Retro Gaming Revival

Trends / Technology
We Are
Sandra Michalska
May 24, 2023
It’s 1985. You spend your Saturday in the glare of the saturated lights of the arcade. You are on a mission – helping Super Mario and his comrades save Princess Peach from the hands of Bowser. More than thirty years later, the pixelated plumber with a moustache has become a pop‑culture icon, cementing the effect that games have had on visual culture. While the Super Mario Bros. movie is the highest‑grossing video game movie ever1, our customers’ interest in gaming has risen, too. Getty Images' and iStock's most recent search trends reveal that early video games and vintage consoles are back. From Nintendo (+42% rise in search), and Super Mario (+57%), to Atari (+116%), retro gaming returns as Mario, Luigi, and Yoshi are back to the big screen.

For people in their 30s like me, there’s something undeniably playful about the 8‑bit graphics, chiptune soundtracks, and pixelated heroes coming alive. Call it nostalgia, or thought of simpler times, but retro gaming aesthetics have the power to captivate through simple, yet expressive and easy to grasp tropes: pixels, saturated colours, blocky geometric shapes. Yet it would be a mistake to think that retro gaming aesthetics only appeal to 30+ Millennials. If you think about what Tetris, Minecraft, and Roblox have in common, that would be tumbling, blocky, simple, geometric forms – appealing not only to long‑lasting Tetris gamers but also Gen Z and Gen Alpha2. 4,929,317 of them3 globally to be precise, as that’s the total number of players on Roblox and Minecraft. Even one of the biggest hits from Netflix – Squid Game – uses video game iconography4 and set design to invoke simulated gameplay. Pringles created a snackable campaign with its 8‑bit potato chip as a tribute to all gamers5.

Our VisualGPS consumer survey reveals that video games offer more than just entertainment. For 7 in 10 consumers globally, the value of video games is linked to providing an escape from the real world. Combine nostalgia, escapism, and visual playfulness of retro gaming to get the perfect play and to captivate audiences across generations, including those who didn’t even grow up with the original retro games.
1 Super Mario Bros. Movie Is Now the Highest Grossing Video Game Adaptation Ever (IGN)
2 What Gen Alpha’s habits tell us about the future of gaming (GWI)
Totalled number of players online based on data from Player Counter (Player Counter)
4 Squid Game Official Trailer (Netflix Youtube)
5 Pringles creates 8‑bit potato chip to celebrate retro gaming (the Drum)
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