The past was better; a saying that many agree fits perfectly in the gaming world. Games were better in the past. But is this really the truth? I will start my brain and think a while about it, as I write it down here. The past is the 64-bit era (not excluding higher games from the same era) and before and the new is after.
I believe, as usual, that there is no black and white here. That game was awesome.... Ehm, I mean, it all depends on where you look at the game. Obviously, the graphics are better now than then... right? What was better then, and what is better now, may surprise you.
Let's talk graphics. The graphic today is great, in many aspects, much thanks to HD and better TV's in general. But somehow the games that had the most impressive graphics at any time still managed to impress. A sunset in Chrono Trigger could be just as beautiful as a sunset in Crysis. Furthermore, I think the pixels had uniqueness to them that today’s graphic does not have. Well, then there's Wind Waker... Super Meat Boy... Alice: Madness Returns... let's just face it, despite the cuteness and uniqueness of the pixel era, which was way better than the early 3D-graphic, at least, you can create so much uniqueness with the new type of graphic that it's just more than enough to be better than the old games. One point to new games!
But what about music? Today we have great orchestras conduction epic music, in the same league as the best movie-musicians. Surely this must be better than the blip-y bit-music from the early days? Well, when you hear the words game music, what comes to mind? Let me guess. Super Mario, Zelda, C64 music, Final Fantasy, Metroid, Sonic, Chrono Trigger. Maybe Metal Gear Solid, so I guess some of the newer games has good music too. And maybe these are classics just because they are older. Doesn't, again, Super Meat Boy, or Halo, or Mario, have just as good music today? Still, I think it is a bit like comparing Film-music and actual music. The old songs were hits, the kind of songs that everyone knows about. Nobuo Uematsu and Koji Kondo are legends, and to be honest, there were more great music in the old games. One point to the old games.
So, what decides it is the games themselves. Is the games as good they where back in the days? It really depends on what genre of games we're talking about, so lets go through some genres to determine.
JRPG: This is hard, because the greatest JRPG of all time were made in the new era, Persona 4. As well as a lot of great JRPGs as Tales of Symphonia, Star Ocean III, Final Fantasy X and XII. At the same time, the rest of the great JRPGs were made in the old era. Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy VI and VII, the Phantasy Star series, the Dragon Quest series, Secret of Mana, not to forget Seiken Densetsu III. What ultimately decides it is that Japanese RPGs are really bad nowadays. Star Ocean IV was almost unplayable, not to talk about the biggest letdown of the 21st century, Final Fantasy XIII. Most of the JRPGs are okay, but nothing more. Sorry, but JRPGs was better in the past.
FPS: Doom is a classic, Wolfenstein revolutionized and started the genre. But to be honest, who would really play them when we got Halo, Modern Warfare, Battlefield, Killzone, Half-Life, and so much more from a genre that have litreally exploded and barely existed before the 64-bit era. Even with games like Unreal Tournament, Quake and Goldeneye with the old games, the new games still beat them, headshot, FPS is better now.
Strategy: Another easy win, if it wasn't for the 64-bit games. But even if they then have Final Fantasy Tactics, Civilization, Age of Empires and Command and Conquer, they really stand no chance against Warcraft, Starcraft, Dawn of war, Total War, Civilization III, Ceasar III and so on. Strategy games, better now.
RPG: Ultima and Baldurs Gate II are great games, Diablo II, all games that were amazing, and is still today the best in the genre, better than Fable, Better than Neverwinter Knights, Better than Morrowind and Oblivion, although those are great games too. RPG would have been better in the past, if it wasn't for the masterminds at Bioware. Knights of the old republic, Dragon Age, Mass Effect, are just too good of games for the genre to be worse now. All honour to Diablo II, but RPGs is better now.
Platform: Mario rules, he ruled then, and he rules now. So I'm simply going to remove him from the equation. Crash Bandicoot, Spyro and Sonic then ruled the old era. The new era is then ruled by Ratchet and clank, Jak and Daxter and... Sonic? Let's remove them too. Then we have Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV taking up the front for the new, and for the old we have, oh I don't know, every game? There were a lot of them in the old days; almost every game was a platformer. As much as I love Super Meat Boy and VVVVVV, I have to say that there aren't that many platformers now. But the old has Aladdin, Kirby, there was a great Batman-game too. A lot, but I'm not sure, but I will say the old, for the fact that I love Rayman. Platformers were better in the past.
Puzzles: This is a hard one. On one side we have Tetris, Pac-Man, Asteroids, Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble, Puzzle Bobble, Dr Mario, it was a golden age of puzzle games. There were almost more of them than there were platformers. They would easily win, if it weren't for one detail... Motherf-ing iPhone. The thing just crawls with great puzzle games, Peggle, Angry Birds, Doodle Jump, Osmos, Cut the Rope, just to name a few. The puzzle games are on the rising, and they are better than ever.
Adventures: The same here as with platformers; take away Zelda from the equation, and then you have Uncharted versus Metroid left. Oh, and Ico and Shadow of the Colossus... and Tomb Raider... and Metroid on the new side too... there's just so much that Wonderboy and Castlevania can put up against. Adventure games are better now.
Action: This is also a tough one. On the old side we really only have Turrican, Contra and Metal Gear Solid. But they're all awesome. On the new we have Devil May Cry, God of War and Gears of War as the greatest. The complex story of Metal Gear makes me want to choose that one, while the awesomeness of DMC, GoW and.... GoW.... makes me want to pick the new... Action is better now, because we also have MGS.
Fighting: This is probably the hardest, because the games you played in the old days are the same you're playing today, Tekken and Street Fighter. The new also has Soul Calibur, and the old has Basic Instinct. But the fact that the genre has evolved makes is harder to say that the older should win. Fighting is better now.
So there we have it. I know I didn't go through all genres, but I went through the ones that were the most important. It would seem that games are better now, right? Wrong, or not really wrong, but yeah, you can do so much these days. Still, the games are not always better today, but in a whole, there are much less bad games today. But I love old games, and I love new games. Let games be games, try and enjoy new ones, go back and enjoy old ones. Be nostalgic; explore old classics you haven't tried yet. Games are great now, games were great then!