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    • pixelhalloffame
      Pixel Hall of Fame

      I recently started playing Stardew Valley on the Switch, and like so many others, I love playing this game! One thing it’s brought into focus for me are why retro style games with 8 or 16-bit graphics and gameplay are so appealing to me.

      Sure, there’s the nostalgia factor if you grew up in the 80s and 90s, which is true for me, but I think there’s something more than that. What is it?

      I’ve thought about this a lot and wasn’t totally sure for a while, but Stardew Valley made me realize that it’s the constraints in these games that I find exhilerating. These games provide a stark contrast to the next-gen open world games that are so vast and look so real they can often be overwhelming and hard to engage with.

      Games like Stardew Valley seem to hook me much faster (and this is one of the more complex retro style games). The goals are more clear, the “levels” (seasons in this case) are much more distinct from one another, and there are more defined limitations in what you can do and where you can go. In short, the learning curve is less steep in some ways.

      And despite these limitations, I find that there’s a lot of beauty in pixel art. Maybe this is the nostalgia creeping in, but it feels like the 8/16-bit look leaves a lot more to the imagination for me than the hyper-real next gen games.

      What do you think? Why do you like (or not like) retro style video games? What others are you into?

    • Chris

      Our family is totally hooked on Minecraft, which I consider a retro-style game. They will play it forever—hours and hours and hours if we let them. Of course they suck me into it so we can play together and I don't particularly love the look, but they are crazy about it.

    • pixelhalloffame

      I haven’t played Minecraft but I’ve heard it’s incredibly addicting! I see the appeal, it seems a lot like an infinite LEGO set. I was obsessed with LEGOs as a kid.

    • xorius

      I think you are right that the constraints are what make it more interesting.

      For the artwork, thinking about "how do I make this game look better" is a totally different question for retro art vs modern 3D AAA games. For a retro art game, its all about making it look the best for the number of pixels you have to work with. This is achievable by a single creative person with minimal technical expertise. How do you make a 3D AAA game look better? You need large teams of programmers and artists building a huge engine, which is likely constrained by their platform target. There are always more technology boundaries to push, which constantly makes older games look worse. But for retro games, the limit has already been hit, there isn't anything to improve on.

    • bstrong

      I have to completely agree that the constraints are what make these games great. One constraint not talked about thus far are the physical control mechanics. Simple gameplay and 2D environments means a lot of retro games are simple to physically operate. This makes them accessible to a larger audience, makes them easier to pick up and play for short sessions, and there isn't a big re-learning curve if you don't have time to play for a month or twelve.

      A few years ago, I remember playing one of the Assassin's Creed games on PS4 and having to stop somewhere in the middle due to lack of time or a shift in my priorities. After several months, I tried to pick it back up and I had basically forgotten how to play. The game is still unfinished.

    • spongey

      I was born in the 80s and grew up in the 90s. My grandmother (yep!) had a Nintendo so I'd spend a bunch of time playing games with my cousins when we'd visit her. Eventually at home me and my brother received an SNES. The games on those two consoles were so fun and seared memories into my brain.

      I think the nostalgia factor is huge for "retro" style games, at least for me. Any retro style game I immediately perk up and want to see what it's about. But that's not the only thing..because they still appeal to new generations and fan bases.

      The art, while yes pixel, can still be impressive and beautiful. I think that's part of it: creating something amazing from basically 💩 building blocks. The same goes for the soundtracks.

      And while the controls are limited, as Brian stated - the simplistic nature of the controls are actually a great boon. It expands the audience (age range and gaming experience) and lets the game developer focus on content and story.

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