I started gaming with a SNES, and I will admit, I can't really say I enjoy anything older. Graphics were always a selling point for games, the differences were just more subtle. Sound quality, also, was important in a game.
Most of these guys talking about how games "used to be" likely weren't old enough to experience it, or are looking at it through the rose-tinted glasses of nostalgia. I know I wasn't that old when I started gaming. I was around. . . 3 or 4, when I got my SNES, and I really didn't know what I was doing. That being said, looking at older articles, and watching videos made by older gamers, I can definitely say that graphics were a selling point of games in previous generations.
Gameplay was important too, and I'd be inclined to say more so than today's games. People might not buy a game just for the graphics, but they'd certainly factor graphics into the purchase.