The Resurgence of Retro Gaming

Video game companies have finally gotten wise to the demands of their top money spenders and their realization is this: Retro gaming is still profitable and a vastly overlooked market. Can you imagine if Nintendo had gotten together better options for gamers to play their old titles on EVERY system? A few games were re-released in anniversary packs, and even fewer titles were available via online stores, but it was always little more than an afterthought. The modern ROM market grew from gamers' unquenched appetites to play their old favorites again and again, and they would have been willing to pay a moderate fee to do so.

These video game companies are late to the table, but there is still money to be made and I am glad they have wisened up and given adequate respect to some of their older titles. More opportunities to play your classic favorites seem to crop up every few months, from Nintendo Switch Online to a whole handful of newly released retro consoles!

I bought a Retron 5 console to play my older game cartridges. Made by Hyperkin, I can play NES and Super NES, Famicom and Super Famicom, Sega Genesis (aka the Mega Drive), Gameboy and Gameboy Color and Gameboy Advance… all on this one console. It saves tons of space and even has a few great features that helps upscale the games to modern televisions.

What is interesting is the level of adoration these old titles are receiving. Many of these old names still remain like Legend of Zelda, Megaman, Mario, and Pokemon! Children and young adults are getting games in their hands that they may have only heard of but have never gotten to play. It is much like watching an original movie after the lesser quality sequel. You can appreciate where the franchise began and see what was so loved about it in the first place.

These new systems also fit perfectly in their market space: compact, reasonable price, techy but approachable, and appeals to both adults and children. There are parents who never played these games and systems but will buy them as a gift for their kids. I personally helped several parents at last years Raleigh Supercon at a video game booth, because they did not know what to buy their child. They would tell me titles or say things like “he likes shoot’em ups” or “she loves dragons”. I could help offer advice for what kinds of games to check out, or even what to avoid. Pre-packaged game consoles with games built in are great for these kinds of families.

But also, there are the adults who played these games and enjoyed them, but who would not be considered retro console enthusiasts. Now, even these people can relive their childhood in a very accessible way. When talking with some good friends of mine this week, they reminisced about how they adored playing Super Mario Brothers 3, and that they recently dug up an old NES, but had zero games for it. I had two copies of Mario 3 so I gave them one. They were thrilled and were going to share the game with their son. I am sure they will be stomping Goombas into the ground with glee for months to come. Consoles like these are perfect for them too.

Here is the strange but exciting part: More and more kids are CHOOSING to play retro games!

While these games purportedly came from a much simpler era, they have something that a vast majority of modern games do not have: charm. Kids and teens have their fill of the latest and greatest games coming out for increasingly more powerful consoles; and yet many are sliding back into more comfortable and less overstimulating options.

Pokemon still holds incredibly strong as a title, and though the graphics have been updated in newer games, the core game-play is virtually unchanged. However, slews of young gamers are now seeking out the older titles as well as the older handhelds to play the originals. This had supported a newer industry of refurbished and modified consoles for the modern gamer. These new websites and companies offer classic handhelds with updated back-lit screens and better-quality speakers, making your mobile gaming experience even better than ever before.

Retro-inspired games, like Minecraft, BroForce, Cuphead, Undertale, Shovel Knight, and Super Meat Boy, were purposefully made with older looking graphics and chunky design features. Big pixels, chunky designs, stark color pallets, and simplified game-play are the hallmarks of these titles. They were made like this with such a loving touch, that they have a good classic feel which reignites the imagination of your childhood. You can imagine playing these games for years, because they are made with a style that does not age.

These games are not only a blast-from-the-past, but they are also innovative when it comes to game-play. As photo-realistic and world sweeping games are becoming the new normal, they are not making the same sort of splash in the industry that they were only a few years prior. While the average age of the modern game is 35 years old, the nostalgia gaming market ranges widely and is open to all demographics. Sales of these systems, as well as subscriptions and games, are where the greatest growth lies, and it does not yet show signs of slowing.