15 Vintage Video Games That Are Still Worth Playing Today


While video game visuals improve every year, many vintage games remain worth playing thanks to innovative gameplay, design and historical significance. Their pixelated graphics exude charm and take us back to simpler times battling sprites and saving princesses.

This article will spotlight the top 15 vintage console and arcade video games from the 1970s to 1990s that hold up superbly despite their age. These classics built the foundations of gaming that still influence titles today. Revisit the pioneers of side scrollers, RPGs, fighting games and more!

Key Takeaways:

  • Super Mario Bros perfected side scrolling platformers
  • The Legend of Zelda established open world adventure RPGs
  • Tetris remains the quintessential puzzle game
  • Pac-Man defined arcade gaming with its iconic ghosts
  • Sonic the Hedgehog brought blazing speeds to platformers
  • Final Fantasy VII popularized epic RPG storytelling
  • Donkey Kong introduced Mario and seamless scrolling
  • Street Fighter II dominated arcades with complex combos
  • Doom pioneered fast-paced 3D shooters

Let’s jump back to the golden age of gaming!

#15: Galaga (1981)

This space shooting sequel to Galaxian featured enemies in fun formation attacks. Its shooting and dodging made it a faster paced irresistible quarter muncher.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Frantic alien avoiding action
  • Challenging formations and attack waves
  • Addictive gameplay for all ages
  • High score structure ideal for competition
  • Distinctive pixel spaceships still appealing

Galaga remains the premier retro arcade experience. Its twinkling sprites and smooth ship control represent gaming’s early days.

#14: Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out (1987)

Punch-Out’s fast reflex-dependent boxing laid the foundations of fighting games. Out-boxing a variety of memorable foes like Bald Bull remains as rewarding as ever.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Unique boxing move timing gameplay
  • Fun cast of quirky boxers
  • Humorous exaggerated animations
  • Intense action with minimalist controls
  • Still exemplifies Nintendo hard difficulty

Laugh your way through black eyes against King Hippo and earn your title against Iron Mike himself. This NES classic defines arcade-style boxing action.

#13: Bubble Bobble (1986)

This cute arcade platformer had you and a friend encasing dinosaurs in bubbles then popping them across 100 levels. Its bubbly two player co-op withstands the test of time.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Adorable bubble spewing dinosaurs
  • 100 levels of escalating challenges
  • Designed for two player teamwork
  • Fun power ups like fast bubbles
  • Big bold sprites and backgrounds

Bubble Bobble brings cooperative retro gaming joy you can still share with kids and friends. Few games exude its charm even today.

#12: Contra (1987)

With its frenetic two player run and gun action, Contra stands as one of the Nintendo Entertainment System’s most iconic shooters. The challenge compelled you to master its patterns.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Variety of vertically and horizontally scrolling levels
  • Great two player co-op play
  • Fun weapon power ups like spread shot
  • Endless enemy waves with big bosses
  • Cheat code gave you 30 lives

Contra’s relentless alien blasting exemplifies the pinnacle of 8-bit action. You’ll still grind through lives mastering its challenges.

#11: Q*bert (1982)

This psychedelic arcade cabinet had players hopping around pyramids of cubes to change their colors. Q*bert’s isometric movement and audio feel straight out of the 1980s.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Clever cube-based isometric platforming
  • Unique enemies like Coily the snake
  • Arcade cabinet with bulbous pixel monitor
  • Quirky voice samples

Q*bert’s one-of-a-kind gameplay and style make it an essential retro experience. The charming pyramid hops remain challenging too.

#10: Donkey Kong (1981)

This Nintendo classic introduced Mario and began the platformer genre. Jumping the barrels rolled by an angry ape never loses its appeal.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Simple goal of ascending platforms by jumping
  • Mario’s agile movement feels great
  • Smoothly increase challenge across levels
  • Satisfying hammer powerup for revenge
  • Big sprites and colorful charm

Donkey Kong’s precise 2D hops make it timeless. It also gave gaming its most iconic character.

#9: Metroid (1986)

Metroid pioneered action adventure with a large sci-fi world to explore. Finding power ups to reach new areas kicked off Nintendo’s masterful franchise.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Sprawling maps with areas gated by powers
  • Brilliant vertical and horizontal platforming
  • Open ended non-linear exploration
  • Great power ups like high jump boots
  • Foreboding alien caverns

Explore planet Zebes and feel the claustrophobia isolation Metroid conveyed so well. Its formula inspired many future franchises.

#8: Super Mario Kart (1992)

Nintendo’s racer brought Mario and friends to the track with addictive competitive multiplayer. Powers ups added chaos making it a party pleaser.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Local split screen races with friends
  • Mario franchise charm and music
  • Creative use of powers ups like shells
  • Tight drift focused controls
  • Fun battle arenas still hold up

Mario Kart epitomizes racing fun with friends. Drifting around its circuits never loses its magic.

#7: Mortal Kombat II (1993)

This controversial fighter both thrilled kids with bloody fatalities and caused a moral panic. Underneath was intricate fighting and secret Easter eggs.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Revolutionary (and gory) digitized graphics
  • Combos and special moves
  • Secret characters like Smoke
  • Hilarious hidden finishing moves
  • Flawless soundtrack

Whether you remember the original outrage or just want visceral combat, Mortal Kombat II still delivers. The iconic dragon logo still evokes ’90s edge.

#6: Super Mario World (1990)

This Super Nintendo launch game brought vibrant colors and buttery control to sidescrollers. Its secrets and alternate exits rewarded exploration.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Huge variety of levels and places to explore
  • Introduced loveable sidekick Yoshi
  • Whimsical music like the Forest of Illusion
  • Superb tight controls with Mario’s new moves
  • Built on Mario 3’s greatness

Super Mario World perfected 2D platformers and marked the height of Mario’s 8-bit adventures. Its near flawless design holds up immaculately.

#5: Street Fighter II (1991)

Street Fighter II ushered fighting games into the mainstream with complex combos and competition. Its rousing announcer calls still get blood pumping.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Huge sprite artwork shows impressive details
  • Deep combo system and special moves
  • Diverse world warrior roster
  • Cemented competitive gaming
  • Iconic stages like Ryu’s Suzaku Castle

Whether playing as Ryu, Chun-Li, or Dhalsim, Street Fighter II still feels as responsive and exciting as it did in arcades. Hadouken!

#4: Final Fantasy VII (1997)

This PlayStation RPG brought dramatic storytelling and cinematic flair to the franchise. Its ambitious scope enraptured fans with deep systems and cutting edge graphics.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Sweeping story spanning 3 CDs
  • Beloved characters like Cloud
  • Epic soundtrack
  • Materia system for deep customization
  • Pushed the RPG genre forward tremendously

Final Fantasy VII’s world still feels alive. Go relive Cloud and Sephiroth’s tale that lifted RPG storytelling to new heights.

#3: Tetris (1984)

Tetris remains the quintessential puzzle game. Fitting descending blocks together efficiently still provides zen-like appeal after decades.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Simple rules but endless skill growth
  • Soothing yet challenging pacing
  • Easy to pick up and hard to master
  • Works on every platform imaginable
  • Classic Game Boy version is perfect

No game has iterated on a puzzle concept so flawlessly. Tetris withstands the test of time.

#2: The Legend of Zelda (1986)

Zelda pioneered exploration focused action RPGs with an unforgettable world. Its dungeons, puzzles and upgrades make it magical.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Early open world ripe for adventure
  • Mystical music like the Overworld theme
  • Iconic gold cartridge looked special
  • Hidden passages and secrets around every corner
  • Introduced Zelda and Link

The original Legend of Zelda established a winning formula while allowing total freedom. Its world full of secrets compels you to keep searching.

#1: Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Super Mario Bros. defined side scrolling 2D platformers with its impeccable level design, controls and graphics. It sold millions of NES consoles and remains pure interactive joy.

Why It’s Worth Playing

  • Timeless sprite-based graphics still charming
  • Perfectly responsive controls
  • Iconic upbeat music
  • Creative worlds to explore
  • Established Mario as gaming’s mascot

Super Mario Bros. identifies practically everything you love about games – challenge, discovery, progression. It epitomizes the happiness gaming can bring.


Vintage video games established many gameplay foundations that developers still iterate on decades later. Their primitive tools forced innovative game design. Try these 15 classics to rediscover the magic that turned video games into a global phenomenon. They provide enjoyable experiences video game history lessons. Game on!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are some other vintage video games worth trying?

Beyond the 15 highlighted, Pac-Man, Space Invaders, Duck Hunt, Mega Man 2, SimCity, Star Fox, Tempest, Dig Dug, Joust, Pole Position, and many more are absolutely still worth playing too. The retro era was filled with gems.

How can you play these old games if you don’t own the original consoles?

Many get re-released through downloadable compilations on modern systems. Emulators let you play the old ROM files on computers. You can often find arcades with cabinets at conventions and retro establishments.

Do old games require a CRT TV display for proper visuals?

For purists, yes – vintage games look best on CRT televisions. But modern TVs and emulators can effectively run the old systems too. Scanline filters help restore the intended look on new screens.

Which of these games were the most groundbreaking and influential?

Super Mario Bros, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat II, and Final Fantasy VII all established strong formulas that went on to define their genres and inspire countless other games.

Do people still compete and speedrun these classic games today?

Definitely! Retrogaming has a thriving community still pushing for high scores and speedrun records decades later. Events like Awesome Games Done Quick marathon classic games for charity. Many stream vintage games on Twitch too.

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