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Top 50 Retro Games of All Time Ranked

Top 50 Retro Games of All Time Ranked

I often wonder what makes a retro game truly great. It's difficult to pinpoint exactly. I mean, just reminiscing about all those arcade games I used to go crazy for and the ones that had me glued to the screen for hours on end without me even realizing how much time had passed. So, without further ado, let me share with you some of the all-time best retro games and the incredible experiences they offer.

  1. The Legend of Zeldathe legend of zelda

The original game came out in 1986. As outdated as it seems today, it was a hit back then. That’s when people got used to Zelda, Link and Ganon, three characters who were transposed over future generations and releases, too.

The concept is the same, though, lots of dungeons, quests and secrets doable from a top-down perspective.

  1. Pokemon Red/Bluepokemon red blue

I believe every Pokemon fan should play the first games in the series and see where it all started. Besides, despite the retro profile, they're considered some of the best releases anyway. Players need to catch over 150 Pokemon and must become champions in the Indigo league.

Games can be played separately, but players can also trade Pokemon between them. You'll need both of them to catch all Pokemon.

  1. Street Fighter II: The World Warriorstreet fighter ii the world warrior

You can't go wrong with Street Fighter II if you're into fighting games. I know some believe the Mortal Kombat series should be mentioned, but that's famous because of the movies as well. Street Fighter II had a massive impact on the gaming industry.

Introduced in 1991, it improved many issues from the original release and became one of the best-selling games of the decade.

  1. Metal Gear Solidmetal gear solid

Metal Gear Solid took all of us in the gaming industry by storm. Not only the stealth genre wasn’t fully exploited, but this release took it even further and changed everything. As a player, you gained control over Solid Snake and had the main purpose to infiltrate a facility and kill all terrorists.

The story wasn’t impressive, but stealth mechanics will make this game a difficult task, regardless of the skills. Once you’ll start it, I’m warning you, you won’t be able to leave it.

  1. Donkey Kong Countrydonkey kong

Everyone has heard of Donkey Kong, whether you’ve played the game or not. This is one of the oldest video games featuring the character, as well as the game that started the series. It was released in 1994 and follows the ape trying to recover some bananas.

It's a chilled and relaxing side scrolling adventure, but unlike other similar games, it doesn't feel too repetitive. I agree there aren’t many differences between levels, but somehow, challenges are different.

  1. Grand Theft Auto

I know, newer games are cooler, better designed, and have many more possibilities, but you'll never be able to call yourself a GTA fan until you clear the original release. The first game came out in 1997. Like in other games in the series, you're a low key criminal looking for some reputation.

In this first release, the action is spread over three cities. Just like in every other game in the franchise, the open world scenario makes it incredibly fun.

  1. Tomb Raidertomb raider

Tomb Raider was introduced in 1996 and introduced the world to Lara Croft. Every boy back in the day had a crush on her. The archaeologist had the primary goal of finding an ancient artifact. The adventure spread over multiple levels and brought in legions of enemies.

Future releases brought in more variety and better graphics, but the original is certainly worth a shot for the real fans.

  1. Streets of Rage 2streets of rage 2

Fighting and a side scrolling adventure in one game, what else can you ask for? We all went mad when Streets of Rage 2 came out. It was a sequel to the original game from 1991, but it was much better. The idea was good initially, but the first game failed to deliver a top-notch experience.

Anyway, the 1992 release came out for Sega Genesis and was nothing but a moving game with countless bad guys to smash.

  1. Super Mario Kartsuper mario kart

Introduced in 1992, Super Mario Kart became a legacy, with newer and more modern releases still coming out these days. Despite looking like it was made for kids, it became one of the best racing games ever made.

The mechanics are impressive and don't get me started on the racing modes and the possibility of playing against your friends.

  1. Super Mario 64super mario 64

Super Mario 64 was the first game featuring both Mario and 3D graphics. Basically, we had all the classic Mario elements, but the visuals were wow, not to mention the open world possibilities and options in the game.

The concept is the same, find and save the princess. However, unlike the original game, I could actually clear this game.

  1. Doomdoom

Doom was a bit of a shock for the gaming industry when it came out in 1993. It was the ultimate shooter. Everyone wanted to play it. Hundreds of hellish opponents coming from all possible directions kept you busy all the time, while some of the levels were nearly impossible to pass.

Doom was a challenge, no doubt about it. But it was so popular that kids who couldn’t get the full version were clearing the demo version again and again.

  1. Goldeneye 007goldeneye 007

Goldeneye 007 was something else in 1997. It’s somewhere between old school retro games and modern 3D games. The single player campaign brought in a beautiful story and lots of action. But that was only until people discovered the multiplayer mode.

I think variety is what describes Goldeneye 007 better than anything else, from levels and actions to missions and mechanics.

  1. Super Mario Bros.super mario bros

Released in 1983, this game is a classic. Let’s face it, every gamer born in those times has tried this game at some point or another. You play Mario, and you know the story, I don't need to break it down for you.

What made the game so successful was the level design. Mechanics were super smooth, too, not to mention the power ups and enemies, loads of them everywhere.

  1. Mortal Kombatmortal kombat

I couldn’t skip Mortal Kombat from this list. The original game was released in 2002. Sure, it wasn’t the first fighting game on the market, but there was something special about it, more precisely, the violence and blood.

And then, the unique moves added to the overall experience. Plus, the fatality system was a challenge for everyone, as you had to combine a series of different keys in one go.

  1. Outrunoutrun

Outrun was pretty simple, nothing special about its arcade racing experience. It came out in 1986, but I remember the feeling of speed was unmatched at that time. You only had one car. You could choose a different course though, that was the main difference.

Soundtracks are different too, but what made it special was the possibility to maneuver through traffic and various hazards.

  1. Tetristetris

I can’t really think of a better time killer. Whether you’re waiting in a queue or traveling with no Internet, tetris is the perfect choice. It came out in 1989, but it has been through a series of different variants overtime.

If you really like the tile matching puzzle game, I recommend finding something with a theme you like. It makes the experience more exciting in the long run.

  1. Pac-Manpacman

Everyone has tried out Pac-Man at least once, whether on a computer, a browser or a classic arcade. The concept is simple, get all the pellets to clear the level and avoid getting caught by ghosts. It’s simple, but believe it or not, it requires more skill than you think.

There are lots of spin offs out there, but the classic is still considered one of the best retro games out there.

  1. Sonic the Hedgehog 2sonic the hedgehog 2

Speed, action, different levels and a nice side scrolling adventure, that’s exactly what you should expect from Sonic the Hedgehog 2. It may not be the most popular side scrolling game out there, but the speed makes it stand out.

Get ready for different levels, decent graphics from those times and an amazing experience whenever you clear a mission.

  1. Snakesnake

Older generations will remember Snake as one of the top three things you could do with a Nokia phone, apart from calls and texts. It’s one of the most addictive games ever made, available in countless spin offs.

The original Snake came out in 1976. While it's representative of Nokia phones, you don't need to buy an old phone for it, as there are lots of different variants online.

  1. Super Mario Worldsuper mario world

You can’t go wrong with a Mario game, a fun game for all the kids out there, but also a frustrating experience for adults. Passing the fourth level is nearly impossible, not sure what happened there. Anyway, the platformer was introduced in 1990 and was made for SNES only.

I won’t bore you with the action because you know it already. Defeat the monsters and save the princess, simple as that. Despite its age, the game still holds up very well.

  1. Halo: Combat Evolvedhalo combat evolved

GoldenEye 007 laid the foundation for console first-person shooters, but it was Bungie that took the genre to new heights with the release of Halo in 2001.

With its limited weapon choice, strategic gameplay, challenging AI, dynamic environments, and vehicle combat, set the standard that few could surpass.

  1. Shadow Of The Colossusshadow of the colossus

Shadow of the Colossus is an awe-inspiring action-adventure game that takes players on a breathtaking journey through ancient lands in search of colossal beasts. Developed by Japan Studio and Team Ico, it was originally released in 2005 for the PlayStation 2.

What sets Shadow of the Colossus apart is its unique and minimalist approach to storytelling. There are no other enemies or NPCs to distract you, so every encounter with a colossus feels like an epic and emotionally charged battle.

  1. Final Fantasy 7final fantasy 7

Final Fantasy VII from Squaresoft, released in 1997, is one of my all-time favorite Japanese RPGs. It has had a significant impact on the genre due to its unique blend of cyberpunk elements, unforgettable characters, and captivating storyline.

The decision to move from Nintendo to Sony's PlayStation was controversial at the time, but looking back, it was undoubtedly a wise move.

  1. Half-Life 2half life 2

Half-Life 2 by Valve is an incredible sequel that pushes the limits of atmospheric, story-driven first-person shooters. The game constantly keeps players on their toes with its stunning setpieces and expansive world, presenting exciting ways to utilize a wide range of weapons.

One of the game's standout features is the iconic gravity gun, which not only showcases the impressive computers’ power at the time but also demonstrates the developers' creativity.

  1. R-Typertype

I've been a fan of shoot-'em-up games since the early days of gaming, and one title that really stands out to me is R-Type Dimensions EX. Originally released in 1987, it managed to keep the excitement alive with its satisfying power-ups, challenging attack waves, and unforgettable boss encounters.

It’s tough, no doubt about it, but you never feel like the game is unfair. Plus, that gigantic mothership in stage 3 is iconic and has served as inspiration for countless other games.

  1. The Secret of Monkey Islandthe secret of monkey island

  • The Secret of Monkey Island is a beloved point-and-click graphic adventure game developed and published by Lucasfilm Games in 1990. It takes players on a hilarious and swashbuckling journey as they search for the fabled secret of Monkey Island.

  • It has a clever sense of humour, fascinating characters, and challenging puzzles. Inspired by Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean ride, Monkey Island creates an immersive world and an engaging story that still brings me joy when I play it today.
  1. Eliteelite

Even after so many years, Elite never fails to impress with its captivating combat, strategic depth, and expansive universe. David Braben and Ian Bell created the game, drawing inspiration from iconic sci-fi series.

While the Elite franchise continues under Brayburn's leadership, there's a special charm to its procedurally generated worlds which still entice us to explore.

  1. SimCity simcity

  • Released in 1989, this open-ended city-building game marked the beginning of a franchise that has since become synonymous with top-notch real-life simulation games. This allows players to design and build their own virtual cities, managing various aspects such as infrastructure, economy, and the happiness of its citizens.

With its addictive gameplay and endless possibilities, Sim City has become an iconic franchise in the simulation genre, inspiring a whole generation of city builders.

  1. Gran Turismogran turismo

Gran Turismo is a well-known racing simulation video game series developed by Polyphony Digital. The game truly delivers an authentic racing experience, and has established itself as a symbol of exceptional quality graphics, extensive car collections, and immersive gameplay.

It's amazing to see how Gran Turismo has expanded beyond gaming, with a film adaptation that shares the inspiring true story of a gamer-turned-professional racing driver.

  1. Crash Bandicoot crash bandicoot

  • First introduced in 1996, the series follows the adventures of Crash, a lively and mischievous bandicoot who finds himself on a quest to save his homeland from various villains. A key aspect that sets Crash Bandicoot apart is its vibrant and inventive world creation.

The latest release of "Crash Bandicoot 4: It's About Time" revitalized the franchise, introducing fresh gameplay mechanics, levels, and challenges while remaining faithful to the nostalgic essence of the series.

  1. Space Invadersspace invaders

Space Invaders is a legendary video game that made its debut in 1978 and quickly became a cultural phenomenon. Developed by Tomohiro Nishikado, the game catapulted video games into the mainstream and paved the way for the arcade gaming industry.

Space Invaders is often credited as the pioneer that kickstarted the golden age of video games. This era, occurring during the 1970s and 1980s, experienced tremendous growth and popularity of video games worldwide.

  1. Duck Hunt duck hunt

  • Released in 1984 for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), Duck Hunt is a timeless first-person shooter game. With its various game versions and remarkable replay value, Duck Hunt quickly gained popularity.
  • And who could forget that sarcastic dog, mocking players when they made mistakes? I always wished I could shoot him when he laughed at me for missing. Playing Duck Hunt was like having a real arcade experience right in the comfort of my living room.
  1. Super Mario Galaxysuper mario galaxy

I absolutely love this amazing addition to the franchise. Super Mario Galaxy takes Mario on a thrilling space adventure, where players will solve puzzles and defeat monsters across multiple planets.

The interplanetary theme makes it one of the most unique Super Mario games, as the creators truly went above and beyond with character and set design, creating a truly mesmerizing experience.

  1. Resident Evilresident evil

Resident Evil, the immensely popular and influential survival horror game franchise, was first released by Capcom in 1996. This groundbreaking series revolutionized the horror genre, introducing numerous iconic elements that have since become synonymous with the genre itself.

From the early titles' fixed-camera perspective to the more action-focused approach in later entries, the series has consistently enthralled players with its compelling narratives and gripping gameplay moments.

  1. Shenmue II shenmue ii

  • Shenmue II, published by Sega for the Dreamcast in 2001, is a highly acclaimed action-adventure game. This second installment in the Shenmue trilogy continues the story from the first game, where Ryo Hazuki is on a quest to find his father's killer.
  • With its innovative blend of city-exploration, detective-style investigation, intense combat, and nerve-wracking quick-time-events, Shenmue II offers an unforgettable gaming experience.
  1. Diablodiablo

In Diablo II, what immediately captivates you is the impeccable balance of the core gameplay loop: kill, loot, and upgrade. Whether you're a novice or braving the treacherous Hell with a hardcore character, Diablo II's relentless momentum is irresistible.

The odds are consistently stacked against you, the atmosphere perpetually sinister, and the rewards always outweigh the risks. This game takes endgame satisfaction to a whole new level.

  1. Frogger frogger

  • In 1981, Konami developed, and SEGA published a timeless arcade game called Frogger. The objective of the game is to guide frogs safely across a busy road, avoiding roadkill, hazardous logs, and alligators. The challenge lies in avoiding oncoming cars, trucks, and other hazards that can quickly end the frog's journey.
  • Frogger inspired several clones with unique names like Ribbit, Hopper and Froggy, which were playable on computers such as the ZX Spectrum, BBC Micro, and Acorn.
  1. Chrono Triggerchrono trigger

Chrono Trigger, released in 1995 for the SNES, brought together the talents of legendary creators Yuji Horii and Hironobu Sakaguchi. Featuring its groundbreaking multiple endings, unforgettable characters and amazing combat system, Chrono Trigger continues to captivate the hearts of all who experience it.

The game has been re-released on various platforms, including Steam and mobile devices, allowing new generations of players to experience its timeless charm.

  1. Metroidmetroid

The first installment of the Metroid series was released in 1986, introducing players to the immersive world of Samus Aran. Since then, the franchise has expanded with several sequels and spin-offs across different platforms, including the popular Metroid Prime series.

It's no wonder why it remains one of Nintendo's flagship franchises, captivating players like me with its exhilarating sci-fi action and adventure. 

  1. Castlevania: Symphony of the Nightcastlevania symphony of the night

Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a renowned action RPG where players control Alucard, a half-human, half-vampire hero, as he explores Dracula's castle and battles evil.

This game features epic boss fights, challenging platforming, and a captivating storyline that expands the Castlevania universe. It introduced the innovative "Metroidvania" genre, combining exploration, backtracking, and character progression. A true gaming revolution.

  1. Mega Man

The Mega Man series, developed by Capcom, has captured the hearts of fans worldwide. Combining engaging platforming and thrilling boss battles, this beloved Japanese science fiction game offers a unique experience.

With its vibrant visuals, unforgettable tunes, and challenging gameplay, Mega Man keeps players coming back for more. It's no wonder that Mega Man has amassed a dedicated following, with its presence felt on platforms like YouTube and various fan communities.

  1. Sensible Soccersensible soccer

First launched in 1992 by Sensible Software, this timeless video game gained a devoted following due to its fast gameplay and straightforward yet addictive mechanics. What truly set Sensible Soccer apart from other soccer games of its time was its emphasis on fun and accessibility.

Even to this day, its remarkable impact can be felt, as it paved the way for future soccer games and influenced the genre as a whole.

  1. Star Wars star wars

Star Wars, a creation by George Lucas, stands as an iconic and cherished science fiction franchise that has enthralled countless individuals like me worldwide. Positioned in a distant galaxy, the timeless saga portrays the perpetual struggle between good and evil.

Beyond the films, Star Wars has expanded into television series, books, comics, and video games, creating a vast mythology that allows fans to dive deeper into the lore and explore new stories and adventures.

  1. Dungeon Masterdungeon master

In 1987, FTL Games introduced Dungeon Master, a groundbreaking game that revolutionized the role-playing genre. It pioneered and popularized several elements that have since become staples in RPGs.

Dungeon Master skillfully packaged features such as real-time gameplay, immersive 3D world, character inventory, and skill improvement together, setting the standard for games to come.

  1. Silent Hill silent hill

Silent Hill is the best entry point in the series, surpassing even the widely acclaimed Silent Hill 2. Its quality stands out, especially when compared to games like Fatal Frame. Even today, its aged visuals manage to instill fear.

With a strong following and a reputation for delivering spine-chilling experiences, this remarkable retro game serves as a testament to the timeless nature of great horror.

  1. World of Warcraftworld of warcraft

Developed by Blizzard Entertainment, World of Warcraft has been an enduring presence in the gaming realm for more than a decade. Boasting millions of dedicated players, the game continues to captivate with its meticulously crafted gameplay and immersive universe.

What's even more impressive is that World of Warcraft has had a profound cultural impact, inspiring numerous other MMORPGs and making appearances in mainstream media.

  1. Portalportal

I love first-person puzzle games like Portal. Their gameplay, tone, writing, and structure all seamlessly come together to create an unforgettable and challenging experience.

Valve did an amazing job with the iconic Portal gun and the sharp Glados wit, guiding players through a brilliantly designed and progressively challenging series of puzzles. And let's not forget the incredible end-credits song that still resonates with players to this day.

  1. Crazy Taxicrazy taxi

Before Grand Theft Auto took the gaming world by storm, there was Crazy Taxi. This classic game initially made its debut in arcades before being adapted for various consoles. The concept of this game was simple: transporting passengers to their destinations in record time while racking up insane stunt bonuses along the way.

With its simple arcade-style gameplay and music from the ultimate 90's band, Offspring, Crazy Taxi still manages to get me excited whenever I have the opportunity to play.

  1. Secret of Manasecret of mana

Secret of Mana, originally released in Japan as Seiken Densetsu 2, is a classic high-fantasy role playing game. This SNES game follows three adventurers on a quest to stop an evil empire from taking over the world with their flying fortress.

The game's development faced various challenges, like tight deadlines and limited cartridge space. However, developers still managed to create a memorable experience.

  1. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2tony hawks pro skater 2

Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 came out in 2000 and completely changed the skateboarding video game genre. Developed by Neversoft and published by Activision, it included a wide range of professional skateboarders, including the legendary Tony Hawk himself.

What I like about the game is the introduction of new gameplay elements like manual tricks and the option to create custom skate parks.

In the end, I believe this list will satisfy your hunger for retro games. Whether you’re looking for some great memories or you’re interested in the beginnings of the video industry, this list will certainly help out.