Video games have come a long way over the past three decades, telling better stories and looking even more fantastic than ever before. Of course, we love to reminisce about the glory days, a simpler time that produced plenty of happy memories; kids these days don’t know what they’re missing.
With this in mind, pull out the black-and-white TV, grab your favorite controller, and enjoy these 10 awesome things about retro games. Then check out the best gaming moments from the 80s.
When being in tournaments meant competing against others in person
Nowadays, when tournaments are held, they're usually through the convenience of online challenges, either through random match-ups or comparing scores via Xbox Live and PlayStation Network. Back in the day, however, they were more about going to your local store and playing against others in person, through games like Street Fighter 2 for the SNES. People still get together for tournaments like these – EVO 2K springs to mind – but it wouldn't hurt to have a few more.
When there was no need for patches or DLC
When a game released in the classic retro era, that was it. You didn't have to worry about downloading a patch or waiting for downloadable content to finish the story. It was good to go, packaged within a cartridge for players to consume. Having a complete game was everything, and something you don't see too often these days.
When you asked friends or read magazines for advice
In this day and age, if you're stuck in a game, a walkthrough is as simple as checking YouTube or Prima Games. However, back in the 80s and early 90s, you often had to rely on a friend or game magazine to provide you with the necessary tips.
When game magazines made for good reading
Most of them are long gone now, but the old days generated some great reading material dedicated to our favorite hobby. Whether you were reading up on the Postmeister's antics in Gamefan Magazine, checking out the Review Crew in EGM or gazing upon the lovingly crafted pages of Nintendo Power, there was a lot to sit back and read.
When a PC networked battle was all you needed
Years ago, we stayed with roommates who set up the ultimate gaming center, consisting of a Sega Saturn, PlayStation and two fully rigged PCs, all in one spot. The PCs were the main attraction, as players battled against each other in games like Jedi Knight II and Doom without having to worry about finding an open lobby. Several PC gaming centers offer this sort of convenience, but nothing beat the days of simpler PC gaming.
When controllers had pause buttons
These days, controllers don't really have pause buttons per se, but rather a Menu button on Xbox One and an Options button on PS4. Looking back, however, the NES revolutionized things by having a Start button to pause games, so people could go eat or whatever, then return to play. Thankfully, Hyperkin's RetroN5 will return the pause button to its proper place this spring.
When arcades were king
Before video game consoles dominated the home, there was another place you could go and hang out with your favorite games – the arcade. Most of these establishments are gone, but nothing beat spending Saturday night at a local hangout, losing your allowance on the likes of Tempest and Battlezone. On a positive note, there has been a rise of barcade (bar and arcade) hybrids, so we highly suggest seeking those out.
When you saw The Wizard to get a sneak peek of Super Mario Bros. 3
Looking back, The Wizard was hardly a classic – or for that matter, believable – 80s film, but it did feature a first glimpse at Nintendo's juggernaut Super Mario Bros. 3. Some fans went to see the movie just to see the game in action, and maybe get a tip or two. For good measure, they also got to see some other interesting sights, like the Power Glove and…Christian Slater?
When Konami released four-player arcade games
It was the early 90s, and Konami came up with a novel concept to make a killing with arcade game sales – by introducing a number of co-op supported multiplayer action games. The most noteworthy were licensed releases, including the two Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles arcade games, The Simpsons Arcade and the six-player X-Men deluxe cabinet. For good measure, some original efforts made the grade as well, including Sunsetriders and Mystic Warriors.
When Capcom changed the arcade scene with Street Fighter 2
In the early 90s, arcades were losing their luster, as players were more interested playing at home. However, in 1991, Capcom added a fierce new competitor that would bring fans out in droves – Street Fighter 2. Featuring eight unique combatants, solid gameplay and a ton of strategy that's still being mastered to this day, the game went on to become a success, launching several sequels, subsequent fighting games, and a genre that remains highly popular to this day.
When Bomberman was the ultimate party game
Party games are pretty commonplace these days, but back then, there wasn't a Rock Band to lean on. Fortunately, there was Bomberman, Hudson Soft's diabolically fun multiplayer game, where players attempt to blow up one another in an enclosed grid, using a number of power-ups. The game's popularity surged on the Turbo-Grafx 16 and Super Nintendo, and continued to grow with releases on PlayStation, Sega Saturn and other systems. We don't see much from the series now, but it's worth tracking down an old console, a multitap and several controllers.
When you tried online gaming via X-Band
Nowadays, networking options in video games are quite common. However, the SNES and Genesis were not built with this tech in mind. Luckily, there was a neat little accessory called the X-Band that allowed users to connect with one another through certain game releases, such as EA Sports' NBA Live titles and Super Street Fighter 2. Although it wasn't sanctioned by Sega or Nintendo, the X-Band introduced a fairly acceptable online experience – and possibly paved the way for today's infrastructure.
When Tron was the ultimate video game movie
Video game movies leave a lot to be desired, with some exceptions to the rule, like the original Mortal Kombat. However, in the early 80s, Disney's Tron managed to define what a video game movie should be, even though an actual game wasn't produced until after the film's release. Starring Jeff Bridges, Cindy Morgan and Bruce Boxleitner, the movie was a cult success, and led to years of fandom between game releases and other periphenelia. For good measure, Disney followed it up in 2010 with the successful Tron: Legacy, and has a third film in the works.
When you got your first Activision patch
Back in the 80s, Achievements and Trophies did not exist. However, Activision provided a program where gamers could take pictures of their high scores, and as a result, receive a physical patch they could sew onto whatever they wished. Getting a patch in the mail was a true indication that you arrived as a gamer. Hey, Microsoft and Sony, why don't you try that?
When you beat Singe in Dragon's Lair
When Dragon's Lair released in 1983, it introduced innovative laser-disc technology, as well as one of the noblest heroes in the gaming era, Dirk the Daring. Moreover, it came with a goal that players couldn't wait to squash – beating the vile Singe the Dragon and rescuing the beautiful Princess Daphne. After dropping thousands of quarters and watching Dirk meet his doom in a number of creative ways (why would you drink from that vial, Dirk?), the dragon would eventually die – a proud moment for anyone involved. Oh, and when Daphne kissed you?
When you earned the top score on an arcade game
Want another reason why arcade games were so great? You could let everyone in the neighborhood know that you were the top dog at Pac-Man or Donkey Kong. Upon getting a high score, you would be able to put in your initials and challenge others to beat you. Sure, we have online leaderboards, but back then, this was the ultimate way to get recognition – unless you just felt like entering AAA.
When you bugged your parents to buy a new console
Rumors about the new Super Nintendo or Sega Genesis drove you crazy. You just had to have them. Who spent the money on these systems? Why, the parents of course. Well, some parents, rather. Some were content on just saying, "be happy with what you have!" Fortunately, we're at the age where we can buy our own consoles, though on the downside, the excitement we experienced upon opening those classic systems as kids is long gone.
When Starcade had you dreaming of owning your own arcade game
In the 80s, TBS aired a weekly game show that focused on competing in video games. Called Starcade, the show was on for many years, introducing players to all-new machines, and daring gamers to take on one another in high-scoring competitions – all in the hopes of winning their own video game.
On a side note, R.I.P. to host Geoff Edwards. You'll be missed.
When Tetris on the Game Boy distracted you from everything
Back in the 80s, the concept of portable gaming was rather weak, outside of Nintendo's limited Game & Watch collections. However, in 1989, the Game Boy was introduced, and soon after that, everyone was hooked. You couldn't pry players away from their Tetris sessions, even if that meant missing a doctor's appointment – or worse yet, a flight. What is today’s equivalent? Flappy Bird? Please!
When you had to blow inside game cartridges to make them work
Finally, whenever you had a problem with a video game in the old days, you didn't really have to worry about calling a support team or waiting for a patch. You simply turned the cartridge upside down and blew the dust from it. Problem solved.
We loved playing video games in the 90s. Here's why.