Best retro games: the best classic video games around (2022)

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When old is gold, these are the best retro games that make us misty eyed.

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (1)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (2)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (3)

By Marc Chacksfield

21 August 2022

We’re living in a golden age of gaming, with an incredible range of interactive experiences to suit every taste. Even so, it’s hard not to occasionally pine for the simpler days of the arcade era, where the best retro games - those fantastic 8-bit and 16-bit titles - turned us into the healthy, sleep-shirking addicts we are today.

Without further ado, here are the best retro games that we still can’t get enough of. Where possible we've added links to let you play these old gems on modern hardware.

Upvote your favourite retro games and use the suggestion box at the bottom to add games you think deserve a place in this hall of fame.

  • The best retro games console revealed

Best retro games

NES, 1993 (Super Mario All-Stars)

Having pretty much invented the platform game, Nintendo reinvented it with the secret-packed Super Mario Bros. 3, then repeated it with Super Mario World. The two best side-scrollers of all time, it’s a heck of a job to separate them. The sprawling ambition of Super Mario Bros. 3 or the invention of Super Mario World? The Frog Suit or Yoshi? The Super Leaf or the Cape Feather? We’ve plumped for SMB3, but they’re so close to gaming perfection, there’s nothing in it

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (6)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (7)

2. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past

£7.19

View now at Amazon

SNES, 1992

If Super Metroid taught us to fear the unknown, Link’s epic quest made it exciting again. A top-down Hyrule rammed with secrets and surprises, it’s a delight to explore. Not least when you figure out how the light and dark worlds slot together. Unlike these days where you’re given a nudge if you stray too far, here you’re encouraged to get gloriously, hopelessly lost – and you’ll have a whale of a time doing so.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (8)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (9)

3. Tetris

Nintendo Switch version at Amazon

(Video) TOP 30 BEST Video Games of the 90s (BEST RETRO GAMES) | Chaos

Nintendo Gameboy, 1989

It’s odd to think that a game centring on finding the best way to successfully arrange a group of coloured blocks should have been at its best when played on a machine that was incapable of displaying more than four shades of greenish-grey. But, regardless, the Game Boy version of Alexei Pajitnov’s opus was simply the perfect match between game and hardware.

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Arcade, 1992

It’s smoky arcades filled with old cabinets that have been left scarred from cigarette burns, and unused credits sliding down onto floors that are perpetually sticky with cheap, stale booze. It’s teaching friends how to do the perfect dragon punch motion. It’s beating that bigger kid by doing Blanka’s electric attack. It’s unlocking Akuma and then immediately losing half of your life bar within seconds. Turbo might be the definitive version of Street Fighter II, but whichever one you played, the memories will no doubt still vividly linger.

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Sega Mega Drive, 1992

Sega’s spiny speed merchant proved himself a worthy rival to Nintendo’s Mario with his Mega Drive debut. Yet it was the spectacular loops, corkscrews and clever environmental tricks in the follow-up that proved his makers carried the same swagger. With co-op partner Tails in tow (whose real name, Miles Prower, is one of gaming’s best dreadful puns) this blistering adventure was one of the finest two-player games of the 16-bit era and still leaves many of the modern Sonic games for dust.

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SNES, 1992

While everyone has their favourite Mario Kart – from the four-player-thrills of Mario Kart 64 to the weaponised mayhem of Double Dash!! – few would deny the SNES game’s claim to top spot. It’s aged beautifully – and, unlike many of its successors, every victory is hard-earned. Gaming’s finest spin-off.

Arcade, 1986

A high-end car, a beautiful girl, blue skies and a long strip of road to the horizon. It’s not so much a race as a high-speed cruise, taking you on the ultimate US road trip.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (18)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (19)

(Video) The Best Retro Video Games Ever (1978 - 2000 )

8. Donkey Kong

View at Nintendo eShop

Arcade, 1981

The game that launched the career of a certain plumber, Nintendo’s 1981 arcade hit was pivotal. Having failed to crack the US, president Hiroshi Yamauchi convinced young designer Shigeru Miyamoto to create a new game. Jumpman (renamed Mario, after the US arm’s landlord, for the game’s Stateside launch) and his simian nemesis gobbled enough quarters to keep Nintendo afloat and launch countless Kong spinoffs (pictured). The rest is history.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (20)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (21)

9. Super Metroid

View now at Amazon

SNES, 1994

There aren’t many games to have ever captured the sense of bleak isolation as expertly as this SNES classic. As bounty hunter Samas Aran dropped into a desolate world, it’s an homage to Alien, evoking the same gnawing tension as Ridley Scott’s cinematic horror, while the brooding, synth-led soundtrack prompted further shivers.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (22)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (23)

10. Space Invaders

View now at Amazon

Arcade, 1978

Forget Gears Of War, Taito’s 1978 classic was the first cover shooter, as you attempt to fend off an extraterrestrial force. Your pulse would quicken along with the music as the aliens came closer, while blasting the flying saucer was as satisfying as a Call Of Duty headshot.

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Sega Mega Drive, 1992

Two players, two pads, too many fizzy drinks: the only way to play Sega’s bruising brawler was with a partner. It was a rival to Capcom’s Final Fight, but this game definitely had the edge, which was partly due to Yuzo Koshiro’s particularly memorable score.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (26)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (27)

12. Paperboy

View now at Amazon

Arcade, 1985

Gaming’s great gift is allowing us to indulge in the kind of behaviour society frowns upon. Doing your job well gets you the high score, but flinging papers all over the place and subverting suburbia is hella cathartic.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (28)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (29)

(Video) Top 20 Cult Classic Video Games Of All Time

13. Duck Hunt

NES, 1984

A precursor to the modern first-person shooter, Duck Hunt didn’t allow you to blast zombies, mutants or even mutant zombies. But lowering the waterfowl population was just as satisfying. Perhaps it was the bundled NES Zapper – one of the finest lightguns we’ve wielded. Or maybe it was the chance to wipe the smirk off of that dog’s face.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (30)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (31)

14. Ms. Pac-Man

View now at Amazon

Arcade, 1982

Ms. Pac-Man is the arcade original, but with more added in.

It introduced new maps and was harder: and it made the yellow gobbler the most successful US-produced coin-op.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (32)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (33)

15. Gauntlet

View now at Amazon

Arcade, 1985

This Atari masterpiece had four players crowd around a cabinet to finish its labyrinthine levels. This situated you perfectly for elbowing someone in the ribs if they ignored advice about shooting food.

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Arcade, 1972

Atari’s take on table tennis brought the medium into the mainstream, but aside from its importance to the industry, it’s a great game in its own right. Two dials, two bats, one ball: it still works now.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (36)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (37)

17. Sensible Soccer

View now at Amazon

Amiga and MS-DOS, 1992

For a certain generation, football rivalry wasn’t just between Fifa and Pro Evo. It was the pace and banana shots of Kick Off versus the sharp passing game of Sensible Soccer. For our money, Sensi wins: it gave a glimpse at tiki-taka way before Barca made it fashionable.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (38)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (39)

18. Day of the Tentacle

View now at Amazon

(Video) Best Retro Classic Arcade Games Remake That You Need To Play

MS-DOS, 1993

No retro list would be complete without a classic point-and-click adventure, and there’s none finer than Tim Schafer and Dave Grossman’s barmpot sci-fi. Tipping its cap to Fifties monster movies and Chuck Jones cartoons, its time-travel plotline affords you bizarre pleasures. Uproariously silly.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (40)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (41)

19. Manic Miner

Buy Now

ZX Spectrum, 1985

If you think modern games are too easy, this Spectrum hit is the remedy. All 20 screens host a clutch of wild and unpredictable hazards. If it was released now, it would have an easy mode and a dubstep soundtrack; best stick with the original.

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Best retro games: the best classic video games around (42)

Best retro games: the best classic video games around (43)

20. Chuckie Egg

Buy Now

ZX Spectrum, 1983

Played at a faster pace than Donkey Kong, Chuckie Egg required pixel-perfect leaps. It was home grown, intense and satisfying.

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FAQs

What is a retro video game? ›

"Objectively-speaking, I would say that 'retro' refers to games made before around 1998," Kratky says. "They are mostly NES, SNES, and Sega Genesis games, though they're not limited to those consoles. They're the early titles that laid down the bones of the games we play today."

Is retro gaming still popular? ›

Retrogaming has become big business in recent years, with old games being ported to newer consoles, classic devices getting a re-release and social settings bringing back features of the classic arcades of old.

How can I play retro games on my phone? ›

Five Emulators for Playing Mario and Other Classic Games on Your Android Phone
  1. Emulator KOBox. KOBox is a free app that lets you play old GameBoy Advance, Famicom, Super Nintendo and MAME arcade games on your Android phone, and it works well with Bluetooth controllers. ...
  2. MyGBA Emulator. ...
  3. GENPlusDroid. ...
  4. MAME4droid.
Jan 20, 2015

How old are retro games? ›

Etymology. The first known instance of the term "retro" in gaming came from the online video game store RetroGames, which was launched in 1997 as a joint effort of Turbo Zone Direct and Robert Frasure. It specialized primarily in Turbografx-16, Sega Master System, and NES sales and repairs.

Why are retro games popular? ›

But modern games just aren't quite the same, and probably never will be. Why is retro gaming so popular? Because it offers a unique, nostalgic, comforting, simple, and most importantly, joyous experience that's tough to replicate.

How old is the Wii? ›

The Wii (/wiː/ WEE) is a home video game console developed and marketed by Nintendo. It was released on November 19, 2006, in North America and in December 2006 for most other regions of the world.

Is PS3 a retro? ›

15 years on from the release of the SNES, the PS3 and Xbox 360 went on sale. 15 years after that, the first of us will have PS5s and Xbox Series Xs in our homes. When using nothing more than time and math, the 360 and PS3 have to be considered retro consoles by the end of this year.

Is a PS2 vintage? ›

PS2 And GameCube Are Now Considered Retro Consoles.

Do kids like retro games? ›

Your kiddos will love them because they're really fun, and you'll love them because they'll bring back happy memories of playing them when you were their age.

Why are old games so expensive? ›

The number of old game cartridges and discs out there will never increase. That produces a natural scarcity that, in many cases, drives up prices over a long enough period of time.

Is retro gaming making a comeback? ›

With so many people cooped up at home recently, it's no surprise that video game sales have increased. What is unexpected, though, is the number of retro games that are making a comeback. Perhaps it's because so many of us have nostalgic feelings for our youth and simpler times.

How do I play emulators on my TV? ›

Simply go into the Shield TV's app store and download the video game emulators you want. All of the popular video game emulators in the Play Store are present in the Shield TV's app store. All of the menus and emulators can be navigated with your Bluetooth gamepad.

Can Xbox one play retro games? ›

RetroArch Xbox One X

You can use the RetroArch emulator to play old games on your latest Xbox console purchase. The most powerful home gaming console in its family, the Xbox Series X launched in late 2020 and features 4K resolution, visuals up to 120 fps, and Xbox Velocity Architecture.

Can you play retro games on PS4? ›

What Is PS4 Backwards Compatibility? Backwards compatibility refers to the ability for new technology to be able to still use older software. In the case of the PlayStation 4, it's the ability to play PS1, PS2 or PS3 games on the system so you don't need to dig out your old games consoles to play old favorites.

What can I do with old video games? ›

Sell Old Video Games For Cash or Store Credit
  • Craigslist.
  • Decluttr.
  • GameStop.
  • SecondSpin.
  • The Old School Game Vault.
  • DK Oldies.
  • Gameflip.
  • eBay.
Aug 25, 2022

What are old arcade games called? ›

Legend
NameYearManufacturer
Space Invaders1978Taito (Japan) / Midway (U.S.)
Galaxian1979Namco (Japan) / Midway (U.S.)
Lunar Lander1979Atari
Asteroids1979Atari
56 more rows

How can I play retro games on my laptop? ›

To play old school console games on your computer, you need two things: an emulator and a ROM. An emulator is a piece of software that mimics the hardware of an old-school console, giving your computer a way to open and run these classic games. A ROM is a ripped copy of the actual game cartridge or disc of yesterday.

What was the first video game ever made? ›

In October 1958, Physicist William Higinbotham created what is thought to be the first video game. It was a very simple tennis game, similar to the classic 1970s video game Pong, and it was quite a hit at a Brookhaven National Laboratory open house.

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