As much as it pains me to say it, the games I love are old now. And while the average age of console gamers is creeping up, there’s no way of getting around the fact that my childhood faves are – like me – exceedingly retro.

And if you don’t remember where you were the night of the Millenium celebrations, or if you call my birth year part of the 1900s, this is a list for you. There are so many hundreds of old games and sometimes it can be hard to know where to start. You’ll find an endless amount of mixed messages on the internet, usually coloured by nostalgia as much as anything.

So here’s a slightly more self-aware list of massively influential games that don’t feel too far off what we play today. This, hopefully, will give you a segue into the world of older games, and will allow you to then spread a little further into other titles if you wish.

For the sake of arbitrary cut-offs (an article can only be so long, after all) I will pick just six games, all released before the end of 1999 – with a single exception. That means games like Final Fantasy X, Kingdom Hearts, Metal Gear Solid 3 and many others in that ilk won’t be represented. These are all fantastic PlayStation games that are well worth your time (and can all be played on modern devices through quality remasters). And you should still go play them if you haven’t.

I’ve tried to pick games that aren’t easily improved upon by just playing the modern equivalent. Like, sure, you could play Mario 64, but unless you’re interested in the history of the franchise you’d be as happy playing Galaxy or Odyssey. 

Metal Gear Solid

Metal Gear Solid is the granddaddy of cinematic action games. Nothing before it so successfully captured that feeling of atmosphere, and, quite frankly, many games still fail to live up to it.

It looks fantastic, and it plays fantastic. The story – like much of Kojima’s work from this period -is oddly prescient. Take away a few moments of backtracking and a shaky auto-aim and this is very much a modern game told with PS1 graphics.

And the best thing about having never played the Metal Gear Solid series is you get to go through the whole, complete thing, from Metal Gear Solid 1 to Metal Gear Solid 4 (and then Rising). 

It’s a shame they didn’t make any more after that, but at least they didn’t screw it up with a narratively devoid open world title, right?

The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask

This is my rule-breaking entry. I could have easily picked Ocarina of Time and kept the sanctity of the list intact, but then I wouldn’t be able to recommend the best game in this series. But much of what I’m going to say counts for Ocarina as well, so you should include that in any playthrough.

These games were among the first to tackle open 3D gaming, and they nailed it pretty much from the start. There’s no direct camera control (targeting centres the target behind your character), but other than that it’s a beautiful experience even today.

The reason I’ve chosen Majora’s Mask for this rather than Ocarina is because it has such an incredible, unique atmosphere, and a catalogue of characters who you get to learn more and more about as time ticks down to nothing. So not only do you play one of the best games of this generation, but you get to play something that’s entirely unlike anything you might play today.

Super Mario Bros 3

Thanks to indie developers and, more recently, Nintendo, the 2D platformer is back in the conversation. It wasn’t always the case. But if you want to see the pinnacle of it all, go look at Super Mario Bros 3. 

Some might say Super Mario World and they wouldn’t be wrong. But I think 3 did more to iterate over the previous entries and is still, to me, more fun.

It’s difficult but fair. It’s creative and varied. To this day, I’ve never enjoyed a Mario platformer as much as this.

And while the cool kid inside of me wants to put Sonic 2 here instead of this, Mario is probably more accessible.


This might be a slightly controversial entry. Shenmue is one of those games that is so influential that it’s almost hard to put yourself back into the mindset of the world it was released into. Even amongst older people who revisit it, they don’t always see the beauty of what it was. This is Seinfeld Effect: The Game.

And yet it does so much that deserves to be seen by fresh eyes. Get past the funny voice acting and you will step into a real Japanese world. If you love the Yakuza series – and anybody who is anybody loves the Yakuza series – this is the genesis. Play arcade games, throw darts, track down the guy who killed your father extremely slowly.

Play for the atmosphere, stay for the sailors.

Tomb Raider

Many people bought Tomb Raider for its sex appeal, as hilarious as that is today. Lara Croft was everywhere. I had a friend who had every game, and I’m not convinced he ever played any of them. But he looked at them a whole lot. 

What those people didn’t expect was a deep exploration game through some of best designed tombs in gaming.

This is a good one to check out, with the new remasters on the horizon. You can experiment with the old controls and the new, as well as slipping between visual styles. But these are awesome games, and the first is still my favourite from the lot.

Must-Play Retro Games

The list could go on, and as you get away from the cinematic, or the more modern control schemes, you should definitely explore some of the more esoteric creations. Everybody has played Pacman or Tetris, but explore the origins of those franchises and see how they’ve developed.

This is a list of games that aren’t too much of a culture shock to revisit. The list could have been triple this size. The beauty of exploring the history of gaming for the first time is that there will always be things to find.


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