The Staying Power of Retro Games

The Staying Power of Retro Games

Retro games have this odd sort of draw on people, even those who do not consider themselves “gamers.” These games have achieved legendary status.

Retro games have this odd sort of draw on people, even those who do not consider themselves “gamers.” These games, though simplistic compared to the games available today, have achieved legendary status. And legends tend to stick around. Just ask David Kaelin of Game Over Videogames.

Game Over Videogames

In 2005, Kaelin opened his first store in Austin, TX, dubbed Game Over Videogames. The goal of the store was simple; create a store to clean and restore classic games and resell them. Since it’s inception, Game Over Videogames has expanded more than just what it sells but also to new locations. You can find the most recent games sitting next to classic ones, vintage game consoles alongside the latest generation ones. But as the gaming industry continues to evolve, more and more games are going to the cloud. Soon we’ll see a similar shift in gaming like we did with TV and movies- subscription-based services. In fact, EA launched their Origin Access Premiere service on July 30th of this year. Kaelin isn’t worried about this. While more and more games will be delivered via a streaming interface, there is still the draw of the classic consoles and games. Sure, there may be a switch in the type of controllers they sell, but Game Over Videogames will still have a solid customer base. Retro games, even for me, do hold a particular sway.


There are those who spend hours playing games. The complicated leveling system, loot boxes, combos, etc. takes time to learn. It’s also frustrating for first-time gamers. The graphics are stunning, no doubt, but the thought of spending all that time getting “into” the game puts me off more than anything. And besides, I’m a writer, I love writing, and to be a better writer, I read. I love reading. I read articles all day. And I have audiobooks going when I’m driving. For these reasons, I consider myself a non-gamer. Kaelin, on the other hand, argues that I am still a gamer. Why? At one point in my past, my family did own a Nintendo Entertainment System. It was second-hand, given to us by our grandparents who bought it at a yard sale. Of course, this did not make my mom happy. But that’s another story.

The Original NES

This NES came with the regular favorites, Super Mario Brothers and Duck Hunt. There was also Russian Attack, WWF Super Slam, 1942, and a couple others. For about a year we played that NES as much as we could. After all, we lived on the northern coast of California. It rained most of the year and the city wasn’t very well developed. We were far, far—far—away from major metropolitan areas like San Francisco and Los Angeles. How better to spend our time? Well, I could have read more, but that’s beside the point. We played the NES until we got bored with it and sold it. Then I got a Game Boy. An Original Game Boy! The grey brick! I still have it and it still works! Even my mom got into playing that thing. She beat everyone in Tetris 2, putting up the highest score and staying there. When I admitted this to Kaelin, he pointed out that those gaming experiences, though in my distant past, still make me a gamer. Despite the lack of an Xbox and a subscription, I was still a gamer. The fact that I’ve played retro games makes me a gamer. I should also add that I did play Goldeneye and a few other titles sporadically from junior high through college. I didn’t get seriously into it as some of my roommates did. But pull out the classic NES, and I’m down to play.


Thanks to retro games, and stores like Game Over Videogames, there’s a place for the casual gamer and the self-proclaimed non-gamer to get their gaming fix. More than that, stores like Game Over Videogames provide an introduction for those wanting to expand their gaming history. Younger ages can come in and find out all about these games that older people keep waxing nostalgic about. As long as retro games exist, new gamers will be curious about them and videogame resale stores will be there to answer their questions. More interesting than these games is the mythos that can surround a retro game. On April 26, 2014, outside Alamogordo, New Mexico, a film crew, an excavation crew, and a slew of gaming fans showed up…to a landfill. The legend goes that a large shipment of the worst game ever made had been dumped here back in the late 80s.

ET Phone Home

In 1982, “ET: The Extra-Terrestrial” came out This heartfelt sci-fi/family movie has become one of Steven Spielberg’s, the film’s director, most well-known feature films. The story centers around a young boy, reeling from his parents’ divorce, finding a friend in a lost little alien he names ET. The little alien who just wanted to go home has become part of pop culture. The plot was reused back in 2011 for Super 8. It was produced by Steven Spielberg but directed by JJ Abrams. But that’s another story. To capitalize on the ET’s popularity, a video game was commissioned. To get it out in time for Christmas, production was rushed. They did succeed in getting the game ready and out on time.

The Myth Begins

The game itself, however, was not well received. In truth, it wasn’t bad, just difficult. Yet, many gamers at the time didn’t appreciate this level of difficulty. As a result, sales of the game tanked and soon existing copies were either pulled from shelves or sold off at deep discounts. Because of its level of difficulty, the game was dubbed as the “worst game ever made.” And copies were rare to find. This lead to a mythology around the game itself. “The game so bad that it was banished from existence.” Then news spread that a large shipment of copies was dumped in a landfill in Alamogordo, NM. Zak Penn put together a crusade to dig into the landfill and determine if, indeed, the large shipment of the worst game ever did exist. He documented the story in “Atari; Game Over.” It’s an interesting documentary, well worth the watch. George R.R. Martin and Ernest Cine even make appearances. What strikes me the most is the story of the game's designer, Howard Scott Warshaw. I won’t ruin the end for you. Just know that Warshaw did an incredible job on the game and the industry recognizes him for it. And rightfully so. Make sure you have a streaming service to watch it. Check out the best internet deals in case you don’t.

The Mythos Lives On

While ET: The Extra-Terrestrial has earned legendary status, there are other games too. Legend of Zelda, Super Mario Brothers, Russian Attack, and many more. These games may not have ended up in a landfill, but they have attained pop culture status. These were the games that I spent hours playing. They were simple but fun. It’s easy to point out the nostalgia factor involved in these games, and Kaelin agrees. For those who didn’t grow up playing them, retro games still carry clout with them. Those who wish to understand the evolution of video games must start here, with retro games. Thanks to stores like Game Over Videogames, there’s a place to get started.