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Real answer: usually, such large amounts of people returning to an older game can stem back to one event related to the game or an influential person/establishment talking about it. Like how people started playing the New Order again when the second game was revealed. Or maybe a bad game comes out in an established genre or series that has people going back to the old one. Otherwise it usually is a influential person or establishment writing about the game or a making video on the game.
But what drives an individual return to an older game? Well, that’s an incredibly broad question, but as for myself it’s usually I start thinking about a game mechanic or design or listen to some game music at work and think “dang, that game rocked.” Like just earlier I was listening to Dungeon of the Endless’ score and thinking “I gotta go back and play more.”
Regarding going back to something that’s a few years old, but not quite retro enough to really be nostalgic, the main thing that comes to mind is Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine. The reason I like going back to it is because Relic really nailed how I imagined that universe looks and sounds and feels. And unlike the Dawn of War series, Space Marine is a very accessible third person shooter that’s super easy to jump into for an hour or two, say, “yeah, this is still rad,” and put back down again for six months. I really wish they’d revisit the idea of an action game in that universe again. Ugh, Eternal Crusade was such a disappointment.
The thing that’s been making me want to go back to 8- and 16-bit generation games lately has been my 4-year old’s odd fascination with pixel art games. Despite the wealth of graphically impressive games out there that he’s seen and played, he is just as fascinated with Mega Man as I was when I was his age.
The biggest one right now is money: I don’t have much disposable income so replaying older games is a good way to save some money.
Aside from that, there a lot of different reasons why I decide to go back to certain games.
I played through the original Dishonored last October, because after playing the Sequel, I felt like replaying the first games again. I also played through Fallout New Vegas, because I saw someone else on twitter talking about it (incidentally me talking about my own playthrough then got someone else into replaying it). I also play a bunch of older games for research purposes. Usually those are games that I haven’t played before and I also try to focus on titles that haven’t been already talked about a lot.
I tend to go back to old stuff when I get a craving for something very specific that only one thing has done well. Like, bringing up Space Marine again, that game has a very specific blend of shooting and smashing that is distinctly memorable, and every now and again I’ll just get hit with a sudden, “Yo, I Want That Again”. Usually because something else tried it, but didn’t do as well.
More recently I played Sonic Forces, enjoyed it enough, but got hit with a real hard desire to play through the good version of what that game does, so went back to Generations. Then at some point I ended up playing basically every mainline Sonic game going back years, because nothing else really does what Sonic does and I’d really been missing out for ages without realising it.
And I’m going back to Bloodborne in a bit because frankly nothing’s really surpassed that game yet and it’s worth reminding yourself of that once in a while. Gonna use my NG+ Blade of Mercy Arcane build and grab the Rakuyo.
Every genre has its diehard fanbase: those who play that type of game almost exclusively, who dissect and discuss that type of game endlessly, who extract perfect routes and methods, and who analyze their systems to pinpoint what defines them. Some fanbases are inundated with games of their chosen genre; a pile of games to sift through, rigorously test the game’s mettle against their own standards, and decide whether or not to dig into them or, more likely, toss them aside and move on to the next.
I see it on my Steam friends list, those RTS fans who are constantly playing the new offering, or those survival fans who give every Early Access entry a fair shake. However, if one were to step back and examine their timeline of play, they’d notice these gaps between new games - but these ‘gaps’ aren’t downtime, they are just all the same game, the one they return to endlessly. They are the One True Game of that person’s favorite genre. They are Crusader Kings 2, or Don’t Starve, or Civilization 5.
I think what we see with games like Bloodborne is that they represent a genre whose fanbase is as hungry as any other, but are sorely underfed. There just aren’t that many fully-realized entries into the Souls genre. As with other fanbases, there are favorites of the genre, the One True Game that best represents it and offers the most depth, complexity, and replayability; however, unlike other genres, there isn’t much to test against this fanbase’s high standards, let alone those that are good enough to meet them.
I think that’s why large swaths of people tend to all gravitate to the same ‘old’ games from time to time: in between major releases of their favorite genre, these are the games which still have meat on the bone.
Slow release schedule, discounts because of Holiday sales, also newsworthiness (Dark Souls: Remastered just announced, FROM teased next game (Many speculate being Bloodborne 2) at Video Game Awards) often means time to dip into the backlog.
But yeah, mostly January is when people have time to dip into old games, no Holiday stuff anymore, generally stuck indoors because of winter, basically a non-existant release schedule of new games, etc.
I actually am playing Bloodborne right now myself. I only got a PS4 in mid-2017 because I had been waiting for the library for the console to fill out with games I was interested in. I mentioned Bloodborne as a potential Christmas gift to my family and lo my brother bought it for me. I had been wanting to play it since it came out and I have been loving it so far.
Current events can offer new context and meaning to old game worlds. When confronted with Elon Musk’s freshest plans to stroke his ego in space, it’s 2009’s Red Faction Guerilla that sates my thirst to shatter (into useful scrap ) a zoo of interplanetary imperialist/corporatist/capitalist structures (bases, mines and pipelines; oh my!). Seeing my Mason use a sledgehammer to send a private security drone smashing through the wall of their own checkpoint has particularly potent meaning to me in these times, ones that increasingly point to the seedlings of fascism bring planted on Mars soon. Perhaps as soon as 2024.
I’ve also been playing through Bloodborne for the first time since I got a cheap ass Ps4 on black friday. I’m almost done at this point (just have Orphan of Kos and Gerhman left), and I’ve been having a complete blast with it. Dark Souls 3 is still my favorite, especially for its near perfect co-op, but Bloodborne def comes in second on my personal ranking of souls games.
I’ve been surprised at how active BB is 3 years after launch but I think that’s a testament to just how deep and replayable these games are. There’s so many different builds and playstyles that making different choices on a replay can totally change how you play. My girlfriend has also been playing through BB, and where I made a skill and arcane build and ended up using the Reiterpallasch and the Blades of Mercy, she focused on strength and is using Ludwig’s Holy Sword and the Whirligig Saw. The ways we approach encounters have two totally different rhythms because of that, which makes it even more fun to watch each other play. The multiplayer also adds a whole other layer of things to do. The other souls games are even better at this than Bloodborne, I’d say.
I do think the combo of sales, AGDQ, and FromSoft teasing a new game that may or may not be Bloodborne 2 is what’s bringing many back to Bloodborne, but I also kinda think people may have just never stopped playing it, it’s only 3 years old after all.
The blood vial mechanic was actually something I was dreading due to all the criticism I’ve heard about it from Austin and others, but it hasn’t been a problem at all for me. I’ve found that as long as I use the rally mechanic whenever possible, and use whatever blood echoes are leftover after leveling up to restock from the shop in the hunter’s dream, I never had to grind almost at all after Gascoigne.
Another thing that’s better than expected is the chalice dungeons, people generally seem pretty down on them but I’ve been enjoying them a lot. There’s way more to them than I expected and I am honestly bummed they didn’t carry that whole mechanic over to DS3. I hope they bring it back in future games cause it adds something to do to make progress or at least get echoes and items when you don’t feel like throwing yourself against a boss over and over.
Personally it’s usually someone or something kicking off a memory combined with ease of access. I was talking to my brother about his new iPhone and he mentioned that it broke compatibility with Phoenix Wright. That got me thinking about Ghost Trick, so I played all of Ghost Trick on my phone, remembered I also had Phoenix Wright on my phone, and now I’m halfway through replaying those as well. I’ll probably dig up my 3DS and play those too…
Man, I fell back into Bloodborne HARD around Christmas. I’ve got ~50 hours on a new character and just made another new one yesterday, both going for builds I never really experimented with on my initial playthroughs. For this specifically, I feel like that’s part of the reason why I’m going back now, it’s one of my favorite games of all time and there are so many ways to play it that I just never really explored before. I also never really messed with the multiplayer and have been digging it a lot recently. I hit a wall at the last two DLC bosses before putting it down previously, so I’m sure that part of me felt that I hadn’t truly completed the game and wanted to find some closure in that regard (which I have thankfully, 100% trophies bayby).
It makes sense that this has been a widespread thing due to the From tease, holiday sale, and AGDQ run all stirring up memories, but I prefer the theory that From pulled some Manchurian Candidate stuff and we were all innately programmed to go back in winter 2017/2018.
I like both of these a lot too. I like the way the flasks work in the Dark Souls games also in Bloodborne I prefer the less predictable approach, plus you CAN run out but it’s almost impossible to. There are a couple of enemies in each area that always drop some (who conveniently are often placed not far from lamps). I do wish the “sorcery” items you could get were a little more effective though. If you got the cannon firearm, when the game first came out before some updating it only cost 10 blood to fire which meant you could use it twice per life and, with the right items and stuff do some hilarious stuff to it like killing some bosses in two hits and of course some fun times with the multiplayer. But you can sort of tell they didn’t really develop it enough to make you ever have to stop and think “do I want to heal myself or shoot stuff more” because of how the game plays.
I love FromSoftware’s old King’s Field games so the chalice dungeons were a nice nostalgic redo of those in a way with the bigger emphasis on being underground and having lots of traps around. I understand why some people weren’t crazy about them though, they got extremely repetitive if you wanted to actually fully complete them, though at the same time that’s kind of the point of keeping them optional. I like how people still share specific dungeon codes that guarantee certain items will be found and stuff. And you’re right they really are an awesome way to keep playing the game even if you’re “stuck” so you can keep seeing rearranged places instead of dying to the same boss or tough spot in the main game repeatedly.
This may be a superficial answer or a cop-out but… what makes people interested in older books? Or older films? Maybe games aren’t old enough to have a “classics” section yet (though I somewhat disagree with that), but hey, there are books from the 1970s or 1980s that no one would call classics but are still worth a read. Sometimes, they might just be good enough to, as cliched as it sounds, stand the test of time.
I’m saying that a bit flippantly but I do honestly think that a lot of older games are worth going back to because, well, they’re legitimately Good Games™. As a further justification, a lot of us might not have been old enough to play them when they first came out. I’ve recently been playing the heck out of Super Metroid on my SNES Classic—a Great Game that existed a year and a half before I did.
Maybe it’s because I’m an English major and am used to reading books that are twenty times older than I am, but I’m not sure there’s a form of media besides games where the thought of going back to older entries at all even raises questions. And yes, one might explain that with technological evolution and old games being “technologically outdated” or something like that… but it’s also not like watching black-and-white films (or even silent films) is seen as particularly strange. In truth, I think the question of why games are so invested in novelty is just as interesting a query as what makes people interested in older games.