11 Retro Games that are Still Amazing Today

Modern gaming has come a long way, and now, there are plenty of gamers who never got to experience earlier generations of gaming. Shortcomings hinder some games and consoles, but there are many games that modern gamers need to remember and play. These 11 games are must plays that still remain amazing, innovative, and highly playable by modern standards.

11 Retro Games that are Still Amazing Today
Games have evolved a lot over the last few decades with the advent of more impressive hardware, bigger budgets, and way more special effects and cinematics. With that said, many older games blazed the path for modern games and still hold up very well today. Some of the criteria for a game to hold up today means to have fun and rewarding gameplay, intuitive controls, decent enough visuals to not hinder gameplay, and lasting appeal that hasn't worn off with time.
Below, I highlight twelve personal choices–limiting it to one game per franchise–that are still amazing games today. Whether you are a younger gamer who hasn't had the chance to go back to a lot of the legacy consoles, or you missed out on a lot of older games, I argue that these games are still amazing and completely worth your time; they hold up to modern games and in some cases, beat them out.

12. Twisted Metal Black

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This is probably the oddest choice for this list. Twisted Metal Black was acclaimed when it came out and remains one of the seminal PS2 releases. Its one flaw is that it is very difficult, but the game itself has really smooth controls and addicting gameplay. There is ample health that can be found in each stage, and the game rewards players for exploring the level and knowing when to take risks to pursue enemy combatants and when to lay back and find health and upgrades.

It's arguably the best entry in the classic car combat series and took it for a darker ride. Characters like Sweet Tooth and Warthog have insane backgrounds that bring them to the tournament, and the story mode showed off its demented cast and their horrible deeds with some cool cutscenes. The levels themselves are even grimmer and full of deadly traps and paranoia.

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Why it made the list

Twisted Metal Black isn't just retro, it represents the very best of a genre that has barely seen an explosion since the PS2 era. The game has multiple branching paths, a bunch of great cars to fit your personal play style and the gameplay is still fast-paced and addictive, in part thanks to the simple and responsive controls.

 Returning to this game made me really want more from the car combat genre. It's an absolute gem that still looks and plays very well, and the difficulty is completely surmountable with a little patience and strategy. Sure, it's a ridiculous premise, but this game is just too much fun to miss out on.

11. Sonic the Hedgehog 2

It's always hard to choose an entry from among legendary series like Sonic The Hedgehog, which have so many popular titles to choose from. While I think Sonic CD may be the most creative and unique retro Sonic title, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 remains the pivotal must-play game in the series.

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Sonic the Hedgehog 2 added the spin dash as well as Sonic's lovable comrade Tails. It's a bit easier than the original (though still quite the challenge to beat without saves), and the levels seem a little more fleshed out. Sonic CD throws in the future and past stages, which is cool, but a little confusing for newcomers, whereas Sonic 2 is nothing but straightforward in its mechanics while still offering huge stages with tons of secrets and fast-paced gameplay.

Why it made the list

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is often regarded as the best Sonic game on the Mega Drive, if not of all time. The addition of the spin dash made the game feel faster and more interesting, and stages like Chemical Plant and Casino Night Zones are some of the best of all time. The game still feels fast, looks beautiful, and controls like a dream. If you love Sonic Mania and never got a chance to play the originals, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is one of the all-time great platformers and has some of the best level design seen to date. It's simple enough for anyone to pick up and play but challenging enough to entertain the best of platform gurus. 

10. Mega Man X

This was a very hard choice since Mega Man 2 is often considered the premier Mega Man game. Mega Man 2 is amazing, but it lacks Mega Man's full arsenal of moves and is quite daunting for newcomers, including very hard stages and old-school issues like respawning enemies and tedious menus to change upgrades. Mega Man X, on the other hand, is a little faster paced and shows off Mega Man's full move set. It's one of the best games in the X series and a great starting point for anyone wanting to see exactly what makes the Blue Bomber so special to gamers far and wide.

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Why it made the list

Mega Man X is an absolute classic. I love the original series, but this is the game that got me into Mega Man as a young boy. I was amazed by Mega Man's vigorous re-design and how fast the stages moved. Stuff like wall jumping and getting to slide around made the levels faster and seemingly more immersive.

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Mega Man X is loaded with classic enemies, and the difficulty is scaled down a bit from the original series. It's still a challenge, but Mega Man X is just about the best starting point for someone new to the series and remains one of the best Mega Man games ever. 

9. Tetris

Chances are you have all played Tetris. I contemplated leaving it off the list due to the sheer amount of remakes and other versions of the game exist on nearly every platform. This was the legendary puzzle game that put the genre on the map and featured falling blocks that fit into certain other blocks and fall down faster and faster. Whether or not you enjoy puzzle games or not, Tetris is a wall that can never be torn down in gaming history.

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Why it made the list

Tetris is insanely simple to learn and play but very hard to master. No matter how many remakes and versions exist, people tend to gravitate to the original mode, which still exists on every new rendition of the game. It's a tried and tested recipe, and you can enjoy this masterpiece no matter what console you have it on.

8. Nights Into Dreams

I bet you didn't think anything from the Sega Saturn would make the list, did you? Nights Into Dreams, howeveris very original and made by Sonic Team. Nights is a little odd to figure out at first glance, but the gameplay is simple, and I find it to be just as fun as most Sonic games, as well as being quite a bit easier to finish.

Nights into Dreams involves flying through rings and collecting orbs to make it to a boss before time runs out. You occasionally walk the ground as a child, and if you take too long you awaken from the dream and have to start over. It's a hard game to summarize, but suffice to say, it's an amazing 2D-ish platformer where you fly around avoiding enemies and collecting stuff to get to the next area and eventually challenge a boss.

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Why it made the list

There is nothing else quite like Nights into Dreams anywhere, and the gameplay is really fun, just like any good Sonic Team game. The graphics look good for the Saturn, and the artistic direction and characters are very endearing. Some of the emphasis on speed and rings is kept from Sonic, and this is truly one of the most underrated platformers of all time.

It did receive a remake on Steam and the PS3/360, which enhanced the visuals, but you can still play the original Saturn mode as well. It's a bizarre game, but give it a chance, and you will find yourself in a magical world that doesn't feel like any other as well as a better game than most other platformers out there. Unfortunately, Nights became largely forgotten due to the failure of the Sega Saturn. 

7. The Legend of Zelda Windwaker

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I can already tell people are going to shout about A Link to the Past and Ocarina of Time. The Wind Waker is a bit of a black sheep in the series despite having the same quality gameplay the series came to be known for. Although highly criticized cel-shading, The Wind Waker has an amazing world full of secrets, superb dungeon design, and a uniquely traversable eco-system that is mostly comprised of sea and traveling by boat.

Why it made the list

The Wind Waker is timelessly stylish. It's beautiful, and the animation and graphics are some of the best of all time. Exploring by sea sets it apart, and the world feels enchanted and brings players back to a sense of childhood wonder. Sure, after Majora's Mask, fans wanted something more heavy and realistic, but time has shown that The Wind Waker is one of the most enduring entries in the series, and everything from Toon Link's beautiful animations to the dungeons is everything a Zelda fan could want.

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Wind Waker is a great Zelda game, and any fan of the series with an open mind will come to realize that if they give it a chance. Maybe it isn't the best in the series, but it's quite possibly the most beautiful Zelda game, and the GameCube controller felt great. The Wind Waker remains one of the most beautiful accomplishments in gaming. 

6. Super Mario World

It's a really hard task to choose a single Mario game that represents the best of retro platforming. Mario 3 is beloved, and Yoshi's Island is still a benchmark in platforming history. However, if there is one Mario game that holds up over time, it has to be Super Mario World, originally released on the SNES. It's the birth of a lot of iconic Mario features and one of the best entries to date.

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Why it made the list

There is no game quite like Super Mario World; it's an utterly magical game that built on and improved the NES trilogy's formula and is arguably better than most, if not all, newer Mario games. The controls are far smoother than its predecessors, and the secrets and the highly explorable overhead map was staggering at the time. Things like Star Road, ghost houses, and riding Yoshi's have been etched into Mario history because of this game.

Some people will always love Mario 3 more, but for a newcomer, Super Mario World seems like an easier invite into the amazing series and has a deeper world to explore. It features an awesome soundtrack, and the red levels denoting secrets made everything a bit simpler to figure out. It has a well-balanced difficulty and remains one of the richest platformers ever made.

5. Marvel Vs Capcom 2

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When it comes to the fighting game genre, series like Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter immediately come to mind, and they could easily make this list, but Marvel Vs Capcom 2 remains one of the best fighting games of all time, and has what must be, the largest cast of fighters ever assembled in a single video game. You can choose from Capcom heroes like Mega Man and Guile etc. or go the Marvel route and choose between legendary comic heroes like Spider-Man, Doctor Doom, and Magneto etc.

Each match is 3 Vs 3 so there are tons of characters you can choose between and use. Every character has a unique move list, and they all have assist attacks they can use in the fight.

Why it made the list

The fighting game tediousness of remembering moves and getting stuck in endless combos doesn't dissipate with Marvel Vs Capcom 2, but this game runs really smoothly and features the greatest cast of fighters ever. It's easy to learn how to play competently, and it's really fun to tag between your favorite heroes and try out new characters. There were also a ton of unlockables, and playing with a friend gets superheated. While a Mortal Kombat match can end in seconds, there is a lot of strategy in MVC2 that makes the matches take longer: you can switch out characters to preserve health, use assist attacks, and charge and use superpowers as you wish.

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In short, if you find the typical fighter a bit frustrating, MVC2 changes the formula just enough and plays fluidly. The backgrounds and animations are cartoonish and beautiful, and as long as you are familiar with both companies franchises, this game completely transcends a simple fighting game and remains better than the sequels. It's arguably the deepest fighting game to ever grace the universe. 

4. Final Fantasy VI

With all the great Final Fantasy games, it's hard to pick just one that everyone should play. While FFVII is my personal favorite, polygonal graphics, and a potential remake likely make it less playable for newer gamers.

FFVI is still an utterly beautiful game, with one of the best cast of characters, villains, soundtrack, and story in the entire series. Each character has a unique skill in combat, and the game is surprisingly fast for its time–despite some annoying random encounters.

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Why it made the list

The one reason I had trouble choosing this entry is the inability to run at the beginning of the game without equipping sprint shoes, a completely archaic and old school necessity in the game. However, you get that accessory very early in the game, and later remakes have allowed you to run without needing to equip it.

This is one of the best Final Fantasy games, and also one of the very best RPGs of all time. There is hardly a fault with this game and the SNES 2D graphics still hold up very well today. The atmosphere of the game is dark, but a colorful cast of characters really brings a keeling world to life. The side quests add to an already meaty adventure, and the combat system is about as fun as any Final Fantasy game has been able to invent. With no true remake on the horizon, the original game is still a must play for any RPG fan. 

3. Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy's Kong Quest

Wow, I had to sit and stare at my computer screen while pondering whether or not to choose the original DKC  or this magnificent second installment. In the end, they are both so amazing and fit the parameters of this list so well, I had to ask, "if one could play only one DKC game, which would I recommend?", and I had to choose Diddy's Kong Quest.

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Why it made this list

Donkey Kong Country games set a new vision for the 2D platforming genre. The graphics were vibrant and modern, and the game had a really hip vibe that made it immediately loveable and cool. The funky characters and sometimes hilarious baddies were great, but more than anything, this level of depth wasn't previously seen in platformers. Every level was full of secrets, there was a challenging DK coin to find in every stage, a secret world, and this game just felt enormous. There are certainly longer platformers out there now, but only the best gamers out there will be able to collect all the secrets and beat each stage.

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While I do miss DK in this game, both Diddy and Dixie were great characters, and Dixie's ability to fly with her hair immediately set this game apart from the original. The stages seemed a bit more complex, and after all, who doesn't love to ride roller coasters on a giant skull and jump in honey?

2. Castlevania Symphony of the Night

Castlevania has seen many great releases, but Symphony of the Night was the beginning of a stylistic change for the series, sending it into a more explorative setting, deemed "Metroidvania". It featured a huge castle to explore, with different weapons, armor, and upgrades, leveling up, and the music and environments were in vogue with the previous games.

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Why it made the list

A favorite Castlevania comes down to preference, but nowadays, Metroidvania games are pretty common releases, some of them being high quality that can match both classic series in the title of the genre. However, Symphony of the Night is still among the best, if not the pinnacle of Metroidvania, and it remains very playable. While a game like Super Metroid can be very cryptic and alienating to younger gamers, Symphony of the Night will rarely cause you to be clueless or give you no ideas of where to go next.

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The combat is amazing, the story dark and exciting, and Dracula's Castle is just so damn beautiful, featuring tons of stunning environments, some of which returned, including the Long Library and Clock Tower. Not many games can boast nearly as great aesthetics alongside polished and crisp gameplay. This is one of the very best games of all time and mixes a lot of cool genres together.  

1. Chrono Trigger

Chrono Trigger is the #1 game on a lot of lists. There isn't a lot to add. It's the influential SNES RPG from Squaresoft about time travel. It borrowed a little bit from the Final Fantasy combat system and is often considered the best game on the legendary SNES.

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Why it made the list

Chrono Trigger does literally everything right. It has one of the most lovable cast of characters of all time, and each era was large enough to explore and get a feel for without becoming overwhelming. There is a rhythm to everything in CT, and the game length is perfect for any fans of RPGs, and even non-RPG fans.

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The story of this game is nothing short of incredible, and the new game plus allows players to toy with the many possible outcomes of messing with time. The soundtrack can bring a grown man to tears; the graphics are quite possibly the very best to be found on the SNES, and no RPG has ever succeeded in making time travel so meaningful. If you haven't played this game yet, stop whatever you are doing right now and find a way to play it. Chrono Trigger represents the very best of gaming and remains just as strong today as it did in 1996. 

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