I would characterize the 80s and 90s as a golden age for gaming, because of the experience of a some things that are now lost.
Number one, arcade machines and home systems relied on internal sound chips to produce their music, sounds and samples. To me, the sound of a game / system is a crucial part of its character. The crude simulacrum of explosions, jumping, impact / damage, etc. has a delightful charm to it. The thrill of hearing the symphony of bleeps and bloops as you draw closer to the arcade, before entering and becoming immersed in it, is not something kids can experience anymore. Now, game sounds can come from any audio source, so they are only as differentiated as film scores, without the system-level palette of sounds. If a game uses retro sounds now, they tend to have a bizarre gloss and reverb that feels false.
Number two, for similar reasons, pixels and sprites seem timelessly relatable (see Minecraft), whereas the polygons and crude 3D of the late 90s look terribly harsh and not endearing.
I clearly remember consulting GamePro and EGM for reviews and help. I will concede it was a dark time in terms of ability to ascertain whether a game was worth buying. Sometimes all you had to go on was a couple screenshots on the back of the box, the 4 single-paragraph EGM review, maybe the commentary of an acquaintance at school, perhaps a BBS. And then $40-$50 and an hour later, you'd realize the game was a piece of crap, not your cup of tea, and try to find ways to rationalize the ripoff, such as playing it now and again with the same lack of enthusiasm. Hundreds of dollars wasted this way, and I'm glad those days are gone. Now you can watch a video of gameplay, maybe even download a demo, and it's immensely satisfying to slam-dunk a game in the trash can after a few minutes, at zero cost. Or to find a gem.
The used market for games either didn't exist or was not prevalent in my area, so you couldn't really wait for prices to drop much. Maybe 6 months or so, before old games were cleared out for new ones at the store. Now you can wait years, get old games for peanuts, wait for discounts or sales, and it's wonderful.
I have mixed feelings about the ubiquity of information about games now. Walkthroughs, cheat codes, maps, etc. within days or weeks of a game's release can take some of the fun and grind rewards away. I remember printing reams of Game Genie codes in the early 90s and trying them on SMB, manipulating the sprites and sound effects chaotically. It feels like the days of raw experimentation like that are less common, except here at RHDN, of course.