100 Best Retro Video Games That’ll Take You Back to Your Childhood

Old video games hold a special place in the hearts of gamers. They take you back to a simpler time when games were about having fun.

Old video games hold a special place in the hearts of gamers. They take you back to a simpler time when games were about having fun. But why do people still like these old games so much? Let’s explore the world of retro video games and find out what makes them classic.

The Golden Era of Retro Gaming

The Era of Arcades

Arcades were at their best in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Games like Space Invaders and Galaga ruled the scene and gave players of all ages exciting experiences. Arcades turned into places where people could meet and play games together, competing for high scores. Arcades were a popular place to hang out because of their bright lights, sound effects, and the thrill of beating a game with just one quarter.

a gaming arcades which used in late 18's and early 19's

Home Consoles Take Over

When home devices like the Atari 2600 came out, it became easier for more people to play games. People could now play video games in the comfort of their living rooms. With this change, a new era began in which games were no longer just for arcades but could also be used for everyday fun at home. With its replaceable cartridges, the Atari 2600 could play a lot of different games, bringing the fun of the arcade into people’s homes all over the world.

Iconic Retro Video Games

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Game

No discussion of retro video games is complete without mentioning Super Mario Bros. Released in 1985, this game set the standard for platformers and remains a beloved classic. The adventures of Mario and Luigi through the Mushroom Kingdom to rescue Princess Peach from Bowser became an enduring narrative that captivated players. Its innovative level design, precise controls, and catchy music made it a landmark title.

The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda introduced players to an open-world adventure in 1986. Its influence on modern adventure games is undeniable. The game’s expansive world, filled with secrets and puzzles, encouraged exploration and strategic thinking. Link’s quest to save Princess Zelda and defeat Ganon became a template for future action-adventure games, blending story, exploration, and combat in a seamless experience.

The Legend of Zelda


Pac-Man is another iconic game that took the world by storm. Released in 1980, it became a cultural phenomenon and is still enjoyed today. The simple yet addictive gameplay, where players navigate Pac-Man through a maze while avoiding ghosts and eating pellets, captured the imagination of millions. Pac-Man’s appeal lies in its easy-to-learn but hard-to-master gameplay, making it a timeless classic.

Retro Gaming Consoles

Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

The NES revolutionized home gaming with its vast library of games and solid hardware. It remains a favorite among collectors and gamers alike. The NES brought legendary titles like Super Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda, and Metroid into homes, setting a new standard for game quality and design. Its impact on the gaming industry cannot be overstated, as it revitalized the market after the video game crash of 1983.

Sega Genesis

The Sega Genesis brought fierce competition to the market with its impressive graphics and sound capabilities, featuring hits like Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega’s marketing strategy, emphasizing the Genesis’ superior hardware and edgy games, appealed to a slightly older audience. Sonic the Hedgehog, with its fast-paced gameplay and attitude, became the face of Sega, challenging Nintendo‘s dominance.

Atari 2600

The Atari 2600 is credited with popularizing home video game consoles. Its simple yet addictive games paved the way for future systems. Titles like Space Invaders, Pitfall!, and Adventure offered varied gameplay experiences, from shooting aliens to exploring treacherous jungles. The Atari 2600’s success demonstrated the potential of video games as a form of home entertainment and laid the foundation for the industry’s growth.

The Impact of Retro Video Games on Modern Gaming

Gameplay Mechanics

Many modern games borrow mechanics from retro games, such as the platforming elements of Super Mario and the puzzle-solving of The Legend of Zelda. The principles of clear objectives, intuitive controls, and rewarding challenges established by these classics continue to influence game design today. Even in modern, graphically intensive games, the core mechanics are often traced back to these early innovations.

Storytelling in Games

Retro games often feature simple yet engaging stories. These narratives have influenced how modern games approach storytelling, emphasizing immersion and player engagement. Games like The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy introduced epic quests and character development, paving the way for more complex and emotionally resonant stories in contemporary gaming. The blend of gameplay and narrative that started in the retro era remains a cornerstone of game design.

Collecting Retro Video Games

Why Collect Retro Games?

Collecting retro games is about more than nostalgia; it’s about preserving a piece of gaming history. These games offer a glimpse into the evolution of the medium. For many collectors, owning a piece of this history is akin to preserving an art form. Each game and console represents a step in the journey of technological and creative advancement in the gaming industry.

Tips for Collectors

  1. Research: Learn about the games and consoles you’re interested in. Understanding the history and significance of each title can enhance your appreciation and help you make informed decisions.
  2. Condition: Check the condition of the items before purchasing. Mint or near-mint conditions are highly valued, but even well-loved games can be worth collecting if they hold personal significance.
  3. Value: Be aware of the market value to avoid overpaying. Prices can fluctuate based on rarity, demand, and condition, so staying informed can help you find fair deals.

Emulation and Retro Gaming

What is Emulation?

Emulation allows gamers to play old video games on modern devices by mimicking the original hardware. This has made classic games more accessible to a new generation of players. Emulators can run on PCs, smartphones, and dedicated devices, providing a way to experience old games without needing the original hardware.

Legal and Ethical Considerations

While emulation itself is legal, downloading ROMs of games you don’t own is not. It’s important to support game developers and respect intellectual property rights. Legal avenues, such as purchasing digital re-releases or using services that offer licensed games, ensure that creators are compensated for their work. Emulation can also play a role in preservation, but it must be approached with respect for the original creators’ rights.

The Community Around Retro Gaming

Online Forums and Communities

Platforms like Reddit and Discord host vibrant communities where retro gamers can share tips, trade names, and discuss their favorite titles. These communities offer a wealth of knowledge and camaraderie, helping both new and seasoned collectors navigate the world of retro gaming.

Retro Gaming Events and Conventions

Events like Retro Gaming Expo bring enthusiasts together to celebrate their love for classic games, offering a chance to play rare titles and meet like-minded individuals. These conventions often feature tournaments, panels, and vendor halls where attendees can buy, sell, and trade games. They provide a tangible connection to the retro gaming community and the opportunity to experience the excitement of classic gaming in a social setting.

Why Retro Video Games Are Still Popular Today

Nostalgia Factor

Many gamers have fond memories of playing these games during their childhood, and revisiting them can evoke a powerful sense of nostalgia. The familiar sights and sounds of retro games can transport players back to simpler times, creating an emotional connection that enhances the gaming experience.

Simplicity and Accessibility

Retro games often have straightforward controls and objectives, making them easy to pick up and play, even for newcomers. The emphasis on gameplay over graphics means that these games focus on providing a fun and engaging experience without requiring advanced skills or long-time commitments. This accessibility ensures that retro games remain enjoyable for players of all ages.

How to Get Started with Retro Gaming

Finding the Right Console

Determine which retro console suits your interests. NES and Sega Genesis are great starting points for their diverse game libraries. Consider what types of games you enjoy and the availability of those games for each console. Some players might prefer the platforming adventures of the NES, while others might lean towards the action-packed titles on the Genesis.

Recommended Games for Beginners

  1. Super Mario Bros.
  2. Sonic the Hedgehog
  3. Pac-Man

These games offer a good introduction to the world of retro gaming. They are easy to learn, iconic, and represent the best of what retro gaming has to offer. Starting with these titles can provide a solid foundation for exploring more games and consoles.

The Best Retro Video Games of All Time

Here’s a list of the 100 best retro video games that are sure to evoke nostalgia:

  1. Super Mario Bros. (1985)
  2. The Legend of Zelda (1986)
  3. Pac-Man (1980)
  4. Space Invaders (1978)
  5. Donkey Kong (1981)
  6. Sonic the Hedgehog (1991)
  7. Metroid (1986)
  8. Tetris (1984)
  9. Street Fighter II (1991)
  10. Mega Man 2 (1988)
  11. Final Fantasy (1987)
  12. Castlevania (1986)
  13. Duck Hunt (1984)
  14. Contra (1987)
  15. Galaga (1981)
  16. Super Metroid (1994)
  17. Mortal Kombat (1992)
  18. Double Dragon (1987)
  19. Pong (1972)
  20. Ms. Pac-Man (1982)
  21. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991)
  22. Gradius (1985)
  23. Bubble Bobble (1986)
  24. Chrono Trigger (1995)
  25. Dragon Quest (1986)
  26. Earthbound (1994)
  27. Bomberman (1983)
  28. Punch-Out!! (1987)
  29. Secret of Mana (1993)
  30. F-Zero (1990)
  31. OutRun (1986)
  32. Star Fox (1993)
  33. Zaxxon (1982)
  34. Paperboy (1985)
  35. Shinobi (1987)
  36. Kid Icarus (1986)
  37. Excitebike (1984)
  38. R-Type (1987)
  39. Q*bert (1982)
  40. Gauntlet (1985)
  41. Golden Axe (1989)
  42. 1942 (1984)
  43. Pitfall! (1982)
  44. Joust (1982)
  45. Spy Hunter (1983)
  46. Adventure Island (1986)
  47. Blaster Master (1988)
  48. Tecmo Bowl (1987)
  49. Maniac Mansion (1987)
  50. Kirby’s Adventure (1993)
  51. Final Fight (1989)
  52. Lemmings (1991)
  53. Ghosts ‘n Goblins (1985)
  54. Samurai Shodown (1993)
  55. SimCity (1989)
  56. Prince of Persia (1989)
  57. Another World (1991)
  58. M.U.L.E. (1983)
  59. Altered Beast (1988)
  60. Wonder Boy (1986)
  61. River City Ransom (1989)
  62. Ninja Gaiden (1988)
  63. Lode Runner (1983)
  64. Bionic Commando (1988)
  65. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts (1988)
  66. Turrican (1990)
  67. Wizards & Warriors (1987)
  68. Battletoads (1991)
  69. Metal Slug (1996)
  70. Out of This World (1991)
  71. Crazy Taxi (1999)
  72. Resident Evil (1996)
  73. Rayman (1995)
  74. Crash Bandicoot (1996)
  75. Spyro the Dragon (1998)
  76. Banjo-Kazooie (1998)
  77. Command & Conquer (1995)
  78. Warcraft II: Tides of Darkness (1995)
  79. Diablo (1996)
  80. Half-Life (1998)
  81. Quake (1996)
  82. Doom (1993)
  83. Wolfenstein 3D (1992)
  84. Marble Madness (1984)
  85. Dig Dug (1982)
  86. Frogger (1981)
  87. Centipede (1981)
  88. Pole Position (1982)
  89. BurgerTime (1982)
  90. Tempest (1981)
  91. Paperboy (1985)
  92. Rampage (1986)
  93. Defender (1981)
  94. Robotron: 2084 (1982)
  95. Jungle Hunt (1982)
  96. Track & Field (1983)
  97. Road Rash (1991)
  98. Daytona USA (1994)
  99. NBA Jam (1993)
  100. Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater (1999)

These games span various genres and platforms, offering a glimpse into the rich history of video gaming. From arcade classics to console hits, each title holds a special place in the hearts of gamers and continues to inspire the industry today.

Challenges of Retro Gaming

Hardware Reliability

Older consoles and cartridges can suffer from wear and tear. Maintenance and repair might be necessary to keep them in working condition. Finding replacement parts or skilled technicians can be challenging, but online communities and specialized shops can provide valuable resources.

Availability of Games

Some retro games can be hard to find or expensive, especially rare titles. Patience and persistence are key in building a collection. Auctions, garage sales, and online marketplaces can offer opportunities to find elusive games, but prices can vary widely based on demand and conditions.

Preservation of Retro Video Games

Efforts to Preserve Classic Games

Organizations like The Video Game History Foundation work to archive and preserve video games for future generations, ensuring that these classics are not lost to time. These efforts include digitizing games, documenting their development, and maintaining physical collections. Preservation is crucial for understanding the history and evolution of video games as a cultural and artistic medium.

The Role of Emulation in Preservation

Emulation plays a critical role in preserving retro games, providing access to titles that might otherwise be lost due to hardware degradation. By creating digital copies of games, emulation helps ensure that they remain playable even as original hardware becomes scarce. However, ethical considerations must be taken into account to respect the rights of the original creators.


Retro video games continue to captivate and inspire gamers around the world. Whether you’re a seasoned collector or a curious newcomer, the world of retro gaming offers endless enjoyment and a deep connection to the history of this beloved medium. Embracing the simplicity, creativity, and community of retro gaming can provide a refreshing contrast to the fast-paced, high-tech world of modern gaming.


1. What is the best way to start a retro gaming collection?

Start with popular consoles like the NES or Sega Genesis and seek out iconic games such as Super Mario Bros. and Sonic the Hedgehog.

2. Are retro games still being produced?

While original retro games are no longer produced, many are re-released on modern platforms, and new games in the retro style are still created by indie developers.

3. How can I play retro games if I don’t have the original console?

Emulation is a popular method, allowing you to play retro games on modern devices. Ensure you use legal sources for ROMs to support game developers.

4. Why are some retro games so expensive?

Rarity, demand, and condition all influence the price of retro games. Some titles, especially limited releases or games in mint condition, can be highly sought after by collectors.

5. What makes retro games different from modern games?

Retro games often focus on simple, addictive gameplay and pixel art graphics, whereas modern games tend to emphasize high-definition visuals, complex narratives, and expansive worlds.

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