Video games are a great hobby but they have been constantly evolving since their inception which also means the gaming landscape has changed too.
If you’re old enough then you might be able to cast your mind back to the days of the original Mortal Kombat, or perhaps solving puzzles in Zelda: A Link to the Past.
One thing stands out about these classic games: they were absolutely unforgiving and at times were rage-inducing.
The Goro fight on Mortal Kombat seemed almost impossible without utilizing gimmicking moves over and over again, and some of the puzzles in Zelda took multiple hours to solve.
With that said, are we just looking at those games through rose-tinted goggles, and was it perhaps because we were so young that these games were so hard for our under-developed brains?
Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why old video games are/were hard.
5 Reasons Why Old Video Games Were Harder Than New Ones
1. Old controllers were less versatile
From a mechanical perspective, the way we input and interface with games has drastically changed over the past thirty years; we now have things like VR, analog sticks, touchpads, diagonal input, and modern controllers that are more responsive in general.
Because controllers were so limited, this could easily impact the way the game responded meaning you weren’t always at fault directly.
Some controllers could easily misinterpret your button presses for different directions meaning you could non-intentionally throw yourself into a pit of lava to your inevitable doom. Good, huh?
This lack of mechanical precision and poor tactile design meant that interfacing with your controller wasn’t always the best experience which could easily become a factor in why older video games were so hard.
2. Information and video game guides weren’t as easily accessible
Up until the late naughties, the internet was still patchy in most parts of the world and services hadn’t been developed to the extent that they are now.
Currently, you can browse YouTube, Reddit, various forums, and even the Google search engine has become smarter in offering tailored results for what you’re looking for.
All of this information combined with its ease of access means you can easily look up a guide on how to solve a problem in your game.
Prior to this, at least since before the internet became so widespread, you had to rely on your friends, word of mouth, and magazine subscriptions to get the latest information and guides on how to accomplish a task in-game.
Because of those inefficiencies, gaming was a totally different beast to tangle with than what it is today and that was partly what made it so hard but also what made it so fun too.
Being able to cheese a part of the game because you’ve looked up a guide removes part of the fun, however, if you were genuinely struggling for weeks then it can also alleviate some of that pain too.
3. Old games were designed with problem-solving in mind
Before developers could make full-blown custom 3D experiences, they had to work with limited assets and strategies for making their games hard.
Part of this artificial difficulty curve strategy was to implement lots of puzzles or problem-solving tasks that could elongate the experience of the game.
Compared to nowadays where you can get much more inventive with how to make your game difficult, such as through complex AI mechanics and twitch reactions, old games could only offer limited mechanics which meant that you were spending lots of time-solving hard puzzles.
For most people, problem-solving and puzzle solutions don’t come quickly meaning you could often be spending hours, days, and even weeks working on coming up with the solution.
4. Old games were sold completely finished
Because games were not connected to the internet (up until recently), it basically meant that old game developers had to ship their games in a fully-finished format and that also meant that games had to be difficult to last long enough to be deemed worthy.
As time has gone on, games were often released not fully polished, or still had mechanics that were missing simply because they know they can update them at a later stage.
This has trivialized many games, and in fact, has led some of them to be simply unplayable or totally unmemorable experiences.
Basically, if a game is missing half of the intended experience then it’s probably not going to make for a very good game.
5. Company politics have changed
Compared to the days of yesteryear, most companies have to ship their games with a much wider audience in mind and that includes mentally or physically impaired people too.
As well as that, not many people enjoy not being able to beat a game and this concept has become far less acceptable for the average person these days compared to when folks would play Super Nintendo.
Again, with this change in company politics and the way we view society it’s now more important than ever for a game to be beatable for the average person.
It seems like a lazy answer, however, directly watering down games and making them easier is definitely something that’s been observed over the past decade or two; as an added benefit, it also means you get to play with more people potentially.
Why are video games hard? (What makes a game hard?)
Finally, we wanted to ask what makes a game hard or why some games are hard and others aren’t.
It’s worth bearing in mind that not everyone finds the same things challenging, however, the general consensus of what makes a game hard (or seem hard) seems to include mechanically random tasks i.e. when there’s no set way to learn or overcome a challenge (shifting game physics, etc.) — this often results in long-winded or tedious attempts to get something “just right” which can be incredibly frustrating to overcome.
Other game tasks that are perceptibly hard include precision-based mechanics such as aiming small pointers (getting headshots in a shooter game) and other straight-up challenging tasks such as solving puzzles.
Everyone will find certain things challenging without lots of practice and that’s because most people aren’t naturally that good at games: even the pros have to practice multiple hours per day to stay sharp otherwise they can easily lose those skills.
Old games were hard for a variety of reasons, however, they were often made harder because of the technological limitations of the time rather than it always being an intended function of the game.
This has made for some fun little memories about how bad some of the technology was and has even led to memes being created all around the internet making comparisons.
With that said, we wouldn’t be where we are today without those mishaps or challenges and that’s why old games will always have a place in our hearts as something to revisit from time to time.
As always, if you enjoyed our article then don’t forget to save our homepage to your favorites for regular updates and information.
We also have a dedicated gaming section looking at all aspects of this geeky pastime including what things to look out for and more.