Here at Mega Dads we ‘keep it hundred’ as the kids say. That means we’re going to give it to you straight. The fact of the matter is modern gaming falls flat when compared to the games of old. That’s not just nostalgia talking. The research is in, the data is clear. The real question at play is ‘Is this still an opinion piece if the opinions are irrefutable’? Here are 5 reasons why retro games are better than modern games.
If you’re super anal (like Mega Dads founder John Wahl) this is where you ask “Where do you draw the line between ‘Retro’ and ‘Modern’ games?” Depending on your age, your first system could have been a Commodore 64 or Atari, it could have been a Sega or a SNES, there’s no right answer.
It’s not the focus of this article but just to be clear I delineate by the year 2002. There are plenty of reasons to differentiate what came before and after that year (there were many great leaps in gaming across the board from networking to graphical fidelity) but to put it simply ‘old game is old’ so just relax John it’s not important.
Music (and if you want to get into semantics – sound) has always played a pivotal role in gaming. It can elevate a game, immerse you in a digital world, and help leave an impression that can last a lifetime.
“God of War” from God of War (PS4). Music by Bear McCreary.
Developers today have a plethora of options to bring their games to life in this department. From digital software to surround sound technology the creative options have reached incredible heights. It’s not uncommon for AAA soundtracks to feature full bands, orchestras, or licensed music from top-bill artists.
But who needs that fancy shit! Nothing in the modern age can compare to the laundry list of absolute bangers created in the synth/chiptune era. Composers were forced to do more with less and created some masterpieces. It’s no wonder even with modern advances and a swatch of genre options to choose from many games often replicate 8-bit and 16-bit aesthetics and sound.
The 1972 Magnavox Odyssey was one of the first home video game consoles. Unfortunately it was primarily a pong machine that let players control games using two small knobs. The machine was proof positive that gaming as a whole was limited partially because it needed a flexible (and revolutionary) control scheme.
The better known Atari 2600 in 1977 featured a joystick with a single button. It wasn’t until 1983 when the Famicom hit our shores in the USA that we got the iconic Nintendo Entertainment System and one of the first traditional handheld gamepads.
A four direction d-pad, two buttons, select and start. The retro gamepad was flawless in its design, astounding in its simplicity and built like an armored car.
The NES controller allowed gaming to explode with possibility. We now had a versatile tool to use for everything from sporting titles, epic JPRGs, and all manner of platformers. Sure there were software limitations of the time to deal with but mechanically this was arguably the peak control scheme, one that anyone could pick-up and play, one that most future controllers would build off of (and ruin).
Fast forward to the overly designed, terribly complex, fragile garbage of the modern day. Fart near a modern controller and it shatters into a million pieces, don’t get me started on analog stick drift. The goal of each new generation seems to be to cram a few more buttons, ZR, L3, Qi, it’s a mess. Oh and what about the real “cutting edge features”!? Triggers that push back and drain the already shit battery life, grips that monitor your pulse and steal your DNA. I see you big government! No, no thank you.
On one hand modern controllers are a disastrous attempt to innovate on perfection where it was never needed, change for change sake. On the other hand somehow every modern controller looks exactly the same. When billion dollar companies and tech giants like Amazon and Google release a “new” controller it looks like the PS5 controller, which looks like the Nintendo Pro Controller, that looks like the Xbox 360 controller. The same cookie cutter bullshit for two decades now.
3. Interesting IP
Let’s take a look at some of the most iconic, successful, groundbreaking IP of the retro age and compare them with heavy hitters in the modern era.
Super Mario Bros. is the story of a meaty Italian that uses the knowledge he gained as a tradesman to foil a kidnapping attempt spanning multiple worlds. This plumber does shrooms in order to double in size and can crush bricks with his titanium cranium. He battles flying fish, giant plants, and weapon wielding turtles…and all for the unbreakable force that is love.
Sonic the Hedgehog is the story of a talking rodent that can move at lightning fast speeds, a freedom fighter who races to save his fellow woodland creatures from a crazed scientist and his army of deadly robot contraptions.
Pac-Man is the story of a sentient positron trapped in a series of haunted labyrinths. Some unknown power has not only stolen his wife, and ensnared him in tombs filled with ghouls, he must also make the ultimate sacrifice to advance through each maze, consuming his young children en masse, every step costing another precious child’s life. The entire time he avoids the death specters that chase him endlessly he screams in horror ‘Wakka! Wakka! Wakkkaaa!’
The best selling modern games are about bowling (Wii Sports), collecting rocks (Minecraft), and criminals hitting pregnant hookers with cars to steal their money (Grand Theft Auto). Your honor, I rest my case.