Video games have grown up, and everyone has their favorite consoles and games. All a gamer can do is opine about the topic, but modern games take a lot of flack from retro-gamers, and some younger players have never gotten to play some of the best games ever made, which may now be deemed, "too old" by some.
I have been playing video games since I first picked up the SNES as a young boy, and, though I adore some of the older consoles, and games like Suikoden 2 and Donkey Kong Country are some of my favorite games of all time. But, I think video games are at their very best, at this very moment.
1. Retro-games are New Again
Any game collector will tell you that it is an expensive hobby, and some older games are almost impossible to find in the first place. On top of that, dying batteries, finding old hardware, and needing console-carcasses make it a hassle to find space and money to collect. On the bright side, many older games, especially titles that were released on successful consoles, are still seeing the light of day through e-shops, virtual console, and HD remakes.
Many modern consoles like the PS3 (not so much PS4 sadly), Xbox One, and Nintendo Wii U (and, hopefully the Switch soon) have had expansive e-shops where gamers can digitally download older games from previous generations. I had an awesome PS1 collection and was even able to play some obscure Sega games thanks to Sega re-releasing them with updated graphics and features on the PSN/Steam E-Shop. Please also be sure to check out KeenGamer's very own ESHOP.
I believe in leaving a quality game intact, and most games on the e-shops simply have simply added trophy support. Many games (Nights Into Dreams comes to mind) have updated graphics, but they also give you the option to play the game in its original form. With companies like Sega releasing a large portion of their back catalog for free, it's a great time to play some older video games that you may have missed or haven't played in years.
There are handy features added to increase playability like save states and internal saving on the console. This means less backtracking and no need for archaic hardware like memory cards or link cables. Nintendo also has potential plans to release Gamecube games on the Nintendo Switch, and the Xbox One has done a great job at giving gamers a chance to play older Xbox titles. Even PS4 has re-released a modest PS2 collection for sale as well as a subscription-based program to play PS3 games.
Lastly, there are now lots of HD remasters. People will have mixed feelings about them, but some games just need a fresh coat of paint, and it's really cool to see games like Crash Bandicoot N'Sane Trilogy, Shadow of the Colossus, and Zelda Windwaker, freshened up for a new generation of gamers and returning players. Never in the history has the back-catalog of gaming been so accessible.
2D and 3D Games
Many people speculated that classic 2D series like Zelda, Mario, and Sonic would never see a return to 2D – which has since proven to be untrue. Beautiful games are popping up that use 8-bit and 16-bit engines all the time. A game like Mario Odyssey fuses a new 3D Mario experience with parts where you return to the style of 8-bit Mario Bros gameplay. And of course, great major titles that push the hardware to the limit like Horizon Zero dawn and Detroit: Become Human still manage to blow minds on how realistic and vivid games can look and feel.
In short, the entire scope of gaming history is being deployed to make a ton of great games. A huge company like Capcom is willing to take their biggest franchise (Mega Man) and make 8-bit games, while Zelda Breath of the Wild is more massive and jaw-dropping than any Zelda fan could have ever imagined. It's amazing to see such a broad breadth of games out there; there were periods in gaming history where it seemed like it was just AAA developers racing to make the most realistic games, but I am pleasantly surprised to see new games that look old-school getting a lot of recognition. Just think Hollow Knight, Mega Man 10, or I am Setsuna etc.
There are games for everyone now, and the emergence of so many retro-styled games means that there will be more appreciation for older games among younger players and that video games will continue to evolve and blossom into creative and beautiful directions that are both unpredictable and exciting.
Yesterdays Gamers are Today's Developers
If you were ever worried about the video game industry collapsing, becoming vapid, or leaving you behind, there is some good news. Many people in the video game-developing-world and who have creative insight over them were the gaming enthusiasts of the 1980s and 90s. They grew up with video games: they loved all the same franchises you did, and the modern market is a huge reflection of the fusion of multiple generations of gamers.
Popular series like Castlevania or Final Fantasy etc can hopefully continue to appeal to loyal fans and feel like the franchises they should be since the developers behind the games were probably fans of the series growing up. It's a passing of the torches, and moments like Square Enix finally returning to making RPGs and Sonic Mania (a great 2D Sonic game) seeing the light of day make me realize that the growing pains are only temporary. The companies and franchises may go through drops in quality, but the roots cannot be truly destroyed because passionate people will emerge who love games and want to appeal to all gamers both old and new.
And on the flip side, these gamers saw their favorite series evolve and change; that change should be embraced. Longtime series like Metroid, Mega Man, and Final Fantasy etc. are always changing, but the last couple years should show that even after some stagnation, they can rise like a phoenix with bold risks and innovation while holding onto many of the elements that made us fall in love with the series over the past few decades.
PS4 and the Nintendo Switch
The PlayStation 4 has turned into an absolute behemoth, with one of the best libraries available, and the console has sold over 70 million units worldwide. Features like PS plus and great 3rd party support make it worth investing in, and there is just a lot, (I mean a lot) of awesome games to play on the PS4.
The PS3 felt like it was an FPS-fest until it's second half, but the PS4 has been anything but monotonous. It's easier to develop for, and all gamers can find a lot to love about it. RPGs, shooters, indie games, platformers etc have all found a home on the PS4. Even more than four years in, the PlayStation Pro has been a reliable upgrade, and great games keep coming out. At the end of its lifespan, it may have one of the best PlayStation libraries ever, if not the best (hard to beat PS2).
The Nintendo Switch has sold over 10 million units and is fast approaching the Wii U's total sale numbers. The Switch has generated a ton of excitement, gained a lot of 3rd party support, and the first year had better releases than anyone could have expected. It was originally decried, and many people thought it would suffer the same fate as the Wii U, but Nintendo seems to have done a good job of fixing a lot of the mistakes they have been making for over a decade plus.
With two GOTY nominees, big companies like Bethesda and Square Enix offering the Switch a lot of support, and a strong 2018 lineup already announced, Nintendo looks like they may once again ascend to the pinnacle of the gaming universe.
Having finally bought a Switch myself, it's nothing short of magical. The controllers are dynamic, Zelda and Mario are astoundingly strong and fresh, and I have a long list of games to purchase and play. A Nintendo console hasn't felt this exciting since the 1990s.
Two great consoles from both Sony and Nintendo, and the fierce competition between them, reminds me of the glory days of the N64 or PS2. It feels like a re-birth of the gaming industry, and The Switch has a special feeling that just reeks of greatness. Gaming really needs Nintendo to restore faith in their fans and 3rd party developers, and PlayStation has somehow maintained its reputation for consistent greatness and quality.
Indie games stir up a lot of controversy and elicit a lot of strong opinions, but the presence of indie games has re-shaped gaming. Sure, there are plenty of mediocre indie games out there, but there are also many gems in the coal pile, and budget gaming has been a welcomed change from the, sometimes, stagnant AAA lineups.
A lot of gamers felt like they were dishing out $60 a pop for the same experience over and over again. There have been different waves: the FPS wave, the open-world wave etc., but indie games came along and offered unique experiences for a cheap price and put more pressure on developers to make quality games. Now, players can download great games, even if shorter, for just $10 or $20 dollars. Games like Inside and Shovel Knight have been considered some of the best games of their release years; Just last year games like Inside and Firewatch were contenders for best PS4 game of the year. It's refreshing to be able to get a really fun game for 1/3rd of the price of a major title.
It seems all major gaming platforms have been more open-minded and welcoming to indie developers. The PlayStation 4 has top-tier indie games every year (think Pyre) while Steam has some of the best indie games of all time with frequent discounts. The Nintendo Switch has been porting some popular indie games, and Nintendo has already made efforts to get more indie games on the Switch.
Some people will continue to hate on indie games, but they are creative and keep gaming fresh. Some of these developers will be making some of tomorrow's best titles, and indie games are a cornerstone of modern gaming. They breed healthy competition and give more gaming enthusiasts power to change the market. Who doesn't want a great game for $10 bucks?
While this is an exciting time in gaming, I am not saying any single game or console is better than everything in the past, but with the barrier of entry for smaller developers lowering, Nintendo taking a step to regain their lofty position and the flexibility in the gameplay and appearance of modern games, it really feels like one of the most magical moments in gaming history.
There are other factors such as VR, mobile media, mini-consoles, and 3rd party retro-machines that I didn't mention in the mix as well. I love that I can download and play games that are both retro or push the modern hardware to maximum capacity, and I love the abundance of great games constantly at my fingertips.
There are still issues such as a lagging Xbox One, the question of a new Sony console, and the future of VR and the mobile market and how they will affect the future of gaming, but I love that I have a laundry list of games to play for my PS4, Switch, and Steam and that I am excited to see older games get released again as well as a ton of new titles and hardware in 2018. Gaming is at one of its absolute pinnacles right now – it has hardly ever been this fun and adventurous.