I’ve always enjoyed retro games, but I don’t think I ever considered myself a Retro Gamer™ until this year. At just 34-years-old, I’m certainly not old – but I am getting older, and I’m beginning to appreciate how this shapes my perspective. For example, I was around for the entirety of the PS1 era – I even attended one of its UK launch parties with my family – and I spent many of my formative years on the SNES and SEGA Mega Drive. Heck, we even had a Commodore 64 at home that I loved.
I’m in a bit of a strange spot age-wise because I’m old enough to remember pretty much all of the generations from the 16-bit era onwards, but there are obvious gaps in my knowledge. For example, the NES just wasn’t particularly popular in the UK, and therefore I don’t think I’d even seen one in person until I was about 12-years-old. I actually thought it was a knock-off in my youthful naivety, because Super Mario Bros. 3 didn’t look as good on it as in its SNES All-Stars remaster, which I was used to at the time. (I’d later understand why, of course!)
Even if you were a hardcore gamer right through the 70s and 80s, though, the reality is we all have gaps in our knowledge – none of us have played every game ever made. And if you have, then it’s still fun to revisit the classics, right? For me, my personal favourite game of all time is Shenmue 2, and I love replaying that every few years and reminding myself of why I revere it so much. I recently replayed The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the first time in over 20 years, too, and it was a genuine treat.
I think the point I’m trying to get to is that there’s still a lot of value in older and retro games, regardless of your perspective. Whether you’re revisiting a favourite from your childhood, or experiencing a classic for the very first time, there’s an undeniable joy to experiencing these older games. And I think publishers are beginning to cotton on: we’re actually seeing a lot of retro titles repurposed on contemporary consoles, whether it’s in compilations like TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection or remasters such as Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII Reunion. There’s been tons of these in 2022 alone.
But the one that sticks out most to me is Atari 50: The Anniversary Celebration. As I alluded to at the top of this article, Atari is one of my weak spots, but I’ve experienced a lot of the classics through various emulators and compilations over the years. I actually own an Atari Jaguar, as one of our local game stores was selling them off for pennies in the early 2000s. But I think what sets this package apart is that it doubles as a documentary.
For those of you who don’t know, the main “mode” in this release is a kind of timeline, which includes archival footage, scanned pamphlets, documents, and interviews recounting the most important moments in the firm’s history. It’s fully interactive, so you can browse through it at will, and of course you can jump into many of the games to play them as well.
I think this is, honestly, one of the coolest concepts for a compilation I’ve ever seen. There have been plenty of good ones over the years – the likes of the Castlevania Anniversary Collection and Contra Anniversary Collection spring to mind – but this is a step above any of the retro re-releases we’ve had in the past. And I’d really love to see more publishers adopt the concept. It’d be great, for example, to get the inside story on Polygon Man and Ken Kutaragi’s quest to bring PlayStation to market, complete with playable ports of the infamous PS1 T-rex demo and early first-party titles like Motor Toon Grand Prix.
The thing is, you could pretty much apply this interactive documentary format to any of the major publishers or platform holders, and you’d be guaranteed to end up with a great product every time in my opinion. I love playing these retro games, but I think when they’re presented alongside key pieces of context – like documents, artwork, interviews, and even manuals – they take on a new life. You’re not only enjoying the software, but you’re also experiencing the story.
I love and look forward to new games, of course I do – but as I tick mercifully slowly towards my 40s [Urgh – Ed], I’m gradually beginning to appreciate the history of the industry more as well. And what better way to preserve it than with interactive galleries like Atari 50, which honestly is a dream package for retro fans.
Would you like to see more publishers celebrate their back catalogues with interactive gallery-style compilations like Atari 50? Which companies in particular would you like to see release compilations? Go retro in the comments section below.