I Haven't Played Video Games For Decades. How Do I Start Again?
May 12, 2019 8:28 AM   Subscribe

I haven't played video games since I was a teenager. The games and controls were simple. Super Nintendo, left to right screen layout and a handful of buttons. The games weren't as primitive as Space Invaders, but not as sophisticated as modern games. I want to start gaming again. Where do I start?

I haven't played video games since I was a teenager. The games and controls were simple. Super Nintendo, left to right screen layout and a handful of buttons. The games weren't as primitive as Space Invaders, but not as sophisticated as modern games. I want to start gaming again. Where do I start?

It seems like there are so many systems and I know that people also game on their laptops and tablets. Laptop seems less appealing, since it appears that you have to sit at a table in order to use a mouse. I could be wrong about this. My limited experience with modern games hasn't been good. Perhaps I just need more practice, but I seem to have a hard time with the controllers, particularly the joysticks that you use your thumbs to move people. I also have a hard time doing a bunch of buttons at a time. Perhaps this will get easier. I also like games like Tetris, but they seem to wear out quicker. The idea of being immersed in a world is very appealing to me.

I need to buy a new laptop. I am not sure if I should buy a gaming system or a gaming laptop. I don't know if Playstation or Xbox is a better system as far as games etc. Is one easier? Does one have more options? The thing that seems appealing about a system vs a laptop, is that you can lounge on the couch and not be sitting up rigid. I also like the idea of not being tethered by a cord. I am assuming that the systems offer wireless controllers that will enable me to sit on the couch

I am also used to the old school discs or cartridges. Do you need to hook all gaming systems up to the internet now? Download games? I have no idea how much games cost or how quickly you go through a game.

I would also like suggestions for games to play with my girlfriend. Ideally working together, not competing

Thank you
posted by kbbbo to Technology (23 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
What kind of games did you like to play before? I was in a similar position (previously loved any NES/N64 or Mario games). I found “3D” games really difficult to do on a new gaming system but I LOVED Ori and the Blind Forest. It was easy to learn the controls and advance as the game went on, reminded me of Yoshi Story in the overall set up and had beautiful artwork to boot. I just played it on my boyfriends Xbox and haven’t done anything else since so I can’t add to the rest of your questions.

Do you have a friend who would let you try out some gaming at their place?
posted by raccoon409 at 8:38 AM on May 12, 2019

You can get USB game controllers to use with a laptop. Many big complicated PC games are designed under the assumption that you're using keyboard and mouse, but not all, and not all games available for PC are big sprawling RPG epics. I was just playing a port of Sonic this morning with my kid, it cost like $1.99. In Steam, look for "full controller support".

I game on my laptop while sitting on my couch with a USB controller. I'm never going to be an esports champion with this method, but I have plenty of fun.
posted by soren_lorensen at 8:48 AM on May 12, 2019

There are a ton of retro remakes of old school beat em ups (Double Dragon, Streets of Rage, Ninja Turtles) along with retro inspired originals like Cupheqd and Shovel Knightout there now. They play very similarly to their old school counterparts with little nods to more modern game play that will help you acclimate to the newer mechanics and interfaces.

I'd actually recommend getting either a PS4 or an Xbox One to start with since they will have all those games available and can double as entertainment hubs for your TV thst are likely more verse tile than what you have now. Yes, you will need to connect to the internet and download games, but it's incredibly simple. If you can set up an Amazon account you can do this.

The reason why I recommend console over PC at this point is because if you DO decide to get into more modern mainstream gaming then the console will make that pivot for significantly less ($0) than a similarly priced laptop would. A $700 laptop is not going to be able to play a lot of modern games very well while, and with a new generation of consoles coming out you can get one for significantly less than that, and it will play basically every game you've heard of to date well. As for whether you should get a Playstation or an Xbox, I think the difference is becoming more and more negligible. Hit up a best buy and see which controller feels more comfortable in your hands with the display models.

Price point wise for the old school games were talking $15-30 depending on complexity and length. Modern games generally, start at $60, but this is becoming muddier and muddier, as additional downloadable content become more and more prevalent. For everything available for a game in its entire lifetime you could easily spend upwards of $120. This is why abuy far fewer games than I used to.

Good luck!
posted by East14thTaco at 9:07 AM on May 12, 2019 [3 favorites]

Without knowing which types of games interest you, then it's hard to know where to start. However:

If you already have a laptop, then maybe just buy an XBox controller (they work with PCs and are widely supported) and try some cheap older games from Steam
(it's kinda the default PC game store nowadays; buy online and download to your PC). If you're interested in first person stuff, then you could try starting with one of the "walking simulators"? They're games that use the same controls and perspective as first-person-shooters, but that are about exploration and discovery, so you can learn the ropes without just getting killed all the time. Gone Home, Firewatch, Tacoma, Dear Esther, etc. They'll all work with a controller or mouse/keyboard so you could see what you get on with.

If you get on ok with one of those, then Portal 2 is a first-person game with a terrific co-op mode. RPS have a list of other good co-op games here, though not on that list is one of my faves: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime...

Alternatively, consider the Nintendo Switch. Not the most powerful thing, but relatively inexpensive, and with lots of games in their digital store. Nintendo's own big games are about $60 each (Super Mario Odyssey would be a good place to start, and has a fun co-op option), but there's a ton of cheaper indy stuff in there too.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:10 AM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think you'd love the Nintendo Switch, and I think it'd be a perfect system for you. I have a *somewhat* similar history; I had an NES, SNES, N64, Playstation, and a PS2. I mostly gave up console gaming from about 2002-2008 or so, then delved back in but only in spurts. I received a Nintendo Switch as a Christmas present just this last year and I've been LOVING it.

The number of games available on the Switch is enormous - to be honest, a bit overwhelming, but I've dealt with that by looking up reviews, playing demos, and looking for games when they're on sale. I've found several old school 2D platform games that can be played with a D-pad (just like our old SNES controls). The variety available almost guarantees you'll find something not just fun but also playable.

Gaming systems do ideally need to be connected to the internet. I've purchased all of my games online, but you don't have to - you can still buy a physical copy of many games, especially the more popular ones.

Personally, I think you'd love a Switch with Super Mario Odyssey; Stardew Valley; and The Way (if you like puzzle platformers). You might REALLY enjoy Zelda since you mention world immersion, but the learning curve is steeper for someone who's been out of gaming. Lots of the best games on the Switch are multiplayer - Mario Party; any of the LEGO games.

Welcome back to gaming!
posted by pecanpies at 9:14 AM on May 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

The Nintendo Switch is their latest device and I think it's probably the thing for you. It's called the switch because you can switch it from a handheld device to a console that hooks up to your tv very easily, and it has lots of flexible control schemes - you can buy a "pro controller" which is more like an xbox or playstation controller, or you can use the controllers on the side of the switch that unclip and clip into a little holder of their own to use wirelessly, or you can hold them sideways and use them like an oldschool NES controller and then you have two of them for two player games. There's also a classic SNES-style controller that's compatible with the switch.

For games there are quite a few that have local cooperative play built into them in a style conducive to playing with a less-skilled friend, like in Mario Kart you can have one person driving the cart while the other is in control of shooting shells and bananas at opponents (ie: the fun part when you're someone's little sister, like me), which might be just the ticket for playing with your girlfriend. That's called "couch co-op". The game selection for the Switch is less wide than that of the Playstation or on PC but honestly the difference between them is a lot less relevant if you're going from no games to any games and something like Steam can be totally overwhelming.

You will need to be online for almost any gaming system these days, but not constantly. For the Switch unless you're playing in online match ups most games play offline just fine, but to do system updates you'll need to get online occasionally. Many smaller independent game developers only publish their games digitally, so you'll need to be online to download them, but then you can play them offline. You can still buy physical games, on the Switch it's tiny little cartridge things, on Playstation they're discs, but very often games are physically published and then you go to play them and they need to download updates that the publishers have put out after release. But again, once you've downloaded and installed these updates, you can go offline and still play.

These days games are categorized by genres. Tetris is a puzzle game. Zelda games are considered RPGs - role playing games. A game where you make your way across hazardous terrain and maybe fight enemies is called a platformer, those are often 2D but not always. Games where you primarily fight enemies with like swords or guns or as an assassin or whatever are called action games. One on one fighting is fighting games, racing vehicles is racing games, etc. There are combinations of genres, you can have an action RPG or a puzzle platformer. Games with simpler control schemes that have lower stakes are often called casual games, but casual games come in many different genres (also I love them). Casual games often have much less arduous control schemes, which I appreciate as an uncoordinated goofball and you might appreciate as a novice, but lately developers have gotten more on board with the idea that games should be fun for more people so often there's easy modes and controls are simpler than they would have been just ten years ago.
posted by Mizu at 9:15 AM on May 12, 2019 [6 favorites]

Agreeing with others who recommend you consider a Switch. I don’t game too much but after years of wrestling with trying to setup an ideal PC/laptop gaming setup, the fact that the Switch is simply plug and play is great for me; especially because I can literally pick it up from its dock, and go play for five minutes on the couch (or the toilet...) without even having to turn on the TV. Plus, if you prefer side scroller games to start, there are a lot of great ones on Switch (Celeste and The Hollow Knight come to mind).
posted by Zephyrial at 9:43 AM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Yeah: Switch. Even if you need a new laptop anyway, the extra money you'd have to spend to get a decent gaming laptop instead of a work laptop (and noting that gaming laptops are heavier and hotter and a bit of a crappy compromise all round) is more than buying a Switch as well as the work laptop.

The Switch is not going to give you ultramodern technology by any stretch of the imagination: Nintendo don't make consoles like that. What it will give you is a portable and reliable way to play lots of old and new games for a not unreasonable cost. Local multiplayer is well supported in various ways.
posted by howfar at 9:57 AM on May 12, 2019

If you want to ease back into things a bit slower, I’d highly suggest starting off with an SNES Classic. It has 90s Nintendo era games pre-loaded on it that are more similar to the experiences you’re familiar with, and at least half those games are 2-player. Could be a good way to start getting used to controllers again and work your way up to more contemporary (complex) video games.
posted by Snacks at 10:09 AM on May 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

I would get a Nintendo Switch. All gaming consoles have a lot of buttons now, and games are more complicated, but the Switch has a lot of easy kid-friendly games. All my Switch games are cartridges but they often do need updates over the internet, which is easy enough. The Switch also eliminates worrying about minimum graphics card requirements for games, which is something that pops up with PC gaming and I have run into.

But, if you aren't sure what you want yet and you already have a PC, then I agree that you can just make a Steam account, buy a USB game pad, and play games at your computer first.

The Switch was the first gaming console I had since the Nintendo 64 and I've enjoyed it. You can start with a really simple game that goes left to right, like Yoshi's Crafted World. One of the Lego games would be easy too probably.
posted by AspirinPill at 10:10 AM on May 12, 2019 [2 favorites]

It's a bit of a budget step up, but get a PS4pro, and a PSVR set with the PS Moves. A lot of the move games will only use one or a few of the buttons. Super Hot or Beat Saber are amazing games I love with *very* simple control schemes. As much as all of the PSVR user's hate the moves for the lack of thumb sticks, this could be to your benefit.

Further playing VR can reawaken a feeling of awe for gaming that you might have lost. If you haven't played games for years, the simpler graphics that the PS4 can push for VR will still probably look like a step up from what you've used before.
posted by nobeagle at 10:18 AM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also, if the idea of exploring a big open world appeals to you (rather than just going left to right) then other gaming consoles will have more games like that. But on the Switch, there are three games I think do that really well, and the first two are Nintendo only: Zelda Breath of the Wild, Mario Odyssey, and Lego City Undercover. Skyrim also counts, I guess. On PC and XBOX or Playstation, you'll find more games like that. I personally think the Assassin's Creed series is very fun and loved AC: Black Flag. The Switch, for what it's worth, will be getting Assassin's Creed III in a couple weeks. If you do get a Switch, then I imagine you and your girlfriend will enjoy playing Mario Kart against each other.
posted by AspirinPill at 10:19 AM on May 12, 2019 [1 favorite]

Nthing Switch to ease back to gaming. Or if their catalog doesn't appeal to you, then PS4. Xbox One is fine too.

The one thing I don't recommend is a PC. Especially not a laptop; the hardware compromises for having a fancy gaming graphics card in a laptop are too much. But also PC games tend to be more complicated and fiddly.
posted by Nelson at 10:52 AM on May 12, 2019

Laptop seems less appealing, since it appears that you have to sit at a table in order to use a mouse.

Nah. Just half an hour ago I was playing Fallout4 on my laptop, lounging in a recliner chair with the laptop on a wee lapdesk/lapboard, and using an xbox one controller. Works fine. You wouldn't be competitive in online PC games using a controller, but eh who cares.

I seem to have a hard time with the controllers, particularly the joysticks that you use your thumbs to move people. I also have a hard time doing a bunch of buttons at a time. Perhaps this will get easier.

Yup. Just keep being annoyed with the @$% controller for about a month and you'll eventually find that it just sort of melts away in your brain, so you end up just thinking about stuff and it happens onscreen.

I need to buy a new laptop. I am not sure if I should buy a gaming system or a gaming laptop

Well, if you need a laptop then you probably ought to replace it with a laptop. I'd think your question is more whether it makes sense to get

(a) A laptop and an XB1 / PS4 / switch
(b) A laptop and a gaming desktop hooked up to a monitor or your living-room tv or receiver
(c) A gaming laptop

Do you need to hook all gaming systems up to the internet now? Download games?

Yes and yes. Even games on disc will have substantial (commonly multi-gigabyte) downloads for patches and updates. They will still load and run and play without a net connection, but they will probably be kinda messed up.

I have no idea how much games cost or how quickly you go through a game.

Recently released games cost USD 60. Finishing just the story of a typical big-story, large-release game would probably take between 10 and 20 hours, with about 3 or 4 times that long available as side-missions/side-quests/other activities.
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:25 AM on May 12, 2019

Advantages of xbox/ps4/switch:
*Exclusive titles/series -- look at the exclusives for each and see which you might enjoy more
*Good ecosystem of apps for other stuff, like netflix, amazonprime, etc
*Xbox/ps4: also bluray/dvd players

Advantages of pc:
*Big one: games that are a year+ old are commonly on sale for VEEERY cheap on steam sales or humblebundles, whereas xbox/ps4 games rarely drop below $20
*A little more genre breadth insofar as all the big strategy franchises live MOL exclusively on pc
posted by GCU Sweet and Full of Grace at 11:35 AM on May 12, 2019

> I have no idea how much games cost or how quickly you go through a game.

It depends. I tend to only buy games on sale. For Switch games, that means looking for it cheap on Amazon or in the Nintendo Store. For PC games, I have a wishlist on Steam and I get alerts when they are on sale. New games are generally $60 but you can get steep discounts on older games. And I spent 200 hours of Zelda BOTW because I just roamed around and explored a ton. I think Mario Odyssey I logged 60 hours. On my PC, I'm up to 25 hours on Watch Dogs 2 and I've barely progressed through the main story, because again I'm just running around exploring San Francisco. It depends on your play style. If you just like to progress through the main story, it'll be quicker. I like to check the website howlongtobeat.com sometimes.
posted by AppleTurnover at 11:46 AM on May 12, 2019

This page on what game developers consider the most important gaming platforms might be of interest.

No-one above mentioned iOS as a gaming platform, and that probably makes everyone at Apple very sad. Android developers are probably sad, too. I’m not a huge gamer but I am confident that there are a LOT of good iOS / Android games out there.
posted by doctor tough love at 11:55 AM on May 12, 2019

You could buy a SNES Classic if you want to ease back in, but there are complex and easy modern games. There's an uncountable wealth of games in every possible genre right now. It comes with two controllers.

If you want fun coop games with your girlfriend, Minecraft or Terraria are on many platforms and you can enjoy building stuff.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 3:41 PM on May 12, 2019

See this series of reviews for Gateway Games – Video Games for Beginners
posted by Phssthpok at 8:39 PM on May 12, 2019

Get a Nintendo Switch. Play Mario Kart, Mario Party with Girlfriend. Play Lego Harry Potter games with Girlfriend. Play Zelda Breath of the Wild by self.
posted by Morpeth at 6:19 AM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I highly recommended Stardew Valley as a cooperative game to play with your girlfriend-I picked it up after it was recommended to me in this ask and I've spent around...120? happy hours with it. It's very approachable with a gentle learning curve, has a lovely art style and soundtrack, and you can really customize your experience depending on what parts you enjoy most (designing your farm, adventuring in the mines, building relationships, fishing, etc.) Also, I think I only spent $15 for it on Steam and it's available on pretty much every platform!
posted by LadyNibbler at 1:57 PM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

I recommend purchasing a Nintendo Switch. It seems to tick off many of the boxes you're wanting. You have your choice of downloading through the Nintendo Switch shop or you can buy games physically and use small cartridges.

You can expand the memory so that everything is download only. You can play on the go, at home on the couch, in bed, or connected to a big screen as that's the big feature (your Nintendo Switch can be docked and connected to a big-screen), hence the name switching back and forth between hand-held and big-screen.

The joy-cons attach to the sides of your Switch in hand-held mode and can be used together for one player or can be detached so you can play co-op games (hence allowing you to pay with your partner).

My favorite thing about the Switch is that it's powerful enough to run games that are old and new, it has this middle ground where you get games like Zelda: Breath of the Wild which are new and made exclusively for the Switch or you can play an 8 year old game like Elder Scrolls: Skyrim.

There are also tons of indie-games that won't hurt your wallet and there's lots of co-op available, so plenty of games for you and your partner to play and share and enjoy together. And you can choose what style of game you want to play, there's so much variety.

DM me if you want some recommendations, I'm always happy to share them. Or you can scroll through my posts on the blue, you're going to see almost 95% of them are focused on video-games, so enjoy. And welcome back to gaming, I hope you have fun and find something that works for you.
posted by Fizz at 3:44 PM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

+1 Switch. Breath of the Wild is a masterpiece. Mario Odyssey. Stardew. Old-school NES games with the Online subscription.
posted by starman at 3:49 PM on May 13, 2019 [1 favorite]

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