A Study Finds that 79% of Gamers Play Retro Games

A Study Finds that 79% of Gamers Play Retro Games

Written by Moli Mishra, In Games, Published On
March 2, 2023

In the 90s and early 2000s, playing retro video games was nothing to be proud of. It was an area stereotypically seen as solely the domain of the older generation or those that couldn’t afford the latest games. Nowadays, this somewhat discriminatory view wouldn’t be so well received, and that’s good news because retro gaming has come back in full force. A propensity for gravitating towards everything retro has been noticed in society, from music and fashion to interior design. There are many reasons for this, but inevitably, the unique style, the sense of individuality, and the fact that, despite constantly changing trends, some things can withstand the test of time are definitely among them.

It can also evoke a sense of nostalgia in the players. ExpressVPN shows millennials spend more time gaming than members of the Gen Z cohort. The millennials are the people born between 1981 and 1996, meaning that most ardent gamers are in their 30s and early 40s, unlike the general idea that members of the younger generation are more likely to be glued to their gaming consoles all day. The study has also found that nearly 80% of players have gravitated toward retro games such as Pac-Man and Super Mario Bros.

Why Gamers Play Retro Games

Gamers Play Retro Games

But what is the appeal of these games, and how does it continue to endure despite the newer variations?

Ties with nostalgia

As outlined before, while it is generally assumed that teenagers are the ones most likely to game the day away, surveys show that members of the older generations are more invested. 68% of the respondents in their 30s and 40s have admitted to playing video games daily, compared to 58% of those in their 20s.

18% of gamers aged 46 to 55 admit to playing for over 24 hours in a single session. Older players are also likelier to play at night than their younger peers. Somewhat worryingly, 59% admit that they continue to game late into the evening, despite being well aware that doing so puts them at risk for sleep deprivation and interferes with their work responsibilities.

When asked about their preference for retro video games, nearly 38% of survey respondents gave nostalgia as the main factor. Players draw a line connecting the more carefree days of their childhood or teenage years with the games. As a result, they feel more relaxed and content when playing. Since their younger counterparts were barely toddlers or not even born around the same years, many cannot resonate with the sentiment.

Many 80s and early 90s babies have a strong connection to these games and fond memories of playing with their friends and helping them make new ones. Millennials have also literally grown up alongside the gaming industry. They’ve experienced the gradual shift from the 8-bit, pixelated interfaces to complex and realistic gaming environments from later on.

In a sense, gaming is a fundamental part of the culture of their generation. By comparison, most members of the Gen Z group have grown up with virtually unlimited access to the internet, so the gaming ecosystem doesn’t have the same impact on them and is more of a pastime activity than a genuine commitment. Moreover, old-school games don’t come as a blast from the past for them.

Changing styles

While the classic games are undoubtedly popular, it’s worth noting that there are also plenty of newer renditions putting a modern spin on the well-known and much-loved games from a few decades ago. The key is to change things in a way that doesn’t impact the original soul of the games. So, new technologies such as augmented reality are great, but they must be combined with something that has maintained its appeal for the players over the years. For example, games will still include the collectible characters initially introduced for the original Nintendo games.

Simpler can be better

There’s no doubt that video games have evolved tremendously compared to only a few decades before. Not so long ago, playing video games on your TV was still seen as an extraordinary feat that could be pretty frustrating. That is because the technology available to bring home was still behind anything available at the arcades. Now, the opposite is accurate, and you can get the most top-notch technology straight into your living room, bringing a high-quality gaming experience that couldn’t have been possible in the 90s.

And while there’s no denying that this technology is nothing short of amazing, many believe the high-quality experience can distract from the more practical and mechanical aspects of gaming, which could potentially make it more enjoyable. In this sense, many gamers have discovered that good gameplay design goes beyond technology.

Older games create more engaging and interactive experiences compared to their newer counterparts. Contemporary games can hide behind technological innovation and hide their shortcomings, such as a lack of actual substance to back up the game itself, compared to retro games that need to create strong foundations from the get-go. Quality stands the test of time in any industry.


There’s a tendency in society to believe that everything newer is also automatically better. The concept of innovation has become intrinsically tied to progress, meaning that many people are constantly waiting for the next best thing and are always ready to discard the items purchased not long ago. However, innovation isn’t always what it is touted to be. While there’s the case that legitimate progress does often come into play, it’s also not uncommon for it to be mostly hype sometimes, with nothing to back it up.

Since things change so quickly, people tend to do much less follow-up. Not only does this mean that the newer solutions are typically created without careful consideration, but many also view the past with derision. Older games are considered poorer quality by default and may even be considered silly or overly simplistic.

However, if the trend for retro gaming shows us anything, the new isn’t always superior to the old. We might have much to learn from the past regarding design and processes. Many cultural and subcultural histories are out there waiting to be explored and delivered their lessons to the present and future if only the public is prepared to listen.

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