Retro Revival: The Fans Dredging the Past for New Games

As far as hardware is concerned, the past doesn’t usually survive into the present. Old, white plastic, like the casing of computers, tends to turn beige and yellow with age – and much worse can happen to a console’s innards as time passes.

Software is a different story. Yes, games are sometimes incompatible with modern operating systems but it’s rarely unfixable. Mods, updates, and remakes can bring even the most ancient platformer into the present day.

Of course, this is the heart of the retro revival, a trend that comes and goes every few years, bringing some awkward, even obnoxious thing from the 70s, 80s, and 90s. It rarely happens for the 2000s, oddly enough, perhaps because of the dominance of 1980s fashions in the decade.

Culture experts claim that nostalgia moves in 20-year cycles.

Micro Mages

As mentioned, gaming is the epicenter of our retro appreciation but it’s not restricted to traditional console and PC gaming. Casino developers like Red Tiger have their perspective on retro, too. The latter publishes a game called Cash Volt on the PlayStar website.

Cash Volt is designed to resemble a 1980s fruit machine, with lemons, cherries, 7s, and BAR symbols on the reels. Recently, developers have been working with pop culture themes instead, meaning symbols are painted to resemble movie characters.

In a twist, modern creatives (mostly bedroom devs and hobbyists) have turned the idea of retro on its head by reuniting hardware with hardware. Put another way, brand-new games are being made for long-discontinued consoles in their original cartridge, tape, or disc format.


This isn’t necessarily a new invention but the cost of manufacturing one-off chips for cartridges has kept interest low. Micro Mages, a game for the NES released in 2019, used Kickstarter to raise €151,167 for the project. That works out at about €3,779 per kilobyte on the cartridge (40kb).


Also in 2019, a run ‘n’ gun game called Ultracorewas released for the Atari 2600. Ultracore has a history going back to 1994 when it was canceled by British publisher Psygnosis. Today, the developer – DICE – is better known for the Battlefield franchise.

Dreamworld Pogie, from British developers The Oliver Twins, had an NES release via Kickstarter in 2017, despite being written in 1992.

These out-of-time releases serve a dual purpose. In many cases, they’re fan efforts to restore abandoned projects but, in others, they’re a way to get around the escalating price of original hardware. The Guardian reports that copies of the Game Boy Colour title Shantae(2002) can retail for $600.


Remade by WayForward in 2013 for the 3DS Virtual Console and put to cartridge in 2020, it was suddenly affordable again.

The phenomenon is about as niche as development gets. It’s dependent on a few companies with the cash and equipment to produce game hardware. Limited Run Games is a good example, although, it predominantly makes collector’s editions for modern titles.

Thousands of games ended up on the cutting-room floor in the 80s and 90s. Apparently, that doesn’t matter, as long as a few fans out there still care about getting them made.