Elemental Challenge Day Thirty: Retro Games



Welcome, NPCs, to the second to the last day of our month-long 31-Day Elemental Challenge! We’ve come to it at last: the Retro games category. At once we’re confronted with the difficulties of having to define our terms. Problem is that terms like classic, retro, vintage, old school and the like get thrown around a lot without much general consensus on what they mean, or any authority on them to help with their definitions, for that matter. So the question remains, what counts as retro and what doesn’t?

Personally, I’ve come up with what I think is a reasonable definition for retro. You may have encountered it here on this blog before, or maybe you haven’t. Please indulge me: I think a rational cut-off point for “retro” is at the start of the 5th generation of consoles, at the end of the 4th gen with the SNES and the Sega Genesis. So the transition from 16-bit to 32-bit/64-bit or more importantly to 3D graphics taking over mainstream gaming around ’95-’97 marks an easy line to delineate with some precision. After all, there’s a greater difference between the SNES and the N64, the Genesis and the PlayStation One than there is between the NES and the SNES or between the PS1 and the PS2. That also means, thankfully, that ridiculous assertions like “the PS3, Xbox 360, and Wii U are totally retro” can be reasonably debunked by looking at gaming history. I think this still leaves room for some subjectivity but it’s a definition in which nostalgia doesn’t play a primary role. “Vintage” could be anything in the 1st or 2nd generations (Atari 2600, Vectrex, etc.), pre-NES.

Whichever way you slice it, based on your own experiences, let’s talk retro games!


FF3-NES-Summoner2.png  The Green Screen Mage

Dr. Mario is my jam. I am a beast at that game. And Fever is way better than Chill. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.



blackmage  The Black Humor Mage

I’ll stick with the 8-Bit Era. The first 8-bit retro game I ever beat, and I still continue to appreciate is Kirby’s Adventure. It’s such a fun game, and just the right amount of challenge, while being great looking for a NES game.



mystic_knight1 The Midnight Mystic Mage (Sublime Reviews)

Super Mario Bros. This is the first game that I can recall ever playing. It is also one of the best games of all time and I remember fighting with my sisters for a turn or in the more civil times playing “Life – Life” as we called it for hours and hours. (Honorable Mentions – Pac-Man, Paperboy, Frogger)



spoonybardmageright.jpg  The Spoony Bard Mage (Nerd Speaker)

The concept of retro is so subjective to so many people. I grew up during the NES era, and still remember my thoughts and feelings when it was current. So to me, retro is Stickybear Basket Bounce (1983), which I played on a Commodore 64, and you could hear the hard drive struggling to load the sick graphics between each stage.



finalfourteenthmage  The Final Fourteenth Mage (Cilla vs. Games)

Alex Kidd In Miracle World. I played Alex Kidd so many times as a child; intentionally and accidentally when the cart I put in didn’t register and I couldn’t be bothered trying again. As a child I had to get my mum to help me get through the castles and it wasn’t until I was much older that I went back and completed it myself. The music is forever etched in my memory and is one of my favourite soundtracks purely due to nostalgia.



HandheldMage1  The Hopeful Handheld Mage (Retro Redress)

Altered Beast (Mega Drive). Well-Red Mage is probably shaking his head here, but I love this game! Yes, it’s dumb. Yes, it’s sluggish. Yes, the speech sounds like Elmer Fudd. However, Altered Beast makes me think of retro gaming. I bought it at a time when I was falling out of love with games and being as daft as it is, Altered Beast reminded me that games can be fun.

As a game, it’s a decent if limited offering. Altered Beast was quickly surpassed in the arcade by Golden Axe and Shinobi but the Mega Drive version is a good port. As the initial Mega Drive pack-in game, Altered Beast was seen as a graphical showcase and sure, it’s not much more than that…but it’s more fun than it’s given credit for.



EKkbAqWy  The Brave Blue Mage (924COLLECTIVE)

Lost Secret of the Rainforest (EcoQuest 2). The 90’s gave us Captain Planet, Fern Gully, & The EcoQuest Series. It was hard to choose but given the recent review of Never Alone, we had to include Lost Secret of the Rainforest, as Adam ventures into the Amazon to thwart poachers, rescue animals, & befriend the indigenous tribes of the jungle. Kudos to Sierra games for creating such diverse titles & tackling Ecology in an engaging, entertaining, & memorable way.  This is a great example of how native history can be incorporated into gaming to provide rich dynamic storytelling that is much needed in our current climate of unscrupulous corporate greed in the face of real environmental issues.

EcoQuest 2


Kx18GL1dNEW  The Dapper Zaffre Mage (Save File 02)

Half-Minute Hero is a quirky little retro-styled game that is actually several games in one, all with the same premise: you have (technically) 30 seconds to complete the stage. The main game, Hero 30, featured a tiny wandering hero who you had to guide through the stage to defeat a dark lord before they could cast a world-ending spell in 30 seconds, grinding as much as you could before paying a quick visit to a goddess statue to turn back time, at the (increasing) cost of gold collected from defeated enemies. It had branching paths and a lot of side objectives that were easy to miss the first time through, making for a fun amount of replay value. Along with Hero 30 were Evil Lord 30, an RTS, Princess 30, a shoot-em-up, and Knight 30, leaning more towards action with a bit of escort thrown in.



nostalgiamage  The Over-Caffeinated Nostalgia Mage (Nostalgia Trigger)

When I think retro, I think retro. We’re going back to the 80s for this one, and that awesome retro game is Tempest. I believe the arcade version of Tempest came out in 1981, but on the Atari it released in 1989. I was merely a small person back then, but on my uncles Atari, this game was an absolute blast to the young Decaffeinated Not-Yet Nostalgia Mage. It was also one of the first games I ever played on a PC, on my grandfather’s old IBM.

It had you rotate along a fixed 3D environment, shooting downwards towards the middle of the screen as enemy ships tried to fly to the top. The rudimentary Atari graphics looked so cool to me at the time, and the control scheme worked very well for what it was. I’ll always look back at Tempest through rose-colored glasses – it was perfect!



  The Rage Mage

Very few things remind me of my childhood. Once you get past all the ingested toenails and paint chips, cut through the fuzz of repression, there sits a fat Italian breaking the back of a dinosaur. Super Mario World is strong enough to cut through any cynicism.



rmage2.jpg  The Well-Red Mage

This is probably the hardest category to give an answer to in all of the days in this Elemental Challenge. I adore classic, retro, vintage games. They are my bread and butter. My meat and potatoes. The very 8-bit air I breathe. I’m really stuck between two games that I’ve not named thus far which represent two incredible and foundational franchises: Super Mario Bros. 3 and Final Fantasy VI. Both games are my favorite entries in their series. Both games are perfect. How to choose?

In the end, I’m just going to have to pick Final Fantasy VI. It’s on my favorite system and its a part of the series I themed this blog around. FFVI has the best Final Fantasy villain, and it’s the best game in the series, a sci-fantasy standard, a milestone among RPGs, and it’s 16-bit perfection. I played it later in life so it’s not childhood nostalgia talking. In my mind, the Final Fantasy franchise has never improved upon it.



There’s only one day left in our Elemental Challenge! What’s your favorite retro game? How do you even define retro?

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28 replies »

  1. Yet again: ‘The WellRed FF6 obsession vs. Shameful Narcissist FF7 love TV show HAS. TO. HAPPEN!!!!!!!!!!
    But seriously, I’ve already said Tetris, so I’ll go Cyraid, a lovely lil puzzler also for the OG gameboy & the 2nd ever game my dad got us (after Tetris!) Mad Love to Link’s Awakening too tho, Screw Bullies, I had games!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I miss games like this.Many of my childhood memories are in this ‘Retro’ Category.I spend my whole childhood playing Super Mario Bros and i still couldn’t finish it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi there! Thank you for following us and for reading and commenting! It’s much appreciated. I really love the retro category also. Something about the charm of those old games is unlike anything since. They were difficult but engaging and self-sufficient. I love Super Mario Bros.! Who doesn’t? What are some of your other favorites?


  3. I nominate the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time on the Nintendo 64. It fits with the cut-off point suggested in the description, as it was released on the Nintendo 64 in the late 90’s. The game was released after I had played a few 3D games, so I had got used to the change in gameplay and the developers were able to produce games that could be played smoothly in 3D. It was also quite strange to watch day turn to night in a game. I enjoyed the story for the game and the characters used in the game. I liked completing the different dungeons and the way they are themed. I also liked the different ways it is played (such as sword fighting or using the ranged weapons) and parts of the game separate from the main story. I also found it interesting how the different locations in the game were all connected in one world and the difference between the worlds during the adult and child time periods. When I play a new game, I will sometimes wonder if it would be the “Ocarina of Time” for me if I was a kid today, meaning a game that I could play with others, compare my progress with friends, want to get further and play repeatedly. The game even ends discussing nostalgia for youth.
    I actually thought “retro” meant a something created in modern times, but designed to resemble something much older. What is better about Final Fantasy VI compared to other games in the series? What console was it released on? Why did you define retro as the time period when 3D became mainstream?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m gonna have to go ahead and disagree with you on a few things about FFVI 😋, but I of course respect your opinion and it IS a great, milestone setting game ❤️

    I have to go with SMB2. It’s a quirky, little game that’s not technically a Mario at all, but I love veneer over foundation stuff (not that I knew that at the time). It was my first video game obsession, AND the first game I played where the princess wasn’t a prisoner yay!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I generally fall in line with the dictionary definition : “of or designating the style of an earlier time” but I exclude the most recently past generation (so PS3, Wii/Wii U, and Xbox 360) so I am a little more lenient than you. That said, I’m going to turn the clock to the way back and in honor of your Vectrex post, I’m going to go with one of my favorite arcade games, Atari’s 1983 vector displayed Star Wars. Not every arcade had the cockpit cabinet but the ones that did were even better than the stand up versions. Nothing like being a kid and sitting in what felt like an X-Wing and taking on the Death Star trench run.

    Liked by 1 person

    • At the very limit, I can see the term retro stretching to the PS2 era, but I have no sympathy for someone who says the PS3 is retro. But way to hit it out of the park naming a vector game! That’s the very essence of retro! It’d be nice to see some indie games in that vein.

      Liked by 1 person

        • I can see this and one other school of thought. The former is that “retro” is a gaming definition that’s constantly expanding with time, so that eventually even the current generation will be considered retro. The other school of thought that I adhere to is that the “retro” classification references a portion of gaming history and games that share common characteristics, which I don’t think that the Magnavox Odyssey shares with the PS3, or the Atari 2600 with the Xbox One, or the NES with the Switch, and so on. This is all subjective, still, of course. The big problem I see with my point of view is there will eventually be no way to differentiate between the PS1-4 eras and say the PS5-8 eras, which will probably be markedly different at some point. Further, there’s no differentiation in my definition of retro between the first and second and the third and fourth generations, even though those are pretty different. In that case, I’d call gens 1-2 vintage and gens 3-4 retro, and everything else “modern”. Until I can come up with a better name… 😀

          Liked by 1 person

  6. Man, there are so many retro experiences to be had. I think I’m going to roll with the original Forbidden Forest on the mighty Commodore 64. Sure there are objectively, better or more popular games out there. Even on the same platform. But this is one I played a TON of growing up, and honestly I think everyone should if the opportunity arises.

    It was made by a composer named Paul Norman, who would write not only the music, but all of the code, and would go on to make Cosmi more than a budget publisher. Of course they would squander that mindshare heading into the 1990’s. But that’s another story. Forbidden Forest plays like what modern games would call a Boss rush. Each stage is a new enemy type, and depending on difficulty setting, you have to kill a certain number. You play as an archer in the Forbidden Forest. With only so many arrows in your quiver you have to kill the current enemy, then move onto the next before you run out.

    And while a newcomer may not see what is so awesome at first considering the blocky early sprites of the time, it was a game of many firsts.

    It was one of the first 2D games with parallax scrolling. It was one of the earliest games to feature violent, gory deaths that would even make Scorpion crap his pants. And it had a soundtrack that perfectly went with the action. Each creature getting its own theme music. Plus the wonderful animated introduction. All things most people never saw on a home platform before. Plus the gameplay was compelling, and did new things with the technology.

    It did see a port to Atari computers, but those versions just don’t seem to look or play or sound as well.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m going to be a rebel without a cause and play by my own rules for this category, mostly because I don’t really have amazing memories of playing many retro games (there are some I’d play, but I didn’t play much of any one game because I didn’t own a system at the time). I’m going to a PC game from the 90s. It’s much newer than the retro requirements listed above! I remembered this clunky, wretched little game that I could never pass the first level of because I didn’t understand it at all. I wasn’t an intuitive elementary schooler, and couldn’t really read… But I loved the level building element of the game. It showed me a lot about using builders, building out step-by-step robot instructions, and learning through doing. I spent hours messing with the level builder, seeing what I could get away with and what creative things I could design. Even though it wasn’t a good game, I remember really enjoying it. I didn’t remember the name beyond the word quest somewhere in it, and had to search for it. You can find a lot with the search terms “pc game where you build mazes and program medieval robots”, it turns out! The game was called Logic Quest.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reblogged this on Sublime Reviews and commented:

    It’s day 30 & we are almost done with this year’s Elemental Challenge at The Well-Red Mage. In this category it doesn’t get better than good old fashioned Super Mario Bros in my opinion, come let us know your thoughts on the topic.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m not sure how I’d even begin ot answer this one accurately! So many of my faovurite games fit the ‘retro’ title. For today, I’ll say Comix Zone, though there are countless others that I could say ranging from Sonic 3 & Knuckles and Super Mario Bros 3 to … well … pretty much anything from my youth.

    Liked by 1 person

    • This was the hardest category for me, too. Fortunately, I’d been mentioning retro titles throughout this challenge so I only had a few left to give the nomination to, but it was still super challenging! Thanks for sharing. Comix Zone keeps staring at me on that Ultimate Genesis Collection.

      Liked by 1 person

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