Passwords you will never remember, memory cards that constantly needed to be managed, on-cartridge saves that were easily corrupted, accidentally overwriting limited save spots, games that only let you save in very specific places…trying to pick up where you left off in most retro games was often either impossible or so frustrating that you eventually learned to accept that any amount of progress could easily be lost forever.
2. Unnecessarily Difficult and Confusing Games
At this point, it seems fair to say that the subject of retro gaming difficulty is destined to be divisive. For some, the “NES Hard” era (and subsequent variations of that generational concept) was a glorious time for gamers who wanted to constantly test their skills and limits. For others, it was a time of seemingly impossible games that felt like a punishment.
As is typically the case, the truth of this debate falls somewhere in the middle. Yes, a well-crafted level of difficulty can enhance an experience, but let’s not pretend that is what all retro games were offering. One-hit deaths, new player traps, and frustrating platforming puzzles were all hangovers from an era of arcade gaming where most machines were designed to deprive you of as many quarters as possible while leaving you with the false impression that you can get it right on the next run.
However, I’ve never heard anyone successfully defend the era of genuinely confusing video game design. A stunning number of retro titles regularly presented you with challenges that defied all logic and were essentially impossible to overcome if you didn’t have a guide. Mind you, I’m not just talking about adventure game puzzles. Trying to simply get from one area of a screen to another in certain NES and SNES titles was often as challenging as overcoming some of the most glorified difficult games of those eras.
1. Not Being Able To Find The Game You Really Want
Although much of this list is not presented in any particular order, I really do feel like this was the worst thing about retro gaming. At the very least, it’s the worst thing about retro gaming that few people talk about.
Let’s say you’ve just read about this game that sounds absolutely incredible and you need to have it right away. For me, it was Harvest Moon. I read about the game in Nintendo Power, and something about it spoke to my SimCity-loving heart. Unfortunately, I was never able to find a copy of Harvest Moon. I couldn’t find want to rent, I couldn’t find one to buy, and I never knew anybody who owned or even played it.