When reading the title of this you may think you know the answer. “Because they’re GOOD!” Well you aren’t wrong. When it comes to classic games the classics are known as “The Classics” for a reason. Either because they shaped the way we play games as we know it, they pushed new ground, or because simply, they are really, really good games. Of course as with any art form beauty is in the eye of the beholder and every gamer is different. Some may revel in the challenge of Mega Man 2 but sneer at the simplicity of Super Mario Bros or vice versa. Yet there is one constant among games that are classics, they have stuck around long after their original hardware has died or have re-invented themselves for the modern age.
One way these games refuse to die is that their developers keep finding ways to re-release their old titles. Be it for an anniversary, a new system launch, or just because. Games like Super Mario Bros., Sonic, Pac-Man keep getting re-releases be they games, plug n plays, or on mini consoles. Take Sonic and Mario for example. Both franchises have been around for a long time and one is celebrating an anniversary this year with the other having a big one just around the corner. Now for the 35th anniversary of Mario the original game was re-released for the umpteenth time, on a brand new Game and Watch system. Now this is pretty neat since it also takes a look back at Nintendo’s storied history and it adds a bigger nostalgia factor to those who were fans of the original handhelds. Now with this new addition, it adds yet another way one could play the original NES game. If memory serves there is as least 1 way you could play the original Super Mario Bros. on every major Nintendo console minus the N64 (there was a way to play it on the GameCube through Animal Crossing but the only way to reach it is by hacking the game). Now with Sonic’s 30th coming up next year, you know SEGA is going to do something big and most likely it means re-releasing the original 16- bit Sonic games on a new platform of some kind. Getting off SEGA and Nintendo games for a bit, another big anniversary this year was for Pac-Man as he reached the big 40. Arcade 1Up celebrated by making a new 40th anniversary cabinet as well as the company Numskull with their 40th Anniversary quarter-cade. The Pac-Man twitter team even made a special filter during the summer when San Diego Comic Con was supposed to be happening. In the past Namco also released Pac-Man plug n plays which featured the infamous level 256 where the game glitched out. It included other favorites too but the real draw was Level 256.
Besides re-releasing games, the retro aesthetic has become a fashion statement as of late. More and more people are embracing the things they loved in their childhood by wearing clothes with retro pixel art on them, getting different merchandise, or their new wallet/backpack. I had a Game Boy wallet for the longest time and I’ve gotten so many compliments on it I’ve lost track. It’s always a cool conversation starter and more and more I’m seeing people wearing shirts with a NES controller saying that they were “Classically Trained.” Even when we don’t play the games as much as we used to, we can still show our love of a certain era with different merchandise. I’m guilty as charged when it comes to getting retro gaming gear. I’m at a store and if I see a pajama set with 8-bit Link or a 16-bit Sonic blanket, I’m going to want to get it. It used to be a rare occurrence when you saw anything retro and now it’s not hard to find. Last year for the Christmas holiday season, Nintendo had a tab that was just labeled ‘Retro’ and you could guess where I wanted to spend my money. Besides buying things companies even take notice and do cool things with retro games. For the 30th anniversary of Pac-Man Google made a playable doodle on their home page which you can still play to this very day. In case you don’t believe me, here is the link for that doodle.
Now after a while these games that we love will start to get stale a bit. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t bad, it’s just we’ve beat them so many times before that they aren’t as fun anymore. That’s when developers like to switch things up and make the game a bit more interesting. Case and point, Tetris 99. It’s just Tetris but with 98 other players and you are facing off against them. It adds more concentration to the game and instead of throwing my controller down in disgust when I get knocked out, I want to keep going. Tetris is one of the most addicting games ever made, and making it a multiplayer game, a battle royale game even, kept making me want to go back. Eventually they added a marathon mode for those who didn’t want to play online but the main draw is the online match ups. Mario did this as well with Super Mario 35 and while it’s not as popular as Tetris it still shook things up. Best part that this isn’t even the first time I had a little Tetris revival. For those who forgot, back in the late 2000’s Facebook would have games on the site. Some (like me) still have nightmares of Farmville requests but there was one game in particular that my friends and I played almost daily. Tetris, now what made this version cool was that it kept score of you and your friends who were also playing the game. Meaning if you got the high score, you could go to school the next day and brag to your friends on how you demolished their high score. Which is something I did and was on the receiving end of. I recall playing Tetris on Facebook for a good long while just to beat my friend’s high score, it was fun and a great precursor to Tetris 99.
Now I’ve mentioned Mario, Sonic, Pac-Man, and Tetris quite a bit in this article, and I can hear someone ask me about the beloved Atari 2600 games, or about any of their favorite games. Now just because some games get some more attention than others does NOT devalue their classic status. Granted the ones I’ve mentioned are the more popular franchises but sooner or later some developer comes along and releases a collection or more. I’ve seen Atari Flashback games for the PS4 and Xbox One, Namco Museum games for the GBA and newer systems, the Neo Geo collection on the Nintendo e-shop and a 3D version of Pong which also doubles as a coffee table. Do a little digging and I’m sure you’ll be finding some way to play your favorite game. True classics won’t be going anywhere, and some how, some way, they will find a way back into your lives. It may not be the most orthodox way, and it may take a while before they come back, but somehow they’ll be back before you even realize it.