by Goran Damnjanovic, Gaming Columnist
Published in Gaming on 10th December, 2019
There are dozens of amazing classic video games that hold their ground today and are still great to play. If you're into classic games every single title on this list is a must-play.
While most classic video games, when compared to modern titles, are dated in terms of gameplay, the story, and general design there are lots of titles that are still a blast to play. They feature excellent stories, timeless gameplay, or design that was ahead of the time when those games were originally released.
The problem with creating lists like this one is the fact that there is a ton of excellent classic games that are still a blast to play. Next, it's hard to pull a straight line when deciding which games to call classic and which are too "young" to be placed in the group.
We decided to make the cut at 15 years from the original release date. This is the reason you won't find classics such as Half-Life 2, Unreal Tournament 2004 or Quake 4 on this list. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't play those; they are all marvelous games that should be played by everyone.
We also included both console and PC titles. While most PC titles can be played natively on Windows 10 by getting them on GOG.com (and some are updated to support the latest OS, such as StarCraft or Diablo II) console games are a bit trickier to hunt down and play.
Nintendo made a number of classic NES and SNES titles available for Nintendo Switch Online members and these include every title available on this list sans Donkey Kong Country. Pong is abandonware by now meaning you can get ROMs of classic Pong games free online.
Finally, some games have remakes and remasters that can be played on modern systems, such as Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy, OutRun titles from 2006 and 2009, remakes of the classic LucasArts adventures, and 3DS version of the Ocarina of Time.
This means you can play every game on this list on modern systems without any hassle, except Donkey Kong Country. Without further ado, let's check out the 20 amazing classic games everyone should play.
These five games are still some of the best platformers of all time. These are true evergreen titles. The brilliant level design accompanied by timeless gameplay makes NES and SNES Super Mario games a sort of an obligatory readings for every gamer.
The best thing is that every Super Mario Bros. NES game and both Super Mario World titles (the first one along with Yoshi's Island) are available for free on the Nintendo Switch in case you're subscribed to its online service.
They ran perfectly on large, hi-def screens and playing them all on your Switch will give you dozens of hours of superb fun.
Back when it came out, Donkey Kong Country was planned as just another platforming game for the SNES but its success launched the fourth most successful (and most recognized) Nintendo franchise ever. The brilliant platforming gameplay is fresh as ever, even though the game came out twenty-five years ago.
Further, the 3D-like design was ahead of the time making the first Donkey Kong Country game still okay when it comes to visuals. Sure, it doesn't look as timeless as Super Mario games from the NES and SNES era but it's a looker compared to most titles released during the 90s.
Sadly, Donkey Kong Country isn't available on the Nintendo Switch Online platform so you have to either get a used SNES (which isn't a problem since eBay is filled with them along with Donkey Kong Country cartridges) or get a SNES Classic Mini console.
There are emulators but you know, find out how to run the game that way on your own, it isn't too hard.
Heroes of Might and Magic is one of the most popular turn-based video game series of all time. Sadly, starting with Heroes of Might and Magic V the series entered freefall that gotten worse with each subsequent sequel.
It looks like as soon as developers started to design 3D-based games, the magic of the series simply evaporated, leaving an empty shell that looks pretty but doesn't bring the same depth and strategic layer older titles had.
The apex of the series is, without a doubt, Heroes of Might and Magic III, arguably the ultimate hot seat multiplayer experience on a PC. If you want to play a turn-based strategy with friends look no further, this is by far the best choice even though the game came out twenty years ago.
Yes, visuals are dated but the gameplay is tight as ever. There isn't a better turn-based strategy than this one and playing it against friends simply cannot grow old. You can get the complete package on GOG.com for a bit more than ten bucks and for the money you'll get hundreds of hours of pure fun. And since the game's so old it'll work on literally any working PC.
While they're both dated in terms of visuals, Final Fantasy VII and VIII are still JRPG highpoints when it comes to storytelling and character design. You simply cannot find better stories than in these two games and that's a fact. The gameplay is okay (the classic JPRG turn-based combat had gotten lots of improvements in the meantime) and is far from being bad.
On the other hand, exploration is done in a superb fashion and quests are still interesting, designed better than in most modern RPG games. Both games can be played on literally every modern system and in case you own a PS4, maybe you'd want to wait until March 2020 to get your hands on the Final Fantasy VII remake, which looks amazing.
Ocarina of Time is one of the two Zelda games released for the Nintendo 64 and they both are masterpieces. But if we had to choose, we would pick this one because it was the first of the pair.
Brilliant gameplay and proto open-world design gave inspiration to countless games that followed Ocarina of Time. The story is still considered as the best in the whole Zelda series, which is a remarkable achievement. In fact, the game regularly finds itself on best of all-time lists, and for all the good reasons.
While the original game can only be played on the Nintendo 64 Nintendo released a remaster of the game for the 3DS back in 2011. If you haven't played it, get a used 3DS (the console can be found on eBay for ridiculous prices) and you'll be able to play not only this one but also the remaster of Majora's Mask and a few other Zelda games specifically designed for the Nintendo 3DS.
A cult classic RPG. Planescape: Torment is an example that if you combine a superb story with brilliant gameplay, the game will become a cult classic game despite its dated visuals.
If you like meaningful choices in your RPG games and if you desire to experience one of the best stories in gaming history get this one and enjoy the epic journey of the Nameless One across multiple dimensions of Planescape where he'll meet a bizarre cast of characters and embark on the epic journey of self-discovery.
The game received a facelift in 2017 and the remastered version is available on PC, Xbox One, PS4, Switch, iOS, and Android. This is great since now you can play no matter which gaming platform you own.
Age of Empires is, along with StarCraft, WarCraft, and Red Alert, the most famous real-time strategy game of all time. The game features a stupendous amount of single-player campaigns that can last you for hundreds of hours.
Next, you can play against AI in the skirmish mode. And finally, the Ultimate Edition of the game, which features updated graphics (which give the game a new youth) comes with an online multiplayer that has lots of players at every point of the day.
The magic of the Age of Empires is still here. The gameplay is enjoyable as ever and the timeless AoE formula is still one of the best in the genre. You have dozens of factions to choose from, each with unique buildings and units, giving players a stupendous amount of choice.
But the thing is, the single-player campaigns are so good chances are you'll probably get lost playing those to even think about playing against other people.
While there are a couple of interesting titles, modern adventure games are far cry from the classic titles that came out one after another, like mushrooms after the rain, during the 80s and 90s. And one of the most successful developer studios during the golden age of adventures was LucasArts.
The studio gave players classics that are still regarded as best in the genre. Games like Grim Fandango, Monkey Island, and Full Throttle combined witty humor with well-written characters and creatively designed puzzles and results were timeless classic games that still have tons of charm.
While they are still as good today as they were back in the day, they have some quirks. The inventory system is considered dated and unnecessary complex while visuals aren't looking as pretty on modern high-def screens.
Luckily, the four best titles of the classic LucasArts era all received remasters that include new visuals and user-friendly controls and inventories.
Every remaster can be found on PC and most of them can also be played on the PS4. If you want to play cool adventures you can't get any better than these four titles.
Another JRPG from the 90s, this classic game came out for SNES in 1995 and soon after simply exploded in popularity. The PlayStation release came out four years later and become a best-seller, giving PS owners another amazing game to play.
The charm of the game is both in its story and soundtrack, which is considered one of the best in the business. The story is well written and emotional at times but it never becomes too serious and includes lots of lighthearted moments.
Finally, visuals are a bit dated by now but they're unique and the visual design stands out from other games of the time, giving Chrono Trigger unique looks that made it stand out from the pack. Remaster of the game is available for PC, Android, and iOS, featuring refreshed visuals while the brilliant core of the game was left intact.
Like Age of Empires II, StarCraft is another timeless real-time strategy that still mesmerizes millions of players around the world. While AoE offers dozens of rather similar factions, StarCraft comes with just three. But each faction in StarCraft utilizes a unique strategy, completely different from the other two.
This is the main reason why the game's still popular today as it was back in 1999. The simplicity of its design combined with near-perfect balance and the fact that each faction requires a different playstyle and strategy make StarCraft a perfect multiplayer title. The gameplay is dynamic and requires constant attention as well as minute-to-minute decisions that keep players occupied at every second of every match.
But the multiplayer isn't everything this game offers. The single-player campaign comes with one of the best RTS stories ever and if you like quality single-player RTS game get this one, along with the excellent expansion Brood War.
The classic version of the game (with full online multiplayer support) can be downloaded for free on the Blizzard site while the remastered version comes with a sub $10 price.
Deus Ex is a superb cyberpunk RPG with a thought-provoking story and excellent FPS gameplay. The future is bleak in this game and you play as JC Denton, a special ops agent who soon becomes entangled in a conspiracy that could end the world as we know it.
The game was one of the first to offer meaningful player choices that affected the story in major ways as well as coming up with multiple-path level design. You could go in guns blazing or opt for a stealth choice. You could find keycards to unlock doors but there was always the option to pick locks in case you had the skills needed.
The multiple-path level design inspired many future titles and the one seen in Deus Ex still stands as one of the best examples of giving players the ultimate choice on how to tackle each level. The story was also great, the best in the whole series.
The game didn't age well graphically but with a couple of texture mods, it becomes good enough to play it even today. Level design, on the other hand, is still superb so make sure to try Deus Ex in case you like open-ended RPG games with FPS gameplay.
You've probably heard about Baldur's Gate games. They are, after all, considered the best RPG titles of all time. That's enough of a reason to try them out. If you want to see what the classic Bioware was capable of creating check them out, the remastered versions are available for most modern gaming systems.
Half-Life was a proper revolution, a game that redefined first-person shooters and that became the ultimate benchmark for all future shooters. The best thing is that the unofficial remake, called Black Mesa, is endorsed by Valve and can be bought on Steam.
The game's amazing and with updated visuals, it feels better than most other first-person shooters on the market. Gunplay is superb, enemies are smart and deadly, and the action is always exciting to the max.
The level design doesn't feature levels in the classic sense; the action is uncut from the beginning until the end with an occasional short pause for loading new areas. Just get the Half-Life remake and you will realize why many gamers put this game on the pedestal even though it's more than 20 years old.
The original Crash Bandicoot Trilogy is an uncompromising 3D platformer with lots of cool levels. The game's so hard that bosses are the easiest part of it; enough said. If you're looking for a platformer that asks for patience and precision and that offers a bunch of cleverly designed levels filled with secret areas and platforming challenges look no further.
The trilogy received a remake treatment two years ago and we have to say that the result is superb. Developers at Vicarious Visions updated visuals to be on par with other modern titles while not touching the original design, a smart decision.
You can get the trilogy on PC, Xbox One, PS4, and Switch, and it's worth every penny. An amazing classic video game that revokes good old times of the original PlayStation console.
It's surprising just how A Link to the Past plays similar to modern Zelda games. This shows just how ahead of the time was this SNES game, which came out in 1991!
You have lots of quests, in-depth and rewarding exploration, and brilliant combat. Even visuals don't look too shabby. Sure, the story is minimal and the world isn't as rich as in more recent Zelda titles but The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past is definitely worth playing today.
This classic game redefined the action-adventure genre and, as many other Zelda titles, influenced countless titles that came after it. Nintendo offers the title as part of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription and we have to say the game looks pretty nice on high-def screens.
One of the best games for the SNES, Super Metroid took the base design of the previous two Metroid titles, expanded upon it and delivered an unforgettable Metroidvania experience.
This classic game is still worth checking out because of the story, gameplay, and brilliant level design.
Sure, Super Metroid doesn't last as long as modern Metroidvania titles nor it offers shiny visuals and vast levels filled with alternate paths and secrets. But its combat is brilliant even today, its story is better than in most modern games, and world design is on par with juggernauts of the genre such as Hollow Knight and Castlevania: Symphony of the Night.
This timeless classic is considered as one of the best video games of all time and it can be played on the Switch, as part of the Nintendo Switch Online subscription.
Pong in its original form still is a pretty good couch multiplayer game. It presents the basic competitive gameplay without any gimmicks found in modern multiplayer titles. Two paddles, a ball and quick matches that can be played ad infinitum.
The original Pong game can be played only against the computer but some versions support two-player mode. One can be downloaded for free from the Windows Store. There are also many versions of Pong for Android and iOS and many of those support 2-player mode.
The timeless classic video game about fast cars and high-speed chases is a blast to play even today. OutRun reinvigorated the racing genre when it came out in 1986. It featured insane visuals and one of the best cars in the world of the time - the legendary Ferrari Testarossa Spider. The game was about pure, unadulterated racing and it quickly became a worldwide arcade hit, making millions dollars for Sega.
The game has gotten countless sequels but few managed to come close to the popularity and the spirit of racing found in the original. Nevertheless, OutRun: Coast to Coast from 2006 for the PC, Xbox, and PlayStation is a pretty good substitute. The game can be found on Amazon and eBay.
Blizzard recently announced Diablo IV and in many ways, the game looks like a modern Diablo II. Developers took the second game of the series as the main influence simply because Diablo II is still the most popular game of the franchise, even though it got released back in 2000.
It's still popular because of its unmatched level design, an insane number of powerful builds for each character, its near-infinite replayability, and tons of cool loot. While the game is almost 20 years old its loot system is miles ahead of Diablo III.
And finally, the dark and gory visual design still resonates with the fans, who prefer it over the cartoony visuals of Diablo III. Diablo II can be bought either directly from Blizzard or on GOG.com. The game's patched up and works perfectly on Windows 10.
The spiritual successor of legendary classic video games such as Wing Commander: Privateer and Starlancer is still the best single-player flight sim you can play even though it originally came out in 2003.
This classic game features a solid story but the main lure of Freelancer is its huge game world that features dozens of star systems and hundreds of planets. Players can freely ignore the story and take countless side missions that include trading, hunting pirates or becoming one.
This is where Freelancer shines; it allows players to play the game any way they want without forcing them to take one path or to tackle story missions. Freelancer also has lots of cool mods that add new ships, new missions, new systems, and even new campaigns to the already excellent base game.
It can be downloaded for free on myabandonedware.com. Just make sure to download this widescreen HUD mod.