10 gaming trends from the 80s that should come back

Looking back at how the game was in decades past can create an important perspective on the present. In some cases, it can bring back ideas that will contribute to the future of video games. Creating a picture of gaming trends over the past few decades can help contextualize the present.



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In the case of video games, there’s no better decade to watch than the decade in which the modern gaming hobby began: the 1980s. With the first home consoles capable of rendering a replica Truly satisfying of the arcade experience in the Nintendo Entertainment System and the Sega Master System, video games had finally landed at home and made their presence known.

ten Pack-In Games Sold Other Video Games

When released in 1985, the Nintendo Entertainment System reintroduced video game consoles to North America. The NES was a revolutionary console in many ways, but Nintendo also broke new ground with its choice of pack-in games. The safe choice would have been donkey konga proven arcade hit that the NES could render just fine, but Nintendo chose instead Super Mario Bros.a brand new title that was sweeping Japan.

The choice was wise. The sprawling game returned arcade port packs from their competitors, Atari’s Centipede andby Sega Wait look behind time. Modern consoles, however, have generally avoided pack-in games for their base bundles, instead shipping them with demo samplers.

9 Games spawned new genres

The 1980s were a period of unparalleled creativity for games. The decade started with simple single-screen rigs like Nintendo’s donkey kong and Sega Flicky as great successes. It ended with the first first person shooters like MIDI Mazewhich was converted to Faceball 2000 on the Nintendo Game Boy.

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Genres like puzzle games, Metroidvania platformers, and FPS came of age in the 1980s. While the following decades added more and more tools to the video game toolkit, these genres have since then the cornerstones of the medium.

8 Video arcades were where they were

There’s something to be said for the idea that online gaming is the modern arcade. At the same time, the experience of being with other people in a dimly lit space is unique to that space and time.

Especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are yearning for close contact again. Even though video arcades still exist, the modern emphasis on redemption games and oversized cellphone games begs the construction of games that take full advantage of the size and cooling available in an arcade cabinet.


seven Rapid development has led to a proliferation of games

Video games of the 1980s weren’t the multi-million dollar triple A business of today. Even the biggest and best games were developed in haste, usually taking around six to nine months to develop.

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Rapid development had its drawbacks and led to the video game crash of 1983. But it also meant that new, high-quality games could arrive quickly. Nintendo and Sega took different approaches to taming the deluge. Nintendo’s seal of quality meant that games for the NES had to be fully compatible and couldn’t crash the console outright. Sega simply released everything itself.


6 Video game magazines curated the roar of releases for fans

Dozens of third-party publishers were producing titles for the Nintendo Entertainment System in the late 1980s. Determining which games were worth playing in the late 1980s would have been almost as difficult as it was in 1982. But the gaming public had allies on their side.

Supported by advertising but fiercely independent, magazines like Monthly electronic game and GamePro prided themselves on reviewing everything that came out every month. Even when their critics contradicted the line issued by house organs like Atari age and Nintendo Powerthese magazines gave fans a view of the ever-changing landscape. At the same time, they were more formal and organized than the constant stream of online reviews that characterizes gaming press today.


5 Creative locations designed for personalized experiences

In the late 1980s, “Teddy Boy” was a fad in Japan. Wearing elaborate bouffant hairstyles and rebellious clothing, including a heavy use of black, the Teddy Boys were the Japanese equivalent of the Rockabillies. Lots of games like Nekketsu Koha Kunio-Kun had to be localized aggressively, as rockabilly fashion had largely died down in the United States by the mid-1980s.

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Kunio-Kunthe translation, Renegadeinspired by the movie The Warriorsspawned the spiritual following Dual Dragon, an international mega hit. This trend continued into the early 1990s, with many role-playing games requiring extensive localization work to be understandable in English. SquareSoft’s American translation manager, Ted Woolsey, became particularly famous for his work.


4 Puzzle games were mainstream hits

While puzzle games remain an ever-popular genre in 2022, they’re increasingly relegated to the doldrums of casual smartphone games, and their design space is increasingly dominated by match-3 games.

Although puzzle games have been around since the early days of video games, they took off when Alexey Pajitnov’s instant classic Tetris came to the West in 1986. Its popularity propelled the Nintendo Gameboy to universal acclaim when it was named a Western pack-in title in 1989, replacing Super Mario Land.

3 Game cheat devices have opened up custom ways to play

One of the trends that Nintendo tried more than anything else to undo was cheat devices. Taking the form of a chunky cartridge that connected to a video game cartridge, cheat devices were an intriguing way to change the game.

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The original cheat device was the CodeMasters Game Genie. Thanks to it, gamers were able to alleviate many of the difficulties of NES-era games and tip the curve in their favor. Although this introduced a debate about whether cheating at video games was acceptable, many gamers still did it because the games of the time were simply extremely difficult, often in unfair ways.


2 Game rentals were the best way to try out the games

It’s easy to dismiss 80s and 90s game rentals as a relic of a bygone era with modern demos so prevalent, but a demo is very rarely an accurate picture of the entire game. Nintendo Entertainment System, video game rentals have exploded.

Rental stores purchased video games, usually through distributors but sometimes, especially for very small stores, through retail. And unlike a modern demo, rental games were literally the entire game. A player could potentially play the entire game for a rental period, usually three to four days.


1 No established genre limits created new ways to play

In the 1980s, especially after the video game crash of 1983, there were no established boundaries around game genres. With video games at the time primarily defined by arcades, as opposed to home video game consoles like the then-nascent Nintendo Entertainment System, there were few genre boundaries that are now taken for granted.

games like Rescue: the mission of the embassy and Zelda II: The Adventures of Link freely changed genres at the whim of their creators, while Super Mario Bros. 2 and Child Icarus turned platforming logic upside down by embracing vertical and horizontal scrolling. The options were seemingly limitless.

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