Frankly, I spend a lot of time on the internet. One weird thing I’ve seen sprout from my generation is a bizarre resentment of youth. I mean, boomers do the same thing, but it’s more weird for those of us who grew up online. Instead of whining about technology or incorrectly perceived laziness, there’s a huge swath of millennial-aged folks who get really annoyed with younger people for not… recognizing things. There are entire YouTube series of kids reacting to things like NES consoles, something no reasonable person would expect them to recognize. I get that mortality sucks and being reminded your hair is turning grey ain’t great, but it’s weird to be curmudgeonly because a 14-year-old doesn’t give a crap about Back to the Future. Anyway, console generations steadily fading away to the past is sad, but there is one cool benefit.
Those younger kids are getting older, and that means they’re the ones who will be making games. I don’t mean the folks my age out there at Ubisoft or whatever making the next big hits, I mean the kids figuring out how to make games on their own and getting stuff published as indies. It’s more than just young blood bringing their energy to continue the work. What I’m excited about is the content. These folks are bringing their tastes to game development with them, and a big part of an individual’s tastes is what they grew up with. As more platforms are folded into the “retro” category, that’s new sections of gaming history serving as inspirations for rising creatives.
That’s vague, I’ll be the first to admit that. Luckily, I have some pretty good examples of what I’m trying to get at here. I’m 30, and I grew up with the Super Nintendo. Turns out I really like sidescrollers and RPGs. There’s an obvious correlation there. And people younger than me grew up with the Nintendo 64 or PlayStation. Games like A Hat in Time or about a thousand games that look and feel like Final Fantasy VII are a direct result of that.
And we’re on the edge of the next step, which is the generation that grew up with the PlayStation 2, the Game Boy Advance, and everything in-between. This is the point I think we’re at now: the exciting part where small projects are happening that wear their inspirations on their sleeves. Games that you’d never know about twenty years ago, but can have a presence on even home consoles now, thanks to the indie boom.
Two examples I want to focus on here are Wargroove and One Step From Eden. Wargroove has made quite a splash, thanks to the success of indies on the Nintendo Switch and being included in services like Xbox Game Pass. It’s a turn-based strategy game with bright, colorful 2D visuals and a ton of polish. It’s also Advance Wars. That’s a series that has long fallen to the wayside, thanks to Nintendo’s focus on Fire Emblem, and its unique hooks have all but vanished. Here’s Wargroove to take its place, shamelessly and lovingly.
One Step From Eden, which is coming soon (published by Humble), has a similar vibe. One Step From Eden is a stylish action game and deck-building RPG with a grid-based combat system. It’s real-time action, emphasizing movement at the same time as you’re swapping through your cards. This isn’t as blatantly a nod to one specific game like Wargroove is; instead it’s several things with some distinct flavor spread on top. The grid is obviously inspired by Capcom’s Mega Man: Battle Network series, which was one of Capcom’s biggest successes of its time. The card-swapping and interface resemble Kingdom Hearts: Chain of Memories, an experiment from Square Enix that tried to combine action with card-collecting. It’s been a while since we’ve seen mechanics specifically bearing resemblance to any of these games; now it’s time for nostalgia to feed into new ideas and spiritual successors.
I don’t mind that someone ten or more years younger than me doesn’t know what Skate or Die is, or looks at me funny when I mention a movie or album that was engineered specifically for my generation’s youth. I don’t feel existential dread when someone tells me their childhood first favorite game was something I experienced in high school. Because much like folks my age championed the likes of Metroidvania and old school RPGs enough to bring them back in style, many of these younger folks are doing the same work for their own classic games. It’s great for them, great for me, and great for games.