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Ten of The Best Classic Video Games

Updated on September 24, 2012
Nintendo's Mario
Nintendo's Mario | Source

Today, our video games are packed with high tech visuals, complex story plots and multiple button combos. We are always looking forward to the next big game sequel or the next new console with something new in digital graphics or extra media additions (Netflix, music, movie player).

However; there are a huge amount of simple old school video games for those classic console that are just as much fun to play now as they were two or even three decades ago. I have compiled a list a ten of the best video games for the older systems (I’ve also included a couple arcade ones) which are still exciting even by today’s standards. Yes, they don't boast the grandest of stories or graphics, but these games (unlike some of the modern games) have huge replay appeal and offer the wonderful value of being retro.

So, if you still have your original Nintendo Entertainment System, Super Nintendo, Sega Genesis, or Nintendo 64, dig them out of the closet and switch off the PS3, 360 or Wii, (or run out to GameStop and pick up the classic systems) because you’ll feel like a kid again playing these classic games with as much enjoyment as you do now (if not more) with the 21st century games.

Super Mario World
Super Mario World | Source

1. Super Mario World, 1990 (Super Nintendo)

Every Super Mario game in the 80’s and early 90’s were not only huge commercial sucesses but also the franchise that was pushing the boundaries of game play. With the button sensitivity of the jumps (tap equals and small jump and hold gave a huge jump) and the puzzle-like complexity of the dungeon-esque castles, Mario Bros. continues to intrigue younger gamers as well as the older ones.

The sequels gaves the players extra playable characters with different abilities (such as the mushroom guy and the princess) and additional power-ups (like flight) kept the franchise fresh. These extensions of gameplay came to a head with the Super Nintendo game, Super Mario World. It set the standard for many Mario game to come: the improved anime-style graphics, the introduction of the Yoshi dragons, and the map of different worlds you travel through.

This game has more replay value then most simply because of the complexity of the levels and the sheer enjoyment of the characters.

Legend of Zelda
Legend of Zelda | Source

2. Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past, 1992 (Super Nintendo)

Much like Mario Bros., The Legend of Zelda franchise has amassed a huge devoted following and continues with new sequels to the tale of the land of Hyrule. While the original Zelda game was a landmark in itself in the fantasy genres and the standard of the level-up puzzle RPG games (Warcraft and Star War: The Old Republic are games that were obviously inspired by the franchise. There was even a "3D Dot Heroes" game for the PlayStation 3 that gave homage to Zelda), the game, in recent years, has become less and less clandestine.

“A Link To The Past” is one of the best Zelda game around and still fantastic to play. The graphics still hold up (all though they are two-dimensional). The game has as much enjoyment and hours of excitement that even the newer Zelda game like “Twilight Princess” with all its fishing and other side missions, lacks.

Goldeneye 007
Goldeneye 007 | Source

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3. Goldeneye 007, 1997 (Nintendo 64)

The ultimate classic first-person shooter; Goldeneye 007 not only was the first cool Bond game, it also set the bar pretty high for the future of FPS genre. The graphics were awful by today’s standard (but high-tech at the time: its attempt at three-dimensional photo-realism were virtually revolutionary at the time), but the major appeal of the game was that you were inside James Bond’s head (literally) and you had multiple levels of action to try and defeat an army of enemies in whatever way you wished: You could be stealthy or change in with guns blazing.

There were level challenges (like Time Trial and No Damage) that offered upgrade rewards and a four-person multi-player Death Match and team Challenges like Capture The Flag.

The recently “re-release” of the “Goldeneye” game for the Wii and PS3 attempted to update the game’s story and gameplay with the modern online PvP style action. Current 007 Daniel Craig’s likeness and voice were included in a modern retelling of the Goldeneye story, but sadly, although visually improved, the new version pales in comparison to the excitement of the original.

Sonic The Hedgehog
Sonic The Hedgehog | Source

4. Sonic the Hedgehog, 1991 (Sega Genesis)

The impassioned platform game from Sega was a strong competitor for the Mario Bros. franchise.

With a super speed protagonist, vastly improved anime-like graphics, and an adrenaline rush for ring collection, Sonic The Hedgehog offered a new and improved side scroll gameplay at supersonic speed.

Contra | Source

5. Contra, 1987 (Nintendo Entertainment System)

The ultimate “Predator”, with it easy to remember 100 lives cheat code (up, up, down, down, left, right, left, a, b, a, b, start), Contra was the ultimate 2-player side-scrolling shooter.

Sure, you can play it alone, but there is not a game out there today that has the added bonus of being more enjoyable with a partner than playing solo.

With most games today having “online gameplay” as the answer to two or more players, this game lets you do something unimaginable: Sit in the same room as your gaming partner for one of the greatest alien invasion games ever.

The Star Wars Arcade Game
The Star Wars Arcade Game | Source

6. Star Wars, 1983 (Arcade)

Although it can be argued that this game doesn’t count as a “video game” because it’s a full sized “arcade game”, it was the first Star Wars game made. With it's basic “non-graphics” (colored outlined images of the TIE fighter and the Death Star against a black screen) this game still offers a full immersion into a galaxy far, far away as an X-wing pilot reliving the climatic trench run attack on the Death Star from the 1977 Star Wars film. Still as much fun today as it was then this game gives the player that “I’m Luke Skywalker” experience that it matched only by a ride on Star Tours.

Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron | Source

7. Star Wars: Rogue Squadron, 1998 (Nintendo 64)

By the time Star Wars: Rogue Squadron was released the vast majority of Star Wars games were, unfortunately, very weak in true gameplay excitement (relying primarily on the fan base and nostalgia to keep it games on the market). With Rogue Squadron you had a vastly more dynamic gameplay and improved graphics (that previous Star Wars game, like Super Star Wars, lacked) that was matched only by the PC games Tie Fighter and X-Wing.

This game offered the player multiple worlds and missions in all the Rebels’ starships as they battle the evil Empire. It also was a strong nod to the classic Star Wars arcade game.

This game was so popular that a comic book series based on the title was created by Dark Horse comics.

Discs Of Tron
Discs Of Tron | Source

8. Discs Of Tron, 1982 (Arcade)

Another game based on a movie; Oddly enough, Tron was a movie based on video games).

Interestingly, there were two Tron games at the time the film came out: Tron and Discs of Tron. The standard Tron game (with the lightcycle level and light tank level) was found everywhere, but the Discs Of Tron (based on the Jai alai-like game) was rarely found. In fact; the only places I could play it was at the Santa Crus Beach Boardwalk and Disneyland.

Discs Of Tron gave the player a “pong like” gameplay of throwing discs at the opponent; bouncing and arcing the disc off the walls to knock out the floor underneath the enemy. (A fun fact: the Tron video games made more money then the movie did in the theater.)

Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis
Indiana Jones and The Fate of Atlantis | Source

9. Indiana Jones and The Fate Of Atlantis, 1992 (PC)

One of the best point and click games based on a franchise, Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis offers more than just an early 90’s graphics. It also gives ones of the coolest stories for Indy around (in fact many fans who were speculating about the fifth Indiana Jones movie were hoping it would be based on this game).

The story is classic Indiana Jones: Nazis, an old flame and an ancient mystical power. Sure, the game is a PC game so there isn’t much action (punch and shoot type) but there are more strategy and puzzles (collect the right parts and pieces) to the game that give the player that, “I’m as cool and clever as Indiana Jones” feel.

The is also available on "Indiana Jones and The Staff Of Kings" for the Nintendo Wii.

Dragon's Lair's Dirk The Daring
Dragon's Lair's Dirk The Daring | Source

10. Dragons Lair, 1983 (Arcade)

This game was a major innovator in creative gameplay. While other contemporary game were interactive 8-bit graphics. Dragon's Lair and it’s sequel and it's companion game, Space Ace, used hand-drawn animation with timed button interaction to create a compelling action-packed cinematic story while using quality animation on the scale of Disney animated films.

While displaying exciting visuals and a medival fantasy adventure setting, this game offered a challenging eye/hand coordination gameplay that, sadly never took off. However; the cleverness of its style leaves the game with a special charm that makes it worth playing just to watch to animation.

This game is also available on DVD and for the Nintendo Wii.


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    • Edgar Arkham profile image

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from San Jose, CA

      Thanks for reading! I know there are so many great out school games out there than the ones I listed, but I didn't want to go on and on to "100 great games". I agree about DD; I have the original Mortal Kombat download on my PS3.

    • lukecore profile image

      Luke Chant 5 years ago from Manchester

      Super Mario World and A Link To The Past remain two of my favourite games ever, and multiplayer Goldeneye remains my favourite FPS. So many happy hours!

    • profile image

      Domenick Dicce 5 years ago

      Great Hub. I love new games but I also grab the compilations that they put out so I can play the classics. Streets of Rage 2 is still a blast. I would like to give Double Dragon a shout out for its use of team work and fight combo moves.

    • Edgar Arkham profile image

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from San Jose, CA

      Tonyx35, thanks for reading!

    • Edgar Arkham profile image

      Edgar Arkham 5 years ago from San Jose, CA

      Thank you all for reading!

    • Tonyx35 profile image

      J Antonio Marcelino 5 years ago from Illinois, USA

      Great hub! Have played them all except the last three on the list. The info on Indiana Jones and The Fate Of Atlantis is especially useful to me. I've always wanted to play it, but compatibility and availability always stopped me.

      I'm actually working on a Hub for Star Wars Rogue Squadron. Having a little trouble beating the game. Who knew that a command shuttle could be such a handful! Voted up, +1 Awesome

    • Richard Perazzo profile image

      Richard Perazzo 5 years ago from Shirley, NY

      Great article! Its a shame that I've only played a few of the games on the list. I guess I'm missing out.

    • Marina Lazarevic profile image

      Marina 5 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Neat Hub! I grew up with Super Nintendo & Sega Genesis. I now have an xbox 360 and have been considering buying the Wii U when it comes out so that I can play the Mario games again. I had no idea you could rent old console systems at GameStop -- that's awesome!

    • unvrso profile image

      Jose Juan Gutierrez 5 years ago from Mexico City

      I used to play super Mario! I have a brother who plays all those interactive video games from this decade. He invited me to play once, but could not get into the play. Some games are very cruel.

      In the present, I sometimes stop by video game rooms where the new generations play with almost real wrestlers and other games like driving on a freeway, and robots killing people in the cities.

      You wrote an interesting hub! Voted up!

    • cfin profile image

      cfin 5 years ago from The World we live in

      The best two player side scroller ever is rayman origins. Check it out. Its well under rated. Great article!