Top 50 Retro Games EVER!

These are in my opinion the most significant of the classic games. These are the ones that pushed the envelope, blazed new trails and kept us glued to the TV screen or kept us in the arcade. These are both arcade and home games. My only criteria was they had to be pre-Nintendo, have been fun, had some significance to the industry and had some originality. I decided to include both the arcade and the home versions because some games were much more significant at the arcade than the home version. Send any mail to let me know what you think. Let me know what you agree with and which games you think I am way off base on.

50. PENGO-Not only was it a defeat the enemy and move to the next stage kind of game, but it also added the puzzle element. You received bonus points for lining up the specially marked blocks. While it may seem minor at the time, it was a predecessor to puzzles in games. Plus, it was good to see another original gaming character, this time being a penguin.

49. KC MUNCHKINS-Another game that set the stage for a lawsuit. While it was a blatant ripoff of Pacman, it did offer some new features that weren't found in Pacman. The main addition was the ability to create your own mazes. This was the first step towards making the game interactive. For once we could have some control over the game we played. We could stamp our own individuality on it even if it was erased when the game was turned off. We all felt a little like programmers.

48. GOLF-As far as I know, this was the first golf game in video game for. It came out for the 2600 and would set the pace for what has become a huge market in the video game market, especially the computer market. While the computer game of golf has evolved quite a bit, the basics were established way back then and the seeds were planted.

47. One on One-This may not seem like alot as it started as a computer game and was ported to the Colecovision and the Atari 7800, but this was the first game to featured endorsed players in the game (Larry Bird and Dr J) and was one of the reasons for the success of Electronic Arts, who are the biggest software company in the world!  So if you are looking for a game to thank or blame for stuff like Buster Douglas Boxing and the Madden series, then this is the game.  

46. RIVER RAID-As always, Activision provided another huge selling, rapid firing game. This time you pilot a plane that has to go down a river and destroy everything in its path. A very addictive game and one that help create the vertical shooter market that was so prevalent in the late eighties and early nineties. Games like Xevious and others were later versions of games like this.

45. SPACE WARS-This was the original space game and helped influence Asteroids. The only reason this game isn't higher is that most people never played it, due to how early it came out. Still a very advanced game considering its release date.

44. STAR RAIDERS-One of the first games to have you going across the galaxy. The game was so much more advanced that it even came with its own joystick. This game was popular on all three of the retro Atari systems (2600, 5200 and 8-Bit computers). Great game that was a hit on all of the systems and an original game!

43. SPY HUNTER-Great racing game where you could either shoot your enemies or bump them off the road. Plus one of the first games that had powerups you could pick up to improve your vehicle. We all know how significant powerups were to the shooters of the Nintendo era. The game also had some great music. The Coleco version is still a great game, and one  that I feel is better than even the Nintendo.

42. FORTUNE BUILDER-This Coleco only game took the Utopia idea in a new direction. This time you were building a whole city with resorts, stores, gas stations, etc... Was the next step forward towards the Sim city type game. Actually was quite advanced for its era. Plus, you could have two players building at once. Great fun!

41. DIG DUG-Created a new genre of game where you dug under the ground and could drop boulders on creatures heads.  Boulderdash and others took the idea and improved on it. The idea that you could literally blow up your opponents was a unique addition. It added some strategy as you could use this as a way to get them under rocks and drop them on their heads.  I also like the different vegetables that appeared on each level.

40. PITSTOP-Who would have thought that one little addition would completely change a game? The addition of a pitstop where you had to quickly change the tires and fill the gas tank made this a great racing game. This new skill to master kept me busy when an ordinary racing game would have been swept aside.

39. Mario Bros-This game set the stage for the transformation of the game industry.  While this little game is often forgotten, it began many of the staples of the later Mario games as well as the numerous ripoffs.  The hitting the creature to stun it and then having to kick it to get rid of it, was used extensively in Super Mario Bros.  It also marked the start of Mario getting top billing and showed he was a viable character without Donkey Kong.  While this may seem trivial, I look at this game as the bridge from Donkey Kong to Super Mario Bros.  Oh yeah, it is a great two player game and you cannot have enough of them!

38. DEMON ATTACK-Sure it was a lot like Phoenix, but it is the game that put Imagic on the map. It helped to build an image for what was possibly the #2 or at worst #3 independent software developer of their era. The endless barrage of flying alien ships kept those joysticks ablazing and the thought of getting to the mother ship and destroying it was enough to keep us going. 

37. Xevious-Here was the beginning of the side scrolling shooters.   This is one of the first games to add the ability to shoot and drop bombs on obstacles below.  It also featured the end of the level bosses and the powerups.   While many of the features were used earlier, it was Xevious that brought them all together in a winning formula!

36. KEYSTONE KAPERS-Another of the games than cemented Activision as the premier software company. While chasing the crook was fun, it was the new obstacle that added each level that made you keep playing to see what new items would be added next level.  In an era of the same, but only harder, this game took it one step further.  Sorta a variation of the Pacman fruit.

35. MOON PATROL-Fun little game where you moved your space buggy across the moon while jumping over craters and shooting rocks and enemy ships. Also had a catchy tune that grew on you. One of the first games that allowed you to continue from where you left off.  All those quarter eaters from the late 80's and early 90's should pay homage to this game!

34. WARLORDS-Probably the first four player game. This was a blast as a four player game. Nothing like the strategy that was involved in determining who to attack and who to ally with for the moment.  Add in the ability to hold the ball and you have one nerve wracking game! Made us dream of the possibilities of things to come like multiplayer sports games, etc...

33. STARGATE-While it was a sequel to Defender, it was so much different, that it is more like an original game. More enemies, stargates to jump through and other surprises made this an awesome gaming experience. This proved that video games, unlike Hollywood, could make great sequels.   This game was so good that it was released under two names on the Atari 2600, Stargate and Defender II. :)

32. GALAXIAN-At first it looked like another Space Invaders, but then the alien ships flew down at you. You then realized it was a new challenge. Took a classic game and put a small twist on it and you ended up with an all new game.  I always loved how your rockets would pop out of the nose of your ship. 

31. QIX-One of those games that was just so original that it was in its own category. You had to fill in 65% of the screen and avoid the electrical menaces. It was a one of kind then and still is today. Proof that there is always one more original idea out there.

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30. GORF-It was like playing four different games at once! Most games were the same thing over and over with a few added surprises, but this game was four different games blended together. Each one was different and fun. Plus it talked! Something that was quite rare back then. Lastly add the fact that you rose in ranks every time you completed a level made you want to try again to get a better rank. We all wanted to be a Space General!

29. INTELLIVISION MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL-While it seems dated by today's standards, it was one of the reasons that Intellivision did well. There was a great advertising campaign where they put it right next to the awful 2600 baseball. It was like night and day and made every sport fan want an Intellivision. Still has better controls than many of the games that are still coming out. With a push of the button, you chose who went after the ball. Plus, what other game lets you bunt a homerun?

28. ZAXXON-First you have the neat 3D effect. Sure it is done better today and every game seem to incorporate it, but back then it was novel. It was so different, it usually took you a few quarters before you got the hang of it. Plus, you had the even more confusing space scene. It still confuses me to this day. I just keep shooting and hope they are at the right level to be hit. Plus, this was one of the first games to have the end of the level boss. That big ugly robot who gave us all fits the first time we encountered him. The game was also one of the reasons for the initial success of the Colecovision. I know it was one of the reasons I bought one.

27. FROGGER-Sure it makes you ask a lot of questions like why does water kill a frog and what kind of highway is that, but it is a fun game. The simple premise of guiding the frog across the highway and over the river to his home is something that is hard to describe. Maybe it is the ecological side of us coming out. Maybe we want to make amends for any animals we may have hit with our car. Maybe it is just so much fun!  I am going with answer #3!

26. MR. DO-I know that Dig Dug was the predecessor, but Mr. Do outshined the game in so many ways that it deserves a better rating. You added strategy with boulders that didn't immediately break if only dropped one row. You could now wait for multiple monsters to come together and collect more points. There was the spelling of extra to get a free guy and the ball you could throw but had to wait before you could toss another. It was the superior game in every way. Made us all want to be clowns.

25. PITFALL-This is the game that put Activision on the map. Sure they had a bunch of great games before it, but this one was a classic. Guiding Pitfall Harry through multiple screens against different obstacles was something we couldn't get enough of. No surprise it was ported to most game systems. Still a great game today. Go ahead and play it.

24. QUEST FOR THE RINGS-One of the few bright spots for the Odyssey II. It was a great dungeon and dragon game that allowed two players to unite to defeat the wraiths and other beasts. Especially tough was the huge dragon. But what made this game groundbreaking was that it was the first game (again to my knowledge) that allowed you to choose what character you wanted to be. You could be a fighter, magic user or thief. So you and your friend could each be a different character. Up until the game, you had no choice. You were the predetermined character in the game. Plus, each character had special powers that made them unique. It was as close as you could get the a video version of Dungeons & Dragons. Plus, there was the unique and useless gameboard that came with it.

23. SUPERMAN-This was one of the first licensed games. Most game up until now were original ideas. But this was based on a comic book character. You got to be Superman as you flew around Metropolis and caught bad guys. You had multiple screens to travel around in and it gave the impression of a real city (or as close as you could get back then). One of the first in a long line of games based on licensed properties.

22. BATTLEZONE-Another quality Atari game. This time you were in control of a tank. One of the early games to use the first person perspective that is so prevalent in games today. Instead of looking down at the action or from a distance, you were part of the action. When your tank was shot and your screen cracked, you felt it. Was even real enough for some generals to commission a special version.

21. JUNGLE KING/JUNGLE HUNT-While the game wasn't anything groundbreaking, it introduced us all to the wonderful world of copyright infringement. I still remember when the game first rolled off the truck and the familiar Tarzan scream. Seeing that half naked man howling and swinging from vines made me think of Tarzan. Guess the Edgar Rice Burroughs estate agreed as they were swift in their lawsuit. It wasn't long before Tarzan was replaced by some guy in a pith helmet. The name also changed too. The gameplay was the same but the game had lost something. For the first time, I realized that the gaming market was big business and that day a little of the magic was lost.

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20. Q*BERT-My all-time favorite arcade and home console game! Q*Bert was probably the second most known character of his time with only Pacman more famous. You had to guide the big nose, bad mouthed creature around a pyramid and change the colors of the blocks. Such a simple concept, yet so addicting that I still play it regularly today.

19. UTOPIA-While the Intellivision was always second choice among gamers, it did provide some real unique gaming experiences. Utopia was the grandaddy to all the Sim games that have been the rage since Sim City reinvented the genre. Before all this was the simple, yet effective Utopia. While a fun one player game, it was a riot as a two player game. Nothing was more satisfying that sinking your friends fishing boats or laughing as a hurricane wipes him out and hoping that it doesn't turn on you. The mixture of damage you could inflict along with the unpredictable natural disasters made this a fun experience that was never the same.

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18. BERZERK-The first game to my knowledge that spoke. It was a decent game that would have faded into obscurity, but the taunting robotic voice added the extra spark. Now it was personal. You wanted every darn robot dead. No machine was going to insult you and get away with it. Proof that sometimes its the little things that make a game.  Plus, you have one of the coolest bad guys ever, the villianous smiley face, Evil Otto. 

17. TEMPEST-Pure, mind-blowing fun! This game was so unique for the time, it had its own cult following. Whenever I went to the arcade, there was always someone on this game. Most games were hot for a month or so after the initial release, then they cooled off. Not this game. It continued to pull people in. It made them play again and again. Something about the vector graphics caught our eye. Something with the unique looking stages kept us involved. Just a killer game.

16. GALAGA-Sure there was Galaxian, but Galaga was so much better. You could add an extra ship for double the fire power. You had bonus screens where you strived to be perfect. And you had the best little feature in a game; the hit percentage. In the back of my mind, I always tried to be accurate, even when death was raining down on me. This made a great game even better.

15. ROBOTRON 2084-Any game that is still so darn fun after a decade is alright in my book. This is one of a handful of classic games that will still steal my quarters to this day. Such a simple premise, shoot everything. You had two joysticks to move and shoot with and blew away anything that got in your path. I must now take this time to thank the programmers for making the helpless humans in this game immune to our bullets. If they weren't I think this game would have driven us insane (even more than it already has).

14. DEFENDER-This game was deemed a failure before it even came out. It was considered too tough to play. Sure it had a lot of buttons, but we gamers can adapt to anything. Possibly the first game to give you multiple weapons. You could shoot, warp, and fire smart bombs. It made you feel practically god-like. That was until you were shot down.

13. MISSILE COMMAND-During an era where the cold war was still going strong and where the stockpiles of nuclear weapons was at ridiculous levels, came along a game that was a product of our fears. You controlled three missile bases and had to shoot the missiles up to stop incoming missiles. Below were six cities that you tried to save from the barrage. There were also planes and space ships that went by and dropped even more bombs. The action kept getting tougher and tougher and no matter how good you were, eventually all your cities were destroyed. Sort of a grim message. Still a great game where half the fun was naming the cities and doing everything possible to save your hometown.

12. BREAKOUT-A simple game that was devilishly addictive. You had a paddle and you had to hit a ball at a wall of bricks and knock them down. Breakout soon became Super Breakout and later Arkanoid. Proof that a simple concept could be great.

11. JOUST-A unique gaming experience that was one of the first games to let two players work in unison. Teamwork is what made this a great game. Plus, you had the different screens where you were given bonuses for staying alive and the egg gathering level. Plus you had the pterodactyl to make things interesting. Great game for one and especially two players.

10. ADVENTURE-While this was only on the home consoles, it began the dungeon crawling craze that is still prevalent. Even newer games like Doom still use some of the elements set in this original. This is the first game to use the find the key to continue. First to have multiple items available to complete your quest. It was also the first game to have a hidden Easter egg. You may have only been a block, but you were a macho block. You could carry items that were eons bigger than you and slay monstrous dragons. Great game that still stands up to the test of time.

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9. CENTIPEDE-A great game that pitted you against insects. We all hate insects (except a handful of scientists and bug collectors) and zapping some is a pleasant experience. This would have been a good game, but the spider made it a great game. Sure the centipede and other creepy crawlies were fun to shoot, but the unpredictable spider is what made it a challenge. You hated this bugger, but killing him was a thrill. Plus, you got more points for the closer he was, something that brought out the suicidal side in all of us.

8. DRAGON'S LAIR-While the gameplay was limited, it made us dreamed of what could be. It impressed everyone who saw it and suddenly the other arcade games looked a bit more primitive. I remember the arcade by my house had a television set on top of the game so everyone could watch the action and it always drew a crowd. I remember just standing there in awe as I watched Dirk fight various creatures. I suddenly expected more from video games. This could also be called the start of putting graphics ahead of gameplay.

7. ASTEROIDS-Another great game that stole our quarters. One of the first vector based games. It showed that you could have multiple buttons and still be a fun game. Most games were joystick and button, but this game added multiple buttons and pushed the envelope. It was also the first game to my knowledge that introduced the teleport ability or warping as it is also called. This game also created quite a stir on the home scene as it helped sell more Atari units.

6. POLE POSITION-While there were many racing games before it, this was the one that really started the love affair between gamers and racing games. The fast gameplay, the billboards, and the awesome controls made you think you really were driving a racing car. It also proved that driving games would be a profitable line of gaming that is still popular today.

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5. MS PACMAN-While her other half had more of an impact (Pacman), she has a greater impact at the arcades. Pacman may have started the ball rolling, but Ms Pacman kept it rolling. This is one of the few arcade games that is still played. Great sequel that is eons better than the original. You get different mazes, smarter monsters and moving targets. This game was even more of a reason why women continued to play arcade games.

4. PONG-Sure, it was the first game. Sure it was the first home system. And for these reasons, it is ranked so high. But I don't think it had the lasting impression that the next three games had. While millions of pong units were sold, it was soon replaced when Atari came on the scene. But it did start the movement towards playing arcade games at home. It proved to the world that we wanted to play games at home and would pay for the ability. If Pong would have failed, who knows how long it would have taken for the home gaming market to become a reality.

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3. SPACE INVADERS- For most of us, this was our first introduction to classic gaming. Sure there was pong, but this was us versus them. Row after row of aliens trying to take over mother earth with only us to stop them. This is the game that put arcade games on the map. Things would never be the same after that. The home version also helped sell the Atari 2600 in the early days. It gave people a reason to buy the system.

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2. DONKEY KONG-The significance of this game is multileveled. First it was a great arcade game that really got the platform games going. Second it was the first appearance of two of the most known and used characters in video game history; Mario and Donkey Kong. These two characters are almost completely the reason for Nintendo's success. Where would the original NES be without Mario and do you think the SNES would still be selling as well without the Donkey Kong Country series? The last reason for the lofty placement is the Donkey Kong cart for the Coleco was groundbreaking. Not only did it make the Colecovision a major success, but started a new era of packing in a worthwhile game with the system to sell it. Before Coleco added this, you got games like Combat, Black Jack & Poker and Speedway, Cryptologic as your pack-in.

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1. PACMAN-Unlike a certain magazine, I think this game is the one that finally brought in both sexes to play games. While Ms Pacman is a better game, there wouldn't be one without this game. The simple gameplay, the addictiveness is legendary. It spawned sequels, a song, and still is being played today as the original or one of the hundreds of sequels or clones. Plus the 2600 version, while quite lame did help sell tons of systems. Plus, this was the first game that spawned hint books. Numerous books came out to show you how you, too, can play for hours.

These games are not for sale here.  But you can find it on ebay. Click below to go to ebay and search!

 


 

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Tom Zjaba 1997 - 2013      

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