What is retrogaming?

Retro is synonymous with seniority, we mark a past era from the 1930s to the 2000s. When we talk about retrogaming, many people become nostalgic to remember good times spent alone or with friends. Video games have shaped our childhood and marked our generation. This article aims to tell you about the origins of gaming until today.

Content table

  1. The history of retrogaming
  2. Retrogaming news
  3. Conclusion

1. The history of retrogaming

Arcade terminals

For many of us, retrogaming started in an arcade, a gathering place to have fun alone or with friends. The arcade cabinets gave us the opportunity to have fun on different types of video games. For the pleasure of playing, the competition or even developing our skills, everyone had their own objectives.

To begin with, the first marketed arcade machine was created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney (the founders ofAtari) with the game computer games in 1971. Inspired by Spacewar!, you pilot a rocket in space and you have to fight the flying saucers by shooting at them. But it was above all in 1972 that there was a real revolution in arcade machines with pong. He was the pioneer of the arcade game industry. 

Then, in 1978, the golden age of arcade games started with space invaders which brought the video game industry a huge breakthrough.

He gave an improvement of the arcade system which included new processors and new more powerful chips thus offering more advanced graphics and gameplay. Thanks to this progress, the first arcades were born. They offered the possibility of playing exclusive games such as Pac man, Donkey Kong, King and Balloon, Asteroid, Breakout etc

This era saw a real transformation, they quickly settled in public places such as bars, supermarkets, cinemas, restaurants, gas stations, etc. From 1990, the number of terminals and arcades began to decline. However, they still exist today but much more at their past level. Indeed, home consoles have gained huge market share to their detriment.

Indeed, when we talk about an arcade terminal, we are referring to retrogaming which brings nostalgia for some people or the discovery of the ancestor of game consoles. Nevertheless, it is still possible to play old video games , the means are:

  • put an emulator on your pc, an SBC like the Raspberry Pi or even your mobile phone, to find all the platforms on the same device
  • buy an old console for the vintage side with the games you want,
  • rent/buy an arcade machine from a professional or even build it yourself.
Bartop 2d 16/9e - Ghouls and Ghosts
Bartop 2d 16/9e – Ghouls and Ghosts

retro consoles

If we talk about the very first arcade terminals, we must also talk about the first home consoles. We are not going to list them all, because there are many, but rather tell you about those that have had a big historical impact.

The Magnavox Odyssey or only theOdyssey was the first home console marketed in 1972 by Magnavox with accessories, 6 pre-installed games and 6 other games sold separately. pong was one of the main selling points of the Odyssey and single-handedly drove sales.

In the accessories, there were overlays: graphic backgrounds that stuck on his TV screen in order to obtain a decor according to the game; chips: for money games like roulette, we mixed between television and board games; cards: the cards gave us a task to do on certain games and we had to answer it using our controller, etc.

The Magnavox Odyssey and its accessories, Released in 1972. Source: Culture games
The Magnavox Odyssey and its accessories, Released in 1972. Source: Culture games

Subsequently, technology has only improved, giving us the Fairchild Channel F in 1976. It was the first video game console based on an interchangeable cartridge system and the first to have a microprocessor. Following this, in 1977, Atari produced theATARI 2600 in order to compete with Channel F. It had a great success thanks to the principle of interchangeable cartridges and it allowed the video game industry to have an important place on the market. The star game of the ATARI 2600 was space invaders. Despite this success, video game crisis in 1983 in the United States declared itself due to a supply far exceeding demand and the inactivity of companies following this crisis. Therefore, the effect was the collapse of several businesses and the massive loss of several video game cartridges.

The Fairchild F, released in 1976
The Fairfield F, released in 1976

After the crisis, two Japanese companies launched their first home consoles. The SG-1000 for Sega and the Family Computer (or Famicom) for Nintendo at the same time in 1983. The Famicom had a great success in the land of the rising sun due to its lower price compared to other consoles and a major technical evolution. In 1985, Europe, the United States and Canada completely redesigned the Famicom with a new design, slightly different features and a new name: Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES). India and South Korea decided to keep the Famicom model but just change the name which was Tata Famicom for India and Hyundai Comboy for South Korea. The NES has been able to differentiate itself with its gigantic catalog of video games. Many cult games have appeared.

For example Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, donkey kong, Castlevania, Metroid, etc

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), released in 1983
The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), released in 1983

In order to be able to compete with the NES, the company NEC launched the PC Engine in 1987 and Sega launched its mega drive in 1988. The PC-Engine is the first console in history to have had a CD-ROM drive to read video games. Later, in order to be able to compete with the NES, the company NEC launched the PC Engine in 1987 and Sega launched its Mega Drive in 1988. The PC-Engine is the first console in history to have had a CD-ROM drive to read video games. Later, several versions of it were released to take several different game formats: CD-ROM, HuCard, Great CD-ROM and Arcade CD-ROM. It also had an 8-bit central processor and a 16-bit graphics processor, which was a record at the time. Among the games, we can mention the notable ones bomber man, Dungeon Explorer, PCKid, etc

PC-Engine, released in 1987
The PC-Engine, released in 1987

In 1990, the Super Nintendo (aka SNES) made its appearance. Its first objective was to compete with Sega with its mega drive and NEC with the PC Engine. This console offered better sound and graphics performance than the previous 8-bit version by reaching 16-bit. It also offered a huge amount of games, we can mention Super Mario World, The Legend of Zelda: Link to the Past, donkey kong country, star wing, Chrono Trigger and so many others. With its new console, Nintendo continued to remain the leader in the gaming market. The support of its developers has enabled Nintendo to maintain this position. The acquisition of many games such as the purchase of game rights Tetris then allowed Nintendo to design the first portable console, the gameboy.

The Super Nintendo (SNES), released in 1990
The Super Nintendo (SNES), released in 1990

As for Sega, its experience in arcades allowed it to compete with its rivals with its Mega Drive. The many ports of arcade games and the arrival of an emblematic character of the game, Sonic: The Hedgehog, gave him enormous success.

The Mega Drive, released in 1988
The Mega Drive, released in 1988

In summary, we have seen the first landmark consoles in the history of video games. Subsequently, other new generation consoles appeared with the Playstation for Sony and the Xbox for Microsoft.

2. Retrogaming news

Why play retro games?

Why play retro games when modern games bring new graphics and features? For some people, retro games are just old pixelated games, totally outdated and uninteresting, but for others they are the source of an all-consuming passion: retrogaming!

Take the case of 2 games of the same title The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (BotW) and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (OoT). In 1998, OoT charmed an entire generation. Its history, its dungeons, its music and its bosses were particularly appreciated. A well-designed open world allowing the player to discover Hyrule and an interest in each boss linked to certain characters in the story. BotW, released in 2017, has been able to modernize by offering a new dimension of the open world. This time, the player has the choice of exploring, doing side quests or continuing the story of the game whenever he wants. A totally redone graphic design giving us this feeling of freedom.

In summary in Oot, you will enjoy a fantastic story with unique and striking bosses without forgetting the iconic music of this opus. While in BotW, the graphics will give you another dimension in the Zelda universe by giving you total freedom.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, released in 2017 - Source: jv.jeuxonline.info
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, released in 2017 – Source: jv.jeuxonline.info

In conclusion, modern games and their technological advancements allow stunning graphics, smooth gameplay, game expansion to extend its lifespan, and online gaming to attract modern gamers. For retro games, we focus more on quality gameplay. Often on a nostalgia recalling our childhood and on a very consequent lifespan. 

Each generation brings a totally different experience to video games. Former player as new player, everyone will find his account. If you are not afraid of graphics and a certain difficulty, then I invite you to try the retro games.

The modernization of retro games

Some games marked the childhood of many people. Just remembering times spent on Metroid, GTA, Tomb Raider, Final Fantasy, The Legend of Zelda can make us nostalgic. From the PS4 and Xbox One, old games are brought back to life by refurbishing them in several ways: 

The remastering : This is one of the most widely used practices today. It aims to optimize an already existing game using current technology. The graphics are changed by putting more details by changing the contrast, brightness and new textures making the game more enjoyable to watch. The gameplay is not altered, but it rectifies several bugs. The choice of remastering allows for excellent backwards compatibility. It cannot be done because of a technology that is too obsolete for the new consoles. In the remastering, we also bring some DLC to increase the life expectancy of the game, new content for other or several games of the same title in a compilation of several opuses.

For example, there is Crash Bandicoot, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time 3D, Skyrim, etc

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, released in 1998
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, released in 1998. Source: Jeuxvideo.com
  • The remake : The remake is a new version of an already existing work. It allows the game to be modern by adapting it with new technologies. The story can keep the same base or be modified with a new gameplay system, settings and completely redesigned characters. It's not a simple smoothing or improvement of textures, it's a total redesign of the game with new elements. The remake allows old players to play the same title, but in a completely different way. Even if the players have not experienced the original game, it allows them to discover an old game but with contemporary graphics. We can take as an example final fantasy 7 remake, Resident Evil 2, Metroid: Zero Mission, etc
Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997 / Final Fantasy VII remake, released in 2020
Final Fantasy VII, released in 1997 / Final Fantasy VII remake, released in 2020. Source: Actugaming.com
  • Carrying : Porting aims to make old games compatible with new generations of consoles. It thus allows players to be able to play on another platform without the game being modified. This allows developers to offer their games at discounted prices while saving for future projects on other video games. It's also useful for some online games to make it cross-play. There are Among Us, Pokemon Unite, Final Fantasy XIV, etc
Among Us, released in 2018
Among Us, released in 2018
  • The reboot : The reboot is a reinterpretation of a game. It is a new version of an already existing game by completely modifying its history. Similar to the remake, it nevertheless allows you to make an alternative of the same game by taking everything from the beginning. Reboots are used a lot in cinema. They give the opportunity to obtain a very different approach from the original version (Spider Man for example). For games, there are DmC: Devil May Cry, Castlevania: Lord of Shadows, Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, etc
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, released in 2003
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, released in 2003. Source: Jeuxvideo.com

How to get started?

For starters, it all depends on individual preferences. Some gamers prefer to play on older consoles and some prefer to play on a next gen console.

The collectors are more attached to vintage. They tend to have the vintage consoles and old cartridges. In this case, you will also need a CRT television or a newer television that includes a VGA port. If you are interested, there is an article on “how to play retro games?”, this will give you the information you need to get started.

As to to gamers, they will prefer the practical side. They are usually used to new consoles and will prefer to just download the games. If you do not have a console, the solutions for you will be:

  • Emulate on computer or other card
  • Buy an arcade terminal,
  • Buy a mini edition of the remade console so you can play a few games on your TV.

3. Conclusion

To conclude, arcade terminals are less and less present, because of the success of home consoles. However, they are not completely forgotten.

Indeed, today, arcade terminals have also evolved over time. They thus give us the possibility of being able to play all the retro games on a single machine. They reconcile vintage and modern, and are a good way to make us relive our childhood or past era. Next gen consoles also give us the opportunity to be able to play the original games by downloading or buying them. The old games are not totally forgotten. Remakes and reboots bring old games back to life either by keeping their story or by revisiting it. In short, everyone will find their account and will be able to appreciate the charm of retro games in their own way.

Flex Arcade - Recalbox
Flex Arcade – Recalbox
Flex Arcade

Picture of Flex Arcade

Flex Arcade


At FLEX we love video games, it is this passion that rocked our childhood (and perhaps yours!?) that drives us on this adventure, to design and manufacture superb machines to replay the best titles of the young history of video games. We produce a “ready to play” range but also make special orders for unique and characterful arcade terminals using for example the base of a 300L wine barrel or a French army ammunition box ! We are at your disposal for your projects, share your wildest dreams, we love to make them come true.

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