The Video Games You Played as a Kid, but Twenty-Six Years Later

The Video Games You Played as a Kid, but Twenty-Six Years Later

(I want to get you, as the reader, in a certain thought process. I want you to listen to the music at the top of this article. If you don’t want to or can’t, I understand, but listening will improve your immersion into the article.)

When video games first started, they were as archaic as caveman art. The player reached some goal alone, together with a second player, or against the player. When you look at the older games on consoles like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) or any Atari they can be fun, but there’s nothing to them other than a few inputs. You move around a bit, maybe shoot something or jump on someone, but if you aren’t good at the game you die, then you have to restart the whole game. There very few games that had a save feature to allow you to continue from the last place you were alive.

When the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) released in 1991, developers saw the amazing gameplay of Super Mario World and phenomenal adventure of The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past,  they realized something that they couldn’t do with NES games: they could tell a concise and entertaining tale that players could put down and pick up without restarting the whole game. The SNES gave us timeless masterpieces that would become the base for all great games. The 90’s were a golden time for video games because of the SNES.

Let’s fast-forward 26 years later, Nintendo released the SNES Classic, a mini version of the famous console that has 20 memorable games stored in the system. It wasn’t until around one year from the release when I picked one up. I had played most of these games plenty of times before, but there was still excitement in my gut when I purchased the system; a sense of nostalgia. During the first week of getting it, I played nothing else. That whole week of the summer was dedicated to nothing but SNES goodness. After the long period of time I finally started playing some other games, but there was something really different in my playing style when playing the modern games.

I couldn’t put my finger on what was different about them, but there’s something that switches on in my brain when I play modern games compared to the retro games. I decided to put matters into my own hands and take action. For the past week I have been playing nothing but Super Nintendo Entertainment System games. If I wasn’t playing those games, I was watching my brother play modern games and observing them as a whole.

I must say, for a research project this has been the weirdest one yet. Since I couldn’t write anything about this until I understood more about both modern and classic games, I would bring my SNES Classic into class and research by playing these games. It was a fun time, but I gotta say when a large amount of people are confused with your situation it gets annoying to have to explain your article over and over.

Even though people started to pester me about this project, I found out more about retro games. Only a few people recognized the console and got excited about it. When I walked down the halls with the console in my hands, I waited for some sort of reaction, but no one noticed. I asked people if they recognized it and most said they had no clue, but when someone recognized it their face was filled with an emotion I recognize easily: nostalgia. Many wanted to play Street Fighter 2, while some wanted to play the various platformer games on the system. Mr. Cogswell, a math teacher at Pinckney High School, saw the SNES Classic and the same reaction happened. Unfortunately, the console only accepted HDMI cords, which Mr. Cogswell’s projector did not have.

As the week went on I started to pick up a few observations along the way. One thing that I noticed is that a lot of the modern games are very fast paced and stressful. Of course some of the SNES games can be stressful, but there’s a different level of stress. If anything modern games have so much going on that you’re completely overwhelmed with the rapid speed of things. SNES games tend to overwhelm you with difficult enemies instead of how fast everything is happening. Things feel more manageable for people of all ages. Take my parents, for example; my parents love the old SNES and they’ve been playing it since it came out. When we play fast games like Super Smash Bros. on our Wii U they can never keep up. They don’t like to play most modern games, except for the party games like Mario Party or Just Dance, because they get overwhelmed.

You might think that they might just be getting too old for games, but when my parents play the SNES games, a light of joy shines bright in their heart. They aren’t the greatest at the games, but they actually stand a chance when playing Super Mario World or Donkey Kong Country because the games are not that hectic compared to the platformers we see today. Many modern platformers try to make things interesting for long-time fans by adding newer and crazier items that change how the player handles the level. That can be cool for people who are looking for a challenge or something new, but for a lot of people the SNES games have the bare necessities for their games and spices things up with their own style.

Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars is a pretty basic Roleplaying Game (RPG) by having a turn-based system and the key elements of any battle system: specials, items, attack, defend, and run. It could have stopped there, had a basic story for Mario, created generic RPG music, then go on their merry way. Instead these developers made a cast of memorable characters, a playlist of catchy music, and a story that has more heart than any Mario game created.

If there’s anything that I found noteworthy about these games, it is that they’re fun. This is something kind of obvious, but it’s something that many games lose focus of. When I play these games and when people watch these games it brings a sense of joy that is found in everyone. These games aren’t just for the adults, but they’re for any person of any age. I played every game that was on this SNES Classic in front of my 6 year old sister and they were completely fine for her to see.

These games are fun for fun’s sake and many games aren’t as memorable because they lose sight of what’s important, and that’s what is important about these retro games. They are a reminder that games can have a compelling story, phenomenal music, and great but basic gameplay and still stay fun for everyone.

-Michael Gonzalez