games from every decade for a good while, and while it doesn’t seem so long ago the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog debuted or Doom Guy started blasting demons, it was over twenty years ago.
With games reaching such ages it means they can go retro. In the past several years we’ve seen a huge influx of games go back to their older routes from the eighties and nineties. Some examples include Sonic Mania being based on the early games, the upcoming Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night being a call back to 2D Castlevanias, Undertale being influenced by Earthbound, Shovel Knight being a love letter to many classic games and so on. These games take the simplicity and affordability to make of these games and makes something new that allows old fans and new to enjoy some retro style gaming.
Smartphones and handhelds have played a part in the retro reinvigoration of games. These devices are powerful enough that they can play many game from the past. You could grab your phone now and play early instalments of Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy, as well as various Sonic games, Ducktales, Tomb Raider and more. You also see things such as online casino games that maintain a retro feel and harken back to the classic casino LCD and handheld games, such as High Stakes Gambling but with modern improvements.
The ability to download old games on new consoles have been important to this retro revolution. Any modern console and PC can easily, legally and cheaply download many older games, meaning you can relive your old favourites or younger gamers can experience them for the first time. The NES Classic was a huge seller that gave people an easy way of playing various Nintendo games and the SNES Classic sold out long before release.
Retro games will always have a charm, a fan base and provide a lot of fun. As we move forward, we can always go back to these games and then see how they can influenced the future.