12 votes

What are examples of modern games that would fit in perfectly on retro consoles?

Shovel Knight is essentially an NES game that got released in 2014, as its design and artwork are deliberately reminiscent of games for that system. It's a definitive example of an answer to the question, but I'm also interested in games that weren't necessarily intended to be throwbacks but can be interpreted as such by nature of their execution.

What are other examples of games that feel like they could have been released for, say, the Dreamcast, PSOne, SNES, or any of the other consoles of yesteryear? Furthermore, what are the defining traits they possess that make them fit in on that system?

17 comments

  1. [3]
    Elronnd
    Link
    Crosscode would definitely pass as an SNES game. Stardew valley is another one which is an homage to the old harvest moon games. Speaking of NES games, micro mages is a game that came out just...

    Crosscode would definitely pass as an SNES game. Stardew valley is another one which is an homage to the old harvest moon games.

    Speaking of NES games, micro mages is a game that came out just this past year for the actual NES.

    9 votes
    1. Bullmaestro
      Link Parent
      On a related note, Freedom Planet would have made a good Genesis or Saturn title.

      On a related note, Freedom Planet would have made a good Genesis or Saturn title.

      2 votes
    2. Diff
      Link Parent
      Ah I've been looking for micro mages for a while. While back I saw this video that went into some of the challenges they faced trying to cram such a large game into 40KB. Haven't been able to...

      Ah I've been looking for micro mages for a while. While back I saw this video that went into some of the challenges they faced trying to cram such a large game into 40KB. Haven't been able to remember the name of it since. Really fascinating stuff, video's only ~10min so def give it a watch.

  2. [2]
    imperialismus
    Link
    Celeste, like Shovel Knight, is a retro looking platformer that would feel right at home on the SNES. It's got the looks of a game from that era and it's a genre (2d platformer) that was around...

    Celeste, like Shovel Knight, is a retro looking platformer that would feel right at home on the SNES. It's got the looks of a game from that era and it's a genre (2d platformer) that was around and very popular for that time.

    So I'd say for a game to "fit" an old console, it would have to have an old-school look, be part of a genre that actually existed at the time (no online battle royale game), and be at least technically possible to run on that kind of hardware without changing the game up completely. For instance, vanilla Minecraft looks like an early 3D game that could have existed on the N64 or PS1, but I think it's far too demanding for the hardware despite its low-fi graphics.

    I struggle to come up with any examples of games that could fit on a pre-2000s console but are not, in some way, deliberately inspired by retro games or retro aesthetics.

    7 votes
    1. Pakistan
      Link Parent
      The nearest games I can find without it being inspired by retro aesthetics are Thomas is alone, Limbo, and Gris. All of them being 2d platformers.

      I struggle to come up with any examples of games that could fit on a pre-2000s console but are not, in some way, deliberately inspired by retro games or retro aesthetics.

      The nearest games I can find without it being inspired by retro aesthetics are Thomas is alone, Limbo, and Gris. All of them being 2d platformers.

      2 votes
  3. [7]
    nothis
    Link
    Since it’s such a popular style in indies, I find the question a little moot. What I find more interesting is how much modern “retro style” games do that would be way out of a genuine retro...

    Since it’s such a popular style in indies, I find the question a little moot. What I find more interesting is how much modern “retro style” games do that would be way out of a genuine retro consoles’s league.

    Like, for example, the original Harvest Moon games had way less persistent world elements than Stardew Valley, on the SNES they’d quickly run out of RAM and/or saving space. Games like FEZ look retro but then you got the whole 3D world-rotation. I think even Celeste, even ignoring the detailed background effects and such, might not fit on a SNES cartridge, just the levels and such.

    I admit, though, that I recently found myself stumped asking myself that question about Baba is You. On the one hand, it’s genuine 8bit sprites and super simple? But it kinda has to run a whole logic thing in the background that might be way more complex than it seems? I wonder whether a SNES Baba Is You would be possible.

    4 votes
    1. [4]
      Elronnd
      Link Parent
      I haven't played baba is you, but based on trailers it looks like it would be more than doable on an SNES. Alright, ignore the graphics. Let's look at music. Lots of games come out, like shovel...

      I haven't played baba is you, but based on trailers it looks like it would be more than doable on an SNES.

      Alright, ignore the graphics. Let's look at music. Lots of games come out, like shovel knight mentioned in the OP that would graphically fit right in on an NES or SNES. I can't think of a single game whose music would be able to be put on any one of those consoles. Why are we nostalgic for graphics, but with music we throw all traditionalism out the window once the technology is capable enough?

      1 vote
      1. [2]
        Deimos
        (edited )
        Link Parent
        That's not true, a lot of chiptune composers specifically restrict themselves to the capabilities from actual retro game hardware. The tools are generally better now than what actual NES (or other...

        That's not true, a lot of chiptune composers specifically restrict themselves to the capabilities from actual retro game hardware. The tools are generally better now than what actual NES (or other systems') composers actually had access to, but it's pretty common to stay inside what was possible on the hardware.

        For example, Shovel Knight's soundtrack is composed in FamiTracker, which means it could work on hardware:

        One of the features is NSF-file exporting. That allows music created in this tracker to be played on the real hardware, or even for use in your own NES-applications.

        Here's the game's composer showing one of the songs being played through in FamiTracker: Shovel Knight - Propeller Knight BGM + Boss Music

        From the description:

        This isn't some lame NES soundalike program, it's data that can actually compile and run on a real Famicom console! If it sounds crazier than normal NES music, that's because it uses the same expansion sound chip as the Japanese version of Castlevania 3.

        The article @jtemo linked to explains more about it down at the bottom, under "Sound Limitations".

        5 votes
        1. Akir
          Link Parent
          You can say that again. Today you can use trackers, piano roll interfaces, or even just put notes on a bar in order to write your music. But computer music in the pre-midi 80s was typically...

          The tools are generally better now than what actual NES (or other systems') composers actually had access to

          You can say that again. Today you can use trackers, piano roll interfaces, or even just put notes on a bar in order to write your music. But computer music in the pre-midi 80s was typically written in MML, which has its roots in BASIC. Yes, that BASIC. This kind of system was used even as sound hardware was getting more and more complex with FM and early wavetable synthesizers. Image tacking on multiple tracks, sound patches, effects, and more. All into this programming language that looks like a string of letters and numbers.

          2 votes
      2. jtemo
        Link Parent
        Oh, we're certainly nostalgic for soundtracks! But even something like Shovel Knight does a lot graphically that the NES couldn't. Just that like with graphics, there's no good reason to put the...

        Oh, we're certainly nostalgic for soundtracks! But even something like Shovel Knight does a lot graphically that the NES couldn't. Just that like with graphics, there's no good reason to put the same hard restrictions in front of ourselves that those classics had if it means taking away from the quality of the homage. The natural compromise with audio is traditionally produced music that uses a lot of motifs, sounds, rules, and feelings of the originals, all the while reaping the rewards of modern technology.

        3 votes
    2. [2]
      kfwyre
      Link Parent
      I didn't do a good job of articulating it, but I was wanting to focus on games that did more than just fit a general retro aesthetic (e.g. pixel art) and instead sufficiently mimic games from...

      I didn't do a good job of articulating it, but I was wanting to focus on games that did more than just fit a general retro aesthetic (e.g. pixel art) and instead sufficiently mimic games from older eras.

      For example, in doing my own searching, I came across Macbat 64, which is an obvious attempt to make a modern N64 game. The character models, use of textures, even their 4:3 aspect ratio all work together to evoke games of the time. It looks like it could stand side by side with other N64 games and fit right in.

      Another example I found is the game OK/Normal which deliberately goes for the style of an original Playstation game. It's not just that they decided to go low-res and low-poly that puts it in that category, but it also includes a distinctive visual element unique to the PSOne. The Playstation was notorious for having jagged lines and jittery polygons because one of its processors couldn't handle floating point numbers and instead calculated everything as imprecise integers.

      You can see an example here from Tomb Raider in the lines on the floor (note: the effect is somewhat exaggerated given that this is from an emulator running at a much higher resolution, which makes the problem worse). OK/Normal intentionally skews its floor textures to evoke a similar effect, making it feel like a PSX game in a very particular way.

      To me, Baba Is You looks like an NES game mostly due to its simplicity and use of color, but I also wonder whether the NES's hardware would be able to handle the logic of the gameplay and levels. It seems like it should be simple enough to me, but I don't know enough about hardware to know for sure. I also haven't made it to the later levels, so I don't know how complex the logic gets toward the end.

      1 vote
      1. nothis
        Link Parent
        Got it. I mean, the first game that pops in my head is Retro City Rampage, which literally had a NES ROM of it made. I kinda didn't mention it because it felt too obvious, lol! I'm with you that...

        Got it. I mean, the first game that pops in my head is Retro City Rampage, which literally had a NES ROM of it made. I kinda didn't mention it because it felt too obvious, lol!

        I'm with you that 3D retro graphics are an interesting case. I'm slowly seeing it happen but it's even more "fantasy" versions of 80s, 90s aesthetics. Which I'm okay with? From a gameplay perspective, I like the idea of more complex 3D games being done by indie studios by reducing the 3D modeling work with a smart low poly aesthetic and such. Return of the Obra Dinn is a very fresh aesthetic, IMO, I don't think its 1bit 3D has ever been done on genuine 80s hardware but it looks pretty cool.

        1 vote
  4. Pakistan
    (edited )
    Link
    Undertale and Papers Please, it is lightweight and adheres to the old pixel style aesthetics. Owlboy is a second choice - which I'm currently playing.

    Undertale and Papers Please, it is lightweight and adheres to the old pixel style aesthetics. Owlboy is a second choice - which I'm currently playing.

    2 votes
  5. mrbig
    (edited )
    Link
    I don’t think Shovel Knight would run on NES at all, but it would run comfortably on the SNES. The PS1 could probably run: The Binding of Isaac Undertale Thomas Was Alone Spelunky But is the...

    I don’t think Shovel Knight would run on NES at all, but it would run comfortably on the SNES.

    The PS1 could probably run:

    • The Binding of Isaac
    • Undertale
    • Thomas Was Alone
    • Spelunky

    But is the question about games that resemble old consoles games, or is it about games they could actually run?

    2 votes
  6. [2]
    weystrom
    Link
    Almost any 2D indie platformer/metroidvania. Hyper Light Drifter Axiom Verge Shovel Knight Celeste Dead Cells

    Almost any 2D indie platformer/metroidvania.

    • Hyper Light Drifter
    • Axiom Verge
    • Shovel Knight
    • Celeste
    • Dead Cells
    1 vote
    1. sxo
      Link Parent
      And for bonus points to run on your C64, VVVVVV

      And for bonus points to run on your C64, VVVVVV

      1 vote
  7. HanakoIsBestGirl
    Link
    The c64 isnt a console, but it can run portal. (Well kinda)

    The c64 isnt a console, but it can run portal. (Well kinda)

    1 vote