Game on: retro classics live on in the modern console era

  • Despite the release of a new generation of consoles, retro gaming continues to thrive on platforms such as Xbox Live and the PlayStation Network
  • Though the nostalgia of older gamers plays a role in this, much interest comes from younger gamers eager to explore the games of the past
  • And although some remakes of retro games are disappointing, they raise awareness of classic games and gaming culture as a whole

Power up with useful links, check out The Next Level Gaming’s exclusive interview with Thomas Amato of Cardiff retro gaming store Super Tomato, or take the poll and tell us your thoughts: is there a future for retro games on next gen consoles? Don’t forget to share your favourite!

Nintendo 64 controller

Retro game Banjo Kazooie, originally made for the Nintendo 64, is one game to have made the transition to modern consoles. Image credit: Alex Blake

Picture this. A boy sits in front of a TV screen, a controller gripped tightly in his hands, his games console humming away in his peripheral vision. On the screen is a bear clad in yellow shorts, the sharp angles and garish colours a world away from the slick experience of the modern game. An orange bird emerges awkwardly from the bear’s backpack as a yokelish cry escapes his lips, piercing the unsettlingly vivid blue sky.

This is a scene from the iconic adventure game Banjo Kazooie, a staple on millions of Nintendo 64 games consoles in the 1990s. The difference? The boy is playing it on his Xbox 360.

Extra life

Games console global software sales

Million of games have been sold for retro consoles like the PlayStation and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). Developers have tapped into this, re-releasing or re-designing many classic games made famous on these platforms. Statistics source: VGChartz.com. Graph: Alex Blake

At a time when a new generation of games consoles is being released, one would be forgiven for thinking the death knell of retro gaming had been sounded. But the world of the Nintendo 64 and the Sega Megadrive is living on, despite the radical changes since their heyday.

It’s an interesting paradox. We live in an era of high tech, high profits and even higher stakes, where game launches can take upwards of half a billion dollars in 24 hours, yet retro gaming is experiencing a remarkable resurgence.

With a big push from online marketplaces, titles that were once considered moribund are alive and kicking in the digital age.

One man with a fine understanding of the evergreen nature of retro gaming is Thomas Amato, owner of Super Tomato in Cardiff. The store sells classic games and consoles, with everything from Commodore 64s and Super Nintendos to Sega Dreamcasts and GameBoys adorning its overflowing shelves.

Though this year has been lean in terms of footfall, his store usually does remarkably well among students. Amato explains that for these people, retro gaming offers a gaming experience very much out of the norm: “I think there’s a great aspect of exploration.”

“Say you have bought the new Zelda or the new Mario and you really like it,” he continues. “You pop online, do a little bit of research and you find out that there were titles that came out prior to that in the series. People are eager to see that for the first time.”

Retro gold mine

Online platforms such as the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live may be best known for being the digital playgrounds of FIFA hotshots and Call of Duty wannabe soldiers, but an increasing share of space is being taken over by retro games remade and reimagined for a new generation.

Darran Jones, editor of Retro Gamer magazine, sees this as a simple case of economics in action: “Companies like Sega and Nintendo are starting to realise that they are sitting on retro gold mines and are doing their best to sell them to new audiences.”

And he points out that doing this is incredibly easy, as the games that are distributed on these online platforms are no different in essence from the ROMs that were found in games cartridges 15 or 20 years ago.

See what IGN thought of the re-release of Banjo Kazooie

With a young audience keen to explore the past and a gaming industry eager to resell it, it’s little wonder retro gaming is experiencing something of a renaissance into the 21st century.

Raising awareness

Yet not everyone is happy with this development. Jason Moore, owner of “the world’s first classic games company” at RetroGames.co.uk, believes that the digital versions of retro titles are poor in comparison to the originals.

“In my view most of these remakes are very disappointing and damage the reputation of the original titles,” he laments. He decries the publishers responsible for a lack of creativity or commercial bravery, arguing that they simply rely on gamers’ goodwill to sell cheap products made with little reinvention.

“Companies like Sega and Nintendo are starting to realise that they are sitting on retro gold mines” — Darran Jones, editor of Retro Gamer magazine

Quality concerns are certainly an issue. If the reinvention of classic games is not given the time and attention it needs, it can only reflect badly on the original games themselves, leading curious gamers to conclude that the past is not worth revisiting.

However, Moore is quick to state that game re-invention could still be worth exploring today, pointing to PlayStation 4 title Resogun as an example that worked well.

And if nothing else, the emigration of classic games onto modern consoles has brought with it a new awareness of the past and the entertainment of that era, however imperfect the transition.

As Amato says: “We were a little worried when virtual consoles – Xbox Live, PlayStation Network – first appeared, but all they’ve really done is raise awareness of retro gaming as a whole, and that’s a good thing.”

And if this new-found awareness grants a certain bear and his feathered friend a new lease of life, then retro gaming will surely be the better for it.


Share your thoughts: is there a future for retro games on next generation consoles? Or is it game over, with classic games unable to compete with modern releases? Take the poll, leave your thoughts in the comments below or tweet us: @NextLvlGamingUK.

Check out The Next Level Gaming’s exclusive interview with Thomas Amato, owner of Cardiff’s famous Super Tomato retro gaming store. Images: Alex Blake

And don’t forget to take the poll:


Power up: useful links

  • Gaming stats from VGChartz.com, covering software and hardware sales by platform, global games sales, articles and more.
  • RetroGames.co.uk, ‘the world’s first classic games company’
  • Modern Playing, a touring event featuring debate and discussion surrounding video game culture
  • Jaakko Suominen’s detailed article examining retro gaming and society: The Past as the Future? Nostalgia and Retrogaming in Digital Culture

Read more:

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3 thoughts on “Game on: retro classics live on in the modern console era

  1. Because of games like Super Mario, Zelda, Final Fantasy etc(games that span generations) their will always be nostalgia for memories of enjoyment with older games. As long as there is a market there is a future

    • I agree. What will be interesting will be seeing whether what we consider retro games (Banjo Kazooie, Mario Kart, etc) will survive, or whether a new generation of games that we now consider modern will take their place on the retro podium. If that makes sense!

  2. Pingback: Will next-gen consoles kill off retro gaming? | The Next Level Gaming

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