Your Reminder: Games Have Always Been Mostly Terrible

Your Reminder: Games Have Always Been Mostly Terrible

As much as people go crazy for the classics, the greats were surrounded by just as much trash as today's masterpieces, as demonstrated in the latest episode of the Chrontendo video series.

I'm a huge fan of the Chrontendo video series — a chronological survey of the Nintendo Entertainment System, Famicom, and Famicom Disk System libraries — and I always drop everything to watch any time a new episode appears in my YouTube feed.

The latest episode hit the web overnight, and it's majestic in its utter anticlimactic feel. You'd think that in hitting its landmark 50th episode, Chrontendo would delve into some landmark masterpieces, some epic gems that truly defined the NES. But that's not the way chronologies necessarily work, and in the words of series creator Dr. Sparkle himself, "the selection of games this time is probably the worst yet." This is a series that has suffered the chaotic early days of the Famicom, before game design and programming standards had hit a certain threshold of minimum expected tolerability; Chrontendo has also detailed nearly the entire Disk System library, too, and that was a vertiable minefield of stinkers. Yet somehow, Dr. Sparkle is right: Despite this episode arugably appear at the pinnacle of the NES and Famicom's creative output, shortly before the advent of the Super NES/Super Famicom inflicted brain-drain on the 8-bit development pool this episode of Chrontendo is full to the brim with games you'd frankly never want to play.

Of the 15 games covered in this episode, not a single one will be appearing on Nintendo NES Classic Edition mini-console. Not a single one of them is the kind of game anyone reaches for first when rediscovering the NES with any of the new wave of clone consoles like the RetroN 5, Analogue Nt, or AVS. Not all of them are terrible, but some of them genuinely are... and even the decent-ish one sit well outside the best-of-genre range.

Retrogaming has become all the rage in recent years, which suits me just fine. My greatest love as a game writer is exploring the medium's history and coming to understand how we got from having our minds blown by Pong allowing us to guide the movement of a "ball" (actually a square) on our televisions to the total 3D immersion of a full-featured VR spaceflight simulation like Elite: Dangerous. I'm happy to have the excuse to indulge myself. That said, there is a definite tendency for all of us to gloss over the reality of retrogaming in our eagerness to hold aloft our favorites. The blunt, uneditorialized approach Chrontendo takes — holding to a rigid chronological schedule — does a great service in reminding us that, yeah, most of the old games we had to wade through were pretty terrible.

When people look back at the olden days and ignore all the trash that accompanied the true classics, they frequently sigh about how much better things were in the old days, and how games now are mostly inferior in this or that way. Far be it from me to stomp on someone's nostalgia! But at the same time, it's good to be realistic about games both old and new. Most games were just as unimaginative and poorly made as most games are today. Which is exactly what makes the worthwhile ones, both old and new, so meaningful. That's the great thing about writers and video producers who are willing to wade into the morass of mediocrity for you — they can suffer for you and distill lousy games down to a few unhappy talking points, so you can maintain a sense of perspective without experiencing all the pain.

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