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The “Golden Age” of Gaming: A Look Back at the 80’s and 90’s

August 4, 2018

I might be showing my age a little writing this opinion piece but to be quite frank, I don’t really care.  You see, gaming isn’t just for the young, although some older people (MUCH older people) that grew up without such things might dispute that claim.  Videogames are more like a bridge that connects people of all ages and from all walks of life.

I grew up in the 80’s listening to music from Twisted Sister, Aerosmith, Metallica and the like and was very curious about this new system called the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES as it is known today.  Sure I had played the Atari systems and thought they were entertaining but seeing Super Mario Bros/Duck Hunt firsthand was truly something magical.  I had to have one!  That day eventually came and what a day it was.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t keep it all to myself, as I had brothers looking to get in on the action as well, especially an older one who was a pretty selfish kid.

I remember spending time playing through Mario Bros 1-3, Legend of Zelda, Double Dragon, Kid Icarus, among many, many more.  I had found myself a new hobby.

It wasn’t but about 4 years after the release of the NES that the Genesis came out complete with commercials that had taglines such as “Genesis does what Nintendon’t”.  I hate to admit this to my fellow Nintendo fans but Sonic the Hedgehog is what really flipped on the gaming “switch” for me and took my hobby and made it just as important as life, itself.

The Super Nintendo followed the Genesis and went on to be a huge hit just like it’s predecessor, the NES.  It was truly a gem of a console, as many still know today, with such titles as Super Metroid, Earthbound, Super Mario World, and Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past.  Pretty much some of the most important titles of time that had huge impacts on the gaming world.

At this time in gaming history one couldn’t go to school without hearing a heated debate about which console, Genesis or SNES, was better than the other.  It was conflicts like these that essentially defined the famed console wars and flamed the fires for hardcore fanyboy-ism.  You guys can actually read all about Sega and Nintendo “duking it out” in the book “Console Wars” by Blake J. Harris that was released back in 2014 .  I highly recommend it, it is a great read (very long as well).

Back in the 90’s the arcade scene was an incredible experience to behold.  There was nothing like walking into a crowded arcade (unlike the vacant ones you find these days, void of all competitive games and filled with ticket dispensing token eaters).  From every corner you could hear people cheering each other on.  The sound of a crowd rooting you on as you get the best of the fifth complete stranger standing next to you in a game of Street Fighter, Killer Instinct, Mortal Kombat, among many others.  For brief moment in time, you actually bonded with strangers over a common interest; an experience that is lacking in aforementioned vacant arcades of today or playing online.

Games at that time had a certain “feel” to them.  When you played them you knew you were partaking in something special.  Given the graphical limitations of the time the developers had to be creative with how they presented not just the aesthetics but just about every aspect of the game, right down to the midi music.  It was things like this that made each game unique to the rest of them.  You could certainly tell that a lot of time went in to these prior to release unlike games such as Activision’s Call of Duty *insert any subtitle here* where it is released annually (which is ridiculous unto itself) and there really isn’t anything unique about it all, especially anything that would make it memorable.  You can find a “special” game here and there in today’s offerings but for the vast majority, there is nothing that will make people remember that game 30 years from now in the same way we do many of the games from the 8 bit/16 bit era (maybe even a few from the 32/64 bit as well).  Sure we still had a decent amount of what one would call “shovelware” but nothing in the sense that we have it today.

Am I saying all this to bash today’s games?  No, not at all.  There are some great games out there but very little that will stand the test of time and burn their place into our memories and hearts.  My wish is that rather than focus on realism and how much power you can pack into a single title, developers need to focus more on being unique and making the game fun rather than an interactive cinematic film and which developer can can out-“adult” the other.  I think the reason we are seeing a resurgence of “classic” gaming titles and consoles is that, for the most part, gaming doesn’t have as big of a heart it use to.  Just last month the NES Classic was the best-selling console.  Sonic Mania Plus is the highest rated Sonic title in 15 years and was a huge success for Sega.  Companies like Capcom are putting in effort to create gaming collections like the Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection.  I can literally keep going with this list but this opinion piece has to end somewhere right?

My opinion may be unpopular with some but for a great many that grew up in 80’s into the late 90’s you will know exactly what I’m talking about.  I still enjoy gaming today (I created this site, right?!) but long for that magical feeling I felt when playing many games back in the 80’s and 90’s that I only get to experience every once in awhile with today’s games.

What are your thoughts on this?  I would love to hear what you think as well!  Let’s chat in the comments below or kick off a conversation in our Community forums!

SourceCode, aka Lucas Hughes, is the creator/owner of Nintendo Playroom.  He spends his days primarily as a husband/father/programmer/gamer.  He loves all things Nintendo and is very passionate about the Nintendo community.


SourceCode, aka Lucas Hughes, is the creator/owner of Nintendo Playroom.  He spends his days primarily as a husband/father/programmer/gamer.  He loves all things Nintendo and is very passionate about the Nintendo community.

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