I remember old games with better graphics than they actually had, the reason, nostalgia.
And there are a couple factors.
The first is the fact that you didn't have the new games of today to compare them with. Obviously if you took DOOM and put it up against Battlefield 4, then DOOM would look awful. But back in its prime, DOOM was the best of the best. Those were cutting edge graphics and that was a cutting edge game.
A lot of it boils down to comparative thinking and gradual progression.
Graphics are perpetually increasing in quality, with some combination of improved technique and Moore's Law doing the driving. We've never, however, meter real time content (e.g. games) against reality; even the most graphically stunning titles today aren't close to photorealistic - you can tell you're playing a game, but it's at the forefront of what can currently be achieved, and that is the standard we care about. No doubt at some point you'll think that a game made in 2012-4, at the pinnacle of what can currently be achieved is visually stunning, because it exceeds our previous measure for games; you've never seen a game with better graphics. Similarly, it's easy to remember a game made in 1994 as visually stunning because it did the exact same thing. Now, you can't really picture the graphics from 20 years ago (unless you have an eidetic memory) so your imagination fills in the blank. Of course, now when you go back to said older game, it's certainly not visually stunning by modern standards; we're used to considerably better, thus the older game looks terrible, and the gap between your misremembered perception and reality closes sharply.
The other is imagination. When you play a game and really get lost in it, then it's like reading a book. You're not only playing the game and looking at pixels on a screen but you're building this image in your head as well.
You can actually demonstrate this process to yourself over a much shorter time scale. On a decent TV, sit and watch a standard definition channel for a while - rate the picture quality out of 10. Most people say around 7 or 8. Swap then to a high definition channel. You'll probably think it looks a little better, but the difference between SD and HD is mostly minimal, maybe rating it 1 higher at 8-9. Now swap back to SD and rate it again; you'll find that by comparison to HD it looks awful; far worse than it did before, with most people revising their rating to around a 5. This is much the same process.
It's quite interesting to consider that even the most visually spectacular games today will be considered retro, or even ugly in a few years time, and people will probably still be talking about this, but using Crysis 3 as the outdated example.
For really old games there is another reason: Cathode-ray tube TVs -- you know, the big chunky ones, pre-LCD -- were a bit blurry.
Back in the NES, SNES, and N64 days, developers were actually banking on this blurriness to cover up the harsh lines of early 3D models, and the blurring smoothed out the pixels in pixel-art SNES games. When you play those games on a modern LCD, the harsh lines and square pixels show up with sharp clarity and can look a lot clunkier. If you go into the menus of consoles that offer retro games in there stores, many of them have video filters designed to blur things a little, add scanlines, and otherwise mimic the look of older TVs, which can make a lot of things look, unintuitively, nicer.
Likewise, the stuff you were comparing those games to was of a similarly low quality. If you were watching your movies on a long-play VHS on a 20" TV, then you would've never really seen a ton of background details, and you would've been used to some blur. So putting on a good N64 game like Perfect Dark wouldn't have seem as far from the movies as it does today, when you've been watching 50" Blu-rays.
Some fuzziness and a lack of background detail would just be par for the course.
I have been into gaming my whole life.
Retro and independent game stores and almost all of them fall into 1 of 2 categories.
- great stock of items in great condition for ridiculous prices.
- absolute disgusting shithole full of hidden gems for good prices if you can find them in the endless, disorganized piles.
Both styles of store have their place but I prefer the stores that are a hybrid between the two. The overpriced stores never budge on their pricing and this bothers me. They never have sales and they never have coupons or deals. The owners all seem to be out of touch with gaming in general and are only interested in having you make a purchase and leave.
My favorite stores have staff/owners that are clearly passionate about gaming and seem to actually care about me. When I walk into a place and the guy remembers what we talked about last time or he asks me if I played , for example fallout 4, that goes a long way with me. When I'm looking at buying multiple items they will go " okay fuck it man. If you want to grab both those games I'll throw in the genesis controller for free or $10 or something". I'm not always looking for the cheapest price or for freebies but the little things go a long way for me.
Another great thing is when a retro game store calls you when something comes in. I mentioned to my favorite store a while back I was looking for some n64 controllers and a few weeks later he called me and told me he got some in. This is awesome. In a world where I can order anything I could ever want online you have to draw me in with service. Things like this keep me loyal to certain stores.
Another thing I feel is important is to have a culture form around your store. If you have the room setup a tv/monitor with some systems or grab an arcade machine or two. It's pretty cool to be able to stop into a place, play some mvc2 on the cabinet with someone else at the store or a friend I'm with then grab something from the store. Some stores have gaming tournaments with gift cards or other swag for prizes. A local store hosts DR Mario tournaments all the time and at any point you can walk in the store an challenge the owner . If you can beat him you get a prize.
Most retro gamers are modern gamers. Maybe 10% of the retro crowd are retro "purists." If I come to you for my NES/Genesis/SNES games, chances are, I'll come to you for FFXV and Fallout 4. If you can't provide those, not only have you lost the sale of those games, but anything I may have seen while in your store "Oh, is that a CIB Final Fantasy III? How much is that?"
Anything to get people in your store is potential profit. Not making money is the same as losing it. Be a gaming store that carries retro products (or even specializes in them,) not a retro gaming store. If I have to go to your store for Sunset Riders, then drive across town to Gamestop/Wal Mart for Halo 5, I'm probably just gonna go on Amazon.
My local shop carries tons of stuff, and I'll go in there twice a month just to browse. They have everything from Atari to PS4. They also carry Blue Rays, Anime, Action Figures, Posters & Wall Scrolls, Keychains, Stickers, Video Game Themed Candy, Clone Consoles and custom cases/ dust sleeves.
Basically, any time I have an urge to chase a nerdy wild-hair, I know that they can help me.
I've went in there with the intention to browse and come out with $300 worth of stuff, on multiple occasions.
There are so many things that go through as retro now. But they are still very much alive in some of our lives.
Retro gaming is one of those memories.
Older games have a beautiful simplicity to them.
They're easy to digest for the most part, and easy to play whenever. Your goal is clear, your controls are easy to understand, and you can pretty much pick up the game whenever and continue without huge repercussions. Of course this doesn't go for every game but a lot of them are like this. With newer games I feel like if I don't play one for a long time I'll just completely forget what's happening in the story, forget a lot of the controls or features, etc. It just feels kind of complicated for someone who grew up with much simpler games.
But I still play newer games a lot.
Also, one of the biggest reasons why I like retro games over modern games is that they feel more complete. Complete in two ways:
Complete in the sense that DLC was pretty much non-existent for retro games, so developers put in everything they wanted into the game, or wait and put it in the next game. There were some precursors to DLC, like bringing your memory card to a store kiosk to get a limited edition character or something, but that was few and far between.
Also, retro games were complete in the sense that games had to be released as bug-free as possible. Developers didn't have the option to release the game with bugs and patch them later.
The only way to fix the bugs was to re-release the game, which was costly and hurt the early adopters that bought the broken copies.
On top of that modern games are a bit generic and they're sort of pigeon-holing themselves by emulating the same core mechanics in most every AAA game that comes forward, but when a game just 'nails it', it's really, really good. There's also something to be said about the way they're able to tell a cinematic story that can, at times, even rival the stuff we've seen in movie theaters.
But retro games are just good fun.
Most of those games may be extremely difficult, but you can still just pick them up and play without needing to spend an hour of game time playing through a tutorial. And because they weren't quite able to tell a great story unless we're talking about RPG's, they had to make the core gameplay mechanics shine. And, it's interesting to note that many of those old school game mechanics have been emulated, but never duplicated.
The indie scene is doing quite well at providing 'retro' looking/feeling games... and while some are really really good, how many have actually gone above and beyond the games they used as building blocks in the first place?
Not many, I'd wager.