Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock

The return of retro: Casual gamers relive the classics

Reinvented classic games will have to adapt to mobile phones, augmented and virtual reality

New Delhi: If you grew up in the 1980s and 1990s, you will probably remember video games like Street Fighter II, Mario and Pac-Man. One of the earliest first-person shooters (FPS), Wolfenstein, also belongs to this era. These games, which are the basis for many of today’s cinematic and advanced games, are making a strong comeback.

And, it is smartphones that have revived casual gaming in a big way. Games like PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, Alto’s Odyssey and others are commonly seen as a way to spend time while commuting. Other classics, including Bandai Namco’s Pac-Man and Electronic Arts’ Tetris, have been revived and released by their publishers with their original IP (the format in which they were originally played) for mobile phones.

“There is always an interest in classics. In the film industry you would see classics getting remade after every few years. There is a whole generation of people who have not experienced it," says Oliver Jones, co-founder and director of Bombay Play, a game development company that was recently part of Google’s Indie Games Accelerator programme.

Players who want a fix of their favourite classic games can turn to emulators such as DOSBox. It is available both offline and online, and allows users to play the original versions of games such as Dangerous Dave, Prince of Persia, etc. You can also use js-dos, a javascript-based online version of DOSBox that doesn’t require installation, neither the game, nor the emulator.

You can also download games like Metal Slug, and Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, which have been ported to Android by third-party developers and are often made available on this mobile platform for free. You will have to download these from third-party websites though, so do exercise caution.

Many games are being reproduced in their original avatars, but with tweaks, so they suit the touchscreen interface. Super Mario, for instance, continues to be a side scroller like the original, while Street Fighter II is also similar to the original.

However, simply offering the game in the old format may not work for a long time. The reason: Classic games have always depended on pressing the right buttons. Newer mobile games, on the other hand, run on gestures, tilting your phone or touch inputs. Hence, reinvented classic games will eventually have to drop their original styles and adapt to platforms like mobile phones, augmented reality and virtual reality.

“In the future, these games will continually get re-imagined in different ways and through different variants. We are living in this age where games are getting picked up, re-mixed, released and as soon as the new platform comes up such as Augmented Reality, you will see the same game adapted for it," says Jones of Bombay Play.

A case in point is video game publisher Ketchapp, which has made a version of Prince of Persia that retains the original look and feel, but the gameplay is based on touch inputs like most other smartphone games.

In the meanwhile, retro games are also making their way to competitive gaming events. The first edition of DreamHack in India, to be held in Mumbai later this month, will host a Retro Zone with arcade gaming machines running classic games such as Pinball, Tetris and Mario Brothers, among others.

“We believe that in every person is a casual gamer. Which is why through festivals such as DreamHack, we are not only targeting professional gamers but families and causal gamers who have played these games at some point," says Akshat Rathee, managing director of Nodwin Gaming.

In sum, while retro games may not impress professional gamers, they do have the ability to attract casual gamers. This spells good for the gaming industry too, because like any sport, it needs viewers who can be monetized.

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