What are the best retro games of all time?
Although there have been a lot of amazing video games released recently, there is just something special about retro games that keeps fans coming back for more.
Today, we’re taking a look at the greatest retro games of all time, and counting down to the best of the best to ever be released.
The Best Retro Games of All Time
While there are thousands of great retro games, we’ve narrowed our list to the games that stood out the most and retain the largest fanbases today.
Here’s our list of the 50 best retro games of all time:
This open-ended city-building game was released in 1989 and kick-started a franchise that went on to create some of the best real-life simulation games of all time.
It features real-time city management and tasks players with having to build and expand their own cities while staying within their budgets.
You really have to play strategically if you want your town to succeed.
This dark-action role-playing game sold over 2 million copies and launched the franchise that still retains an incredibly loyal fanbase.
In Diablo, players have to venture through 16 randomly generated levels to eventually reach Hell and face the titular villain.
You can choose to play as either a warrior, rogue, or mage, and discover loads of weapons throughout the campaign, as well as abilities to make your character stronger.
Frogger was first released during the arcade era with the objective being to get the frogs to their homes by helping them cross a busy road.
Today it has many different spin-offs and sequels, but the original game still stands out as one of the greatest games ever made, and even today it is incredibly fun to play.
47. Street Fighter
The competitive fighting game was first released in 1987 and since then has spawned six subsequent main series games and numerous spin-offs.
In the original, players have to fight their way through a martial arts competition that spans five countries and 10 unique opponents who all use different fighting styles.
You really needed to learn the attacks and special attacks in order to come out on top, and you can’t just spam buttons if you want to be the best.
46. Chrono Trigger
Originally released in 1995, Chrono Trigger was created for the SNES, and it enjoyed both critical and commercial success.
This RPG has one of the most engaging stories, even today, and its multiple endings, lot-centric side-quests, and focus on character development make it capable of standing up against even the most modern role-playing video games.
45. Mega Man 2
This action game was created by Capcom for the NES and it continued Mega Man’s battle against Dr. Wily.
Although the first game wasn’t very well received, this sequel changed up the gameplay, visuals, and audio mixing, causing it to be highly praised by both critics and players.
Even today it remains the best-selling Mega Man title, and it has been included in collections for the PS4, Nintendo Switch, and Xbox One.
The first incarnation of Pong was released in 1972, and it is one of the earliest arcade games ever.
Based on table tennis, Pong is simple but ridiculously addictive, and it is easy to lose hours trying to beat your high score.
In fact, many people credit this arcade game with helping build the video game industry into the behemoth that it is today.
43. Resident Evil
This 1996 survival horror game introduced players to Chris Redfield and Jill Valentine for the first time.
Often called one of the most influential video games of all time, players have to try and escape a mansion filled with infected creatures.
There are multiple endings to experience which gives this retro game a lot of replayability.
Based on the animated TV show of the same name, DuckTales was released in 1989 for the NES and ported to the Game Boy in 1990.
The story revolves around Scrooge McDuck traveling around the world to try and collect as much treasure as possible while outwitting his old rival, Flintheart Glomgold.
Although it is a relatively straightforward game, its humor, graphics, and story are worth experiencing at least once.
41. The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past
The third game in The Legend of Zelda series, A Link to the Past was released for the SNES in 1992 in North America.
Set years before the previous two games, this top-down perspective adventure tasks players with defeating the demon king Ganon and rescuing the Seven Sages.
While not the absolute best Link game of all time, A Link to the Past is still an amazing game and one that every fan of the franchise should play.
40. Mortal Kombat
Mortal Kombat is one of the best fighting games of all time, and the original was released in 1992.
Unlike other fighting games of the time, Mortal Kombat overhauled gameplay to have easier controls and a lower focus on joystick movement.
Although it wasn’t the first fighting game to be released, it changed the way this genre was developed and its influence can still be found in many modern fighting titles.
39. The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
As the first in The Legend of Zelda series to feature 3D graphics, Ocarina of Time was a big deal when it was first released, and today it maintains a strong fanbase.
In-game players must help save the land of Hyrule after an evil human uses Link to open access to the Sacred Realm where he proceeds to taint the Triforce and turn the world barren.
The story was highly praised, along with the visuals, gameplay, and soundtrack. It remains one of the best, and one of the must-play video games, even for those who have never picked up a Zelda game.
Metroid is one of the most recognizable retro games created by Nintendo and it was released for the NES in 1987.
This game follows the story of Samus Aran as she tries to track down Metroid organisms that were stolen by pirates who hope to turn them into biological weapons.
A critical and commercial success, this game kickstarted a franchise that is still one of the best in the gaming world.
37. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
This sleeper hit didn’t take off right away, despite being hailed as one of the best retro games of all time.
A direct sequel to Castlevania: Rondo of Blood, Symphony of the Night brought back loads of role-playing elements, nonlinear level design, and a focus on exploration.
For fans of classic video games, this is one that you definitely can’t afford to pass up, even if you may not have heard of it before.
36. Duck Hunt
This light gun shooter was published for the NES and it used the NES Zapper along with a CRT TV to allow players to shoot ducks as they appear on the screen.
If players shoot enough they can progress to the next level, but if they fall behind, it’s game over.
Although the premise is simple, it is an incredibly fun game and definitely worth playing at least once.
35. Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
The original Super Mario World is one of the most popular Nintendo games of all time and in this sequel Yoshi takes center stage on a quest to reunite Baby Mario with his brother Luigi.
It is filled with puzzles and fantastic levels that make this platformer one of the best games to come out of the 1990s.
34. Earthworm Jim
This side-scroller follows a robotic suit-wearing earthworm named Jim as he battles the forces of evil.
Released in 1994 for the SNES and Sega Genesis, this run-and-gun game is weird, wacky, and incredibly hard to put down.
33. The Secret of Monkey Island
Praised for its humor, gameplay, and audiovisual design, The Secret of Monkey Island was published in 1990 as a point-and-click adventure game.
In this game, players fill the role of Guybrush Threepwood, a man dreaming of becoming a pirate. However, in order to achieve this dream, he must explore desolate islands and complete three difficult trials.
By far one of the best adventure games released in the 90s, this game is exceptionally well-written, and a must-play for anyone who loves a good story.
32. Super Metroid
Released in 1994 for the SNES, this action-adventure game was the third in the Metroid series and it follows the events of Metroid II: Return of Samus.
Like the previous games, Super Metroid has a large focus on exploration, but it also introduces new concepts like an inventory screen, automap, and the ability to fire in any direction.
While this game has become very popular among speedrunners, it is also credited with establishing the Metroidvania genre of games, influencing a generation of game designers with ideas that can still be seen today.
31. Space Invaders
This 1978 shoot’em up game is one of the greatest gems of the arcade era and it defined an entire genre.
The goal of this game is one that most gamers are familiar with; defeat waves of downwards descending aliens with a horizontally moving spaceship.
Although Space Invaders isn’t as action-packed as some of the best first-person shooter PS4 games, it is still going strong today with a dedicated fan base.
Outrun is an arcade-style driving game that was released by Sega in 1986.
The goal of this game is to avoid traffic and reach one of the five destinations to achieve victory.
This game is so popular and influential that its influence can even be seen in major titles like Forza Horizon and Need for Speed today.
29. Shadow of the Colossus
Shadow of the Colossus was released in 2005 and has gone on to be considered an example of video game art due to its minimalistic landscapes and emotional hero’s journey.
The premise of this game revolves around the player character trying to resurrect a girl named Mono by destroying 16 towering colossi.
The colossi in this game are some of the largest opponents in video game history and their scale alone made this game a shoo-in as one of the best classic video games.
28. Gran Turismo
Originally released in 1997, this game has gone on to spawn many of the best racing games of all time, but stands out itself as one of the best retro games.
This racing simulation pits players against AI drivers across numerous race tracks with different modes including arcade and simulation.
Simulation is much more like a full campaign, while arcade mode gives players the ability to freely choose their cars and race wherever they want.
27. The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
This 1993 action-adventure game is not only one of the best Zelda games but one of the best retro games for players who love great stories as much as great gameplay.
Link’s Awakening is one of the few in the series not to be set in Hyrule, and instead, it strands the player on a distant island guarded by a large whale-like creature.
Here players have to help Link fight through monsters and solve puzzles in order to find the musical instruments that will lead to his escape.
26. Super Mario Bros. 3
Released in 1990 for the NES, this platformer gives players control of Mario and Luigi as they try to recuse Princess Toadstool from Bowser.
Praised for its challenging gameplay, Super Mario Bros. 3 can be quite difficult at times, but that just makes you want to keep playing and getting better.
25. Crash Bandicoot
Crash Bandicoot is synonymous with retro games and the first game in the series was published in 1996.
This game focuses on the origins of the main character, an uplifted bandicoot who must stop the scientist who gave him intelligence from taking over the world.
While it was criticized for its linear story and lack of innovation, the graphics, difficulty, and likability of Crash made it as much of a must-play then as it is today.
24. Spyro The Dragon
Spiro is an iconic purple dragon that a majority of gamers can instantly recognize.
Originally released in 1998, the first Spiro game centered around the titular dragon journeying across the kingdom to defeat the evil Gnorc who has trapped the other dragons in crystals.
23. Donkey Kong Country
Donkey Kong is one of the most popular video game characters of all time, and this was the game that kickstarted a formerly dormant franchise.
Released in 1994, Donkey Kong Country centers on the large ape and his nephew Diddy trying to get back their stolen bananas.
There are 40 side-scrolling levels to explore, numerous bosses to defeat, and loads of secrets to uncover.
22. Grand Theft Auto
The first in the Grand Theft Auto series, this game was originally released in 1997 and it gave players control of a criminal working their way up the chain of command in the criminal underworld.
Everything takes place across three different cities and the open-world environment gave players a lot of freedom to explore and do whatever they wanted.
21. Final Fantasy VII
Final Fantasy is the series that just keeps on giving but the seventh installment of this franchise is one of the best retro games you can find.
Originally published in 1997, this game follows the story of Cloud Strife who is out to stop a megacorporation from using the planet’s essence as an energy source.
While playing the original is great for retro gaming, there is also a Final Fantasy VII remake that fans can play to re-experience the game with a full modern makeover.
20. Grand Theft Auto IV
Published in 2008, GTA IV is set inside Liberty City and follows Niko Bellic as he tries to escape his past and survive his cousin’s constant requests to go bowling.
The open-world design gives players ultimate control, and you can choose to either stick to the main story or go off and hijack vehicles to kill some time.
19. Super Mario Galaxy
This platformer was released in 2007 for the Wii and served as the third 3D Mario game ever developed.
In this game, players control Mario as he tries to recuse Princess Peach and stop Bowser from destroying the universe.
If you’re able to collect 120 Power Stars you can even unlock the ability to play as Luigi at a harder difficulty!
18. Super Smash Bros.
Sometimes referred to as Super Smash Bros. 64, this game was originally released in 1999 as a crossover fighting game that featured several characters from different Nintendo franchises.
These included Donkey Kong, Metroid, Link, Samus, Jigglypuff, Kirby, Mario, Yoshi, and more.
This was the best retro game to play with friends and while there have been many sequels, the original will always be our favorite.
17. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater has changed both gaming and skating, and it remains the most successful skateboarding video game series of all time.
Pro Skater 2 was released in 2000 and while it was largely similar in terms of gameplay to the first game, it introduced new moves and cash rewards for completing challenges.
16. Tomb Raider
The first in the series, this retro game was released in 1996 and introduced players to Lara Croft.
Players control Lara, an archeologist, as she tracks down an ancient artifact by navigating numerous difficult levels and fighting legions of enemies.
15. Streets Of Rage 2
This side-scrolling brawler game was published in 1992 for the Sega Genesis, and it served as a sequel to the original 1991 game.
While fan-favorite characters Axel Stone and Blaze Fielding return, there are also brand new characters players can use to beat down bad guys.
14. The Legend of Zelda
The very first Legend of Zelda game was released in 1986 and it gave players their first introductions to beloved characters like Link, Zelda, and Ganon.
Using a top-down perspective, players can explore the overworld and numerous dungeons filled with secrets.
While this game isn’t often considered the best in the series, anyone who is a Zelda fan should play through this amazing retro game at least once.
13. Pokémon Red/Blue
Considered some of the best Pokémon games of all time, Pokémon Red and Blue were released in 1996 and served as the first games in the franchise.
In-game there are 151 Pokémon to catch and the main goal is to become the champion of the Indigo League by beating the top trainers in the land.
While both Red and Blue can be played separately, in order to catch all available Pokémon, you have to have access to both games to trade between them.
12. Super Mario Kart
Developed for the SNES, Super Mario Kart was released in 1992 and it quickly became one of the best racing games of all time.
In this game, players can choose between one of eight Mario series characters to drive as, each with their own abilities.
There are many different modes to play around with, including a multiplayer mode that makes taking on your friends incredibly easy.
11. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
Another fighting game that made a huge impact on retro gaming, Street Fighter II was released in 1991 and went on to become the best-selling game since the golden age of arcade games.
This game improves upon many elements found in the original and introduced a six-button configuration, combo system, and wider character selection menu.
Street Fighter II helped popularize fighting games in the 1990s, and even today its influence can still be seen in modern installments.
10. Super Mario 64
Debuting in 1996, Super Mario 64 was the first in the series to feature 3D gameplay, combining traditional elements with a large open-world and attractive visual style.
This game tasks players with collecting enough scattered Power Stars to unlock Princess Peach’s castle and face off against Bowser who has invaded it.
9. Metal Gear Solid
This game changed the stealth genre forever when it was released in 1998 and it gave players control of Solid Snake.
Tasked with infiltrating a nuclear facility to neutralize a terrorist threat, this game is difficult for gamers who aren’t good at stealth mechanics, but impossible to put down once you start playing it.
When Doom was released in 1993 it quickly became synonymous with first-person shooter games.
Hordes of hellish enemies are never-ending, and levels can be literal hell to get through.
Despite its difficulty, Doom is one of the most played FPS retro games, and even today this series is going strong with Doom Eternal just being released in 2020.
7. Goldeneye 007
Goldeneye 007 was a must-have on the N64 in 1997 and it may even be coming to the Xbox in the future.
While the single-player campaign is incredibly fun to play through, it is multiplayer against friends where this game really shines.
Between its incredible graphics, well-designed gameplay mechanics, and variety of levels and locations, Goldeneye 007 is something every gamer should experience for themselves.
6. Super Mario Bros.
The successor to the arcade original, Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. was released in 1985 to critical acclaim.
Players control Mario as he goes through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Toadstool from the dastardly Bowser.
The levels are wonderfully designed, the mechanics are smooth, and there is no shortage of power-ups to grab.
First released in 1980, this maze-like retro game turned the gaming industry on its head and quickly became a worldwide phenomenon.
While the premise is simple, get Pac-Man to eat all the pellets and advance to the next level, it requires a lot more skill than you may think, and getting caught by ghosts is a regular occurrence.
Although many spin-offs and updates of Pac-Man have been released, it’s important to remember the original that started it all and still holds up as one of the best retro games.
4. Sonic The Hedgehog 2
This platformer was released for the Sega Genesis in 1992 and quickly became one of the best retro games in the franchise.
Following Sonic as he tries to stop Doctor Robotnik from stealing Chaos Emeralds, every side-scrolling level had something interesting to see, and racing through them at high speed was incredibly exhilarating.
Created by a Soviet software engineer in 1984, Tetris is one of the best retro games to come about almost by accident.
While the overall premise is simple, keep the blocks from reaching the top of the playing field, it requires a surprising amount of intelligence and skill to last for very long.
If you were fortunate enough to grow up in a time when Nokia reigned king, and Atari was a favorite; long before smartphones, you’ll probably remember using a mobile phone for one of three things.
- Making phone calls
- Texting your friends
- Playing Snake
The original Snake game design was developed and published by Gremlin in 1976. The game gained significant popularity after 1998 when it was preloaded onto Nokia mobile phones.
1. Super Mario World
Taking our number one spot is Super Mario World, a 1990 platformer released for the SNES.
In this game, Mario is out to save Princess Toadstool from Bowser and his Koopalings, and every level is filled with nostalgia.
This is classic Mario at its best, and even today it holds up as a masterpiece of platform gaming and something that every gamer should play through for themselves.
We hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with the best retro games of all time!
While it may just be the nostalgia talking, we have to admit that retro games are some of the best ever created, even if they don’t have the HD graphics modern titles have.
There is just something special about many of them, and if you haven’t yet played any of the ones on this list, we highly recommend checking them out!
Here’s a quick recap of the 50 best retro games of all time:
- Super Mario World
- Sonic The Hedgehog 2
- Super Mario Bros.
- Goldeneye 007
- Metal Gear Solid
- Super Mario 64
- Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
- Super Mario Kart
- Pokémon Red/Blue
- The Legend of Zelda
- Streets Of Rage 2
- Tomb Raider
- Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2
- Super Smash Bros.
- Super Mario Galaxy
- Grand Theft Auto IV
- Final Fantasy VII
- Grand Theft Auto
- Donkey Kong Country
- Spyro The Dragon
- Crash Bandicoot
- Super Mario Bros. 3
- The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening
- Gran Turismo
- Shadow Of The Colossus
- Space Invaders
- Super Metroid
- The Secret of Monkey Island
- Earthworm Jim
- Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island
- Duck Hunt
- Castlevania: Symphony of the Night
- The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time
- Mortal Kombat
- The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past
- Resident Evil
- Mega Man 2
- Chrono Trigger
- Street Fighter
What’s the best retro game of all time, in your opinion? Leave a comment below.
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