Retro video games: 20 of the best retro games you can play today - and top tips on how to find them

Retro games are everywhere - here are some of the best you can pick up and play today

Last week, GoldenEye 007 reappeared on modern consoles for the first time in decades. The game is beloved, and holds a special nostalgic place in many gamers’ hearts. As such, the re-release of a 26-year-old game generated the same kind of hype you might expect from a long-awaited blockbuster release.

It’s undoubtedly fun to revisit if it captured your imagination in the 90s - especially if you’re an Xbox Game Pass subscriber or own developer Rare’s Rare Replay collection of retro games and can enjoy GoldenEye at no extra cost - but the game doesn’t hold up all too well in 2023.

Even improved control schemes can’t cover up the fact that GoldenEye is a relic of the past - fun to revisit, but you’re not likely to be sinking hundreds of hours into the split-screen multiplayer as you did all those years ago (unpopular opinion, Agent Under Fire was superior anyway).

Graphically, it was always going to look simplistic up against the modern day’s technological behemoths. But with everything sharpened for 4K displays, graphical hiccups that were otherwise unnoticed on the low-res monitors of 1997 became glaringly obvious.

But the game has drummed up interest in the already beloved retro gaming scene, prompting even casual gaming hobbyists to wonder just where they can find their next nostalgic fix. Well, fret no more, because we’ve put together a little guide on seeking out older titles (we’re defining ‘retro’ as at least a decade old here) to whisk you back to easier days.

(Image: Xbox Game Studios)
(Image: Xbox Game Studios)
(Image: Xbox Game Studios)

Retro collections are your friend

Retro video games are big business - one of the reasons this very article was pitched in the first place - and many legendary developers and studios are always looking for wars to turn a quick buck.

What this has led to, is an influx of retro game collections, bundles of dozens of older games at a time, often enhanced in some way for modern gamers, and delivered as a genuinely frugal package.

There’s the aforementioned Rare Replay of course, but another notable retro bundle would be Atari 50: Anniversary Collection - not only do you get over 100 games, the collection also includes newly shot interviews with former Atari employees, archival footage and six new games inspired by Atari classics.

Here’s a list of other retro collections to check out:

  • Atari Flashback Classics
  • Contra Anniversary Collection
  • Konami Arcade Classics Anniversary Collection
  • SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
  • Street Fighter 30th Anniversary Collection
  • Namco Museum
  • Capcom Beat-Em-Up Bundle
  • Genesis Classics Collection
(Photo: Bethesda Softworks)
(Photo: Bethesda Softworks)
(Photo: Bethesda Softworks)

Look out for new games

Actively seeking out new games might seem completely at odds with an article about retro gaming, but hear us out. If you’re a fan of retro games, there are plenty of newer titles that will quench your thirst for video game action inspired by the arcade memories of your youth.

They may not have that nostalgic bite, and you won’t be able to fall back on muscle memory with many of the new experiences, but in terms of style, feel and gameplay, there are plenty of developers still looking to pay homage to a particular period in time.

Recent notable examples from the past year or so include Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, a beat ‘em up that borrows stylistically from the arcade and home console Turtles games developed by Konami during the 1980s and 1990s, Return to Monkey Island, a belated (31 years!) sequel to classic point-and-click adventure Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge, and Sonic Mania, a classic Sonic the Hedgehog game that could’ve come out in 1987, but was actually released in 2017.

But it’s not just long-awaited new entries into old series you should be checking out, and even shinier looking games - which may make use of more modern technology to give us graphics that just weren’t possible 30 years ago, look to carry on the legacy of retro classics.

2022’s Tunic is essentially a new Zelda game from Nintendo’s early-90s heyday, and 2021’s Metroid Dread may look fancier than any of the original Metroid games ever did, but it’s essentially just another game in that series.

Even Xbox’s recently shadow-dropped exclusive Hi-Fi RUSH carries an artstyle that harkens back to cel-shaded roller-blading adventure Jet Set Radio and classic beat-’em-ups like God Hand.

Pay attention to remakes

Another, more modern trend is the straight-up remake of classic games from years past.

Sometimes, these games don’t necessarily reflect what came before in many ways at all (see Capcom’s recent update of Resident Evil 2, which eschews a fixed-camera perspective in favour of a fully controlled third-person action-adventure styling), but EA’s recently released Dead Space slaps a graphical sheen on the old game while updating a few core mechanics for modern comfort.

Recent must-own remakes include Activision’s reimagining of the first Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater games (Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2), Nintendo’s infinitely charming 2019 take on The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, and Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy’s modern-day versions of all three classic PlayStation platformers.