ADVERTISEMENT

It's okay to admit it: you're a sucker for retro video games. It's okay because there's a reason why so many people are into them. As with everything vintage, the sense of nostalgia for our childhood and the “good old times” still grip our curiosity like nothing else. 

It's crazy when you think about it. One day, you're playing Sonic the Hedgehog on your Sega Mega Drive, and in the blink of an eye, you're binge-gaming The Legend of Zelda on a Nintendo Switch.

Don't get us wrong: we’re huge fans of the new AAA titles, but there's something different about exploring the world of retro gaming through eyes that are now used to 3D graphics and insane animations. The visuals of old video games might not be as good as modern titles, but it's all part of their charm.

Retro gaming has witnessed rising interest in the community in recent years, with more and more people being drawn to classic consoles and games from the 20th century. We've seen new titles trying to bring back the nostalgia factor by offering similar graphics and gameplay mechanics to those classic video games we grew up with. 

And even though they offer a pleasant adventure, nothing beats the memories of when, together with the other kids, we visited an arcade, asked our parents for some coins, and fought aliens in Space Invaders.

That's why we've put together a list of some of the best retro video games out there! This way, you can make sure that the next time your friends want to play something old-school, they don't have to be stuck with those same two or three titles.

What retro game brings back memories for you? Let us know in the comments!

#1

Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3 gameplay

The best retro games have the power to take us back to a time when we could just kick back and play with our siblings, parents, or friends. And no retro game does that better than Super Mario Bros. 3. The music is iconic. The graphics are timeless. The gameplay is challenging but fair — and there’s a reason why it’s been ranked as one of the top games for NES! It’s basically impossible that you never played this classic at least once in your life, but in case you didn’t, then you’re in for a treat: it’s still just as fun today as it was back in the 1990s!

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
master_minds9_1 avatar
DennyS (denzoren)
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Oh boy does this bring back memories. Sitting in front of those big back televisions with my two button controller playing Mario every morning until my mom comes to tell me to do my chores. Good times, simpler times.

View more commentsArrow down menu
#2

Tetris

Tetris two colorway gameplay

If we talk about puzzle games, it has to be Tetris. It was invented by Alexey Pajitnov in 1984 and has established itself as one of the great early video games. The objective of this game is simple: you must use the falling blocks of different shapes to fill the rows without leaving gaps to gain points. If you want to really instigate your competitive side, there’s a multiplayer version where you can play against other players worldwide and see which one of you will be the last one standing!

amazon.com Report

ADVERTISEMENT
#3

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past

The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past gameplay

The third release in The Legend Of Zelda franchise, it was one of the best games to see the light in the ’90s, and I would argue that it’s also one of the best games in general. It’s a classic Zelda title with all the elements that make up a great game: engaging gameplay mechanics, an intriguing story, and the memorable characters that made us fall in love with the series in the first place. Its spiritual successor, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, was released in 2013.

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
iblewsheep avatar
iblewsheep
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Considering the platform on which it was originally released, I don't think any game has been able to live up to the (relatively speaking) expansiveness and just plain fun of this game. GOAT for sure!

View more commentsArrow down menu

What Game is Retro?

If you're new to the world of retro gaming, you might find it challenging to define what actually counts as “retro.” There's no fixed rule, but generally speaking, retro video games are titles that originated from previous gaming generations, often two or more decades ago. These games could run on various platforms — from retro arcade cabinets to home consoles like the NES and even early PCs.

ADVERTISEMENT

These criteria can serve as a guide to help you understand if a game is retro or not:

  • Time Frame: Games from the late '70s to early '00s often fall under the retro category.
  • Hardware: Often, the gaming hardware, like consoles or PCs, is as iconic as the games themselves. Think Sega Genesis, Atari 2600, or the original PlayStation.
  • Cultural Impact: A game's retro status can also be influenced by its cultural significance. Did it introduce new gameplay mechanics, or does it feature an iconic character who has stood the test of time, like Mario or Sonic?
  • Graphics and Gameplay: One surefire way to identify a retro game is by its graphics and gameplay mechanics. Pixelated graphics, chiptune music, and simpler gameplay are often hallmarks of retro titles.
  • Availability: Retro games are usually those that are no longer in active production. Whether it's hard to find a physical copy or only available through digital archives or emulators, scarcity often adds to a game's retro status.
#5

Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong two different levels gameplay

Did you know that Donkey Kong is the very first game in both the Donkey Kong and the Mario series? Talk about vintage video games! Donkey Kong is an essential part of the history of video games and saw the light for the first time in 1981. It represented the desperate efforts of Nintendo to create a video game that could rival the success of Namco and its extremely popular Pac-Man. Well, what can we say? Mission accomplished.

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
simaodrew avatar
Gossameringue
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Flaming barrels, floating hammers, Princess Peach before she met Bowser. One of the best origin stories ever.

View more commentsArrow down menu
ADVERTISEMENT
#6

Sonic The Hedgehog 2

Sonic The Hedgehog 2 two different characters gameplay

Raise your hand if you also spent your childhood afternoons playing with the most famous hedgehog of all time! If you didn’t, let us tell you what you missed. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 is a platform game that follows a blue hedgehog who runs through side-scrolling levels collecting rings and defeating enemies along the way. Unlike the first game, this one features a multiplayer mode, a new character (Tails), and faster gameplay.

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
jameskramer avatar
James016
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This is my son's favourite at the moment. So I have been playing it as well....a lot

View more commentsArrow down menu

Which Retro Video Games Are Making a Comeback?

With nostalgia running high and technology making it easier to revisit old classics, several good old games are making epic comebacks. Some are getting full-on remakes with modern graphics and gameplay enhancements, while others are returning to their original form on digital platforms.

Remastered and Remade

  • Final Fantasy VII Remake: One of the most iconic RPGs of all time, it returned with cutting-edge graphics and new gameplay elements.
  • Resident Evil Series: This survival horror classic has seen multiple remakes in recent years, enhancing both the gameplay and the scare factor.
  • Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 + 2: Skating culture has a special place in the gaming world, and this remastered version is here to remind us why.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening: Originally for the Game Boy, it has been remade for the Nintendo Switch, staying true to the original while enhancing its graphics and mechanics.
ADVERTISEMENT

Re-released Classics

  • Tetris: Still as addictive as ever, it's now available on virtually every platform, including mobile phones.
  • Super Mario 3D All-Stars: Combines three of the best Mario titles from different eras, giving new and old gamers a chance to dive back into these iconic worlds.

Indie Tributes

  • Stardew Valley: While not a retro game per se, its 16-bit style graphics and gameplay mechanics pay homage to classics like Story of Seasons. It's often cited as one of the greatest video games of all time by fans and critics alike.
  • Shovel Knight: This game captures the essence of 8-bit action platformers, offering a retro experience with a modern twist.
#7

Duck Hunt

Duck Hunt gameplay dog holding duck

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
master_minds9_1 avatar
DennyS (denzoren)
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Duuudddeeeee....that dog laughing at me infuriated me to no end. Not to mention the duck flying away. I wasn't the best at shooting lol

View More Replies...
View more commentsArrow down menu
#8

Street Fighter II Turbo

Street Fighter II Turbo winning gameplay

Street Fighter II Turbo was a massive success when it launched in 1992 on arcade machines. It was a big deal for two reasons: one, it helped establish Capcom as a major player in the video game industry; two, it introduced a more intense gameplay experience and new special moves for the characters that contributed to its popularization. There’s no doubt it’s one of the best ’90s games, period.

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
#9

Super Mario Kart

Super Mario Kart starting game gameplay

For those who didn’t notice, the first Super Mario Kart was released 30 years ago. Yep, 1992. Sure, the first title is a little rough around the edges compared to its modern siblings, but that’s what makes it so charming. It represented an important stepping stone for the franchise since it led to the expansion and popularization of the Mario series outside of the “platform games” category. It’s often credited for creating the kart-racing subgenre of video games.

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
slbimrie avatar
GlassHalfWay
Community Member
3 days ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Ohhh I was so good at this! I could drift around corners. Spent many many hours playing that. Now my son's playing it and loving it.

Why Are Retro Games Still Popular?

In an era where cutting-edge graphics and immersive storytelling are the norm, you might wonder why old games continue to hold a special place in the hearts of gamers. Well, the answer lies in an irresistible blend of nostalgia, community, simplicity, and timelessness! Let's dig in.

Nostalgia

Nostalgia has a unique way of coloring our memories, making us long for simpler times when our primary concerns were beating the next level or setting a new high score. Playing an old-school game like Pac-Man or Donkey Kong can instantly transport you back to those carefree days.

Simplicity and Accessibility

The gameplay mechanics of most retro games are simple to grasp but challenging to master. This makes them accessible to new players while still offering a sense of accomplishment. You don't need to invest dozens of hours to enjoy a quick game of Tetris or Galaga.

Community and Shared Experience

Retro games often create collective memories. Whether it's challenging your siblings to a Street Fighter duel or teaming up in Double Dragon, these games are social experiences that bring people together. Even today, online forums and communities are bustling with discussions about classic games, walkthroughs, and fan art.

Artistic Value

Many vintage video games are considered works of art. Their pixelated graphics, chiptune soundtracks, and well-crafted narratives stand the test of time. Classic video games like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy have inspired entire genres and are studied for their contributions to the gaming industry.

The Thrill of the Hunt

For collectors, there's a certain adrenaline in hunting down rare cartridges, special editions, or vintage merchandise. This adds another layer of excitement and engagement with these classic titles.

Influence on Modern Gaming

It's hard to ignore the impact of retro games on the current gaming landscape. Many modern games, even AAA titles, incorporate retro-inspired elements, either as Easter eggs or core gameplay mechanics, as a nod to these classics.

#10

Space Invaders

Space Invaders two different colorway gameplay


The game that started it all! Space Invaders, released in 1978 by Taito, defined the video game industry with its simple graphics and gameplay. It paved the way for the next generation of shoot ’em up games to the point it has been considered one of the most influential games of all time. Space Invaders is also considered the pioneer that initiated the golden age of video games, a period around the 1970s and 1980s that witnessed the insane growth and rising popularity of video games in the global industry.

amazon.com Report

#11

Outrun

Outrun race gameplay

We all remember how it felt to be a young, carefree driver with nothing but the open road ahead and Outrun’s awesome soundtrack to keep us company. Recognized for its pioneering hardware and graphics, Outrun was a critical and commercial success, becoming the highest-grossing arcade title of 1987. It was the first experience with racing games for many kids in the 1980s, and despite not being the very first racing game, it set the bar for other titles of the same genre released in the following years.

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
stefaandeclerck avatar
Stefaan De Clerck
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Played that game for many hours on both the Commodore 128 and Amiga. Such a shame Commodore went bankrupt.

View more commentsArrow down menu
#13

Pong

Pong two player game gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
sharonfaust avatar
Kookamunga
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Can you even fathom how cool this was - I still remember the blip sound.

#14

Streets Of Rage 2

Streets Of Rage 2 multiple characters gameplay

Known as Bare Knuckle II in Japan, Streets of Rage 2 has everything you could ask for from a video game. It’s got a killer soundtrack and fast-paced mechanics, and it’s one of those games that has you up at 3 AM saying, “just 10 more minutes.” It received critical acclaim and was a bestseller for months. It’s widely considered the best entry in the series, the best beat ’em up game for the Sega Genesis, and overall, one of the most incredible video games ever.

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
#17

Day Of The Tentacle

Day Of The Tentacle two different room gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
sineadk130 avatar
Sinead Kenny
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

I redownloaded and played this again last year. Still amazingly funny and addictive!

View more commentsArrow down menu
#23

Q*bert

Q*bert gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
karredroses avatar
Kar Red Roses
Community Member
4 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Q*bert had a potty mouth — whenever he’d get knocked on the head by one of the colored globes, he’d cuss a blue streak!

View more commentsArrow down menu
#26

Pole Position

Pole Position racing game gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
simaodrew avatar
Gossameringue
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

One of the classic video games that spun off to a Saturday Morning Cartoon

See Also on Bored Panda
#28

Super Mario World

Super Mario World jumping Mario gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
#33

Asteroids

Asteroids gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
trev_haith avatar
Trev Haith
Community Member
5 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

OMG the money I pumped into the Asteroids machine at the Golden Cross Pub Lincoln,England

#34

Pitfall!

Pitfall! gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
slim864gvg avatar
Slim 864 GVG
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Activision's Pitfall for the Atari 2600! I couldn't tell you how many nights I spent playing this game! Lol

View More Replies...
View more commentsArrow down menu
#35

Donkey Kong Country

Donkey Kong Country running Donkey Kong gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
lisaawalters75 avatar
Lisa Walters
Community Member
2 months ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Played this game for many hours especially between shifts at my server job.

#36

Rollercoaster Tycoon

Rollercoaster Tycoon building rollercoaster gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
See Also on Bored Panda
#38

Disney's Aladdin

Disney's Aladdin adventurous game gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
ticklingchickens avatar
Patsy
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

This game was my childhood! The bottom screen is from the Sega version and I played the absolute bejaysus out of it!!

View more commentsArrow down menu
#40

Tomb Raider

Tomb Raider Lara Croft adventure game gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
mulkyway avatar
mulk
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

One of my worst scare jump in my whole life: when I first met the tyranosaur.... I was in panic!

#43

Doom II: Hell On Earth

Doom II: Hell On Earth shooting game gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
#45

Monkey Island 2: Lechuck's Revenge

Monkey Island 2: Lechuck's Revenge village life gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
#46

Super Mario 64

Super Mario 64 Mario and Star gameplay

amazon.com Report

Add photo comments
POST
visionjinx91 avatar
A Thousand Years Wide
Community Member
1 year ago DotsCreated by potrace 1.15, written by Peter Selinger 2001-2017

Gameboy!! The Mario you jumped through the screen! I loved the slide but never could stay on. I remember penguins?

See Also on Bored Panda
#50

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee

Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee gameplay

amazon.com Report

Note: this post originally had 149 images. It’s been shortened to the top 50 images based on user votes.

More FAQs About Retro Video Games

Does Gen Z Like Retro Games?

The appeal of retro games isn't just a nostalgia trip reserved for those who were around when these titles first hit the shelves. Surprisingly, Gen Z — born between the late '90s and early 2010s — is also getting swept up in the retro gaming trend.

Gen Z has its unique reasons for diving into retro gaming. The generation known for its rapid media consumption finds the quick, easy-to-grasp, yet challenging gameplay of retro titles appealing. These games offer an instant hit of gratification without the hefty time investment some modern ones demand.

It's not just the gameplay that's pulling them in, though. The aesthetic of pixel art and chiptune soundtracks have found a new home in digital art circles and even fashion trends.

Social media and streaming platforms play a significant role, too. When a popular Twitch streamer or YouTuber revisits a classic, it often sparks curiosity among their younger viewers. And let's not forget the indie game scene — the aforementioned Stardew Valley and Shovel Knight, which take inspiration from retro games, serve as perfect entry points for Gen Z gamers to explore the classics.

Budget considerations also come into play. Retro games, especially those available on digital platforms, provide a more budget-friendly alternative to the latest AAA titles. Triple-A games are often priced at $70-$80, or even $100 and more for those with a season pass or extra content. Retro video games are a much more affordable option.

While not every Gen Zer is trading their VR headset for a Game Boy (or an emulator), a significant number finds these older titles intriguing for a blend of reasons, proving that the appeal of retro games knows no age limit.


What Can Be Considered Retro Gaming?

The term "retro gaming" might seem pretty clear, but defining it can get complicated. At first glance, it's all about the age of the game. However, the reality is more nuanced. 

Let's take a step back. Interestingly, the term "retro" is defined as "imitative of a style or fashion from the recent past," suggesting that something can be considered retro even if it's not necessarily old.

It's now easier than ever to find “vintage” or “retro” items online, and video games make no exception. Some people don't even care if a piece of clothing or furniture is legit vintage or not. As long as it looks “retro,” it's considered retro because it reflects an aesthetic, a lifestyle, a vibe.

In recent times, the line has blurred even more with the advent of remasters and emulators. Sometimes, a brand-new indie title like Celeste or Hotline Miami could be categorized as retro simply because it emulates the style and mechanics of older games.

We're not sure if it's possible to find a clear answer for what can be considered retro or not. Still, some may agree that retro gaming revolves around titles and platforms that hold sentimental or historical value, whether they're authentically vintage or just designed to evoke that feeling.


Where to Start With Retro Games?

If you're new to the retro gaming scene or want to relive some cherished childhood memories, you might wonder where to start. One of the easiest ways is to start with the classics, which usually have extensive resources for new players, including guides, forums, and communities.

If you grew up playing certain games, revisit them. Titles like Super Mario 64Zelda: Ocarina of Time, or Street Fighter II are excellent options.

Many classic games have been updated with modern graphics and gameplay tweaks while preserving their original charm. Games like Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy or Final Fantasy VII Remake are fantastic entry points that marry old and new.

For those interested in PC gaming, diving into old PC games like Doom or Half-Life could offer a different kind of retro experience, complete with modding communities and dedicated fan forums.

Join online communities or follow influencers in the retro gaming scene. Websites, forums, and social media channels are excellent sources for recommendations and can help you discover hidden gems.

Remember, you don't have to break the bank. Even some of the best arcade games are available at discounted prices on digital platforms, and emulators are often free. 

As often happens, the Internet is your best friend — before buying a physical copy or an expensive collector's edition, read reviews and watch gameplay videos to ensure it's worth your time and money.

Starting your journey into retro gaming is like stepping into a rich, expansive universe. It can be a nostalgic trip down memory lane or a totally new adventure waiting to surprise you at every turn!