Wanting To Get Into Retro-Console Gaming. Have Questions!

Title pretty much says all. I want to get into the older console gaming to relive my past. (Since I wasn’t fortunate enough to have & experience all the great games during these times. Early '90’s on up.) I do have some knowledge about consoles, but much at all. So there’s bound to be certain questions since I’m learning as I go.

I’ll start off with a question that I haven’t gotten a direct answer for. (Even from searches via Google, Bing, Youtube, etc.) As far as console gaming goes, are 8-bit games better overall or are 16-bit games better overall?

That’s just for starters. If anyone wishes to help me out, either comment on the post or you can directly message me. Thanks!

The difference is mostly visual. The color pallet is the main thing. There isn’t really much of a gameplay difference.
I would say 16bit, mainly because 16bit still looks good to this day (check Shovel Knight for that particular point of mine) while 8bit looks suuuuuper dry and limited.
But on the other hand I had NES and that had only 8 bit games iirc, so there’s that…

Interesting. Cause I have heard that there are also differences in audio between 8-bit & 16-bit. Can you confirm if 16-bit is better for audio by chance?

I would say this is on game by game basis…

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Hm. Relevant to any particular time periods or not in your opinion?

What do you mean?

I just meant are there bigger differences when comparing 1 era of games to another? There probably are, but I’m not sure if there’s many differences between audio from 8-bit games vs 16-bit games.

Console audio is quite similar to different bit depth for MP3’s or color for a monitor. Less bits means larger steps between each tone or color as the case may be.

This is further complicated by the actual hardware used. One of the older computers (Commodore?) had a higher end sound chip in it, originally made for one of the big electric keyboard companies as I recall, so you can’t really point at one aspect like ‘8 bit’ and be able to make perfect assumptions about all facets to a machine. Co-processors, sound processors, design flaws and quirks, and other things can affect performance in different areas.

If you really want to get that deep into the details of older hardware then you may want to dig into wikipedia, follow the sources, and if that isn’t enough then hit YouTube for the history and teardowns or refurbishing of those devices.

Another thing is the programming. Many devices had weird quirks or limitations that had to be worked around. I remember reading about the original GameBoy and how the small screen buffer limited the amount things that could be displayed, and tricks used to make playable games. Or some of the other various limitations and people found ingenious ways of working around them. There was no ‘Oh just make the game 60GB’ crap like we get today. Few people then could even imagine 60GB and now we have dirt cheap cards the size of a fingernail with more storage.

If you like reading, there is a guy that I found a few years back that had really interesting stuff. I initially started reading RPG Reload, which has a bunch of history mixed in and I like the writing style. A lot to learn from and especially good for any old RPG fans. He also has a blog that hasn’t been updated in a while, but it too has a ton of stuff not just showcasing old games but a lot of history and explanations. Pretty sure he is/was in Japan so he acquired an extensive background on games there and differences to markets like North America.

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I see what you’re saying here. And what you have to offer is greatly appreciated! :smiley: But are 16-bit games generally better if you’re trying to decide like I am? Or does it depend on various factors like you stated?

I would say a larger portion of my favorite games as a child were from SNES and less so for NES. That also factors in the much larger library of games for the NES. But my favorite game was Dragon Warrior 3 for the NES. Most RPG players would rank Final Fantasy 6 (FF3 in the US) for the SNES way above DW3. It is a much better game, but for some reason DW3 is still my favorite.

Plus I’m a complete heretic that loves Final Fantasy 1-6 and I thoroughly hated Final Fantasy 7. I disliked the original PlayStation and can hardly stand to play many of those games to this day. I think it has mostly to do with the fact that there was new hardware with new freedoms to try things and I strongly disliked certain aspects made common in the early PS era.

And if you don’t like RPGs then you wouldn’t like most of my favorites. The controls on many NES games were often trash, sometimes on purpose. Much like some of the new ‘retro’ games of today. So action and fighting games are going to be better on newer and faster machines generally speaking.

Either way, I would figure out what types of games you are interested in and move from there.

Well, to be specific, I’m particularly after the Sonic The Hedgehog game series & the Mario series games. Hopefully that should help you out further so you (or anyone else) can help me! :slight_smile:

You’ve heard correctly…:wink: In skilled production hands the audible difference between 8 and16-bits can be night and day. In not so skilled hands, it could well be difficult to hear a difference. It’s like anything and everything else relative to computer gaming–advances in tech are great in and of themselves–but without artistic talent sufficient to make use of the fabulous tech tools advances bring–you might as well not bother, imo. It’s much more dependent on the development team than on the platform itself. Every game is different, etc., regardless of “bitness” and those sorts of considerations. Visually, comparing 16-bit graphics with 8-bit graphics, 16-bits offers the potential to knock your socks off–but…I’ve seen many an 8-bit game that looks, plays, and even sounds better than some 16-bit games–so it’s important to remember that specification differences, while extremely important in one sense, are not the whole enchilada by any means. To the uninitiated, things like “bitness” devolve into marketing terms of sometimes little substance. Talent is the name of the game–near the end of the 16-bit GPU era, more than one developer was creating games that would rival the long-sought 24-bit holy grail of computer graphics…:wink: And some 16-bit games were so ugly and crude that mistaking them for “8 bits” was far too generous a compliment. There is just no cut & dried formula, and usually people (like myself) are more interested in the gameplay, the story, the suspension of disbelief the game creates, and so on. The “bitness” is a secondary consideration, right up until the point that the market turns a corner with respect to the majority of hardware that developers find they have as their working canvas for that next game. For instance, 64-bit gaming offers quite a bit more “canvas” to a developer than 32-bit game development–and we can all thank our Lucky Stars that “64-bits” has become a go-to set of possibilities that more than a few developers have managed to harness! Nevertheless, some “64-bit” games can fairly be said to be “real dogs”…:wink:

I came out of the Amiga era–owned every machine C= made except the A1000–all the way through the A4000’s. While in their day, the machines were living miracles compared to horrid single-tasking DOS boxes & teeny gray-scale Macs at the time, the gaming environment was still extremely crude compared to the present. Fun? It was indeed an incredible amount of fun! I’ll always treasure the memories. But would I go back? Back to the time when hardware development moved with all the speed of glaciers and everything decent cost an arm and a leg? Not on your life would I go back to “Toastering with Lightwave” and all the rest of it!

Why I blithered all of this astounding and amazing wisdom I have no idea!..:wink: Your forgiveness is sought! I leave you with this pearl: sometimes “retro” is a synonym for “rotten”…;)…it all depends on a number of things like I’ve mentioned above. The true joy in “retro” for me is the memory–ah, the memories! Sometimes violating the memories with the reality of what “retro” actually is these days can spoil the entire effect!..:wink:

Quite your 2 cents worth I’ll say! And I thank you for your words/advice/experience! :slight_smile: But given my game choices I want to try out, should I actually set my standards for 16-bit or just 8-bit? :thinking:

I would really like to say I might be able to have my cake & eat it too, but budget is sort of limited since I’m young, unemployed & only doing odd jobs around town for the cash I need given my circumstances. :confused: Nevertheless, I would like ANYBODY’S advice on what I should aim for & that might help to clear a few things up! :smiley:

My 2 Cents,
I started with owning a SNES and the PS1 growing up, a couple friends had a NES, Sega Genesys and N64 that I got to play too. If you want to see how games changed, I would definitely play games on each console as they were released to see the tech progress. If you’re looking for great games I would pick a genre you like and then look back at what titles get fit in there.
My favorites are limited by what I got to play at the time, my family wasn’t well off when I was growing up.
NES: Duck Hunt, amazing with the original gun
SNES: Donkey Kong Country 2/3, great side scrollers with cool music for the SNES
Mortal Combat 3/ 3 Ultimate and Street Fighter 2/3, great fighting games
Killer Instinct, another fighting game but with cool characters that haven’t been repeated
original Final Fantasy, interesting to see where the games have gone since here
PS1: Twisted Metal 2/3, vehicle combat games
Final Fantasy IX, I know I’ll get flak for this but I thought IX was the best, I never got in to VII
Crash Bandicoot 2/3, side scroller type game made in 3D pretty fun

Also, consider emulators, I have my PS1 and SNES that still work and I play on occasionally. I have had 3 NES consoles and they have all died over time. The loader (?) mechanism that moves the game cartridge down into position wasn’t well designed and so new ones (new to you) may not be that reliable either. Maybe someone else here has some experience with the new made consoles that take the original cartridges that they can share.
I really enjoy the old games and as long as you don’t expect the same graphics quality as a newer game you can really enjoy yourself. Look around locally to see if you have a retro game store near you. They may have some experience with these consoles that you could try, like Game Stop used to do.

Sorry for the long reply, nostalgia gets me going!

Hey, it’s understandable. :slight_smile: At least I have kind of narrowed it down by genre(s) I wish to try. But obviously, I don’t have plans to own literally EVERY SINGLE game in the series or ALL the consoles that have ever existed. I guess the best thing I can do is just do some looking around then see what happens. Thank you very much your 2 cents! :smiley:

There are really great titles from every era of video games, just like for books, music, or movies. You’d be doing yourself a disservice to stick to “only” 8-bit or 16-bit consoles.

Side note: the number of “bits” is the so-called word length of the system’s CPU. That’s how many bits fit in a single register. So, an 8-bit console can add two 8-bit numbers together in 1 clock cycle, but will be much slower with bigger numbers. So, you’ll get fewer colors to pick from, no advanced 3D graphics, etc. A 16-bit processor can hold numbers with twice as many digits, so it’s much more capable, but there’s a lot more to a system than its number of “bits.” It’s mostly a marketing thing; back in the 90’s, Sega ridiculed Nintendo’s NES because it was 8-bit, and the new Sega Genesis was 16-bit.

In retro gaming discussion, the “bits” usually refers to generations of consoles. The NES and Sega Master System were both in the 8-bit generation; the Super NES and Genesis were the 16-bit rivals. The next generation was the Playstation vs. the Nintendo 64 (so much for 32-bit). Then gamecube/ps2/xbox, and so on. The NES, SNES, and Genesis get the most attention usually, but there are tons of other, lesser-known consoles, each with their own essential games. The N64’s generation is kind of on the borderline between “retro” or not, but everything prior (16-bit and earlier) is fair game. And let’s not even get into handhelds!

I learned a lot about the era by watching the Angry Video Game Nerd. It’s got incredibly dated early-internet-culture vibes, but it still kind of holds up somehow. If you’re interested in the physical consoles/hardware angle, My Life in Gaming is a great resource.

If you’re just getting started, I would recommend looking at emulation, which lets you play games for retro consoles on a PC. While using an emulator is completely legal, downloading games you don’t own is piracy, and therefore illegal. Please don’t link to “rom websites” or ask where to find game files on this forum. The legally-acceptable approach is to “dump” game files from the cartridge to a file. However, most of the copyright owners for these old titles are defunct, or don’t terribly care about their SNES library’s sales. As a result, most retro games can be classified as “abandonware”—they are still under copyright protection, but the copyright owner is unlikely to bring legal action for violations.

There are a ton of emulators out there for all the different consoles. But, they all have different options (or a lack thereof) for video scaling, video filtering, vsync modes, input remapping, supported controllers, etc. This is why I use RetroArch; every “emulator” has its UI and other features stripped out, leaving just a so-called core. Input, video, audio, drivers, recording, configuration, netplay, ROM selection, etc. are all handled by the RetroArch frontend and the Libretro API. It’s more complicated than running ZSNES in windowed mode, but it gives you fine-grained control over everything, and it works for every emulator you could want. It’s also cross-platform.

Playing on real hardware is more complicated, and expensive. Retro consoles have a low-resolution, analog video output. LCD televisions will add delay (aka “input lag”), and usually put a blurry bilinear filter on the image. Some will also misinterpret 240p as 480i, resulting in an unpleasant flickering or “vibrating” appearance. Newer TVs don’t even have analog inputs, so you’ll need a converter box. There are really crappy ones for $20, or retro gaming-oriented ones for $100+. The real solution (in my humble opinion) is to get a CRT television and play on that. For a minimum-cost setup, go to Goodwill and get any CRT with at least the yellow RCA jack on the front. Bonus points for S-video or component, but few consoles can output in those formats without a mod.

So, jennings92, is there anything else specific you want to know? Recommended games, RetroArch troubleshooting, video signal formats…

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Some great advice in this thread. My tuppence worth is to ask yourself just what is it you want? Do you actually want to tinker with old hardware, and bring back memories of the first time you plugged a SNES in, or do you just want to play all the games you didn’t own back then.

From my own experience in this arena I recommend not worrying about the console or computer hardware as such and focus on the display and controllers. For example as @MrFigs points out most late 80’s & early 90’s consoles and home computers were designed around low resolution 4.3 CRT displays, and many games actually took advantage of this and look awful and not how you remember them when played on a widescreen LCD monitor or TV.

Fortunately a lot of the emulators can soften images or introduce fake scan lines etc. So just by buying a cheap 4:3 17" LCD display (around £20 in the UK off ebay) you can use an emulator on something like a Raspberry Pi and get going for under £100, use USB controllers and have a display more like what you would remember from 1993.

If you go down the original hardware route be prepared to spend more money than you ever planned to, have stuff break and learn how to do some soldering - why did I buy that Amiga 500+ :smiley:

You can also compromise, the SNES and C64 mini’s I own are great, work reasonably well with big widescreens (as they have HDMI out) but look even better on an older 4:3 17" screen. Some of these mini’s use FPGA tech instead of pure emulation, which leads me onto devices like the MIST and MISTer. These recreate the original hardware on modern FPGA chips which can be reprogrammed by loading a new core. So you now have a device that can be used as a Sega, and Amiga or an Atari ST etc. etc. These types of devices can also support different outputs like analogue 15pin DSub with scaling which let’s you use VGA CRT’s which are better than old TV’s in terms of resolutions supported etc. but doesn’t mess with the input like a modern LCD.

My MIST is probably my favorite bit of retro-gaming kit, just because I can switch between Atari ST and Amiga without unplugging stuff. It has been superseded by the MISTer (which is more DIY and flexible) so unfortunately new core development has all but stopped. Fortunately you can still buy MIST from places like this: https://lotharek.pl/productdetail.php?id=97

Not to worry; I now know what the differences are between the bits a CPU has & how it would affect performance. Pretty easy to understand. TBH, I had considered the idea of emulating, but I don’t think it’s the route I would go as I’ve heard there can be compatibility issues depending on your setup & all that, etc.

I do now have a better idea of what platforms I’ll be going with. But there are still some questions I have:

  1. If I wanted to play Wii games on the Wii U, would I ACTUALLY need to buy a Wii as well as the Wii U in order to do so? Or can this be done in a simpler manner/method?

  2. Also, is there any easy way to determine if the Nintendo Switch is actually right for me?

For older consoles, I have found out that it is possible to connect them to a monitor if you don’t wish to use a TV or are unable to. This video clearly demonstrates it & you can check it out here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B6__ydDu4mo

If you need any other details or have questions, feel free to ask & I’ll do my best to answer them! :slight_smile: Thanks to anyone who might be able to help me out further!

Such as? The only real limitation is emulation speed—an older or less powerful machine can’t run demanding emulators very well. So cycle-accurate SNES emulation or high-resolution PlayStation rendering might get slow or choppy, but any reasonable machine can run less demanding emulators for most systems.

The only other “compatibility” issue is emulator accuracy—some emulators aren’t very accurate to the original hardware, and result in glitches. These can be minor, pixel-level graphics issues, or more serious. However, unless you are using a very old/obsolete SNES emulator, or are emulating a little-known system with a rare ROM, you’re unlikely to run into these. Personally, I’ve never had any compatibility issues with any emulator I have ever used, if that gives you any perspective.

Of course not. Why would you need a Wii to use your Wii U? You can just put a Wii game disc into the Wii U and play. You will need Wii remote controllers, though.

Have you ever owned a game console or handheld?

I don’t own a switch, but I have several friends who do. If you are interested in playing Nintendo’s current first-party titles, it’s the only way of course. The games look great, especially considering the hardware they’re running on, and are high-quality as expected of Nintendo. My friends also greatly enjoy the portability. If you are interested in third-party games, though, it’s a different story.

For graphics-intensive titles such as The Witcher 3, for instance, it’s playable, but looks quite poor compared to the competing PS4/Xbox One versions. I had the chance to try the Katamari Damacy port, and it’s truly unplayable; about half a second of input lag, and sub-30 FPS in gameplay. My friend, whose switch I was borrowing, suggested that that was par for the course as a third-party switch title.

Or were you more interested in the NES and SNES games on the Switch? For a monthly fee, you get online play and access to a very limited subset of Nintendo’s 8 and 16-bit titles. On the plus side, it’s completely above board. But don’t forget, it’s just software emulation—nothing you can’t do on your PC. Remember the NES Classic? It was actually a single-board computer (SBC), like the Raspberry Pi, running Linux, which ran an NES emulator. The sad part is, the open-source emulators are more accurate! :laughing:

Anyway, it mostly comes down to what types of games you want to play. And if you’re interested in trying out anything of the retro variety, emulation is by far and away the fastest, easiest, and least expensive way to get started.

Yes, these are the no-name HDMI adapter boxes I alluded to above. Note that the Gamecube’s native 4:3 aspect ratio is stretched to fit the widescreen (16:9) monitor’s screen. Compare: converter box, proper appearance (timestamped, hit pause as soon as it starts). Some games in the Gamecube’s library have a widescreen mode, but most don’t, so they’ll be stretched out. You might be able to “scrunch” the video back to a 4:3 ratio, but not all monitors/TVs let you do that, especially with a digital source like HDMI.

On top of that, the video source is composite video, the single yellow RCA jack. You have to make a lot of compromises to get a 480i60 stream onto a single conductor. Check out this page to see what I mean. And once the quality is gone, you can’t get it back, no matter what scaler you use or what TV it’s on. I would not enjoy using that setup very much.

Hm. Well, I might be wrong about the emulation thing as I don’t know crap, don’t really know what’s involved & didn’t actually own any of these gaming systems when I was growing up. Besides, I’m still learning. ¯_(ツ)_/¯

You mentioned that I can just use the Wii game disks in the Wii U, but that I will need a controller. Makes sense I guess, but I thought the Wii U doesn’t have a slot where you can insert a physical disk since supposed to be a handheld anyway? :thinking:

As for the games I wish to try out on the Switch, I’m not sure which ones are NES/SNES. But I have made up my own list of the Sonic games I wish to try out. Games Wishlist.txt (2.4 KB)

1 other thing I thought I would add to this post: I’m thinking of using a Nintendo GameCube, a Nintendo Switch, the Nintendo Wii U, & possibly a PlayStation 3 hooked up to my LED gaming monitor instead of using an older TV. (Just not all at once of course.) What I’m concerned about is is the video I stumbled upon the best method of doing so or will I have to try some other method(s) since my monitor is a bit newer? For anyone waning to know, my monitor is the MSI Optix MPG27CQ.

Looking to hear from more helpful people & thank you for what you ALL have said! :grin: