Retro games may not have the graphics and mechanics of the brand new titles nowadays, but there is a reason they are still around. More and more people get nostalgic and decide to go back to the time they were little, playing their favorite games. When you sit down and immerse yourself in the fantasy worlds of some of these retro games, you will surely realize that graphics are not as important as a gripping story. These games may not be technological miracles, but they have a specific kind of charm and character that modern games cannot seem to pull off anymore. So it is no wonder they are regaining popularity. And fast.
You might remember the article I wrote last month about Steam. In there, I mentioned some of the best titles you can get your hands on, without having to invest in vintage consoles and machines. As you know, these can get expensive and hard to maintain, but fortunately, most of the popular retro games have been reprogrammed to run on modern computers. Besides the platform Steam, another place to take a look at is GOG.
GOG.com, aka Good Old Games, is a video game distribution platform, founded in Poland 11 years ago. The platform offers a great selection of hand-picked classic games, for which you only have to pay once. Once you have purchased a game, you own it and have the option to install it as many times as you want on as many different devices you own. The games they are selling are completely legitimate and all profits go to their rightful owners. With GOG, you also get great customer support and upgraded and fixed versions of the classics that run on all modern operating systems.
So, for all you retro gamers out there, here is a list of the 10 best retro games on GOG.
(Affiliate Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links. This means that – at no additional cost to you – if you click through and make a purchase, I may earn a commission)
10. Worms: Armageddon (developed by Team 17, published by Team 17 for Europe and Hasbro for NA; Windows 1999)
This is a fun strategy, turn-based game from the Worms series. Released back in 1999, it is hilarious and extremely entertaining for a 2D game.
Two teams of worms fight on a customizable map, using the weirdest weapons. The purpose is to wipe out the opposing team, which might sound easy, but can sometimes get strangely tricky. The single-player has over 40 different campaigns to try. Multiplayer mode is even more fun, with its many features like Home Runs, Allied Teams and more.
The game was very well-received, some even saying it is the best of the entire series. It won the 2000 Game Blast “Best strategy game” award.
9. Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath (developed by Oddworld Inhabitants, published by EA Games; Xbox 2005)
This shooter game was originally published in 2005 by EA. An HD remastered version was then released in 2010.
It follows the adventures of a character that goes by the name Stranger. He is a bounty hunter, facing many bad guys he needs to catch dead or alive, while traveling through three different towns. The objective is to earn moolah – the game’s currency, by tracking outlaws down, catching them and collecting the bounty, so he can afford an extremely expensive life-saving operation he appears to need urgently. Stranger’s opponents are all different and require various strategies and quick thinking to be defeated.
Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath was received well, winning several awards, including Best Animation, Best Character, etc. and had reviewers calling it a “masterpiece”.
8. Railroad Tycoon II (developed by PopTop Software, published by Gathering of Developers for NA and Take-Two Interactive for Europe; Windows 1998)
Are trains not the best? If you agree, then you will definitely take a shine in this classic simulator, released in 1998.
Railroad Tycoon II will show you some of the challenges a railroad company chairman has to endure. Its complexity is outstanding, so beware of robbers, mechanical failures, shifts in the economy, and – of course – keep your investors happy! You are going to need to build all railroad components like tracks and stations and make deliveries of different cargoes or transport passengers. Just remember that you are running a company that needs to make a profit, so prioritize and cut down your costs as much as you can. If you cannot handle the workload, then hire a few managers to help make your life easier.
This game has acquired legendary status, selling over one million copies and receiving prestigious awards like “Best strategy” and many more.
7. Beyond Good and Evil (developed and published by Ubisoft; cross-platform 2003)
This adventure game was released in 2003 by Ubisoft and takes place in 2435 on the planet Hillys.
Jade is the protagonist, an investigative journalist/martial artist, trying to uncover a conspiracy and dedicating herself to people’s well being. She begins to doubt the government cannot fight off the alien invaders attacking the planet and starts an underground resistance group. Jade’s ultimate and only objective is to uncover the truth. To achieve this goal, you need to solve complex puzzles and collect the necessary evidence at all costs.
Beyond Good and Evil was a success and received numerous awards. While a sequel to the game is reportedly being worked on, a release date, is not available yet.
6. Rayman 2: The Great Escape (developed and published by Ubisoft; cross-platform 1999)
Rayman 2 is a game that is known for its revolutionary 3D graphics and sound. At the time, it was considered absolutely next level.
When Robo-Pirates invade the Glade of Dreams to try to enslave the world’s inhabitants, Rayman and a few of his allies have to stop them and protect their world, but instead, he gets captured. This incredibly diverse and fun-packed title will certainly get your attention and you will not be able to stop playing. Frequently regarded as one of the best platformers, Rayman 2 is definitely worth checking out.
Both fans and critics agree that this game is excellent. Its design, gameplay, and soundtrack are all praised and loved by many.
5. Zak McKracken and the Alien Mindbenders (developed and published by Lucasfilm Games; Commodore 64 1988)
If you remember, this graphic adventure game topped my list of the 10 best Commodore 64 games. That alone says much.
In 1997, a tabloid newspaper writer Zak, scientist Annie Larris, and students Melissa China and Leslie Bennet attempt to stop a stupidity machine, built by the Caponians – space aliens. They have taken control of a phone company and are slowly but surely reducing people’s intelligence with their Mind-Bending Machine that emits a hum at a specific frequency. Luckily, another long-gone alien race has left behind a defense mechanism against them, that needs to be assembled. To do so, the main characters have to collect the parts that are scattered on Earth and Mars.
The game is considered by some to be the best adventure game of all time. It offers great puzzles, interactivity, and some genuine, fantastic humor.
4. Silver (developed by Spiral House, published by Infogrames; PC 1999, Dreamcast 2000)
Silver is an action RPG – initially released on PC 1999 by Infogrames – that takes place in the land of Jarrah. The Dreamcast version – published in 2000- is the one that I played and ranked 4th on my list of the 10 best Dreamcast games.
The main character is David, a young man whose wife is kidnapped by the sinister Silver – an evil sorcerer and ruler of the lands, working with the god Apocalypse. David needs to do whatever it takes to defeat the villain, including gathering allies, becoming a better swordsman, learning magic and traveling the lands to face Silver’s allies. His wife’s life – and those of all the other women Silver has taken – is at stake, and you need to set her free and finally bring peace to the lands. Another objective is to collect all 8 orbs, named after the different elements, which can later be used to cast special spells.
Silver is a very interesting real-time battle game that offers a fun atmosphere and a gameplay that has the potential to entertain you for hours on end.
3. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time (developed and published by Ubisoft; cross-platform 2003)
This action-packed game was all the rage back then!
The father of The Prince invades the Maharajah’s palace and during this event, the Prince finds the Dagger of Time. He is later tricked by the Vizier to release the Sands of Time from an hourglass the army found in the palace. The sands transform the people of the city into dangerous monsters, and the Prince and Farah (the Maharajah’s daughter) attempt to bring the Sands back into the hourglass and restore the peace.
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time was a success, selling over two million copies and receiving critical acclaim. It won many awards, including the prestigious “Game of the Year”. Enough said!
2. Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic (developed by Bioware, published by LucasArts; Xbox and Windows 2003)
Star Wars: KOTOR is a sci-fi adventure game that takes place 4000 years before the Galactic Empire, namely when Darth Malak sent invincible Siths against a galaxy. The player’s objective is to find and take down Malak by traveling to different planets. Darth Malak has successfully scattered the Jedis, leaving them vulnerable. It is up to the player to save the Republic.
The characters are customizable at the start of the game, and through the different interactions during the entire game, the path of the character is determined. Whether they will take the dark or light side depends solely on the decisions you make.
KOTOR was very well-received, winning some of the most prestigious game awards and had a sequel in 2004. As of 2007 more than 3 million copies of the game were sold.
Sim City 2000 (developed and published by Maxis; Mac-OS 1993)
This classic simulator allows you to build and manage your very own city. For the time its graphics were up to par, giving the player the impression that they were standing in a real town. Your objective is to use your resources wisely and build a city for the resident Sims to live a comfortable life in. The possibilities this game offers seem endless and the only limit to what you can do is your imagination.
Psychonauts (developed by Double Fine Productions, published by Majesco Entertainment; Xbox and Windows 2005)
Psychonauts tells the story of Raz, a boy with special abilities who discovers someone has been kidnapping other psychic children from the psychic camp, in order to steal their brains. Raz is the only one who can put an end to this, by using and at the same time improving his powers. This is a gripping adventure with a unique atmosphere. Definitely one of the most original games I have ever played.
A sequel, Psychonauts 2, is expected to be released in 2020.
Cannon Fodder (developed by Sensible Software, published by Virgin Interactive Entertainment; Amiga 1993)
Cannon Fodder is a very simple game: you guide your squad (up to 5) around the map, telling them what to shoot. Your troops can level up and eventually become heroes, if you are smart enough and make sure they survive the different missions and locations. It is incredibly entertaining and carries an anti-war message.
CF received critical acclaim, but believe me, this is not Sensible Software’s best effort…
1. Sensible World of Soccer 96/97 (developed by Sensible Software, published by Renegade; Amiga 1996)
Finally, the last of the popular soccer series created by Jon Hare. It is a brilliant and simple soccer simulator that has thousands of real-life players to choose from, each with their specific characteristics and skills. In the career mode, you can manage your team through 20 seasons by buying and selling players.
Not everybody likes the visuals, but the gameplay is thrilling. Many people consider this game to be the best soccer simulator of all time. It has a unique control system and requires strategic thinking instead of mindless clicking. This classic will get you hooked in no time. It is the title modern soccer games can learn from.
Despite its age, Sensible Soccer 96/97 is still widely played and even has competitions held around the world by fans.
Personally, I love SWOS, it is up there with my favorite games of all time and – obviously – I ranked it first on my list of the top 10 retro soccer games.
Final impressions – a whole retro world to uncover
GOG is a great platform that has successfully curated some of the best titles of the past. Anyone who has played video games will find something that will bring back fond memories of countless hours of gaming.
It is obvious that today’s video games are far superior when it comes to design, sound, and graphics. And while that may be true, retro gaming shows us that these are not the only ingredients to the recipe for a perfect game. The gripping story, gameplay, and narrative play a far more important role than the superficial. Whatever shortcomings these titles have, they make up in other aspects.
The fact that more and more people are willing to appreciate the genius of old games like these means that consumers still have not dropped their standards. Apparently, great graphics are not enough to grab the player’s attention for long. Modern game makers have still something to learn from retro games, in order to achieve the perfect blend of modern tech and classic storytelling.
So, retro folks, these were my picks for today’s list. Do you disagree with this ranking? Is there a game you would add? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!