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Akihabara - Super Potato Retro Game Shop, in Tokyo, Japan
Retrogaming on a "Night of computer games" in Leipzig 2012[citation needed]

Retrogaming, also known as classic gaming and old school gaming, is the playing or collecting of older personal computer, console, and arcade video games. Usually based upon systems that are obsolete or discontinued, these games are played either on the original hardware, on modern hardware via emulation, or on modern hardware via ports or compilations. Participants in the hobby are sometimes known as retrogamers in the United Kingdom, while the terms "classic gamers" or "old school gamers" are more prevalent in the United States. Similarly, the games are known as retrogames, classic games, or old school games.[1] Retrogaming is often linked to indie gaming, which involves current games, though unconventionally published.[2] Additionally, the term could apply to a newer game, but with features similar to those of older games, such as an "retro RPG" which features turn-based combat and an isometric camera perspective.


Retro games are generally those produced from the 1970s to 1990s, and include video games for systems and consoles such as the Atari 2600, Nintendo Entertainment System, Master System, Mega Drive, Super NES, Game Boy, PlayStation, and Nintendo 64 as well as personal computer games for the Commodore 64, MSX, ZX81, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Commodore Amiga, NEC PC-88, PC-98, Sharp X1, Sharp X68000, FM-7 and DOS platforms. Arcade games are also popular, especially early games by Konami, Sega, Atari, Taito, Williams Electronics, Namco, Nintendo, Technos, Capcom, and SNK. Games in this era were frequently attributed to individual programmers, and many retro gamers seek out games by particular developers, such as Tomohiro Nishikado, Shigeru Miyamoto, Shigesato Itoi, Bill Williams, Eugene Jarvis, Dave Theurer, Nasir Gebelli, Yuji Naka, Jeff Minter, Yuji Horii, Yu Suzuki, Tony Crowther, Andrew Braybrook, Hideo Kojima, and Hironobu Sakaguchi. Some games are played on the original hardware; others are played through emulation. Some retro games can still be played online using just the internet browser [3] via DOS emulation. In some cases, entirely new versions of the games are designed, or remade. As well as playing games, a subculture of retrogaming has grown up around the music in retro games.

Modern retrogaming[edit]

In the wake of increasing nostalgia and the success of retro-compilations in the sixth and seventh generations of consoles, retrogaming has become a motif in modern games, as well. Modern retrogames will impose limitations on color palette, resolution, and memory well below the actual limits of the hardware in order to mimic the look of older hardware. These may be based on a general concept of retro, as with Cave Story, or an attempt to imitate a specific piece of hardware, as with La Mulana and its MSX color palette.

Modern retrogaming began to gain traction thanks in part to the independent gaming scene, where the short development time was attractive and commercial viability was not a concern. More recently major publishers have started to embrace modern retrogaming with releases such as these: Mega Man 9, an attempt to mimic NES hardware; Retro Game Challenge, a compilation of new games on faux-NES hardware; and Sega's Fantasy Zone II remake, which uses emulated System 16 hardware running on PlayStation 2 to create a 16-bit reimagining of the 8-bit original.


Main article: Video game remake

Modern retrogaming may sometimes be more broadly applied to games, made by companies and volunteers alike, that feature retro-style designs and reimaginings with more modern graphics. These enhanced remakes include Pac-Man: Championship Edition, Space Invaders Extreme, Super Mega Worm, 3D Dot Game Heroes. Some are based directly upon the enhanced emulation of original games, as with Nintendo's NES Remix.

Main article: Fangame
Screenshot of Paku Paku (inner screen), a remake of a Retrogame, targeting Retro hardware and created for the Retrochallenge 2011: This Pac-Man remake targets the obscure and seldom used 160×100×16 mode of the CGA graphic card, written in the "retro languages" 80x86 assembler and Turbo Pascal.[4]

When remakes are created by an individual or a group of enthusiasts without commercial motivation, such games sometimes are also called Fangames. These are often motivated by the phenomenon of abandonware, which is the discontinuation of sales and support by the original producers, who may no longer exist. Examples for fan-made remakes are many adventure games such as King's Quest I: Quest for the Crown or King's Quest II: Romancing the Stones, and other remakes of classical games such as Civilization's free counterpart titled Freeciv.

The nostalgia-based revival of older game styles has also been accompanied by the development of the modern chiptune genre of game music. Chiptunes are characterized by severe limitations of sound imposed by the author's self-restriction to using only the original sound chips from 8-bit or 16-bit games. These compositions are featured in many retro-style modern games and are popular in the demoscene.


With the new possibility of the digital distribution in mid-2000 the commercial distribution of old classical game titles became feasible again as deployment and storage costs dropped significantly:

[...] we can put something up on Steam [a digital distributor], deliver it to people all around the world, make changes. We can take more interesting risks.[...] Retail doesn’t know how to deal with those games. On Steam there’s no shelf-space restriction. It’s great because they’re a bunch of old, orphaned games

A digital distributor specialized in bringing old games out of abandonware is (formerly called Good Old Games) who started 2008 to search for copyright holders of classic games to release them legally and DRM-free again.[6]

Notable online platforms for classic video game re-releases include Nintendo's Virtual Console and Sony's PlayStation Network.

Recently, mobile application developers have been purchasing the rights and licensing to re-release vintage arcade games on iOS and Android operating systems. Bandai Namco Entertainment Inc., a Japan-based arcade, mobile and home video game publisher, created a spin-off to the classic Pac-Man called Pac-Man Bounce. Bandai kept the core principles of the old Pac-Man game but added new features, levels, and styles of play. Pac-Man Bounce is currently only available in the Canadian and Australian app markets but will is expected to be expanding world-wide soon. Square-Enix has even followed suit, releasing titles like Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy, and Tomb Raider.[7]


The Art of Video Games premiered at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2012.

Retrogaming is recognized by museums worldwide. For example, the RetroGames arcade museum of Karlsruhe, Germany was founded in 2002[8][9] and the Computerspielemuseum Berlin was founded in 1997. Some classical art museums bear a video gaming retrospective, as with 2012's Smithsonian American Art Museum exhibition titled The Art of Video Games[10] or as part of the Museum of Modern Art "Applied Design" exhibition in 2013.[11]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ [1] GOING RETRO: 14 Old School Games You Can Play On Your iPhone Right Now
  2. ^ "NES Classics: retro gaming, at a price: Page 1". Retrieved 2008-04-14. 
  3. ^ "10 best retro games you can play online". Retrieved 2014-06-18. 
  4. ^ Knight, Jason. "Paku Paku - A game for early PC/MS-DOS Computers". Retrieved 2013-01-16. Contents of DEATHSHADOW'S MADNESS © Jason M. Knight unless otherwise noted All code presented on this site is released to the Public Domain. There'll be none of that open source licensing malarkey in here - If you going to give something away, LANDS SAKE JUST GIVE IT AWAY!!! 
  5. ^ Walker, John (2007-11-22). "RPS Exclusive: Gabe Newell Interview". Rock, Paper, Shotgun. Retrieved 2013-06-28. The worst days [for game development] were the cartridge days for the NES. It was a huge risk – you had all this money tied up in silicon in a warehouse somewhere, and so you’d be conservative in the decisions you felt you could make, very conservative in the IPs you signed, your art direction would not change, and so on. Now it’s the opposite extreme: we can put something up on Steam, deliver it to people all around the world, make changes. We can take more interesting risks.[...] Retail doesn’t know how to deal with those games. On Steam [a digital distributor] there’s no shelf-space restriction. It’s great because they’re a bunch of old, orphaned games. 
  6. ^ Caron, Frank (2008-09-09). "First look: GOG revives classic PC games for download age". Ars Technica. Retrieved 2012-12-27. [...] [Good Old Games] focuses on bringing old, time-tested games into the downloadable era with low prices and no DRM. 
  7. ^ "Secret of Mana for iOS & Android". The Classic Gamer. Retrieved 2015-12-04. 
  8. ^ RetroGames e.V. (german)
  9. ^ Schmitz, Peter (2002-07-19). "Erster eingetragener Verein für Computer- und Konsolenspiele-Oldies eröffnet" (in German). Retrieved 2012-06-01. 
  10. ^ Snider, Mike (2012-03-13). "Are video games art? Draw your own conclusions". USA Today. Gannett. Retrieved 2012-06-02. 
  11. ^ Antonelli, Paola (2012-11-29). "Video Games: 14 in the Collection, for Starters". Inside / Out. A MoMA/MoMA PS1 Blog. Museum of Modern Art. Retrieved 2012-11-29. 

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