Why is retro gaming so appealing?

Gamers often heap accolades on all of the latest blockbuster releases on the PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. Showcasing increasingly realistic visuals, deep engaging gameplay, and vast open worlds for players to explore many would argue that games have never been better. But if that is the case, why are so many of us still longing for the games we played when we were younger? Just what is it that makes us so fond of retro gaming and why is is still so popular?

No Storage Woes

Whatever your modern gaming system of choice is, storage has become a problem for those of us who enjoy AAA games. While the Nintendo Switch doesn’t suffer as badly as it’s rivals, it’s becomming increasingly common for PC and console games to need in excess of 100Gb of space to install them. Regardless of the platform you use, this adds up quickly and let’s be honest, storage isn’t cheap, especially if you use a fast SSD. Short of uninstalling games frequently, it’s going to get expensive.

In contrast, retro gaming enthusiasts don’t even have to consider the need for hard disk installation at all when using original hardware. Some older 16-bit games can run from hard drives, but certainly don’t need obscene amounts of storage, and for those opting for emulation you could fit an entire game library in the space taken up by a single modern title.

Too Much “Adulting”

As we’ve got older, we’ve all taken on more responsibilities in our lives. Work, a social life and growing families commitments and it’s meant less free time for most of us to be able to sit down in front of the TV to play games. With the more extensive console games offering dozens, if not hundreds of hours of gameplay, not many of us have that luxury to be able to set aside that much time to play them. And even being able to save progress doesn’t help for those of us where time is precious.

Some may look to mobile phones for a quick fix of casual games (and I know I’ve got plenty installed on mine), while others may look to online casinos drawn to the allure of real money Blackjack. But when it comes to regular video games, most old-school retro classics were designed to be played and completed in a single sitting. You could load a game up, play and complete it in under an hour, less for arcade style games. While later consoles did have deeper games that needed more time dedicated to them, and offered save facilities, as a rule gaming was something you could easily dip in and out of for shorter more casual sessions.

Timeless Classics

It’s often said by those advocating retro gaming that games were better in the 80s and 90s. While this is certainly a subjective opinion, there are countless games – even ones dating back to the late 70s – that can genuinely be regarded as classics. In one form or another, these are still being played be legions of fans worldwide, have seen endless modern remakes and updates, and are re-released a never-ending time in their original form for one system or another under emulation. Games like Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Galaga, Super Mario Bros… there are good reasons why these games have endured for so long.

Deep down, it’s the playability that has stood the test of time and even those who are drawn in by modern gaming aesthetics have been able to look beyond the limited pixelised visuals of older games and have discovered just what it is that makes them so special. It’s no wonder that Nintendo have seen fit to include so many emulation packages as part of the Switch Online subscription package and giving gamers access to a vast library of home retro classics free.

Pick Up And Play

But it’s not just the gameplay that makes them so appealing. As games have become bigger and offered more complex storytelling, the user interface has followed suit. Unless it’s a more simplistic arcade game, most contemporary releases utilise most of the buttons on modern game controllers. And if that wasn’t enough, there’s usually a need for tutorials for players to get to grips with game controls, and the game engine in order to be able to master them completely.

In contrast, the majority of retro gaming releases couldn’t be more different. You could show someone a game that they’ve never played before from the 80s, they’ll know all the controls and how to play in seconds and you can just focus on playing and enjoying the game. And there’s no need to worry about leaving a game for months, coming back and forgetting how to play it as you’ll be able to pick it straight back up in seconds.

It’s this easy accessibilty that makes retro gaming much easier for people of all ages to get into. Certainly if you’ve ever tried to introduce a family member to one of your favourite console games and tried to explain the controls, they’ll often look bewildered. But let them discover your favourite retro game and you’ll have to prise the controller out of their hands!


In today’s financial climate, more than ever people are looking at gaming as being something of a luxury. Despite the social and mental health benefits offered by gaming, it’s not a cheap hobby. With modern consoles needing an initial outlay of hundreds of pounds just to buy the console itself, then AAA games costing upwards of £50-£60 on release – and that’s before factoring in additional costs of DLC content and online subscription charges, it’s no wonder why retro gaming is so appealing.

Whether you opt for a recreated system with built-in games that will cost under £100 for a complete plug-and-play solution such as the Atari 400 Mini, a full set up of real hardware for a true old-school approach, or opt for compilations of retro games for modern platforms, there are plenty of affordable legal options that are within reach of most budgets. Granted there are rarer, expensive games that are left for the more die-hard collectors (the jewel in my own collection is worth in excess of £1,000), but even the most casual retro gamer can build up a collection they can be happy with and one that will provide endless gaming fun.

Nostalgia Trip

I can’t finish without the most obvious reason people consider when giving retro gaming a go. For those of us who are old enough, we often want to play games we remember either from our childhood or from when we were growing up. Games we used to play in the arcades, as children with our friends, or ones we have fond memories of being the first games we bought. Or in some cases, early titles in classic franchises such as Final Fantasy.

Not every game will be as good as we might remember, but there’s definitely something to be said for reliving the past through gaming. And for those of us with children, it can be a great way to share our gaming experiences with them on what we had when we were their ages.

Closing Thoughts

I’ve only really scratched the surface of why people are taking another look back at retro gaming. For those of you thinking of giving it a try, or for those of you who are already avid retro gamers enjoying the best of what the 80s and 90s had to offer one thing is for certain… as long as you’re playing fun and engaging games, at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what system you are playing on, or how old a game is. If you’re enjoying it, then it’s worth doing!

Photo by Anurag Sharma

About Simon Plumbe 205 Articles
Husband, father and lifelong geek. Originally from the West Midlands, now spending my days in South Wales with my family and a house full of animals. Passionate about video games, especially retro gaming, the Commodore 64 and PlayStation Vita. Love pro wrestling, sci-fi and I'm an animal lover and vegetarian. Enjoyed this and my other articles? Why not buy me a coffee: http://ko-fi.com/simonplumbe

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