From gathering a group of friends to play Mario Kart to devoting hours to conquering The Legend of Zelda on your own, there are few activities that resurrect childhood memories like breaking out the old video game console.
As Netflix brings back hit TV series from the ‘80s and ‘90s, while Star Wars anticipates the biggest box office output of the year in movie theaters, it is clear popular culture is putting a premium on nostalgia as a form of entertainment.
Will Hawkins has been in the nostalgia market for four years as the manager of Kokomo’s the Gaming HQ, which sells consoles, controllers, games and everything else imaginable from Atari 2600 to Playstation 4.
Formerly known as Game X Change, the store has plans to move from its location on South Reed Road, where it has operated since 2004, to a new location at 2947 S. Washington St., Suite 10 in the Maplecrest Plaza in early June.
The Gaming HQ has the hard to find titles and popular games that were a big part of the childhood of many of its customers, Hawkins said, which has allowed the business to cash in on the nostalgia culture.
“You’ve got a lot of people who are just trying to come in and collect games, but you’ve got the younger people who are trying to revisit the systems they grew up with,” he said. “The N64 is having a big boom right now and Game Cube [sales] are slowly picking up. A lot of it is nostalgia-related – the stuff you played when you were younger. That’s a lot of the stuff that people are coming back to and saying ‘man, I remember that when I was younger, I really want another one.’”
Hawkins sat down with the Kokomo Tribune to give some of his thoughts on the current state of retro gaming, including what some of the more popular games are for each retro console from the original Nintendo Entertainment System through Playstation 2 and Xbox.
The 8-bit entertainment of the original Nintendo Entertainment System still carries a lot of clout in retro game sales, Hawkins said, particularly in the Mario Bros. franchise, with original titles like Mario Bros. 1-3 still among the store’s biggest sellers.
Other popular titles from the console’s heyday including Contra, Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! and the Techmo Bowl football game series continue to garner the most demand, Hawkins said.
“The games that were popular back then are probably the ones people played a lot at that time,” he said. “Some people are looking for the hard-to-find or obscure games that may not have been released big in the states. Those can go for a lot more, which collectors go for.”
Expanding on the promise of the Mario Bros. series from NES, Super Nintendo recently had one of the biggest comebacks in retro game sales a couple of years back, Hawkins said, and remains one of the store’s best-selling game consoles.
In addition to popular titles like Super Mario World and Donkey Kong Country, Super Nintendo offers cult classics like EarthBound and titles from the Mega Man series that were wildly popular among hardcore gamers, which makes it one of the most popular retro consoles even today, Hawkins noted.
Being able to own titles that were exclusively made by Nintendo also makes Super Nintendo a gaming system in high demand.
“I’d say Super Nintendo is probably the biggest [seller], just because the original Super Mario Bros. games are going to be the biggest draw for Nintendo, and Super NES has the Mario All-Stars, which has all of the games in one,” Hawkins said. “You can get all of the original Mario Bros. games and all the original Donkey Kong games on Super NES.”
While it may not carry the same clout as its rival Super Nintendo console, Sega Genesis does continue to have its share of fans in the retro market.
“Genesis is still really popular, but I still feel people are going to want to get Super Nintendo over it,” he said. “A lot of the games on [Super Nintendo] were on the Genesis, too.”
Some of Sega Genesis’ unique titles, like Sonic the Hedgehog and the Road Rash series, which made its debut on the 16-bit console, are among the favorites, Hawkins said.
“It had its games that people enjoyed,” he said. “We still get people looking for games for it that were collectible, but it’s one of our cheaper systems. I wouldn’t say it’s in quite as high of a demand as some of our Nintendo systems.”
There may not be a system experiencing as much of a surge in demand among retro consoles as the Nintendo 64.
That’s because no retro console provides as much of a group or party aspect as the N-64, offering one of the first looks at a three-dimensional gaming system as well as a four-person controller format.
It has also made titles like Mario Kart 64, Mario Party and Super Smash Bros., which are some of the most in-demand titles at the store, Hawkins said.
“It has that party aspect to it, so you can get a lot of friends together and play it,” he said. “It doesn’t take as much skill with games like Mark Kart or Mario Party. Those are games that you can pick up pretty easy and have a lot of fun with other people.”
Other hits utilizing the four-player system include The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask, the one role-playing game series “everybody seemed to agree on,” Hawkins said.
The PlayStation consoles are often grouped together, Hawkins said, because titles from the original system can be played on PlayStation 2 and beyond, making it one of the more versatile and popular retro gaming consoles of all time.
PlayStation 2, in particular, continues to be one of the store’s biggest sellers simply because of how extensive its catalog was.
“Now that it’s all said and done, [PlayStation 2] does have one of the larger libraries,” Hawkins said. “They just stopped manufacturing the PS2 a couple of years ago, so you can still find some of the newer system games like FIFA ‘14, which was still released a couple of years ago. Of all the systems, PS2 really out-lived its life expectancy [the most].”
Other popular titles for PlayStation include the debuts of Resident Evil and Twisted Metal and Final Fantasy VII, VIII and IX, which were originally released on PlayStation beginning in 1997.
The successor to Nintendo 64, Nintendo’s GameCube is beginning to see a resurgence in sales, Hawkins said, as it and other systems like PlayStation 2 and Microsoft’s Xbox begin to bring back fans who enjoyed the consoles in their heyday.
“You’re getting to the point where the kids who grew up with it are becoming adults now,” he said. “It’s going to carry the same Nintendo titles that everybody wants, like the Mario Bros. games, Donkey Kong and Zelda.”
Final Fantasy’s Chrystal Chronicles was one release, Hawkins noted, that is only available on GameCube.
While it carries many of the same titles as its peers like GameCube and PlayStation 2, Xbox has carved out its niche in the retro market for its development of first-person shooter games.
Those include series like Halo and Call of Duty, which continue to be popular among modern consoles today. Gears of War, which was originally released for the Xbox 360, is another series that continues to see strong sales.
“Call of Duty, whether on Xbox 360 or the PS3, is always a popular choice, Hawkins said. “Really, any first-person shooter game is going to be pretty popular.”
For more information on the Gaming HQ, visit www.ingaminghq.com