This fall Nintendo re-released the Super NES Classic, a mini-version of one of its first consoles from the 1990s. It sold out in stores in just a few hours — the latest example of the craze for retro-games and their hardware.
Kelsey Lewin is a 23-year-old gamer from Seattle. She owns more than 70 gaming systems and her collection keeps growing. Lewin favors Nintendo consoles and finds that the Nintendo 64, which came out in 1996, is especially important to her collection.
"If you go back to the beginnings of when I started falling in love with video games, the Nintendo 64 was a really big part of that," Lewin says. "So, I do collect for some nostalgic reasons, but a lot of it is just because I know I haven't played everything and I would really like to someday."
Lewin co-owns Pink Gorilla Games, which sells retro games alongside newer games imported from Japan. She says when she orders old consoles, her customers buy them right away. And a lot of it, she thinks, has to do with nostalgia.
"I definitely think that's part of it — a big part, even," Lewin says. "But a lot of it is that it still holds up today as well. So, they still enjoy playing the NES, not just because they remember playing it as a kid, but because it's still fun."
This nostalgia trend is sweeping the gamer world. Fans are buying other old consoles, too — the Atari and the Sega Genesis, known for the iconic Sega game, Sonic the Hedgehog.
The Super NES Classic comes with vintage pre-downloaded games on the console. They include Contra, The Legend of Zelda, Super Mario World and Castlevania — all classic games from the 90s.
Brian Kim, a 25-year-old gamer from Virginia, bought the Super NES from a friend, who bought the retro-consoles in bulk when they were available. Kim says he collects old consoles because he didn't have access to them when he was younger.
"When I was a kid, you wanted to play the Nintendo 64, like some sort of Nintendo game, but my parents refused to buy it for me because they already bought me a Play Station 2," Kim says. He would go to his friend's house to play on Nintendo consoles.
But these old games aren't easy to play now. The controls on old consoles are not as sensitive to player's movements as new consoles are. So it takes a little more skill to manuever the controller.
"Some of these old games are super old and I was just like, 'Oh my god, this is kind of a pain... to play,' " Kim says.
People who collect retro-games and consoles aren't necessarily buying them to play them over and over again. It's more a matter of having them, just to have them.
"I wouldn't play hours and hours on it because it's like I have a Play Station — I'm going to play all these new games," Kim says. "But it's moreso of just being able to say 'I have this system. I have it as a collectible' and kinda display it for myself," Kim says.
But the consoles are not cheap. When Nintendo brought back the Super NES in September, it sold for $79.99. But if you're trying to get one now on eBay, you could spend more than $200.
NOEL KING, HOST:
Nintendo has a new gaming console. Well, it's kind of new. The Super NES Classic is basically just a smaller version of a system that is almost 30 years old. Despite that, it sold out in hours, which is evidence maybe of a retro gaming craze. NPR's Adhiti Bandlamudi has the story.
ADHITI BANDLAMUDI, BYLINE: Kelsey Lewin is a 23-year-old gamer in Seattle, Wash. She owns over 70 different gaming systems, and her collection keeps growing. She wants to play every game on every console. She's a huge fan of Nintendo and finds the Nintendo 64, another kind of console, is especially important to her collection.
KELSEY LEWIN: If you go back to the beginnings of when I started falling in love with video games, the Nintendo 64 was a really big part of that. So I do collect from some nostalgic reasons. But, yeah, a lot of it is also just because I know that I haven't played everything, and I would really like to someday.
BANDLAMUDI: Lewin co-owns Pink Gorilla Games, a retro and imported videogame store. She says when she orders old consoles her customers buy them right away. A lot of it, she thinks, has to do with nostalgia.
LEWIN: I definitely think that's a part of it - a big part of it, even. But a lot of it is still that it just holds up today as well. So they still enjoy playing the NES not just because they remember playing it as a kid, but because it's still fun.
BANDLAMUDI: Brian Kim is a 25-year-old gamer from Virginia. He's playing "Contra," one of the classic games that comes pre-downloaded on the Super NES he just bought.
BRIAN KIM: When I was younger, my best friend had a Super Nintendo. And I used to go over to his house and I used to play that a lot. And there were a lot of times where I actually - because I didn't have the system I wanted to go to his house, and he wouldn't want to play because he had them.
BANDLAMUDI: But these old games aren't easy to play. The controls on these old consoles aren't as sensitive to players' movements as new consoles are. Kim is struggling to play "Contra."
KIM: The annoying thing is you can't move and shoot at the same time. You either shoot or you move. Oh, shoot. I fell into the fire.
BANDLAMUDI: And along with the revived popularity of these old consoles, there's a growing interest for the games that were played on them, too. "Contra" is just one of the games that's part of this revival. But people who collect these games and consoles aren't necessarily getting them to play them over and over again.
KIM: It's more so of just being able to say, like, I have this system. I have it as, like, a collectible and have it kind of displayed for myself.
BANDLAMUDI: This trend is sweeping the gamer world. Fans are buying other old consoles like the Atari and the Sega Genesis, too. And they're not cheap. When Nintendo brought back the Super NES, it sold for about $80. But if you're trying to get one now on eBay, you could spend anywhere from $150 to $200. Adhiti Bandlamudi, NPR News.
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