I like to play old retro games from time to time. I covered some of them here in Tech Fairy, including my favorite game ever, Penguin Adventure on the MSX. Sometimes I encounter people that dismiss them as too archaic or not fun. I even met a kind of people who dissed anyone who plays them.
Now, the question poses itself, what are the reasons that causes some people to steer away from older games? Are the old games so bad that people can’t play them? Or are they just used to shiny graphics that they simply don’t want anything simpler? In this article, I will try to address this question in the most objective way I could, but you’re welcome to tell me what you think too. Stating these “flaws” in old games doesn’t mean they are bad. I can see myself writing another article about the good of retro old games if I had the chance to.
In my opinion, bad controls are the worst flaw of older games. And the biggest reason that could prevent many people from enjoying them, which is why it’s the first on the list. I mean, imagine if someone gave retro games a chance, only to find the controls to be so bad that the game she picked is not so fun.
Many of the older games have a fun gameplay, but the bad controls take from that. More often than not, you find yourself fighting with the controls instead of the challenge of the game itself. You either have to adapt to the control or hope to get used to it after a while.. The control may have been acceptable & even revolutionary back in the day, but not by today’s standards.
One of the examples of bad controls is the steering in Twisted Metal 2 (On PSX). A game that requires you to pick your fights so that you take the least damage possible. Sometimes you are low on health, and you go to pick that health item, only to miss it by few CMs, tough luck, you were just destroyed.
The janky control in the classic Tomb Raider is another example of bad controls. Even today, I quite like how precise controlling Lara is in those games. But it can be quite annoying when a small bump in the ground literally stops you on your tracks, and forces you to go back and jump over it. The games can be quite tolerable & fun if you can get around that. I say that as someone who visit them once every few years.
SplatterHouse II on the Sega Genesis is an example of that. It’s a game I didn’t play back in the day, but discovered & picked it up decades later (thank you, Adam Koralik, for letting me know of it). Even by today’s standards, the game is quite fun. I think the eerie soundtracks add to it even today. The game is known to be challenging, but unlike a modern game like Dark Souls, where you can simply “Git god” & actually show the game who’s the man. The only way to become good at it is by memorizing the enemy movements & make your move ahead of time.
Whether difficulty is good or not can be subjective. It can be a drawing point to some people, but since we are talking about what makes some people steer away from retro games, I will consider it a flaw here.
Sometimes these games have a bad or limited control that prevents you from tackling on the challenge presented by them, which is even more of the reason that was on the top of the list, as a good control can actually help you beat a very difficult game.
Main example for the brutal difficulty is Mortal Kombat II, the game I think is the best in the series , and one that’s notorious for reading your input. And more than any game in the series. It can be quite frustrating to lose too many times before you’re unable to win against the later opponents. The input reading gets more tolerable once you lose many battles.. There are many known tricks to get around this artificial difficulty, but I would rather be able to test my real skills rather than resort to them.
Another example of a difficult game is SplatterHouse. I will focus on the second game in the serious since I played it the most. The game is known to be difficult, but not in the way Dark Souls allows you to “git good” & beat the whole game. For the most part, you can mostly beat it by memorizing the enemies’ patterns, and reacting to them once they make their moves. The first game in the series do some very cheap tricks, like having the furniture fly out of nowhere to hit you, with very little window to dodge them.
Last but not least, the graphics of retro games can turn many people away from them. People often consider graphics the main turn off when it comes to older games. I personally think the difficulty & controls to be more important. Since many of the older games have acceptable to good graphics despite their age. And it’s always possible to upscale the picture using many solutions that are available in the market. Emulators offer similar options, including the ability to upscale the picture or smooth it with anti-aliasing.
There are many games that used to be graphically superior for their time. A lot of these games depended on that to wow people into buying them, but without offering much in term of gameplay. Pixelated graphics used to be the norm in the older consoles, and it’s a style that’s widely popular even today. You even see many modern indie games that utilize that style. People who worship graphics may not like it. In their eyes, why would they play any game like that when they can play with semi-realistic graphics? While this has a lot to do with the person’s taste, sometimes I think if some of them were open-minded about it, they could end up liking the older & cuter graphics, but that’s totally up to them to decide.
Once again, I will use the classic Tomb Raider games as an example here. The low-resolution textures can make it harder to discern whether the wall in front of you is actually a door, or whether it’s a block you can push or just part of the wall.
One nice way to get around blurry graphics (other than upscaling) is to recreate the textures & insert them into the game. As people from project RESHDP did with the original Resident Evil games. Projects like this can breathe new life into older games. The project supports Resident Evil 2 & 3. I highly you check it out if you’re a fan of the series.
I tried my best to list the 3 main reasons retro games aren’t popular with some people, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t more reasons for that. The consoles that started certain eras of gaming, like the PSX & Atari 2600, tend to be the worst when it comes to the graphics. Then we made great strides with that, the generations that followed simply gave us a superior version of what they stared.
Anyway, I hope this little article has given you a good idea on why some people may steer away from retro games. I also hope I managed to objective about it. Have a nice fairy day~