3 Things I Miss About Old School Video Games

Dave LeClair 13-03-2012

Times change, and I understand that; but does that mean I cannot yearn for the old days? I cannot be the only one who misses some things about the good old days of video games, a time when things were simpler. A time when fuzzy puppy dogs and rainbows abounded, and everyone was happy. That is not to say that I do not love modern video games, because obviously I do, seeing as I write a weekly column where most of the games featured are newer titles. Still, I look back to my childhood and I feel a kindred bond with some of these old games.


There are things about older games that suck, but the positives outweigh most of the negatives, and sometimes I miss those simpler times. I am sure a lot of you younger readers will have no idea why we old fogies miss those good old games with crappy graphics and almost no stories, but I can help you gain a firm understanding about why we miss the old school. For my fellow old geezers, let us take a trip down memory lane and relive what was so great back in the day.


In the old days, games were hard. Sure, the games may have only been 2 hours long, but when you have to try it 1,000 times to beat it, it becomes a lot longer and a million times more satisfying than most of the games out there today. The feeling of playing a hard boss repeatedly in a game like Contra is something that today’s games rarely even attempt to duplicate.

good old games

Video games today are all about telling a great story. They are filled with cinematic scenes, dialog and characters acting like real human beings. This is fine, but it is such a rarity to see a game where the whole point is just to survive. Back then, games could not rely on simply allowing you to live out a story, they had to create their fun with a feeling of accomplishment by doing something incredibly difficult, and it is something that is sorely missed with modern video games.

Less Emphasis On Being Pretty & More Emphasis On Mechanics

Back in the day, all those “good old games” looked like crap. It was never a competition between games to see who could push the hardware to its limits and make the prettiest looking game. Back then, it was all about who could make the most fun video game. No one cared if your sprites had a little extra pop on their graphics; all we cared about was whether the game had good mechanics.


old video games

It was a glorious time where video game studios did not have to invest millions of dollars in high-end motion capture devices and 3D rendering. Instead, they spent all of their time thinking about how to take the hardware they had, and put out a game that was challenging and fun.

I like good graphics as much as the next person, but I do not like when a game developer clearly was more concerned with developing their art than they were the actual game. After all, we play games for fun, and fun should always be the number one priority for game developers.

No Hand Holding

Today, when you first launch almost any game, you have to play through some kind of massive tutorial that breaks down and explains how to do every little thing in the game. Back in the day, this did not exist. Part of the fun of playing a game was trying to figure out how the heck you were supposed to do anything. You wandered around aimlessly, you died a lot, but in the end, you figured out how to play the game by yourself.


That was so incredibly satisfying. A game like Mario, which is one of the most universally played video games ever, had no hand holding process. You simply pushed “start” and were thrust into the world, forced to figure out what to do on your own.

good old games

If Mario came out today, the first level would consist of tips like, “press A to jump” and “that turtle is bad, you should not let him touch you.” Common sense should tell you that the turtle is bad, but that just is not enough for most modern games. When I played Mario I was somewhere around 4 years old, yet I managed to brute force my way through it. I learned as I went, and I figured out how to beat the game.

To this day, beating the original Mario on my own is one of the most satisfying experiences of my gaming life, and I fear that the new generation of gamers may never get to experience something like this.



As I said before, I love modern video games. I just wish that developers would take some cues from the good old games that came before and bring them into new games. The next generation of gamers is missing much of the thrill and challenge that we got to experience as we were coming up and learning the ropes of being a gamer.

What do you miss about old school video games? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. Anonymous
    October 18, 2015 at 4:57 pm

    I'm only 16 and I understand you completely. All of my favorite games from my younger childhood are going to crap. Halo 5, Rise of the tomb raider, and now star wars battlefront. These are game series that I used to to love, but now their being dumbed down to appeal to more 'casual' players. The difficulty is lowered, and the skill gap is non-existant, I want games where I will get my ass handed to me over and over again until I force myself to get better.

  2. Erik
    July 23, 2012 at 7:55 pm

    Great Post!!!
    I am a programmer and have been looking into making a game. What has saddened me in my research so far is that everyone likes easy hold your hand games. I'm so glad to hear that those of us from...shall we call it the mario bros generation, still enjoy difficulty and playing for hours and hours on end to just to try to get one level further or pass that one difficult boss.

  3. Matthew C.
    March 16, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    first of all, i shed a tear by reading this post, i cannot agree more to what you have said, and basically, you've said it all already, i miss the old gen SO MUCH, back then when i beat mario by myself, it was the most PERFECT moment of my life, i felt i had grew from Level 1 to Level 2, i felt more alive and walked around smiling at everyone, sure, back then i didn't pay any bills, and our goal was to get good grades and study, but still, i've been disconected from the old generation video game for so long, i bet when i start playing it, i'll cry, and i know there is tons and tons of emulators but still, it will NEVER sub the REAL DEAL, i like today's games, but it will never be as good as the old school ones, todays games have very few missions, great graphics and very few choices, and not many levels, take Donkey Kong for example, it took me forever to beat it, and still, i feel like playing it, now i have an xbox 360, and a few games, and everytime i play it, i have a hard time choosing a game i want to play, because they are all boring...

    i'd like to add more but today is not my day to write down something THIS cool, thank you for the topic, God Bless!

  4. Richard Overton
    March 14, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    I remember playing the Sonic games from around the age of 5 to 9, and yes they were good back then. If you think back to those games however they were all very similar, navigate a 2D world from left to right killing and collecting things with only a couple of buttons on the control pad. Now there are an unbelievable amount of different types of game and controls. Yes the tutorials can be annoying but they are useful too. I remember the first time I played a game like Call of Duty. I literally had no idea how to control it. This is because there are now a lot more buttons on the controller. It has become more difficult to CONTROL the game than to PLAY it. eg - Sonic, press left/right to move and A to jump. COD use both analogues to move & a variety of buttons to jump, shoot, crouch, etc. So I could argue in fact that old school games are too easy to control. Have you played Portal? A very different style of game. There are no enemies as such but very clever mechanics.

    • Dave LeClair
      March 16, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      I have played Portal. It was very good, and it got very challenging towards the end. Haven't played the second one yet, but I intend to!

  5. MrJohnSr
    March 14, 2012 at 8:22 am

    Although i somewhat agree with the post, i disagree about the "..all video games looked like crap". You probably don't know the amount of brainpower required to design a good looking game on VERY limited resources. For anyone interested in graphics and a dash of nostalgia, read Tsugumo's "So you want to be a pixel artist?" - especially this chapter: demystifying the greats (

    Trust me, as an aspiring pixel artist (and painting, and 3d modeling and several others ^_^), i have the utmost respect for the graphic artists of old..

    • Dave LeClair
      March 16, 2012 at 12:53 pm

      Maybe look like crap was too strong, I just meant from a technical stand point they can't compare to the games of today.

  6. car
    March 14, 2012 at 3:43 am

    I used to spend hours playing super mario although I loved the arcade type games: brickout, pacman. That was all done on the little cartridge consol, sega rip off thing we had.

    On the PC Tetris was awesome and kept one busy for hours and hours. Later came police quest, wolfenstien 3d, talk golf and formula 1. And this was all before we even got a color screen!VGA PC screen games I loved ... age of empires, sim city 3 and need for speed.Today I have given up trying to have a computer that can play the latest games. I have a ps3. I have only purchased 5 games and not finished one. GT is great, although I have not earned enough points to buy a decent car so not going so well. I can't master the damb tutorial scene of AC1. LA Noire has got me stumped on the third case. Tintin just irritates me, although I have got pretty far, what with it being rather easy to win fights and the like. Playing uncharted 1 is like watching a movie, very cool although I am yet to get out of the temple or what ever it is where all these people are shooting me.

    Got to admit, where I was willing to spend days building cities, or working out my next step playing police quest ... I just don't seem to have the patience anymore. 

    • Dave LeClair
      March 16, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      It sounds like modern games just aren't your cup of tea. At least the old school ones are always available when you need them!

  7. Synfidie
    March 14, 2012 at 1:28 am

    I clicked enter before i wanted to there. Point being...i have a hard time with newer games because i get bored SO quickly. There are only three games that I can honestly say I adore that are somewhat modern --Fallout 3, Fallout New Vegas, and Oblivion (hate Skyrim). Newer games--its all the same thing over and over and over again...but not in a fun way. 

    • Dave LeClair
      March 16, 2012 at 12:55 pm

      Well I can't say I agree with you on the hating Skyrim part, as I love it. Otherwise, I agree with your points.

  8. Synfidie
    March 14, 2012 at 1:26 am

    Freaking Dragon Warrior, that was one of the first games that I remember being so sincerely happy and self-important about getting to the final boss after...i don't know how long it took. First you had to kill 5,000 slimes to get one freaking experience level. What made me more sad tho? My mom used my saved game and killed the boss. I'll never forgive her. 
    She did the same thing in Mario too! I was the first person to reach what was it, lvl 8? She freaking went in there using my tactics with the flower pots and beat the game. Bah. 

  9. Chris Hoffman
    March 14, 2012 at 12:08 am

    Graphics were still an issue back then though, weren't they? Whenever a newer system came out, improved graphics were always a huge part of the attraction.

    I remember Star Fox was a big deal because of its graphics.

    • Dave LeClair
      March 14, 2012 at 12:35 am

      New system yes, but in this generation it has become a battle of game to game pushing the hardware to the limits. Back then, a new console launched and the graphics were as good as they got, and it was all about the game play.

      • Chris Hoffman
        March 14, 2012 at 1:45 am

        Depends on the generation, I suppose! For the the Star Fox example, the SNES Star Fox cartridge included a "Super FX" chip to drive the graphics.

        Game developers were literally shipping dedicated hardware with their games to one-up the competition and drive graphics further.

        • Dave LeClair
          March 16, 2012 at 12:56 pm

          That is true, but it still seems like the one upping is much more prevalent in today's games as far as the graphics go.

  10. Kerceliafletcher
    March 13, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    I, too, miss the old games.  I don't need to finish a game in one day.  What attracted me to the old games was the challenge of knowing that I was really going to have to work throught it.

    • Dave LeClair
      March 14, 2012 at 12:35 am

      So true, the challenge of the old games is so satisfying! 

  11. christopher pepin
    March 13, 2012 at 6:24 pm

    There is nothing wrong with making a game easy to understand. People don't enjoy being forced to trial and error there games and you are confusing your joy of lording over the difficulty of your old games and the actual joy of playing them. the reason why all of these things changed is because as much as your nostalgia vision might remember  people don't enjoy having to restart the entire game each time they make a mistake. People like the fancy graphics. People like knowing what to do. Yes it makes the games easier but it makes them more enjoyable which is what the game developers want. Also the joy you get for beating the hard game is not greater than the joy of a game that is enjoyable the entire game.

    • Dave LeClair
      March 13, 2012 at 6:31 pm

      maybe for you this is the case, but I would have to disagree. People still create games that are brutally hard, take a look at Demon Souls. They may not sell as well as the easy hits, but that doesn't mean there are not gamers out there who prefer that sort of experience. 

    • Matthew C.
      March 16, 2012 at 7:00 pm

      there are people who likes no challange, that is todays case, EVERYTHING is turned to the easy button, and literaly EASY, there is a game in which will remain NAMELESS, i payed 60 bucks for it, and beat it in half a day...and this is a GREAT new PS3/360 game, not just another one, it was a LIFETIME waiting for it, and was so ashamed by the easy, the savepoint was everywhere, i BET if you played a hard, challanging game, you will go back to playing it EVERYDAY to try to beat that game, and trust me, you will be loving it.

  12. Cell Travis
    March 13, 2012 at 6:17 pm

    Games were cool back then because they didn't compete with the big budgets of movies (as they do now). Games were happy being games and designers/developers -- who invariably wore many hats -- knew how to turn limited technology into something immortal.

    • Dave LeClair
      March 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      Well said!!

  13. Dave Parrack
    March 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    I hate to admit it in public but I prefer my games to be easy. I haven't got the time or patience to try and beat a particular part of a game and keep failing.

    • Dave LeClair
      March 13, 2012 at 6:28 pm

      smh lol

      • Nicola
        October 21, 2016 at 11:57 pm

        I think a lot of the problem these days is that there is TOO MUCH choice in regards to EVERYTHING! The last time I really enjoyed video games was when the PS1 came out. We all used to play the games together, it was great. Now there is something to entertain people every second of every day (phones, video games, iPads etc etc) and for me it kind of left me unable to get into anything. My partner likes the new games. I still like all the old platforms :-)