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Why are 16-bit graphics so popular now?

I'm going to date myself--the first video game my parents bought me as a kid was Pong, which was followed up by an Atari 2600. The first console I bought myself in college was a Super Nintendo. I won't lie--I put a ton of hours into games like Super Mario World, Super Metriod, Earthbound, Street Fighter II Turbo, Donkey Kong Country, Ken Griffey, Jr. Baseball, and more. Since then, I've owned all 4 Playstations, a PS Vita, Gamecube, Wii, so many Nintendo handhelds up to 3DS, WiiU, and now a Switch. I love the Switch--back when I got my first Gameboy, I would have never imagined a machine that could so seamlessly go between hand held and docked with such high-quality graphics. The PS4 is also amazing--MLB the Show, Uncharted and Horizon Zero Dawn are visual masterpieces, but more importantly, a ton of fun.

So to the title of my thread--why is it that so many developers (especially indy games) choose to use 16-bit graphics? Stardew Valley, Into the Breach, Golf Story, countless Zelda knock-offs, Necrodancer, etc. I realize graphics don't make the game--there are plenty of bad games with good graphics and vice versa. Games like Link's Awakening 2019 (granted--the original was on the Gameboy and not 16-bit) can capture the straight-forward nature of that 90's era, but feels modern. I'd also love a modern side-scrolling Metroid game instead of the many 16-bit MetroidVania games out there.

Personally, I got my fill of 16-bit games in college and happily moved on to the PS1 when I graduated and got my first "real" job--and I never looked back. So what am I missing in the whole nostalgia thing?

PS--I have 4 daughters who, as you might guess, were all raised as gamers. Last night they all flew in to spend Christmas as a family and the first thing they wanted to do was start a Super Smash Ultimate tournament. They can all roast me--my fingers don't twitch as well as they used to!
 
For me they hit on a few spots, first of which is nostalgia. Most of the 8 or 16 bit style games that I enjoy rely heavily on story telling over glitz. They are also very immersive but retain a casual gameplay, I can pick it up for 4-5 minutes when waiting for a meeting or when the wife and kid are asleep and I'm not in the mood to pick up a book. There is also a very shallow learning curve so I can abandon it for a few months and pick it right back up again without having to relearn the mechanics.

Finally, I am also very bad at just about every modern game, so they are more frustrating than relaxing. I'm in the same gamer generation as you but never kept up with it; the last game system I actually played with regulatory being an NES. I have a PS4 in the workshop that has a nice little film of sawdust on it. Got it as a reward at work from a vendor, used it for approximately 8 hours in the first month and never turned it back on. "Old-school" style games bring me a sense of relaxation through ease, familiarity and nostalgia.

Having said all that, I do understand the appeal of the modern games and wish I could get into them, maybe when the little one is old enough to responsibly partake in digital entertainment it will be something we do together and my stance will change.
 
We have quite a few old systems in our gaming den, an Atari, NES, SNES, Genesis fall under the 8/16 bit category, as well as PS 1, 2, 3, Xbox, 360, N64, Gamecube, Wii (and of course Wii U, switch, PS4, Xbox One)

For us it's the drive of nostalgia mostly. The games we grew up with were pretty irreplaceable. As you can see with our collection, we're no slouches as far as the new stuff goes, though I gravitate more toward PC gaming now.

Having the old style of graphics and sound harkens to the "golden age" so to speak of gaming. Being drawn into catchy beats and crappy graphics that we remember back in the day is fun and entertaining. I particularly love the retro vibe.

I totally agree there's a sense of relaxation and the ease of learning curve on a lot of the SS games, and they're more appealing to a wider variety of audience. Everyone loves a side scroll adventure game, where as Madden 2020 has a very pinned audience, hardcore football fans that also own a video game console.

There is a lot to be said for modern games, with rich, immersive gameplay and endless content in a sandbox, but sometimes I like to kick back and just have some good old fashioned fun.
 
My oldest daughter was 9 or 10 when we got an Atari 2600. Every couple of years I still take that system out of storage to play Adventure. While it has the lamest graphics ever, I still enjoy playing it. It's a fun game. I also have our old NES and SNES. Those early Mario and Link games were the best. The later Mario and Link, with better graphics, were never as much fun on Game Cube and WII and those game systems stay in storage.

Even with PC games, I still prefer the old games I played in the 1990's. If I had the space and money, I'd buy an old DOS system to run my favorites like Diablo, Diablo2, Blood, Heretic, etc that ran up until Win7. At least some favorites like Half-Life & HL2 are available on Steam.

I just can't do modern games. There is just too much going on on the screen for me old eyes & mind to follow. Fast & better graphics don't equal fun. I'm sure my grandkids would disagree. I used to play Halo with my young granddaughters 15+ years ago. I was dead before I could even get my bearings, but at least they enjoyed kicking grandpa's ar**.
 
The lower the color depth of the images, the easier it is to program and the smaller the file sizes. For an indie game with a limited budget and limited programming resources, it makes sense to minimize the color depth.

Personally, I like realistic, immersive RPG games with large open worlds that run in high color depth as well as high pixel resolution. However, they tend to come from large studios that are backed by large budgets. Two fine examples of this genre are AC Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption II for PC. However, they take both a robust CPU and GPU to play.
 
I don't mind a bit of old school graphics. It's nice to wander around a massive 3D world but this stuff takes massive resources to develop and play, using 16-bit or thereabouts style graphics can allow for wonderful gameplay to be executed and implemented & run by one or a few people with limited resources.

Dwarf Fortress
is interesting here. 2 developers heavily immersed in the mechanics of the engine for 20 odd years. It's not just terrible graphics, the whole user interface is just pain. The community has created pretty things and helper programs, Steam/Valve have recently picked it up and are beautifying it out of the box.......but what has been accomplished by two people completely focused on the mechanics of world development and simulation at the exclusion of almost everything else is astounding; the richness, variety, complexity and sheer scope far outstrips any fancy looking RPG.

Playing old 16-bit games on a modern large flat panel TV or monitor often looks quite grim, they were designed to look good on 4:3 CRT displays that were far from flat. Playing modern games with 16-bit style graphics on a massive telly looks much better.

The music has also endured. AI-Radio is wonderful, hi-def flac streams of video games and related tunes.
My friend returned from Japan with a load of vinyl boxsets of classic 16bit video game music. Kinda weird seeing one audio track from Street Fighter II Turbo taking up 30MiB when the full game takes up <3MiB.
 
I think there's some nostalgia in developing a game that feels like 80s/90s, like a throwback to the early(ish) days of gaming. I grew up on SNES, and recently got the SNES Classic to play the games I grew up on. It is the only console I play on (and barely that) anymore.
 

Toothpick

Needs milk and a bidet!
Moderator
I just finally got an Xbox One S a couple weeks ago. RDR2 is my game of choice.

But I also just downloaded Stardew Valley to the ipad today. Seems like a good easy time killer for work. I played Runescape for a short while back in the day. I think Simcity was the first game that I ever got in to. And I still enjoy it but you can hardly find it to play now, mobile version sucks.

The 16-bit craze these days IMO is nostalgia.
 
I personally prefer large, realistic, openworld games.
With these I usually have the option to play the story/missions, or fool around and explore when I don't have the time to dedicate to a the story.
Zelda Breath of Wild or GTA 5 are good examples of what I like.
 
The lower the color depth of the images, the easier it is to program and the smaller the file sizes. For an indie game with a limited budget and limited programming resources, it makes sense to minimize the color depth.
This.

IMO the nostalgia factor is less of a reason. A single developer or a small team can make a game in sprites and sell a digital download for only a few dollars.

That said, there are some big name developers who make 16-bit style games that are a lot higher quality than some of the indie stuff. I've been playing Octopath Traveler on the Switch and it's an awesome game that reminds me of old SNES or PS1 SquareSoft games that I loved so much.
 
I personally prefer large, realistic, openworld games.
With these I usually have the option to play the story/missions, or fool around and explore when I don't have the time to dedicate to a the story.
Zelda Breath of Wild or GTA 5 are good examples of what I like.
BOTW is one of the best games ever. Great to just do a shrine when time to play is short.
 

FarmerTan

George Bailey Fanboy
Any of you gents get into Intellivision?

Our neighbors were "rich" lol, and had Atari, and my brother and I lived over there! When it came time to buy our own, we saved our paper route, grass mowing, etc money and got Intellivision.

I still have it, in the barn.

I became an expert at replacing parts on the telephone-like controller!

What I miss is the groups of us that could play games like Horse Racing, Baseball (for hours!), Basketball....
Then for alone games, that Submarine sonar game, B-17 Bomber with "Intellivoice" lol.

....yes, I am a nerd, but boy, those were fun, wasted days, ha!

When my son was little we bought a used Wii, and played a BUNCH of family games on it. That was the thing I also miss about the Intellivision; it's not just the nostalgia, I miss the "togetherness" of it.

For the record, games like Zelda nearly killed this ADHD teen!
 

GaryTha

Contributor
16-bit graphics is just a nostalgic stuff for 30 years old people. Like me, lol. But, TBH, I've already got tired of these "nostalgic" stuff. Not so long ago I've bought Overwatch and started to play it. Unfortunately, I picked a wrong character. Now I understand it. I picked Reaper, but I'm better as a support. Right now I'm thinking about creating and boosting Angel. I've ever found a place to buy Overwatch boosting for a small price. You can't do that with 16-bit graphics game.
Was any of this in English?
 
I just play the games i like. I have a gaming pc for steam games and like open world like Recon Wildlands, Far Cry 1-5
The Division etc. Still play COD4 and HL2 and similar - currently re-running Portal 1 and 2 and UT3

I do play a lot of older and simpler games too tho - i do get the nostalgia thing with 8 bit graphics and simple audio - reminds me of my Amiga which i wish i had kept hold of.
 
I think you mean 8 bit graphics ? Back when we only had 2^8 = 256 colors to choose from so everything looked quite blocky and coarse and sound was also digitized to 256 sounds, which gave us the distinctive old school computer sound?

regards
avi
 
I have most of the consoles hooked up as well, also a large collection of arcade boards. I had to give up my big candy cab arcade machine when I moved into an apartment. I do play modern consoles, but find most modern games to be rather boring, you can play for hours without a single death. The only modern games that interest me are the souls games. An actual challenge. Although my favourite game of all time is the ghosts and goblins series, so I do like a hard game that makes you work hard for progress.
 
Even before the time of 8 bit color, I can remember when the only thing available was a monochrome monitor. Now technology enables the production of TVs and monitors that have a higher resolution and more colors than our eyes are capable of analyzing. While 4K resolution is an improvement over 1080p full HD, manufacturers are now pushing 8K resolution, even though there is no 8K content available and probably won't be for quite some time. Even when it becomes available, few people will notice the difference in quality. An eagle might notice the difference, but our eyes are not capable of analyzing that much information.

We are seeing a phenomenon in the visual arena not unlike the "loudness wars" in the audio world. People think that louder is better. People think that brighter is better (high dynamic range), but just as louder sounds fatigue our ears, brighter colors fatigue our eyes.
 
I think you mean 8 bit graphics ? Back when we only had 2^8 = 256 colors to choose from so everything looked quite blocky and coarse and sound was also digitized to 256 sounds, which gave us the distinctive old school computer sound?

regards
avi
Oh yeah - my bad typo

i did mean 8 bit. I said Amiga, but meant Speccy and Vic-20 / Commodore 64.

The games were better often, imo, because the limited resources for graphics and sound made the game designers work much harder and stretch their coding to stretch the limited hardware.

I never got into game design, but did some coding on limited hardware, when you really had to consider every pixel and memory allocation.

The Amiga was a world away from that and i think that nowadays, its kind of cheating to have pc's powerfull enough to run a sandboxed program development environment - it is impressive to work with stuff like Visual Studio tho.

Just not as much fun as running an interpreted step-thru and seeing it stop when it reaches your mistake. :eek2:
 
Oh yeah - my bad typo

i did mean 8 bit. I said Amiga, but meant Speccy and Vic-20 / Commodore 64.

The games were better often, imo, because the limited resources for graphics and sound made the game designers work much harder and stretch their coding to stretch the limited hardware.

I never got into game design, but did some coding on limited hardware, when you really had to consider every pixel and memory allocation.

The Amiga was a world away from that and i think that nowadays, its kind of cheating to have pc's powerfull enough to run a sandboxed program development environment - it is impressive to work with stuff like Visual Studio tho.

Just not as much fun as running an interpreted step-thru and seeing it stop when it reaches your mistake. :eek2:

Heh, my first computer was the c64. I have an undergrad computer science degree because of that machine and learned assembly on it. To be honest this is what I love about the raspberry pi's / arduinos etc.. the kids are all coding on metal again counting their flops and bits and registers and their i/o and its super fun (robots etc).

There was some old machine the brits loved, that was related to the Sinclair / Spectrum ? Z80 based? I keep wanting to say that machine was 4 bit but maybe that was just how we mocked it back then :)

Regards
Avi
 
The Sinclair ZX80 was the very first, and what made it special in the UK was the super low cost (you could even get it in kit form) and price-wise it was way, way cheaper than a TRS-80, even tho it was same processor.

However, they often over heated .... which made them even more fun :eek2: 🤣

Then in 1982 the ZX-Spectrum came out - the one with COLOUR - and the "Speccy" became a massive hit in the UK, because once again it was fantastic value for money
 
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