Prepare yourself for a blast from the past as we take a look at the best retro games of all time!
Yeah, I know what you’re thinking; the best retro games… that list could be humongous!
The challenge was a tough one; picking the best games from our childhoods, the best titles that summed up our favourite consoles and brought joy to so many.
We’re not just talking about a couple of consoles either; there’s the Mega Drive, the original Xbox, the N64, the PS1, and many more, all Goliath’s of gaming past. Each console played a different part in our lives; can you remember where you were the first time you saw a NES or a PS2?
Well, it took a heck of a long time and a lot of searching through our collections, but we’ve managed to get all the games in the world down to 20 of the very best.
Some said it was impossible, but we love a good challenge!
Check out our list of the best retro games ever made, and happy scrolling!
The epic Metroid Prime Trilogy takes the 20th spot on this list of the best retro games ever made.
Ok, so I’m kicking off the list with a bit of a ‘3-4-1’ entry, but that’s what you call value for money, right?
The truth is that I just can’t pick which of these Metroid Prime games should feature in this list. Samus Aran is, I think we can all agree, an absolute legend and a pivotal figure in Nintendo’s history.
The inclusion of 3D games to the canon blew our mind, and all there games are, quite frankly, superb.
For those who don’t know, this trilogy is made up of two GameCube titles, Metroid Prime & Metroid Prime: Echoes, and Metroid Prime: Corruption for the Wii.
Samus is the most bad-ass bounty hunter in the galaxy and is a favourite at pretty much every gaming event the world over. These FPS games take players through spectacular worlds and pit them against some of the freakiest enemies ever to hit your TV.
In true FPS style, gamers only see Samus’ arm cannon as she skulks through shadowy passages and sneaks into heavily-guarded areas.
If you’re a fan of RPGs, then you’ll love collecting all of Samus’ amazing power-ups, from the spin attack made famous on Smash Bros to gun powerups.
Listen, Samus is right up there with Link and Mario in my book. She’s one of the greatest video game characters of all time and a real retro icon!
Donkey Kong Country is up next – this list is already full of big hitters and we’re only 2 games in!
It’s a well known fact that Mr Miyamoto never had big love for Donkey Kong Country. He was never a great fan of the pre-rendered graphics used in this game and didn’t care who knew it.
Still, this is one of the best SNES games of all time and, in my opinion, one of the best retro games still on the scene today.
It’s pretty clear that the general public agree with me and not Shigeru, as this game sold well over one-million copies during it’s lifespan. We’re all waiting for the new Donkey Kong game to drop, but DKC is the perfect game to keep us occupied in the mean time.
Team up with Diddy to take down King K.Rool and his army of Kremlins. Take a ride on Rambi the Rhino or watch as two simian superstars take to a mine cart and hurtle along dangerous tracks.
The premise is simple; collect bananas, kick crocs, and collect the golden KONG letters on each level.
King K. Rool doesn’t get that much press coverage, but he’s up there with the greatest baddies of all time. Any villain whose sole mission is steal a monkey’s bananas is a nasty piece of work, am I right?
It’s fun, fast paced SNES action with two of the best apes around. Younger gamers who came to the DK gang on Smash Bros Ultimate should definitely check out this seminal title…
… if anything, it’s the major stepping stone that led us to the DK rap.
Imagine a world without that!
Gran Turismo takes the 18th spot in this list of the best retro games of all time!
The PS1 had some fantastic racing titles in its time, but perhaps none as influential as Gran Turismo. It spawned an epic series that still has a loyal following today and provided a formula that would eventually be copied by pretty much every developer on every console.
With a collection of 140 epic cars and a selection of tracks that felt super-realistic back in the day, the first GT games could well be thought of as the grandaddy of all driving games.
Nothing felt better than getting behind the wheel of branded cars and racing against your mates…
… I guess it is the ‘real driving simulator’, after all!
For the driving fans, the arcade mode provides quick thrills and a place to blow off steam while burning rubber. Still, the best bit about Gran Turismo is the Simulation Mode.
If you like games where progression is a key element, than becoming a professional racer in GT will be right up your street. Start off with an old used car, race to earn money, and upgrade your vehicles.
How many games can you move from a Honda Prelude to a swanky Dodge Viper?
Gran Turismo is a winner every day of the week. If you’ve never played it before, then what’s wrong with you?!
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim takes the 17th spot in this list of the best retro games of all time. It’s so good that we’re still waiting for Elder Scrolls VI to drop in 2021!
I’m not gonna lie; Skyrim hardly ever left my PS3. I instantly connected with it as it’s basically a much more brutal version of the Zelda games.
Well, it’s more like Breath of the Wild but came out six years before… so I guess Bethesda got there first!
This open world adventure is one of the most finely crafted titles on the PS3. Explore ruined cities and vast mountain ranges with sword in hand, slaying dragons and casting spells in one of the greatest fantasy tales ever to grace a console.
I still can’t believe that this game came out for the PS3; just look at the still above! These graphics are fantastic and look as though they should belong to a next-gen console. If you’re struggling to get hold of the best PS5 games, then this could definitely be a good shout!
Who is the mystery star of this epic tale, I hear you ask? Well, gamers play as Dragonborn, one of the best named characters just beating Keith Courage…
… everyone loves Keith!
You are the only one capable of thing down a massive Dragon, but there are so many side missions and quests to explore that you’ll end up playing this game long after the main story is complete.
Tasks can be finished in any order, but Skyrim has one over on BOTW in the fact that the world doesn’t revert back once the final boss is killed. Also, all of the NPC speech is automatically generated as there are just too many possible scenarios to account for.
How cool is that!
I bet a few of you were wondering when Final Fantasy IX would appear on this list, weren’t you? This game has seen more reboots and remakes than many of the other titles in our compendium, and for one very good reason…
… it’s one of the best retro games of all time… that really should have been obvious!
Yes, you’re looking at one of the best PS1 RPGs to ever grace Sony’s maiden home console. It’s the 9th official title in the FF canon and boasts a storyline that Tolkien would have been proud of.
Gamers take their places in Gaia, but not the titaness who became Mother Earth in Greek mythology. This is a fantasy realm wrapped in a terrible war and features bandits, princesses, and an assassination that might bring an age of peace.
Why do I like Final Fantasy IX the best? Well, it’s an old school RPG with a modern feel.
It’s turn-based action with organic gameplay, and it sticks true to the mechanics of early RPG titles rather than adding the bells and whistles used on the previous three titles.
It should also go without saying that IX is the best ranked FF game in the history of the series. No wonder it’s had so many reboots.
Whether you helped rack up this games epic 5 million sales by purchasing it on the PS3, the Vita, or modern consoles, you’ve certainly helped to secure FFIX in the annals of history as one of the greatest games ever.
Well done you!
Keep a hold of your apples; Crash Bandicoot: N.Sane trilogy takes the 15th spot in this list of the best retro games of all time.
Ok, so I know this is a PS4 case, but hear me out. This trilogy takes the original Crash Bandicoot games and turns them up to 11. Forget everything you knew about the old titles; those graphics aren’t as good as you remember anyway…
… sorry to tell you the truth guys!
The N.Sane Trilogy is fully remastered and looks super slick on the PS4, the Xbox One, and the Switch. Play all of Naughty Dogs classics ‘Crash Bandicoot’, ‘Cortex Strikes Back’, and ‘Warped’.
And if you’re wondering how popular this title was, it sold 10 million units worldwide. If that isn’t a success story, then I don’t know what is!
The gameplay is still the same, the levels are still the same, and Crash’s moves are as on point as ever. Jump and spin through nostalgic stages that look so slick you’ll spend more time gawping at the backgrounds than following Signor Bandicoot!
And of course, the Aku Aku mask returns to give you that little safety blanket when you’re heading into the unknown.
There’s no other way to play Crash Bandicoot in 2021 – there, I said it, especially when playing on the Nintendo Switch on the bus or the toilet (we all know you do it!).
You and Crash deserve the best, so treat yourself to the N.Sane trilogy today!
Does Space Invaders really need an introduction? It’s one of the most influential games of all time and I’m pretty sure every single one of you will have played it at some point.
Heck, it’s safe to say that it could be one of the greatest and best arcade games ever made!
I’ve chosen the Atari 2600 version because, for me, it’s the quintessential version. So it’s not that advanced anymore and doesn’t look great, but back in 1978 this was like turning on Skyrim for the very first time!
Just imagine a game making over $13 billion. $13 billion! Taito struck gold with this space-age marvel, and they’ve been laughing all the way to the bank ever since.
For those of you that have never ever played Space Invaders before, here’s the drill.
Aliens move down a screen towards a little green gun turret. Players move said turret and try to shoot down the invaders from space… you get the picture.
If you’re looking for a game that should come with an addictive substance warning, then this is it. Space Invaders is one of those games that anyone can play and that never gets old.
It’ll outlive all of use, that’s for sure!
Halo: The Master Chief Collection takes the 13th spot in this list of the best retro games of all time.
I think we can all agree that Halo: Combat Evolved was one of the greatest FPS games of all time, and seeing it in glorious HD up on the Xbox One feels like reliving Christmas Day for the first time all over again.
The collection consists of Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2: Anniversary, Halo 3, Halo 3: ODST, Halo: Reach, and Halo 4. That’s some serious firepower on one disc and should keep any fantasy fans occupied for years to come.
It’s safe to say that Halo: Combat Evolved changed everything on the shooting game scene. The Master Chief is one of the most recognisable characters on the Xbox, even in the gaming world as a whole, and wed’ve never had titles like Destiny without it!
One of the things that I remember most about Combat Evolved was the sheer size of the map. In fact, scrap that – everything in this game is massive! How many of you can remember jumping into a Warthog for the very first time?
That kind of thing never leaves you!
Pokemon Red/Blue takes the joint 12th spot in this list of the best retro games of all time! And yes, this is the RPG that shaped most of our childhood (and adult) lives.
Forget Pokemon Go or Sword and Shield; this 1996 classic (or ’98 in Western Countries) propelled Game Freak into the public eye and became an unprecedented success. It’s undoubtedly one of the best Gameboy games of all time and even has a nice red or blue shade when played on the GBC.
Honestly, the music that played through the Gameboy speaker when I got the bicycle out still floats inside my head to this very day.
Catching every Pokemon and beating the Elite Four still remains the greatest challenge of all time, and picking the best team was anything but plain sailing.
For me, Pokemon was more than just a game; it was an immersive story, a franchise that we lived and breathed both on the Gameboy and the TV. It was tactical, and it made you think about trading with friends and actually spending quality time with them in the same room!
Plus, let’s not forget that without Red and Blue, we’d never have Gold, Pearl, Diamond, or any of the other classics for all of Nintendo’s portable consoles!
Be prepared to receive a hundred-hand-slap as we take a look at Street Fighter II: The World Warrior!
This game almost beat me half a hundred times. I take it back; becoming the World Warrior was way harder than beating the Elite Four. I think I was 16 when I finally managed it after a good eight years of trying.
Just think about the players in this game; Guile, Ken, E.Honda, Chun Li, Dhalsim. There are so many incredible characters to choose from, each of them with their own fighting styles to boot.
I still don’t know what Blanca was in this game or what his deal was, but he was certainly one angry dude.
If you’re a button-mashing player, then the premise is simple – hit everything as fast as possible and try not to die. Still, there are tonnes of moves to learn if you want to get the best out of each character, including the epic Hadouken!
Play three rounds in a best-of-three battle, knocking down your opponents health to determine who the ultimate warrior truly is.
The graphics aren’t amazing anymore, but that doesn’t matter. Grab yourself a Sony PVM, sit down with a lovely beer, and enjoy one of the best fighting games of all time!
Super Mario Galaxy marks the halfway point in this list of the best retro games of all time, and man is it a classic.
Nintendo new they had to pull a stonker out of the bag after the success of Super Mario Sunshine, and boy did they not disappoint.
Galaxy felt so different to everything that ever came before. Sure, Sunshine was cool with the FLUDD gameplay and the cool new dynamic, but playing upside down while running around planets and jumping on Pirhana plants in zero-gravity simply blew me away.
The concept is simple – save Peach from Bowser. It’s worked on pretty much every planet on every console so far, so I guess it’s only reasonable to think that it could work up in space too!
Stars make up the bulk of the collectible action, though finding them amongst the stunning levels is no simple task… mainly because the temptation to explore every nook and cranny will leave you forgetting what the main mission was in the first place!
Listen, it’s a Mario game, which means it’s smooth, sleek, and dripping with Mushroom Kingdom madness.
Familiar faces and brand new ones make up an all-star memorable cast, and Mario has plenty of cool tricks up his sleeve for gamers to pull out along the way!
Remember everything I said about the Crash Bandicoot N.Sane Trilogy? Well, the Spyro: Reignited Trilogy gives the original three Spyro games the exact same treatment.
We all know that the best Spyro games are the original 3. They provide instant nostalgia as soon as the loading screens appear, which is pretty much why we play the best retro games, after all.
But the sheer difference in the makeup of these original titles as seen in the Reignited Trilogy is astounding.
From blades of grass to Spyro’s teeth, everything is clearer, looks more defined, and has a sheen that provides a much-needed new lease of life.
Just look at the still above and tell me that you’re not impressed? Honestly, there are so many things I missed in these games the first time around that I spotted while playing on the Nintendo Switch.
Yes, that’s the real best bit bit about this trilogy – playing on the go in handheld mode. It’s the whole reason why everyone went mad for the Super Mario 3D All-Stars game too… Super Mario 64 in the office; the dream come true!
If I had to pick my favourite Spyro game, it would have to be the first Spyro the Dragon title, but that’s because I’ve got some incredible memories of charging at those sheep for the very first time.
Which is your favourite title in the original three?
The music and the moves on Tony Hawks Pro Skater 2 were phenomenal. It’s another one of those games that everyone has played once in their lives.
Plus, with the new remake dropping on all the major consoles, it’s time to go ‘back to our roots’ and relive this fantastic game.
I’ve never done a heelflip or a kickflip before. Heck, I can’t even do an Ollie. But on Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2, I was an absolute skating god.
And, while the first ever Tony Hawks game is undoubtedly the pivotal title that got the ball rolling, the second game perfected the formula and acted as the basis for the many titles to come.
Let’s get back to that music. How many of you can remember the tunes in this game? We used to keep restarting levels until our favourite songs came on so that we could ‘play the game better’.
Street skating in this game felt so real too. The grungy settings and epic ramps were so addictive that trying to repeatedly playing the same moves over and over again never got boring, and that feeling when you finally pulled off a 1080…
… jeez, I just wanna get back and play this game right now!
Whether playing as Tony Hawks or a Roswell Alien, the characters looked the part and reacted exactly as you’d expect while falling down a stair set and colliding with a metal pole.
Yeah, I think I’ll stick to virtual skating for the time being!
Grand Theft Auto IV takes the 7th spot in this list of the best retro games of all time. It’s one of the most iconic open world titles ever published and sees a return to the fan favourite ‘Liberty City’, one of the original settings in the very first game.
It might be 7th in our list, but where does GTA IV come in the main canon? Well, it’s the 4th main title in the series but the 9th GTA title overall.
Power through a city that looks, feels, and probably smells like New York City as you work your way up the social ladder by intimidating and killing people that stand in your way…
… It’s not the kind of social ladder that gets you an invitation to the cricket club Christmas dinner, though you might have guessed that!
Ok, so GTA IV didn’t have the ability to fly planes, but does that really matter? It had huge explosions, epic weapons, and so many missions and side quests that players could just roam for hours at a time simply exploring.
Opening up the elements of the map while hijacking cars, visiting strip clubs, or working as a hired goon were all parts of the journey that gamers went through with this game. It even had its own internet and email platform for characters to use!
I think it’s safe to say that we wouldn’t have titles like Cyberpunk 2077 without GTA IV and the wider series. The NPCs are fantastic, the graphics are superb, and although it’s a pretty harrowing game at times, it’s still a classic that everyone should try…
… as long as they’re old enough, that is!
The original Metal Gear Solid game doesn’t exactly need an introduction either. Still, if I never wrote any introductions, then my articles would be very slim on words, and that wouldn’t be fun on anyone!
MSG was the worthy winner of out best PS1 games article, and for very good reasons. It’s the ultimate stealth title, a thrilling shooting title jam-packed with tactical action from the very first moment.
Yeah, I think we all need to take a few minutes to salute this mighty behemoth of gaming.
And, just like Link, Mario, Spyro, Crash, and the Master Chief, Solid Snake is one of the most recognisable gaming characters of all time!
So, why is MSG one of the best retro games ever made? Well, for starters, it has the coolest name ever, and the main character is called Solid Snake.
Do I really need to elaborate on that?
I’ve mentioned stealth a lot through this section so far. I’ve never been great at these games, but I put the time in with MSG and tried my best to master it.
Ducking and sneaking is often more effective than running in all guns blazing… I learnt that the hard way.
Even though most of this game is viewed from a top-down perspective, having 3D combat moments really draws gamers into the heart of the action. Konami made a masterpiece when they produced MSG, and the series has only gone from strength to strength since.
Pac-Man takes the 4th spot in this list of the best retro games of all time!
EVERYONE knows Pac-Man. Whether you’ve watched him on the Pixels movie or played him in the arcades back in the ’80s, you’re bound to know this dot-gobbling-dude and his four ghost mates.
I can’t believe I’m about to explain what Pac-Man is, but here goes. Players move the little wheel of cheese dude around epic retro mazes, racking up a high score and trying to stay away from the coloured blobs with eyes.
From hoodies to lunchboxes, Pac-Man is a gaming institution. It’s the quintessential arcade game and the one that I think every time I talk about old gaming halls.
Along with his better half, Ms. Pac Man, these gaming icons still fetch a pretty penny on second-hand sites. They appear on countless ‘best of’ titles and have even featured in their own 3D adventure!
Yeah, Pac-Man is a bona fide legend. Who would have thought that something that looks like a cross between a maths symbol and a wheel of parmesan would have become a globally recognised figure!
How many of you just sang the Tetris theme tune out loud? All of you, right?
I picked the NES version of this game because the cover is just fantastic. It’s not the original, coming out five years after the Soviet classic first dropped, but man is it one of the best.
Plus, any game cover that bears the title ‘the Soviet Mind Game’ has to be an absolute belter.
It’s pretty safe to say that without this blockbusting game, we’d never have classics like Columns or Candy Crush, or all the other knock offs that you play on your mobile continuously instead of doing those spreadsheets in the office.
Ok, so it’s not one of the versions of Tetris with all the bells and whistle on like Tetris Effect or Puyo Puyo Tetris, but this simple purple screen brought so much joy to millions over the globe.
Even the background is made up of Tetris blocks, for crying out loud!
The tunes, the multiplayer action, she fact that purple can look good in so many shades; yep, this is the Tetris game for me, and it’s 100% impossible to put down!
We’re down to the final three, and Goldeneye 007 officially takes the bronze medal!
Any list of the best retro games isn’t complete without this classic N64 title. Deathmatches with the golden gun, lasers on the Facility level, fighting Xenia with the RCP90…
… man, this game had it all.
Whether taking on the scenes from the film in one-player mode or slapping your mates silly in the jungle, this game captured the hearts and minds of a generation.
Pierce Brosnan remains the ultimate Bond because of how popular this title was, and seeing him shooting the screen followed by blood running down it never ever get old.
As I mentioned above, the levels pretty much follow the plot of the film. Meet with Natalya and Trevelyan as you move through the levels, logging into your spy file to choose different missions and difficulties.
And the cutscenes were incredible on the N64 too. I mean, they might look pretty stretched and pixelated these days, but boy were they cutting edge back in the ’90s.
For me, there just isn’t a multiplayer title like it. Deathmatches were never the same again after Goldeneye, and I think lots of people still compare new titles to it today.
Be proud of your achievement, Rare, this certainly is one game in a billion!
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 takes the 2nd spot in this list of the best retro games of all time!
Like all of the other memorable characters above, Sonic the Hedgehog is a gaming icon, a hero, even. He’s the poster boy for Sega and one of the most influential characters (and hedgehogs) to ever have lived.
And, thanks to the success of the Sonic the Hedgehog Movie and the Sega Mega Drive Mini, younger gamers are still discovering this game even in 2021.
And Sonic 2 got the formula so right too. Ok, I love Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, but the stages on this game have helped to shape pretty much every other Sonic game that came after it.
And blowing dust out of a cartridge beats crying over scratches on a disc any day.
This is the side-scrolling adventure to top all side-scrolling adventures. Stop Robotnik from stealing the Chaos Emeralds, and play as both tails and Sonic while saving little critters and stacking up those rings.
Yes, this game is 30 years old. Can you believe that? I guess everything goes fast when you move at the speed of light…
… do all hedgehogs dream of being as fast as Sonic.
And finally, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is crowned as the best retro game of all time.
I mean, it had to be, didn’t it. Not only is it the most in-depth adventure of all time and one of the most beautifully crafted games ever made, but it’s also a firm favourite with pretty much every critic in the land.
Ocarina is the only game to receive 99% on Metacritic, topping all of the other titles from any point in gaming history. With bosses like Twinrova and Shadow Gannon and the whole epic journey from Young Link to the saviour of Hyrule, it’s not hard to see why.
Ocarina boasts the best version of Hyrule in any Zelda game too, and the story is so spectacular that Twilight Princess is basically a massive knock-off of it.
Of course, the open world Hyrule in BOTW is phenomenal, but all the people from happy carpenters to the Gerudo guards make this game one of the most immersive titles on any console.
If there’s one game that’s had the biggest impact on my life, it’s Ocarina of Time. Whether on the N64 or the 3DS, its a fascinating tale of bravery, honour, and two worlds connected by a hero chosen by the gods.
Yes, Ocarina takes gold in this list of the best retro games of all time, and we wouldn’t have it any other way!
Seb Santabarbara has bought every Nintendo console that has ever been released in his 31 years on Planet Earth. His favourite game franchise is Zelda, and he’s patiently waiting for Banjo-Kazooie to come back to the fold. When he’s not playing games, he’s travelling the world in his self-converted camper van.