Why are nostalgic games so popular?

When 3D games made their way onto home consoles in the 1990s, many observers believed that the 8- and 16-bit heroes would soon come to an end. But that never came. On the contrary: games with a nostalgic feel are becoming increasingly popular. Why actually?

Video game culture

Video game culture

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Mega Man, Contra, Street Fighter – these and many other names determined my childhood and I was captivated by various consoles for days. And I was not alone in this: the school playground was the place to talk about the latest games, just like today about the new hot Netflix series. Only that many gamers can still remember every little detail from their old favorite games, while most series – and, to be honest – also many new games are almost forgotten after the end credits.

Fan favorites with no expiration date

The remake of the classic Gameboy Zelda: Link’s Awakening became one of the best-selling games for the Nintendo Switch within a few months. Streets of Rage IV is expected with more excitement than any beating game in recent years. Yes, even sequels and reissues that are not officially announced are being discussed as if they were just around the corner: after the Monster Boy developers revealed they'd proposed Disney to continue the popular DuckTales series some time ago online immediately calls for the game.

This penchant for nostalgia is not entirely new. The cinema and series landscape has been celebrating the heroes of our childhood for quite a while. The trend started in the haze of Michael Bay's Transformers films, extends to Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon A Time … in Hollywood and is definitely not over with the hundredth Stranger Things clone. After the 1960s and 1980s, the 1990s are currently experiencing their revival – and it is still at the very beginning. The question remains why everything works so well. Why does an audience want to see the same stories again and again in a slightly different form? Why do gamers go crazy in times of photo-realistic graphics and endless open worlds when a 20-year-old SNES game gets a sequel or remaster? Was everything just better in the past?

Retro games: past is future

Certainly not. But: more is possible today. Many of the gamers who grew up with the classics of the 8- and 16-bit era are themselves developers, programmers and artists today. It is understandable that they are only too happy to pay tribute to the games that have shaped their life so decisively. And most of these tributes really have something on the box – often more than was possible in the originals.

In fact, one could say that the true potential of many classics can only be fully exploited today: stories that used to take place primarily in the minds of the players can now be told; Ideas and mechanics that had to be rejected too complex years ago can now be implemented; The graphics of games are no longer based on technical limitations, but on the vision of their creators.

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It is only understandable that fans continue to stick with old favorites. It is not a sign of backwardness, no turning away from today's possibilities, but the desire to see the heroes of your own childhood in new splendor and to be able to celebrate them extensively again as an adult. And most of them, newly staged by their own fans, can keep up quite well with the new faces of the industry.

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