10 Modern Games that Perfectly Capture the Retro Vibe
You’ve probably already noticed, but retro gaming is quite a big thing nowadays. Gamers with cherished memories of video games of yesteryear just love to spend their money on compilations or modern re-releases of classic games, and like-minded developers create brand-new experiences with aesthetics and gameplay designed to scratch that retro gaming itch.
How many of them really nail it, though? It’s all well and good to make a pixel art side-scroller and call it retro, but the cream of the modern retro crop knows exactly how to make a game feel like it travelled in time from that era, even if it makes use of up-to-date graphics and gameplay to achieve that effect. After all, we often remember things being way better than they actually were, and a great retro developer understands that.
As such, for this video we’re listing ten games that we think best understand the retro vibe they were trying to evoke, and managed to wrap their players in a rose-tinted blanket of cosy nostalgia.
Oh, and if you’re worried that the TripleJump crew are perhaps too young to remember playing some of the games these titles are trying to emulate, don’t worry, because our writer is really, really old. In fact, I think he’s already gone to bed, so keep the noise down, yeah?
I’m Peter from TripleJump, and here are 10 Modern Games that Perfectly Capture the Retro Vibe.
10. Sonic Mania
Sonic the Hedgehog’s trajectory since his Mega Drive glory days has had more ups and downs than Chemical Plant Zone Act 2, but one of its biggest ups is undoubtedly 2017’s Sonic Mania. This return to the speedy hedgehog’s 2D roots only exists thanks to Sonic’s talented community of fan developers, yet sold and reviewed better than most of the hedgehog’s more recent outings developed by Sonic Team themselves.
This is probably because Sonic Mania offers jilted Sonic fans the chance to once again explore detailed and dynamic 2D worlds at breakneck speeds, many of which are remixed from previous Sonic titles. These re-imagined zones tend to stick to the original formula for the first act, and then add new features for the second, such as Oil Ocean’s smog or Chemical Plant’s springy fluids. This all results in a high-speed experience that feels both old and new, helped along by an excellent soundtrack full of pulsating remixes and fantastic original tunes.
Oh, and best of all, it only features Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Eggman in starring roles. No Shadows, Silvers, Bigs, Zavoks or any of those other superfluous cast members that have polluted the Sonic franchise since its glory days. Wait, what’s that armadillo doing there?!
9. The Messenger
If there’s one thing that embodies 80’s and 90’s console gaming, it’s side-scrolling ninja action. The Western world had just started to discover the coolness that is the fighting ninja, and whether you owned a Nintendo, a Sega, or an Amiga, chances are that these black-clad dudes were plastered all over your screen at one point or another.
In 2018, Devolver Digital published The Messenger, a game that takes more than a few cues from classic NES trilogy, Ninja Gaiden. In it, players take on the role of a ninja from a hidden village, who takes on the forces of the Demon King. The gameplay and visuals echo the aforementioned Ninja Gaiden, but the developers made clever and careful use of more modern development techniques to ensure that The Messenger is as good as you remember those ninja games of old to be.
One such modern addition involves a bit of time-bending trickery. Should our katana-wielding protagonist fall in battle, he will be forced to exchange time shards with a mysterious demon, named Quarble, who will rewind time and grant him another chance.
The only complaint we have with The Messenger is the demon’s name. Who the heck would call an all-powerful demon with control over time itself “Quarble”? Sounds like the noise I make when my lemonade goes down the wrong way.
8. Xeno Crisis
Another mainstay of 80’s and 90’s action games is aliens. Specifically aliens with elongated heads, dark, chitinous forms, and extending jaws, that prey upon tooled-up marines with futuristic, automatic weapons and motion sensors. Basically, everything wanted to be just like the movie, Aliens, and there are a host of classic titles to back up that claim (and some modern ones, too).
One recent release chose to take Aliens-inspired visual ambience and layer it on top of gameplay that closely resembles Smash TV. Bitmap Bureau’s Xeno Crisis was released in 2019, and is a top-down, twin-stick shooter with classic gameplay. Players choose one of two protagonists and take on screen-sized arenas, mowing down alien abominations in fast-paced, desperate firefights, where keeping light on your feet while constantly pumping that trigger finger is the key to survival.
Xeno Crisis doesn’t just capture that retro feeling by slapping an Aliens-inspired paint job on top of top-down shooter gameplay, though. Nope, those heroes at Bitmap Bureau went the extra mile, releasing an actual Mega Drive cartridge in 2019, complete with old-school Mega Drive packaging and a chunky manual. Don’t worry, though, if you don’t have Sega’s 16-bit beast lying around, you can buy it digitally for PC and consoles.
It wouldn’t be very “retro” of you though, would it?