From arcade to consoles (including handheld), I’ve been playing video games probably since the day I learned to walk. Yes, I’m amazed at how video games are more like movies nowadays and yes, I do love the 1080p HD graphics; But today’s games just don’t feel as challenging and fulfilling as the retro classics did. As dull as they may seem now, you have to bear in mind the technological limitations of the gaming systems back then — it seriously required some mad skillz to play!
I recently got nostalgic about these games and decided to share my personal favorites. Majority of the mentioned games are referring to the Sega Genesis versions — because I liked Sega better than Nintendo. I’ve played so many but managed to cut it down to 15.
15. Adventure Island (1986/NES) – It’s another quirky-looking hero, prancing his way through side-scrolling levels to save his kidnapped girlfriend. As common as the gameplay was, there was just something about this big-bellied dude that made this game lovable – Oh, the joy I felt every time he rode a skateboard! Super Mario Bros. is undoubtedly better but this makes the list because Adventure Island deserves more love.
14. Bomberman (1985/NES) – The rules are simple: Use your bombs to strategically blast walls and those weird-looking baddies. Little did we know, Bomberman was prepping our brains for future-gen stealth games like Metal Gear Solid.
13. Space Harrier (1985) – As a little kid, I watched in awe as my older brother played this in the arcade. Seeing the hero run through the colorful Fantasy Zone was just a hypnotic sight to see. To this day, I still think those dragons – who by the way look like evil versions of Falkor from The Neverending Story – are one of the most bad-ass videogame bosses ever.
12. OutRun (1991) – The goal is to race to the end of each stage as fast as possible against a time limit. The gameplay isn’t anything special, but it made my list for 2 reasons:
1. You got to choose your music before starting.
2. This game made you feel obliged to drive well, because accidents resulted to your girlfriend getting pissed and giving you an earful – something we (guys) avoid as much as possible.
11. Contra (1988/NES) – This is one tough shooter. Based on my experience, I believe no one can finish this game without the infamous Konami Code (Up Up Down Down Left Right Left Right B A Start).
10. Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker (1989) – Play as Michael Jackson and fight your way through thugs to rescue kidnapped children. Your offensive is based on his dance moves i.e. you can spin to charge your magic and throw your hat with a zipping attack to hit incoming foes. It sounds dumb when you describe it but honestly, it was actually a solid game – and the MJ soundtrack just made the game even more entertaining. Personally, it’s one of the best Genesis-exclusive titles.
9. Batman: The Video Game (1989/NES) – 1989’s Batman paved the way for the modern era of comic book movies. The video game was loosely based on the movie but nevertheless felt like a faithful adaption. I was astonished watching Tim Burton’s dark, fresh take on the Caped Crusader; and being fresh off that astonishment made this game special.
- Battletoads & Double Dragon (1993/NES)
- Robocop versus The Terminator (1994)
Everybody loves a crossover! And that’s why it’s a tie for these 2 crossover games.
Double Dragon was one of the most classic beat ’em up games that ever existed. While Battletoads, although enjoyable, only existed to rival the Teenage Mutant Nina Turtles games. Even if these super-powered toads didn’t really need help from Billy and Jimmy, this game was hellafun.
Robocop vs The Terminator is based on the Dark Horse crossover comic of the same title. So you probably have an idea how cool this game was to those who read it. Even if it wasn’t based on a comic, it still would’ve been cool. Why? Because it’s Robocop versus The Terminator!
7. Comix Zone (1995) – Here you played a comic book artist trapped in his own comic. You ran and jumped through pages of his comic frame-by-frame as enemies were being drawn in front of you. It was literally a comic book game and it was awesome.
- Captain America and the Avengers (1992)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (1989/NES)
- Altered Beast (1988)
It’s another tie for these particular games because I spent an equal amount of time (and money) playing these in the arcade as a kid. Imagine how ecstatic I was when they were finally ported over to Genesis.
Altered Beast gave you a Roman centurion resurrected from the dead by Zeus, and given the ability to collect orbs which transformed you into kick-ass beasts like werewolf, werebear and weredragon. The beast names were ridiculous, but he kicked zombies in the balls until they exploded – which pretty much earns him a spot here.
Like most kids in the 90’s, I was a huge Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan. So the opportunity to play co-op as your favorite Ninja Turtle was unbelievable. The sequel Turtles in Time was better but the first arcade game makes my list simply because of the excitement I felt when it appeared in the arcade.
Although I grew up reading DC Comics, it was like a dream come true for comic book geeks like myself to play Captain America and the Avengers. It looked so much like a living comic book – complete with word bubbles and ‘KRAK!’ ‘POW!’ effects. The fun my friends and I had playing this co-op game was immeasurable.
5. The Death and Return of Superman (1995) – The Death of Superman was one of the most iconic moments in comic book history. The completed multi-issue story arc was titled The Death and Return of Superman. When a video game based on this epic storyline came out, it was geektastic – especially since all five of the Supermen were playable characters at some point of the game.
4. Flashback (1992) – Back in the day, everybody knew CD-ROM games were the way to go if you wanted high-end graphics. But then Flashback (a.k.a. Flashback: The Quest for Identity) came along advertised as “The CD-ROM game in a cartridge”. Aside from the cool storyline, it was surreal to get these kinds of graphics on a 16-bit console.
3. Ghouls ‘N Ghosts (1988/NES) – It’s basically Castlevania with a sense of humor. I tried playing this game again a few days ago and came to this conclusion: Ghouls ‘N Ghosts was not hard and frustrating back then because I was a child. It’s generally just an insanely hard and frustrating game!
Don’t let the simple 8-bit graphics fool you. This game will make you swear words you never swore before.
2. Mortal Kombat (1993) – The game that gave the world the system of lethal finishing moves known as Fatalities. The game that caused a moral panic and resulted to a U.S. Congressional hearing. Mortal Kombat II has been well-regarded as the best in the entire series (so far); But the controversial violence of the first Mortal Kombat was something never seen before in a fighting game at the time — making this one extra cool. The uncensored version was only available on Genesis.
1. Aladdin (1993) – Based on the Disney film and animated by actual Disney animators. Amazing gameplay with nicely detailed levels. It was a 16-bit game, but the animation was so fluid that it made you feel like you were playing the actual cartoon. This was definitely the best-looking game ever released on Genesis.
In terms of gameplay, visuals and fun factor, Aladdin reigns as my #1 retro video game.
** My nostalgia began after stumbling across a site where you could download all these games and play them via an emulator. So if you also love the retro video games, check ’em out at CoolRom.com.