Retro Gaming and How It Fits Into Modern Gaming Culture

min read
A CRT TV on a table with a game that looks similar to Space Invaders on screen. A controller sits next to the TV with VHS tapes on the other side.
BetMGM Aug 30, 2023, 3:00 PM

People of older generations often jokingly use the phrase, “They don’t make them like they used to,” to refer to things that were better when they were younger. You may even feel this way about slot machines when compared to online slots

But for some gamers, this is more than just a cliché phrase. These gamers have a special place for games and gaming systems that would be considered ancient by modern standards. These people are “retro gamers” who enjoy playing and collecting games and gaming hardware that are part of the “retro gaming” scene. 

But what exactly is retro gaming? And why do so many gamers love it? This blog explores the role of retro gaming in modern gaming culture and whether it has a future.

What Is Retro Gaming?

Retro, derived from “retrospective,” is defined by Dictionary.com as “of or designating the style of an earlier time.” You’ll likely have heard this term used to refer to fashion and music, but it’s also associated with gaming.

The exact definition, however, has blurred over time.

The people at 8-Bit Central, in their article “When Is Retro Gaming Really Retro — 20 Years Old?” pin the minimum age for a game or gaming system to be considered retro at 20 years. Some gamers, like the people at Old School Gamers in their article “How Many Years Does It Take For A Game To Become Retro?” think retro gaming titles and hardware must be at least 15 years old. And other gamers think that retro gaming includes games and systems that are older than 10 years, as acknowledged in the article, “When Can a System Be Considered Retro?” from CBR.com.

Needless to say, gamers love to debate over the details, so to play it safe, you can think of retro gaming simply as old games and gaming systems.

Why Do Gamers Love Retro Games?

The main reason people love anything old, whether it’s clothes, food, movies, music or yes, video games is nostalgia. 

Nostalgia is a feeling of mixed emotions. On one hand, you feel happy when you visit the memories associated with those things, while on the other, you know you’ll never get to experience them the way you used to. 

And you’d be right that this retro nostalgia is why some people love retro games. At least some of the time. Many people enjoy experiencing these classic games or playing with older gaming hardware the way they used to when they were younger. 

But gaming nostalgia isn’t the only reason people love retro games.

In a video titled “(Discussion) What Makes Retro Video Games Better than Modern Games,” retro gaming YouTuber Retro Bird shares some other reasons why people enjoy old-school gaming so much.

1. Retro Games Are Plug-and-Play

No massive updates when you start a game for the first time. No long loading screens. With many old cartridge-based games, it’s just plug in and start playing.

2. Retro Games Prioritize Gameplay

More modern titles may have excellent graphics, incredible soundtracks and even award-winning storylines, but many retro games are simply about playing and having fun. Just like these retro slots.

3. Retro Games Are Easy To Play but Difficult To Master

Retro games often slowly introduced players to the game mechanics, which often weren’t that complex to begin with. Also, the difficulty slowly ramped up as the game progressed, giving the player time to figure out what was going on. Finally, on older video game systems, you often had a direction pad (or D-pad) and two or four buttons. This meant that players could easily quickly figure out what did what. Many modern games and gaming systems require a massive amount of button presses, with different combinations of buttons and directions doing things, making them very difficult to figure out without a tutorial.

4. Finishing Retro Games Is Actually an Accomplishment

While older games may have appeared simpler on the surface, many retro titles are notorious for being incredibly hard to actually finish, especially compared to modern games. This is why many people think you actually have good gaming skills if you’ve managed to finish many older games.

5. Retro Game Developers Had Time To Make More Games

If you enjoyed games from a particular company, chances are you can find a lot of retro titles made by them. Unfortunately, due to the time that it takes for a game developer to make just one game these days, you’re unlikely to see more than one title from your favorite designer every few years (and sometimes it takes as long as a decade for a game to come out.)

6. Retro Games Have Beautiful 2D Graphics

If you like the look and feel of old-school sprite-based graphics, retro games have these visuals in spades, with some developers creating beautiful artwork despite the limitations of the hardware they had.

7. Retro Games Are Complete

No need to worry about downloadable or incomplete content with retro games. The entire game, for better or worse, is there for you on the cartridge or disk. You can play it in its entirety whenever you want.

8. You Actually Own Retro Games

With digital games that you download or require internet access to play (something that’s becoming increasingly common, even for single-player games,) there’s always the risk that the company might shut down game servers or the company itself might close down entirely, either cutting you off from parts of the game or preventing access to a game entirely. With retro games, since all the content is on the cartridge or disk, you actually own a copy of the game.

Gotta Catch Them All

Another reason why some people love retro gaming is because they are collectors. These are people who love to own old games, either because they have nostalgia for these video games or because they’re on a mission to create a rare retro gaming collection. People will often spend hundreds of dollars on games and gaming hardware that are in good condition, not because they want to play them, but so they can keep them. 

In some cases, retro game collectors are also on the lookout for valuable retro games and gaming devices that they can sell, but for most retro game collectors, it’s about adding these items to their collections. 

Does Retro Gaming Have a Future?

The short answer is yes. Many people still want to play older games or add them to their collections, meaning retro gaming will still be a part of gaming culture for many years to come. 

Even in the era of digital downloads and other hi-tech gaming developments, people still spend significant amounts of their time and money on collecting and preserving older games. One need only look back at the infamous Flappy Bird, a mobile game that was so frustratingly addictive that people spent thousands of dollars to own a device that still had it installed after the developer removed the game from the app store. Or how a game developer spent hours fixing the code for the classic PlayStation hit Wipeout and released it free to play through a web browser in the hope that Sony will release a remaster.

Games and game technology may advance and drive new developments across all aspects of gaming, including pushing the evolution of online casinos and gaming apps, but thanks to retro gamers, these older games and gaming devices are rarely lost or forgotten.

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Our BetMGM editors and authors are sports experts with a wealth of knowledge of the sports industry at all levels. Their coverage includes sports news, previews and predictions, fun facts, and betting.