Games in the 1980s were some of the most challenging games ever created. These retro hits have been popular with gamers for decades and are now becoming available on modern consoles, giving players a chance to revisit these classic experiences. However, there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to what makes them so difficult.
Retro video games are a challenge for many reasons. Some of these reasons include the lack of tutorials, limited save points, and more. These six reasons why retro games were harder. Read more in detail here: retro video games.
RETRO – Were retro games of the 1980s and 1990s truly more difficult than modern games? It’s hard to provide a single solution to such a complicated issue. This article examines six reasons why games used to be more demanding and (at times) frustratingly difficult.
We have a tendency to extol the virtues of the past while dismissing the present. This occurs a lot in video games, particularly when we’re talking about something crucial like difficulty. Even yet, we all have a title in our heads that used to drive us insane and was so difficult that we gave up because we couldn’t get to the conclusion.
Many games nowadays recall the challenge of the past: Sekiro, Spelunky, Celeste, The Binding of Isaac, Dead Cells, Nioh… While it’s more unusual today to come across a very challenging game, it was nearly unavoidable three or four decades ago. This essay will attempt to summarize a few of them — without claiming to be comprehensive. But first, let’s have a look at the reasons…
While this was not always the case, today’s video games may be played for hours on end. In the same way that we expect a lot of material for our money and consider a five-hour game to be short, many developers in the 1980s and 1990s would have dreamt of developing such “long” games. Resources were sparse for the majority of garage-developed games (and for the most part, they were). Because the games business employed considerably fewer people, they were unable to include all of the opponents, situations, and maps they desired. Longer games were also remarkably self-replicating.
Of course, one could wonder what the heck duration has to do with difficulty. The answer is that it has a lot to do with it. Because the makers had to build a game with fewer hours of playtime, they purposefully increased the difficulty level. In the first hour of play, no one got beyond Sonic the Hedgehog or Super Mario Bros. (although there are now some fanatical YouTubers who did). After a time, the games would run out of lives, prompting a “Continue? Yes/No”… or, in the worst-case scenario, the Game Over screen, forcing you to restart from the beginning.
Because the design was, by today’s standards, very clumsy
While nostalgic gamers may shed tears over ancient games, it must be recognized that the majority of them were difficult to manage or unwieldy by today’s standards. What we now consider “user-friendly” was not always the case.
Even back then, getting a game react to controls in a reasonable manner was a feat. Many 8-bit microcomputer games (such as Spectrum or Amstrad) only reacted to orders with a significant delay, which the player had to accept.
Another favorite was The Last Ninja, whose isometric fighting system, as well as some of the jumping puzzle elements, were boring and awkward by today’s standards – but, of course, the game’s wonderful ambiance, visuals, and evocative soundtrack more than made up for it.
Adventure games, on the other hand, had a lot of riddles in its prime that took a lot of trial and error or a replay to complete. For example, the legendary Monkey Island story — to mention just one of many such masterpieces – belonged in this category.
Is this to say that their design was ‘poor’? Not in the least. They were, in fact, masterpieces in their day. It’s only that things change with the passage of time.
The value for money was mostly determined by the amount of time spent.
This is also a rather clear reason: purchasing a freshly launched video game was an expensive proposition, and customers had to consider the benefits and drawbacks before parting with their cash. Although purchasing games was virtually unheard of in our nation and other communist countries throughout the 1980s and 1990s, when almost everything was commoditized, this was not the situation in Western, wealthier civilizations.
However, toy rental companies such as the Blockbuster chain of stores, which provided similar service, did well in the West. Renting was a highly profitable alternative if you knew you could finish a game in a couple of hours. If you believed the game might provide you with a lot longer playtime, you were more inclined to purchase it, which was obviously worthwhile for the makers. As a result, games were hard to come by since they were purchased rather than leased.
There’s no need to think about intricate strategic or tactical games here, and old arcade games are plenty of examples. The Megaman video game series is well-known; the difficulty was such that you would spend many afternoons attempting to contact Dr. Willy. Ghouls & Goblins was a terrible torment that you could never get over. But it also contains classics like Castlevania, Contra, and Battletoads, which were never available in the West since, although they were wonderful games at the time, they might take weeks to complete for players.
We have less time and more experience because we have less time and more experience.
You have all the time in the world whether you’re a youngster or a teenager (oh, those beautiful years!). If you’ve ever played a video game, especially one as challenging as Ninja Gaiden, Shinobi, or R-Type, you’ve probably tried the maps again and over until you’ve memorized them. In the end, only a few individuals were able to conquer all of the obstacles, but for those who did, winning was a major accomplishment. You were aware of all the traps set by the engineers to properly test you…
The old-school gamers are now grownups, and we have less time on our hands. There are still games that follow this historic pattern perfectly, such as Dark Souls or Bloodborne, but they aren’t the ones we have the most of. Another important element is that the naïve young people of that era have evolved into today’s “aged,” seasoned gamers. And we’ve been trained for decades to be professionals. Of course, who…
There was no internet in those days.
Everything was a little more tricky in this regard before the millenium. You could go to the nearby newsstand and purchase one of the print magazines giving tips and techniques (Spectrum/Commodore World, 576, PC Guru, GameStar) – assuming they didn’t already cover the game you were promoting, or that you bought them at all. If you get lost in a game nowadays, you may go online and search for a tutorial or watch one of the numerous walkthroughs available on YouTube.
But, of course, buying games without one of those gave you a really “cool” sense. Of course, I got stuck on a lot of adventure games and tougher action games, but I’m pleased to say that I not only played through titles as challenging as Project Firestart or Rocket Ranger totally on my own, but I also transcribed the gameplay myself in the then-standard 576 Kbyte in 1990.
Since then, a great deal has changed. Because we can all go online and search up the answer, developers aren’t pushing the puzzle pieces as hard as they once were — why bother when the solution is available?
Classic arcade games’ influence
Arcades were a significant industry for top video game companies in its peak in the 1980s and 1990s. Young and old alike went to pubs, malls, and other places of amusement to check out the newest arcade game from Atari, Capcom, Konami, Namco, Sega, or Taito in return for a penny. As a result, it was clear that arcade players needed to be provided with the best possible gaming experience in a short amount of time.
This is when one of the most important factors came into play: difficulty. For example, the AI in Pac-Man made it almost impossible to win, but so did the famous automobile race Out-Run, in which you raced against the clock – eventually impossibly so – or the scaled-up complexity of Rampage. We could go on, but the point is that everything was planned to ensure that you didn’t spend too much time in front of the screen without losing another cent. Of course, we may pick on current game companies, but the goal of arcades in the 1980s was the same: profit.
What are your thoughts?
Do you agree that games are easier now than they were in the past? Do you believe it’s because we don’t have as much time as we used to? Do we put up with less annoyance? What are your thoughts on this, and for whom, which of the previous games did you have the greatest difficulty with?
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Frequently Asked Questions
Why were old games so hard?
A: Older games used more graphical tricks that are not as effective in modern games. This means they had less polygons, which is why older games were harder to play than newer ones.
Why modern games are easier?
A: This is due to games increasingly focusing on interactive gameplay and less platforming. Platformers tend to be harder, as the player has more freedom in how they move through a level while controlling the characters movement.
Why old video games are better?
A: For the most part, old video games were made with a different mindset. When people used to make games they werent trying to create something that could last for decades and be played by millions of players. They were only focused on creating an entertaining experience which is why some parts of older games dont hold up as well today.
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