Modern vs. Retro

The case for Modern Gaming. The gaming industry has been around for a few decades now, and in that amount of time it has changed substantially, often in short periods of time.

While the retro world built everything that the modern gaming era has evolved, that doesn’t make it the better era of gaming. Even many of the greatest games of all time being hailed as from that era means little.

The basis of retro gaming being superior is almost strictly tied to subjective reasoning. Such as what games are the greatest ever, people’s own nostalgia, etc. The closest to an objective truth that people get to, is the amount of influence that it holds over modern gaming. But is that enough to warrant it the superior era?

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Defining Retro

First, you have to classify what is and isn’t retro gaming. Most people, and the managers of this site, state that everything from two generations ago and back is recognized as retro. While not everyone agrees with that definition, it’s what we’re going to use for this.


That means anything from the Gamecube/Xbox/Playstation 2/Gameboy and back is considered fair game. That’s a lot of history that definitely gives retro gaming an advantage.

Defining Modern

That means everything after that is considered modern. What’s that leave us with for modern exactly?

  • Xbox 360
  • Playstation 3
  • Nintendo DS
  • Nintendo Wii
  • Playstation Portable
  • Nintendo 3DS
  • Xbox One
  • Playstation 4
  • Nintendo Wii U
  • Playstation Vita
  • Nintendo Switch

Xbox 360

That’s a rather stacked line up of consoles that represent the modern era. And that doesn’t take into consideration the impact that modern PC gaming has had on the industry.

The “Why” Factor

So, why exactly is the modern era superior? In most ways the reasoning is just obvious fact.

Industry Worth

The first is the worth of the whole industry. If you’re looking for proof of something being better, hard evidence such as numbers help.

According to the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) the video game industry pulled in 2017 had a profit revenue around the $36 billion USD mark. More than it has ever seen before. The 2018 report isn’t finished yet, but GameIndustry.Biz reports that the industry generated $134 billion last year. Now, that’s before costs are taken out, but the report does also state a 10% increase over the 2017 fiscal year. That’s insane.


To put that in perspective, the Statistical Yearbook: Cinema, Television, Video, and New Media in Europe vol. 1999*, stated that the industry generated $19.8 billion in 1993, or around $34.5 billion in 2019. That does not account for costs. The 2017 year saw more in profit than the entire industry saw at all a partial way through the retro era.

Now anybody can tell you that worth alone isn’t a determining factor as to whether something is better or not. But it is a point that has to be made. Gaming in the retro years was more of a niche. It wasn’t a mainstream hobby that most people have experienced in some form. Even today retro gaming is still just a niche.

Them Graphics

The software itself is also a very important factor that’s more math based than opinion. I don’t need to list off a bunch of sources to explain that The Witcher 3 is a far more graphically impressive game than Final Fantasy VII. Everything about most modern games (as many titles both indie and AAA have mimicked the retro style), is from a technical standpoint, superior.


Clearly this doesn’t have to dictate personal opinion. Many retro titles were incredibly impressive for their time, titles such as the previously mentioned Final Fantasy VII or even the more recent Halo: Combat Evolved are examples of this. But again, that deters the argument back towards influence.

The Quality and Quantity

Modern era does easily take the cake for quantity despite the severely lessened amount of time its existed. There are multiple thousands of games published every year currently because of how available game development software is, and because of how casual the industry has become in many regards. Due to mobile games and the massive indie scene on PC, you will have a tough time trying to play even one years’ worth of releases to completion. Quantity doesn’t mean quality, but it does mean variety.

Witcher 3

The modern era has everything. It even has games that mimic the classic era very closely. Look at games like Shovel Knight, Bloodstained, Octopath Traveler, and even Stardew Valley. Some of these games are considered by many, as some of the best games ever created. So, we have modern titles that the retro era couldn’t try to duplicate but have successful modern titles who mimic retro.

Plus, many consoles and of course PC allow you to play enhanced versions of retro titles themselves. You can experience those games you love so dearly far better than a NES will ever allow.


When it comes to quality, this is completely subjective. It differs from person to person. However, with the modern era being able to create far smoother game play, express narratives in a more polished and forward manner, and even allow for more freedom or restrictions depending, I’d have to give it to the modern era overall. The retro era was largely limited to the technology of the time.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and compare all your favorite retro games to all your favorite modern games. It’s a waste of everyone’s time.

How Much is Influence Worth?

Influence is worth almost everything. Without what came before, what is to come would never be. A little something I’ve heard before that pertains to basically everything very well.

Now, I do disagree that this alone makes the retro era better. Since it came first, and they were restricted to what tools they had, it isn’t fair to draw the line here. It leaves too much out of the debate.

But, an argument by someone far smarter than me that can back this up with other points, could realistically turn the tide in the other direction.

Without The Legend of Zelda we wouldn’t have been given the masterpiece that is Breath of the Wild. Without the Xbox revolutionizing online gaming and first-person shooters with Halo the current generation could look extremely different than it does now.


That’s what’s so great about our industry. It’s constantly evolving, for better or for worse, is becoming more and more popular by the day, and has something for every single person on Earth to enjoy.


Think I’m an idiot? Please tell me why in the comments below! Thanks!

*Statistical Yearbook 1996. United Nations, 1999, Statistical Yearbook 1996.

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Mike Szoke

I've been involved with the world of video games since I was able to sit in my dad's lap and watch him. Not long after that I started playing myself, and it's been a naturally growing passion ever since.

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