4 Pro Tips for Playing Retro Video Games

Source: Nintendo

Source: Nintendo

There’s never been a better time to be a retro gamer. Between all the game collections coming out recently and the digital stores that offer everything from Atari classics all the way on up to the present, we’re awash in classic games. But for people who didn’t grow up playing games in decades past, diving into retro games can be a rough transition.

For one thing, even some of the most highly praised classics are punishingly difficult. Others don’t do a good job of communicating what you’re supposed to do at any given time. Many have sections that are downright unfair.

So if you want to start playing retro games, you’re going to have to approach them a little differently than you do modern games. Here are some pro tips to help you out.

1. Choose good games


This one seems obvious, but just because a game is old doesn’t mean it’s a classic. Lots of old games are so bad that they’re virtually unplayable now. A flood of bad games is the reason for the great video game crash of 1983 that nearly doomed the entire industry.

But don’t despair, because you can find hundreds and hundreds of retro games that are very much worth your time. A good way to do that is to seek out lists of the best games of all time, or lists of the best games for a particular system. Here’s one to get you started; it even includes information about how you can play them today.

2. Practice makes perfect


Older games are notorious for being difficult to the point that they make players want to pull out their hair and throw the controller at the nearest breakable object. And it’s true, many older games put new games to shame when it comes to challenge.

That said, unless we’re talking about a ridiculously hard game like Battletoads, even the toughest parts are beatable. It just takes some practice.

So play diligently. Memorize enemy patterns. Try different approaches to see what works. You’ll be able to beat the game eventually, and it’ll feel great.

3. Use YouTube and guides


Nowadays game developers are pretty good at making sure you know what you’re supposed to be doing at any given time. Whether there’s a shining beacon on your map or a quest log that gives you the details on your current mission, you generally know what you’re supposed to do at any give time.

That’s not the case with older games. Try making your way through The Legend of Zelda or Castlevania 2: Simon’s Quest without a guide, and you’ll spend a lot of time backtracking through the world in a blind attempt to trigger whatever needs to happen for you to go forward. There’s no shame in looking for help. Handy resources include YouTube walkthroughs and the available guides on GameFAQs.

4. It’s OK to cheat, but try to play clean first


On one hand, it’s total BS that Contra only gives you three lives, and that Mike Tyson (or Mr. Dream) knocks you out with a single punch, and that enemies are deliberately placed to knock you into pits in Mega Man. But dealing with those thorny parts comes with the territory when you want to play the classics.

A good way to approach ultra-challenging games is to start out playing the way it was meant to be played. Get a sense of how it works and what the developers were going for. But if you start to feel like you’re throwing yourself against a brick wall, by all means break the rules.

If you’re playing a game in a way that lets you save anywhere, try saving right before a challenging part. That way you can keep reloading without having to play through the whole level before getting another crack at it. If the game includes cheat codes, use them if you feel like it.

The most important thing is to have fun. These games were made for entertainment, so enjoy them. Maybe along the way you’ll learn a thing or two about how modern games came to be.

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