There are many ways in which Nintendo has been a driving force in gaming. From the early dominance of the handheld market with the Game Boy to the popularization of motion controls with the Wii, Nintendo has constantly been guiding gaming in ways that many others don’t.
Part of this is because of how fearful the likes of Sony and Microsoft are to do something truly different, but, overwhelmingly, it also comes down to Nintendo’s interest to bring something to the consumer that we really want. Revisiting retro games is one such idea that gamers have chased for years, and Nintendo is one of the few major companies willing to get on board. So why is this, and just how popular are these retro games becoming?
As many companies follow the bizarre idea that graphics make the gameplay, Nintendo has been one of the companies that know gameplay makes the game play, well, fun. Decades of reliance on putting gameplay first has let them know a few truths which others ignore, like that simplicity is key and style matters more than sheer pixel count. It was Nintendo that has pushed major games like the New Super Mario Bros and Mega Man games using engines similar to those which brought them success decades ago, and the market has responded incredibly enthusiastically. Retro hardware like optional Switch controllers as well as releases such as the NES Classic proves these are still popular, and they aren’t going anywhere.
It would be remiss to mention retro gaming without also touching on the effect of indie games. With much more limited budgets, indie developers have found it price effective to rely on retro style graphics and design, while still taking influence from modern quality-of-life developments like improved save support and input options. While it was the PC which supported this initial push, Nintendo has been getting on board with the Switch to great effect.
It’s not just traditional style video games which have been informed by the sudden resurgence of retro games either, other media has also managed to capitalize on this return to the past. Films like Pixels and Wreck it Ralph have drawn heavy and direct inspiration from classic gaming, and electronic music has also influenced in genres such as nerdcore. Even online casinos are getting in on the action in more ways than one, Mr Green offers free spins on 8-bit game classics, for example, and there are many slot games based entirely on these retro themes. This extends to media not regularly compatible with gaming, as we saw in the book Ready Player One, which is heavily influenced by the author’s interest in classic retro gaming.
A Mixed Future
There is always going to be a place for both modern and retro style games, that much is a given. What we can expect though, given the recent popularity and market trends, is a greater rate of adoption and accommodation of retro games into the mainstream. With better support than ever in the modern age, and growing rates of newcomers jumping into this traditional style, the future of retro gaming looks bright, even if that sentence seems a little confusing.