What made old computer games so popular?

There are 2 ways of answering this question with regards to what made old computer games so popular.

This could either refer to what made old computer games popular In the first place – then, the past.

And what makes the resurgence of old games so popular today – the present.

What made old computer games so popular either in the past or today, is the same question, with 2 potentially different answers. Below I shall try to answer what I feel is an answer to both.

But as a catch-all. Old computer games were and are so popular due to an over combination of nostalgia, innovation, charm, and community that helped cement old computer games into history. It is this that made these old games popular then and now.

What made old computer games so popular

What made old computer games so popular – the past

There are several factors that contributed to old computer games becoming popular from the early 1970’s. Advancements in early computer hardware enabled games to be played in arcades and then subsequently on home game systems. The mass distribution of home game systems enabled a wider market of consumers to play computer games from the comfort of their own homes. Computer games became ever more popular as technology advanced, their graphical capability increased and game developers created more charming, engaging, and fun titles.

All these factors and more contributed towards old computer games growing in popularity.

Gaming on old computers and arcade machines grew from a niche sector into a source of entertainment for the masses. Eventually appealing to a greater range of tastes and genres.

Here is a condensed timeline of made old computer games popular in the early days.

What made old games popular | Timeline

When computer games first arrived, the general public had seen nothing like it before. The term ‘gamer’, as we understand it today ( 2024 ), was a term yet to be coined.

The plug-in console for domestic use was yet to be invented.

And the internet didn’t exist. Gaming was very much in its infancy.

As a poster child for early gaming prowess, I want to talk about Pong, an obvious choice when looking at gaming history.

*However, before talking about Pong. I want to mention the very first ‘distributed’ game. A computer game called Spacewar. Spacewar was created in April 1962 by Steve Russell on the PDP-1 platform. The game was an early 2-player space combat simulator. Not as iconic or popular as Pong, but as every bit as innovative.

Pong originally came out in 1972 – 10 years after Spacewar! Whereas Spacewar was played in some academic settings, Pong was substantially more popular and played in arcades by the general public – it was commercialised.

The game Pong, if you are unfamiliar with it, is in essence digital table tennis. 2 paddles on either side of the screen can be controlled by 2 opposing players. Both players try to beat the opposing player by knocking the ball out of the court.

This game, for the time, was revolutionary in how fun it was and advances in gaming. ( Animated gif from Wikipedia)

Then Pong was released on the ‘home’ Atari in 1975. This was a big milestone in the journey of computer gaming and home entertainment. Gamers, as they would come to be known, would be able to play Pong from the comfort of their home. This took computer gaming one step closer to becoming a mass market and popular hobby, as gaming on home systems didn’t end with Pong.

After the 1960s & 1970s

More games and consoles eventually followed suit both before and after the big computer game crash. Nintendo and Sega released newer generations of consoles in the late 80s.

From a technological standpoint, these pioneering pieces of technology paved the way for games and further pushed gaming into the main.

Mid 1980s to very early 1990s

In addition to consoles coming out, the games that could be played on them such as Super Mario
( 1985 ) and Sonic ( 1991 )
helped them to become more popular. It would be fair to say, that once old games found their feet with technology, the characters and game franchises are what helped them to become popular household names.

PCs too created popular games in addition to consoles and other gaming systems. Such examples are, Legends of Valour, Doom, X-wing, Myst, and Secret of Monkey Island ( 1990 – 1993 ) causing a snowball effect in people wanting to play games. In my youth, games around this time experienced a second boom.

I have written a post about my love of old point-and-click games.

Technology and its advancements, the market spread and iconic gaming characters have paved the way for old games to become so popular.

What made old computer games so popular – today

Retro gaming has had a resurgence – old games are still fun to play and still appeal to a wide range of audiences both old and new.

Several reasons have contributed to the resurgence of old computer games becoming popular again.

Here is a list of what has made old computer games so popular today.

What made old computer games so popular – Nostalgia

Many older gamers who grew up with ‘old’ games have fond memories of playing them. These memories can lead to a strong sense of nostalgia as they look back on their childhood or teenage years. Nostalgia can be a very potent thing with games, and escapism in general.


Compared to modern games with their complex graphics and immersive experiences that borderline interactive films, old computer games were often simple and pure. They were ‘games’ at the foremost and behaved as such with gamers wanting to beat or overcome their challenges.

The rawness and purity of old computer games have again made them popular.

Mutual appreciation

Popular old computer games fostered strong communities of fans who shared tips, tricks, and strategies with each other.

A challenging game could build a shared sense of camaraderie. A brag, high five or tip share only added to the appeal of old computer games.

Being bored of modern titles

With modern gaming ever striving to make the most hyper-realistic title along with safer more familiar games, gamers have started to grow bored and seek novel gaming experiences elsewhere. One such place is in older titles with their originality and charm wooing older and new gamers back to nostalgic titles.


Another factor that has aided in old computer games becoming popular again, is their originality.

Old computer games often introduced groundbreaking concepts and gameplay mechanics that were new and exciting for their time.

Doom, for example, was not the first FPS shooter but was certainly one of the most inspiring.

Graphic adventure games were also a popular genre of their time and have again celebrated a resurgence in retro gaming and the indie sphere.

The innovation and originality captured the imagination of players in the past and continue to do so today.

What made old games popular | Final thoughts

Another factor that I believe contributes to computer games becoming popular once again, is the ageing population of gamers.

Due to some older computer gamers approaching or going past middle age! They are starting to revisit aspects of their youth, and retro gaming is becoming popular potentially due to this.

This is only intuition and conjecture, and first-hand experience as an older gamer myself. I cannot speak for all millennial gamers out there but based on research and how nostalgic we can be, I think there is a strong indicator that that this could have a grain of truth.

As much as we try to rationalise why we like old computer games, or why we believe computer games have become popular once again – one of the largest contributing factors is our emotional attachment and memories towards them and nostalgia. We feel things, even when playing games.

Who would pay a million for an old computer game? Read on.

What made old computer games so popular old gamers!

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