Are "Classic" Video Games More Fun?

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Peter Redmer
Peter Redmer's picture
Are "Classic" Video Games More Fun?

I had been thinking about this quite a bit lately, and after sharing my old school NES collection with some members over at RoboCommunity, some members there agreed with something I've believed all along:  that old or "classic" video games are more fun.

Of course, old school games aren't as graphically impressive, and usually not as expansive, but somehow - at least to me - they were more captivating.

Is this because gamers like me, who grew up having to use our imaginations rather than having FMV and CG shoved in our faces, simply appreciated old school gaming more?  Is it a psychological thing - are we just reliving our youth with classic games?

Or are "old school" games truly more fun and inventive?  I have lots of opinions here but I'd really like to hear from the community first :)

Rudolph's picture
RetroPlayer said:  Not to

RetroPlayer said:  Not to stray so far
off topic, but am I the only one that thinks that when the graphics and
processing power got better, the games started to be less fun? It seems
like the older games are so much more "fun" even though the graphics
are way more impressive now. BTW, my favorite game genre is
point-and-click adventures.

Agreed. I love what
they've done with things, but remembering a dozen buttons (not to
mention combos using half or more of them) makes it feel like a chore
to play a game. Two buttons and a D pad was fine :)

I guess at
the end of the day I'm more for "brainless entertainment" than not.
Which reminds me, I haven't played Marble Madness in a while...

and click adventure", like what (examples please)? I've managed to get
sucked into browser based, text only games (eg Kingdom of Loathing).
Adventure Quest is kind of entertaining too, except for the flash part


(pasted over, cause I was too slow to notice you'd started a new thread here)

RetroPlayer's picture
These are all the same

These are all the same thoughts I had. Are they really more fun or is it just nostalgia? Well, not that it is conclusive evidence, but I still discover many of the original NES or C64 games that I have never played before (on my emulators) and still find those more fun than most newer games.

I think with the limitations in graphics, the designers were more focused on gameplay. Plus, I am willing to bet that most of the people making games those days didn't really go into the field intending to be game developers, but more stumbled on it.

Nowadays when you read about game development, most of the focus is on the newest graphics tricks or 3D engines and very little about storytelling, goals, or gameplay.

In fact, sadly, there are way too many "me too" games where the developers try to mimic the hot seller from last year over and over and over until they just kill the genre. Movies today are much the same way. Maybe too many boring fat-cats got their mittens into management and that kills innovation whereas the best games came without an ounce of market research or "last years biggest hit" to guide the outcome of a game idea.

Take as proof that some of the most played games are games like the "Pop Cap" games like Bejeweled. Very simple games, but very addicting to play.

For me, the peak was during the heydey of graphic adventure games. I still hunt for and buy nearly every graphic adventure game made. My favorites are always the simple 2D cartoon graphics variety. I have many in my collection that I haven't even played yet, but know I will.

So, yeah, I think the older games are genuinely more fun. A real test is to introduce a younger relative to these games and see what they think.

RetroPlayer's picture
Rudolph, way too many to list

Rudolph, way too many to list. :) My favorites were the LucasArts games like Maniac Mansion, Zak McKraken, The Dig, Monkey Island, etc... Some of the more recent examples have been Syberia and The Longest Journey series. The only problem with the more recent examples is that they are more focused on puzzles (ala 'Myst') than actual storytelling. Some of these games engage you so well that you actually go through emotions similiar to watching a movie.

RetroPlayer's picture
Come to think of it, I

Come to think of it, I remember actually approaching Electronic Arts (and got quite far) with a concept for the original Nintendo to produce Serial games. The idea was to have the main graphics libraries on a built in chip, but have a separate piece that plugged in which came as a subscription. Each month, you would get a new "episode" which was mostly a script that used the core graphics library and would put your characters in a new adventure and sometimes with new cast members or locations. Unfortunately, flash and eeproms were extremely expensive those days, so it didn't get much farther than a non-disclosure agreement and proposal package. The Nintendo licensing of that time was also a deal killer.

This was probably around 1989-90

Peter Redmer
Peter Redmer's picture
RetroPlayer, I think you

RetroPlayer, I think you really hit on most of my main beliefs about classic gaming, too. While I can't help but believe that it is a bit of nostalgia from childhood, I agree that games were overall more "fun" back in the day.  Here's some of my rationale:

1.  Difficulty

Games were freakin' hard when we were kids.  That is, assuming you grew up in the 80's like I did.  Games didn't give you an excuse, nor a step by step tutorial of how to play.  All we got was a poorly translated manual which didn't tell you anything about how to play.

Meaning, we had to LEARN how to play.  We had to be intuitive and patient.  We couldn't log into GameFAQs if we were having  tough time.  Maybe, MAYBE my parents would let me call the Nintendo hotline, but I could usually teach everyone there a thing or two in the first place.

All in all, I think the difficulty of games added to their value.  Finally beating Contra with no 30-guy-code was a real accomplishment.  Beating games where you can't die is not an accomplishment.  This is why it annoys me when I see "young" kids wearing old school Nintendo t-shirts.  It makes me laugh, cause I'd absolutely whomp them at any old game they threw at me.  (That being said, I'd get fragged in Halo 3 faster than the blink of an eye, and I could care less about most MMO's.)

2.  Inventiveness

I think a lot of developers back then were willing to try "weird" stuff that they can't do now.  Take River City Ransom for example.  The blend of simple RPG elements with an interesting (albeit simple) storyline was genius.  They didn't need blood or profanity to make this game attractive.  To my knowledge, though, there really hasn't been a game like it since.  Why?

3.  Simplicity

OK, OK, so there are a lot of games out now that are inventive and unusual.  But they're so complicated.  Whatever happened to simple AND inventive?  There are some examples out there, like Patapon for PSP, but for the most part the unusual games get so mired in complication that they're really hard to pick up and play.

4.  Gaming for its own sake

You don't see a lot of this anymore.  Gaming has become a social thing, especially with the onset of MMO's.  I think this is why new games lack the personality of classic games, since they don't need to spend as much time on it.  Gamers flock to any scenario where they can frag, pwn, or generally wreak havoc (ala WoW, Halo, etc.) or where they can show off to others (ala Spore, The Sims, etc).\

What I mean by all of this is that it seems like people play games now only in the social context, not because they enjoy it on their own.  The aspect of having tons of gold, elite gear and mounts, and a high level has surpassed the pleasure of beating a game just for personal reward or challenge.  

It's the difference between World of Warcraft, and Elder Scrolls: Oblivion - the latter of which is one of my favorite "new school" games.

5.  Music

Classic 8-bit music cannot be beat.  I don't care about your orchestral soundtrack.  I don't hum those tunes in my head all day.  I forget them as soon as I turn off the system.  But, for better or for worse, I have dozens of 8-bit themes burned into my memory forever... and they have a welcome place there.  I think this is because the simple bleeps and bloops are memorable, catchy, and give a unique personality to classic games that is unrivaled.

So that's all I have for now.  I'm pretty passionate about this topic and could go on for a while, so I figured I'd stop myself :)

RetroPlayer's picture
The mere fact that there is

The mere fact that there is the HVSID collection (collection of just about every commodore 64 piece of music that ever existed) and even internet radio stations devoted to it, I think Number 5 is very valid.

In fact, the Super Mario Bros. theme is the ringer on my cell phone. :) And of course, nearly everyone recognizes it when it rings.

Ditto on the rest of them. That was one of my biggest disappointments just upgrading to the Sega Genesis. Too many freakin' buttons. It seemed very unnecessary :)

And yeah, 34 (almost 35) here, so I grew up in the 80's.

Peter Redmer
Peter Redmer's picture
Similarly, I have the Contra

Similarly, I have the Contra and Mystical Ninja theme songs on my phone. I'm adding a theme from Wizards and Warriors as soon as I get a chance and will probably create others when I have the free time.

My friend loaded the Legend of Zelda theme on his dad's phone (yes, he played Zelda!!) and it is almost universally recognized as well.

My affinity for old chiptunes is reflected in my love for sites such as Nectarine,,, and

Rudolph's picture
Very well stated, Pete.

Very well stated, Pete.

@RetroPlayer, Hehehe. I've got the Super Mario ringtone going too :)

32 here, 33 next week.

This whole thing has prompted me to go take a photo... Here's Dentarthurdent pwning some ducks.

RetroPlayer's picture
This whole tangent is

This whole tangent is interesting, really. The whole reason I posted pictures of my workshop was because I was in there setting up to start modding one of the Commodore 64 DTV joysticks into a computer and thought people might like to see where I do most of my hardware hacking.

Seems there are quite a few of us with similiar wide-ranging interests. I am not so much interested in "robots" as I am in animatronics (hence my attachment to the Elvis head) I like robotics, but find the electronics, aesthetics, and mechanics far more interesting than the software, which is usually the reverse of most people I know that are into robotics. To me, programming is just a "necessary evil" since the rest of it would be lifeless without it. I wish I were more into programming as I would probably finish more projects than I do now. Usually they stop and end up on the shelf once I have to start the programming phase. :) Lots of hardware lying around my workshop with no software at all in it yet.


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