15 Things We Miss About Old-School Gaming

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With last year's release of the Playstation 4 and Xbox One, the next generation of video game consoles is already underway. It’s a far cry from the 8-bit escapades that gamers of a certain age grew up on, so let's take a nostalgic glance back at what we miss most about the good old days.

1. Blowing on cartridges

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If something with your spanking-new eighth generation console goes wrong then you’ll probably need a team of NASA trained scientists to fix things for you. That wasn’t the case in the late '80s and early '90s, however, when millions of gamers worldwide grew up thinking that blowing enthusiastically onto the connectors of their cartridge was the cure for all console-based ills. And it worked! Well, kind of. (Lots more on that here.)

2. Cartridge art

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While we’re on the subject of cartridges, let's not forget the artwork that adorned their exteriors. Sure, modern Blu-rays are amazing, but once you’ve taken them out of their box, they’re just uninspired metallic discs. There were no such problems with cartridges, however, which came complete with gorgeously illustrated labels you could still see even when they were slotted into your console.

3. Hint hotlines

Amazingly, people actually got paid to man phone lines offering hints and tips on the latest games. It was a pretty aspirational job too, provided you were a teenage boy with little or no concept of what being a grown-up actually entailed.

4. Entering your initials on the scoreboard

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Few things in life can replicate the thrill of seeing your initials rise to the top of the scoreboard, even if it’s on your home console where the only person you’ve knocked off of the top perch is your older sibling.

5. Ludicrous accessories

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The entertainment arms race saw Sega and Nintendo release a bewildering array of accessories designed to swallow up the hard-earned allowances of their impressionable audiences. They ranged from the sublime (Sega’s Menacer scope), to the ridiculous (the Mario Paint mouse), to the utterly absurd (NES Power Glove).

6. In-built games

America didn’t take to Sega’s Master System, even when it was reissued with a game—the oddly hallucinogenic Alex Kidd in Miracle World—built directly into the console itself.

7. Zero load time

No menus, no loading bars, no annoying graphic advertising the brand you’ve already handed over hundreds of hard-earned dollars to every time you hit the on button. In fact, after flicking the hefty switch marked ‘power,’ there were no load times whatsoever on classic consoles, which was perfect for those of us who were always trying to squeeze in just one more game before bedtime.

8. Manuals the size of novels

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When it came to playing the games of yesteryear, there were no on-screen hints or in-built tutorials to guide you through the gameplay; some games came complete with manuals that had to be studied before you could even consider inserting the cartridge into your console. Crammed full of maps, diagrams and blank pages where you could scribble your in-game notes, these weighty tomes were a major part of the new game experience, an added layer of anticipation that gamers could peruse while feigning interest in everyone else’s gifts on Christmas morning.

9. Tangled controllers

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There was a certain art to untangling controller connectors, a propensity for which might earmark gamers as potential naval recruits from an early age. Sure, the tangled web of wires could be frustrating, but at least their batteries didn’t run out.

10. Not being able to save your progress

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There were no save points and no second chances when it came to completing games of old. Instead, reaching the end credits required skill, commitment, and probably a smattering of Chaos Emeralds for good measure.

11. Gameplay over graphics

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Without the ability to create photorealistic worlds that make everyday life look positively mundane by comparison, developers had to prioritize gameplay over graphics. The result was a slew of side-scrolling masterpieces—eminently enjoyable games that are still being played more than 30 years later.

12. Cheats

From the Konami code to the blood cheat from Mortal Kombat, rapidly pressing buttons in a seemingly random combination was a dark art many early console gamers were keen to master.

13. Glitches

Before Internet connections enabled developers to fix things on the fly, games were inevitably shipped with all manner of weird and wonderful glitches. No one liked getting stuck in a wall in Zelda of course, but nevertheless these became an oddly beloved part of the gaming experience. They even began to become legitimate game features, as was the case in the Mortal Kombat franchise where a kaleidoscopic array of new characters became a part of subsequent installments after starting life as graphical glitches.

14. End of level bosses

Sure they were tough, but final bosses were a rite of passage for many gamers, particularly at a time when a propensity for besting the likes of Dr Robotnik and M.Bison could elevate your social status quicker than a hand-me-down biker jacket ever could.

15. The word "joystick"

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Aptly named, the joystick was the carpal tunnel-inducing controller through which many a gamer experienced adolescence. The world is a darker place without them.

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April 18, 2014 - 6:00pm
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