Video games have come on leaps and bounds in recent years, but retro games are still held close to gamers’ hearts. There is something special about how developers managed to create era-defining titles despite the simplicity of those games and the arcades or consoles that ran them. Are you ready to take a nostalgic journey back to the golden age of gaming? It’s time to dust off your old cartridges and relive some of the magic from gaming’s past.
Space Invaders (1978) – Pioneering Shoot ’em Ups
The first leg of our retro gaming journey takes us back to 1978 when Space Invaders exploded onto the arcade scene. Developed by Tomohiro Nishikado and released by Taito (now part of Square Enix) in an era when the lack of internet meant it was impossible to play at BetOnline, Space Invaders was one of the earliest shoot ‘em up games; it played a pivotal role in shaping the genre.
Players controlled a spaceship defending the Earth from descending waves of alien invaders. The ultimate goal of shooting down the advancing hordes before they reached the bottom of the screen was frightfully simple, yet the game’s execution was nothing short of genius.
Space Invaders showed that games could be about high scores and lightning-fast reflexes and opened the door to the competitive arcade scene. The game was an instant global hit and paved the way for scrolling shooters and bullet hell shooters.
Pac-Man (1980) – Shaping the Maze Game Genre
In 1980, a round, yellow character named Pac-Man burst onto the scene and took the gaming world by storm. Toru Iwatani is credited with Pac-Man’s creation, a game with the most uncomplicated gameplay mechanics yet one that was super-addictive. To this day, more than four decades later, Pac-Man is still one of the most iconic and loveable characters.
Pac-Man is a classic maze-chase game where players control the titular Pac-Man through a maze, munching on dots while avoiding ghosts. Weirdly, those ghosts are called Blinky, Inky, Pinky, and Clyde!
Like Space Invaders before it, Pac-Man became hugely popular with competitive gamers, who strived to log the highest score in their arcade. Pac-Man became a cultural icon, appearing on TV shows, adorning merchandise, and even starring in a Hollywood movie!
Super Mario Bros. (1985) – Redefining Platformers
The Super Mario Bros. name needs no introduction. The timeless classic began life in 1985 on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), revolutionizing the platformer genre. The legendary Shigeru Miyamoto created Super Mario Bros. as a side-scrolling platformer, which was almost unheard of then.
Super Mario Bros featured 32 action-packed levels through a world armed with power-ups like the iconic Fire Flower and Super Mushroom as players attempted to rescue the hapless Princess Peach.
The game played a pivotal role in establishing Nintendo as a force in video games, and its easy-to-learn but difficult-to-master design philosophy continues influencing modern-day titles.
If you have an original copy of Super Mario Bros, you should do everything possible to protect it. In August 2021, an anonymous buyer paid a staggering $2 million for an unopened copy of the original game, a world record price.
The Legend of Zelda (1986) – A Pioneer of Action-Adventure Games
Only a year after Super Mario Bros launched, those gamers with an NES were treated to the first installment of The Legend of Zelda franchise. Mario’s creator, Shigeru Miyamoto, devised an action-adventure masterpiece that has since spawned over 40 mainline entries, spin-offs, and re-releases.
Players control the heroic Link through the vast fantasy world of Hyrule. Games launched in this era tended to be linear, but The Legend of Zelda had an open-world design, allowing players to explore Hyrule at their own pace and in whatever order they chose. The non-linear design shaped the way future action-adventure games were designed, so the next time you embark on such an adventure on your modern console, remember that Zelda is why you enjoy yourself so much.
Street Fighter II (1991) – Raising the Bar For Fighting Games
The original Street Fighter was released in 1987, and while it was well-received, it wasn’t until four years later that the fighting genre got the game it had been crying out for. Capcom’s Street Fighter II landed in arcades worldwide in 1991. It took what the original game did well, improved on it, and added new features, animations, and moves.
Street Fighter II features a diverse cast of characters, each with unique appearances, moves, and fighting styles. Precise controls and a combo system pushed the game to those with a more competitive streak, paving the road toward what became esports.
The fact we are now up to Street Fighter 6, released in June 2023, goes some way to prove how popular Street Fighter II once was. Countless other fighting franchises have entered the ring since Street Fighter II’s release, with each one hoping to capture the magic of this iconic title.
The five retro video games in this article are not only games, but they are part of gaming history. Millions of gamers, young and old, from around the world spent countless hours honing their skills and thoroughly enjoyed doing so.
Super Mario Bros redefined platformers, Pac-Mac made gaming accessible to everyone, while The Legend of Zelda introduced the open-world concept to the masses. Competitive shoot ‘em ups have Space Invaders to thank for their favorite pastime, with Street Fighter II setting the standard for fighting and beat ‘em ups.
These five titles are not just for the nostalgic gamers among you because they are still playable and great fun today, some 40 years after some of their releases. Whether you are a hardened gaming pro or are only just discovering these iconic games, take a moment to appreciate their impact on the gaming world. Few will argue these games are the heart and soul of the golden age of gaming