Web Japan > Trends in Japan > Pop Culture > Retro games are popular with both children and adults

Retro Games Are Trending

Japanese Super Mario Bros. packaging (courtesy of Nintendo)

Japanese Super Mario Bros. packaging (courtesy of Nintendo)

     There are many older games that were created in Japan and enjoyed all over the world, such as the Super Mario Bros., Donkey Kong, and Pacman series. Recently such games have been regaining popularity, and in addition to their latest software, video game consoles originally sold in the 1980s like the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES, called Family Computer or Famicon in Japan) and its successor, the Super NES (Super Famicon), have been rereleased. Businesses have also sprung up which let customers play old games on large commercial game machines that originally boomed in the late 1970s as equipment found in cafes or video game arcades.

Screenshot from the NES game Super Mario Bros. (courtesy of Nintendo, © 1985 Nintendo)

Screenshot from the NES game Super Mario Bros. (courtesy of Nintendo, © 1985 Nintendo)

From Children to Adults

     In 2016 and 2017, versions of the NES/Famicon and Super NES/Famicon were released in and outside of Japan that come with a preinstalled selection of their most popular games. These rereleased consoles feature an Analog TV Mode that replicates a screen experience similar to that of old television sets in order to allow players to enjoy the games with a retro feeling akin to their original time of release.

Box containing the “Nintendo Classic Mini Family Computer” that allows users to play popular NES/Famicon games on a retro screen (left) and “Nintendo Classic Mini Super Famicon” (courtesy of Nintendo).

Players can also play against each other

Players can also play against each other

     It was supposedly TV programs showing celebrities playing retro games or visiting arcades featuring them that started the new retro game boom. The retro games’ draw lies in the analog 2D screens and simple character movement, both of which represent a contrast to modern games with their more evolved and refined graphics. Amidst a rising number of games with difficult controls or rules in recent years, the simplicity of retro games allows anyone from children to adults to have uncomplicated fun. The same generation that fondly remembers the Famicon from its youth is now having children of its own, and the games that new parents were absorbed in during their childhood have become a way for them to connect with their own children.

Arcade games from the 1970s (top). Space Invaders, in which players fight aliens on screen, started a boom in arcade games. Outside view of the Invader House arcade, which features only Space Invaders (bottom left) and interior view (photo from around 1978) (courtesy of Taito)

Space Invaders 40th Anniversary Events

     Businesses featuring commercial arcade games were extremely popular in Japan during the 1970s and 1980s. That arcade game boom was brought about by the game Space Invaders, in which players fight aliens on screen. In 2018 many time-limited pop-up shops and events were organized to celebrate the 40th anniversary of Space Invaders’ original release. The “Space Invaders Exhibition” held in Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills area featured a thematically designed food menu and a “Space Invaders Giga Max” game, in which up to ten players could simultaneously shoot down alien invaders appearing on a 7 by 15 meter screen projected onto windows.

A 40th anniversary event held at Roppongi Hills featured a “Space Invaders Giga Max” game, in which players could fight giant space invaders attacking from the dark skies (top), as well as thematic food items (courtesy of Taito)

     In Osaka’s Umeda neighborhood the first ever Space Invaders pop-up shop opened to sell apparel such as original T-shirts and bags. Between August 2018 and January 2019 events were also held that featured games and activities combining bouldering and projection mapping or allowing players to use their legs to shoot down an army of space invaders projected onto the floor and walls.

T-shirt (top left), bag (top center), and water bottles (top right) sold at the Space Invaders pop-up shop. Game combining bouldering and projection mapping (bottom left) and activity in which players shoot down an army of invaders using their legs.
(c) SQUARE ENIX CO., LTD. All Rights Reserved.
(c) TAITO CORPORATION 1978, 2018 All Rights Reserved.

High-Quality Japanese Used Games

     Japan has plenty of used game shops and because many of the used games sold there are in great condition, some customers even come from abroad to purchase them. Used game shops in Tokyo’s Akihabara electronics district, in addition to selling numerous retro games, feature sections in which customers can enjoy NES/Famicon games in similar fashion to how they were first released, or have created “retro arcades” where players can enjoy such games while snacking on classic retro sweets. These places are bustling with customers both Japanese and foreign ranging from those who grew up with the retro games to younger ones curious about them. The retro game boom looks like it will last for a while.

The Super Potato Akihabara store (top left), which is visited by many customers from abroad, sells numerous retro games, with games like Captain Tsubasa and Sailor Moon being particularly popular (top right). The store also contains a retro arcade, where customers can play retro games (bottom left). At the entrance customers are greeted by a giant Mario figurine.

Page Top

Related Articles