Most readers likely know what a retro game is already, but a small introduction to the concept is still important to clear any doubt. Any video game from a past era can qualify as a retro game, provided that the original hardware (computers/consoles) and software copies are no longer in production.
It is a common misconception that retro games and pixel-art are interrelated. Retro games had pixelated graphics due to their age, but that is not a requirement for any game to be marked as a classic or retro video game. For example, most arcade games of old such as Galaxian, Space Invaders, Galaga, Pac-Man, Defender, and Donkey Kong were built on pixel art. They are, by all means, some of the best retro games of all time.
At the same time, modern pixel-art video games such as Enter the Gungeon, Celeste, Huntdown, and Dead Cells which emulate a similar style are not retro games. They are still great games mind you, but they do not qualify as retro just because of their developer’s choice in art style. With all that out of the way, let’s check out some of the best, true retro games from the past next.
Fighting – Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (1991)
After the Golden Age of Arcade Video Games ended in 1983, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior is widely credited for almost singlehandedly taking the arcade industry out of its slump. Originally an exclusive to the CP System Arcade Machines, no other fighting game has managed to stay as relevant even 31 years later!
Not only is Street Fighter II: The World Warrior one of the best retro fighting games, it’s also one of the highest selling video games in the history of gaming itself. The game introduced 2-player fights to video games for the first time and it was flawless. Is it really a wonder that Street Fighter II is widely accepted as one of the best video games ever developed?
Racing – Sega Rally Championship (1994)
Sega Rally Championship was originally released as a Sega Model 2 arcade exclusive, but it became so popular that they decided to port Sega Rally Championship onto the Sega Saturn in 1995. The racing game gained even more popularity soon after, and Sega decided to cash in once again by porting it onto Windows in 1997.
As it turned out, the game was a huge hit three years later on PC as well. The retro racer has remained a milestone achievement for racing games overall and Sega Rally Championship was even featured on BitCade’s 7 of the Best Retro Driving Games list. So, what made Sega Rally Championship such a Success?
There are several reasons, but the most important one out of them all is that it was the first racer to sport “actual” different tracks. For the first time, the differences between the driving surfaces were not just cosmetic, but they each had separate frictional properties that the driver had to manage and adjust with accordingly.
3D Platformer – Super Mario Galaxy (2007)
3D platformers are not really a popular genre, except when it comes to Super Mario games of course! If you have played Super Mario Odyssey on the Switch and enjoyed it, know that it was largely inspired by Super Mario Galaxy. Even if you are not particularly fond of retro games, rest assured that you will love playing Super Mario Galaxy even today. Don’t be surprised if you end up liking it even more than Super Mario Odyssey because that has happened!
Super Mario Galaxy is arguably the best Mario game ever developed and undeniably one of the best video games in the history of gaming itself. If you missed out on the great galactic adventure, don’t worry, there are Wii emulators that you can use to play it on any PC and even on some Android smartphones.
Stealth/Action – Metal Gear Solid (1998)
Did Metal Gear games only get better with time? Yes, at least until Phantom Pain they did! However, that does not take anything away from this absolute beast of a spy-stealth action game that started the whole genre, courtesy of Hideo Kojima. The original MGS is regarded as the best stealth-based action game from the PlayStation (1) era, as well as the single revolutionary game which created an entire genre for developers to expand on.
If you have not played any of the games mentioned here, do try them out. There is a reason why gamers still love them so much, even after so many decades.
Warren James is the lead editor for Diving Daily. Warren has written for many publications including the New York Daily News, Vanity Fair and Yahoo. Warren is based in New York city and covers issues affecting local communities. In addition to following the day-to-day life of the Big Apple, Warren also has a passion for martial arts.