8 Reasons to Play 8-Bit Games

It’s mostly people who have never seen the 8-bit computers in action. They’ll tell you that the “old graphics were so chunky that they practically consisted of bricks,” “the sounds consisted of the occasional beep and bleep,” and that “there were no storylines to speak of.” The straw that broke the back of my patience with these ignorants was a reviewer who commented on an abomination of a recent indie game with something like, “I don’t have a Commodore 64, so I lack the hardware to play this game.” The Commodore 64 (as well as the 8-bit Atari, the Spectrum, or the CPC, for example) has literally thousands of games that can effortlessly kick the donkey of the very most of the current game production. The 8-bitters may be outdated, but they definitely aren’t obsolete. Here are 8 very valid reasons to play 8-bit games.


Ever heard of “too much graphics, not enough gameplay”? Well, that’s what won’t happen in the 8-bit world. Not having to care about employing Hollywood actors for marketing purposes or plaguing their games with scripted events to show some cool explosions or even cooler eviscerations, the creators didn’t have to care about how to force you into those situations. So they could focus on letting you do some actually cool things by yourself.


8 bit games had soundtracks, not ambient, faceless, impotent movie-score-like string boredom. You can whistle and hum 8-bit themes twenty years later (last time I checked, I was able to remember about 200 8-bit music themes spontaneously), but how many melodies do you remember from PC games you’ve played over the last five years?


Characters in 8-bit games have always been dictated by the story, not by minorities bitching about being underrepresented in home entertainment (surprisingly, none of my gay 8-bit friends has ever complained about no gay characters in games), and even the German censorship could be placated by killing robots instead of humans. Did anyone ever object against the female baddies in Double Dragon or Target: Renegade kicking your character in the-, erm, just fatally kicking your character? Games were just games, not balls in pressure groups’ political ping pong. And if you really wanted political correctness, you could still have it – for example, Strip Poker had a data disk with male opponents, so there! And by the way, the next time they reboot the Tomb Raider series, I want Lara to be Larry, a little guy of Asian complexion, with glasses and no muscles to speak of. Just for the sake of balance, you know.


You can play your 8-bit games in peace, or with a friend sitting by your side. You enjoy the games the way you want, and no one can spoil your party by sticking in front of your eyes that you haven’t killed Gzhrondzor in less than 10 seconds or have gone through the Hotlands not finding all the five tubes of the Killi Chili Paste. And your heart doesn’t get broken by seeing that there are about several thousands other people with higher scores in a game you used to think you were the king of. In the 8-bit world, your high score is your high score, and that’s it.


You bought the game on Day 1, and if you were good enough, you could finish it on Day 1. Today you get to about Level 2, and then have to wait till a patch is released that finally stops the game from crashing, makes the boss at the end of the level killable, or puts an end to items randomly disappearing from your inventory (can today’s coders imagine that there are people who don’t have – or even don’t want to have – Internet at home?). Also, developers didn’t charge you extra for something that already was on your disk or tape but would be presented as an expansion or super duper hyper deluxe bonus content. And just by the way, no hassle with online activation even when you buy a physical medium.


8-bit games have a bigger color palette. Yes, they work with just 16 or so colors, but they don’t use them all the same way. They know other color combinations than just darkish-greyish-greenish for war simulations, the-shiniest-yellow-and-red-and-green-and-blue-and-especially-violet for action titles, and the 50-shades-of-black-and-dark-grey monochrome of survival horrors and indier-than-the-indiest-indie titles.


8-bit games have content before form. If a game is original, it’s original because someone had a great idea, not because a wannabe-indie team of people spent a week in a hut on a beer-and-pot diet, trying to brainstorm something that hasn’t been here before. As a result, 8-bit developers didn’t spend most of their time scratching their heads, thinking how to fill the idea of an exciting and highly innovative procedurally generated real-time strategic rouge-lite RPG with crafting elements and pausable fight (that has come to them on the top of their high) with some substance. Instead, the 8-bit developers just coded cool games!


Believe it or not, there were times when you could do more in games than just fight in a (conventional, magic, or future) war, solve 3D puzzles, survive in isolated premises infested with unknown evil and graphomaniacs constantly losing pages from their diaries, look for (how moving!) someone close who has mysteriously disappeared, or play sports games licensed so thoroughly that you wonder whether the characters use licensed toilets off-camera. There were times when you could compete in psychotic judo or cow milking, drive a prehistoric or space taxi, search for (and find) the Loch Ness monster, dispatch aggressive carnivorous dinosaurs with a baseball bat, ride on a broom, be a nice monster cooking for a nasty monster, or step into the shoes of an aardvark searching for a promised land called Antopia. And much, oh so much more! Anyone, anything, anywhere.


In case you counted with us: this would be reason no. 9, but it’s not really a reason. But just admit it: nothing can ever beat the fun you had with [insert your favorite title here, or hundreds of your favorite titles if you’re a hardcore 8-bit freak like us]!

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