Kicking It Old School: Why The Old Video Games Trump New Ones

My parents are pretty “old school.” Growing up, my sister and I never had the luxury of cable television and we were slow to join many technological revolutions (portable CD players, DVD players, cell phones). Over the years, my parents slowly upgraded various aspects of our household, but the one thing that never changed: the Nintendo Entertainment System.

The NES was first released in Japan in 1983 and then in the U.S. in 1985. In 1986, the NES entered my parents’ lives. But this isn’t a comprehensive history of the 8-bit gaming console. This is about the beauty of not upgrading your video game console and not giving a damn about it either.

While my friends’ parents were out buying N64s and PlayStations, my sister and I were hunting pixilated ducks with that iconic orange NES Zapper and jumping on pixilated Goombas in the original Super Mario Bros. game. On rainy weekends, we would watch our parents battle it out in Dr. Mario or we’d spend the afternoons cheering on our dad on his days off as he searched for Princess Toadstool.

It never struck me as odd that we never upgraded. The NES wasn’t alone in its old age in our home; we never upgraded from the original Game Boy handheld game console either.

I felt a special connection to the bulky gray console that sat in our living room. As our television sets changed (hey there, color television!) and advanced technology infiltrated our home, the NES remained a constant.

Last winter break on a trip home, I took a trip down memory lane and broke out the old-school games. Confession: they’re a lot harder than I thought they would be. The trickiest part of games such as Super Mario Bros. or Ninja Gaiden (the original trilogy, not whatever 3D-graphic-filled insanity the creators are selling to the Xbox crowd now) is that the “Save” function seemed to have eluded the 80s. Your options are to start over every single time you play or just sit in front of the television for hours until you reach the end. And trust me, parents don’t approve of the latter.

Also, those games are just really, really hard. And considering that there weren’t on-line cheats available at the time, it brings me to the conclusion that these games are just plain impossible to figure out alone (Super Mario Bros. 2, I’m looking at you).

I’ll occasionally join my roommate in a game of Mario Kart or Super Smash Bros. on her GameCube, but something about the clean graphics and action-packed madness leaves me nostalgic for the days of confusing game play and simple MIDI music. The NES may be considered “old school” or possibly even outdated, but I’d take my 2D, little pixilated Mario over the newer (and admittedly better-looking) one any day.