Nintendo’s recent announcement of the NES-Mini has been kicking up some serious retro gaming feels. With Sega’s Master Drive currently on sale on Amazon and a whole, shady world of emulators waiting out there for the intrepid nostalgist, here’s an old-timey primer for the must-play games of the 8-bit era.
This classic big-gun side-scroller was a game better played with friends...even if those friends would steal the goddamn spread gun every single damn time. Still, it was better than having to wait your turn.
2. Skate or Die
If you can get past some of the weirder stereotypes included in Skate or Die, you'll find an edgy, fun game that seemed to genuinely understand its demographic at the time. While playing it now there are several moments when you realize that it's the game that paved the way for Tony Hawk and SSX. Therefore, it will always be radical.
3. RBI Baseball
Eat your heart out, Tecmo Bowl! RBI Baseball was infinitely re-playable, incredibly competitive and required actual skills. It was the best sports game compared to other sports games at the time, and it still is.
4. Rad Racer
The only racing game where a Ferrari Testarossa was on par with an F1 juggernaut, Rad Racer ensured that Matchbox cars would forever feel lame compared to video game race cars.
Major movies and TV shows used to get video-game go-alongs all the time back in the 8-bit era. Most were garbage. But the Batman game that coincided with the original Tim Burton-Michael Keaton caped crusader movie was an exception to the rule. All the villains and wonderful toys are present, with graphics that are way better than you’d expect of the generation.
6. Final Fantasy
The game that brought the dawn of the modern RPG, Final Fantasy has gotten numerous iterations and remakes. But the original popularized the genre, and it single-handedly saved its publisher, Square, while laying the groundwork for emo kids to wear eyeliner for years to come (points against it there).
7. Hogan’s Alley
Screw Duck Hunt and its goddamn laughing dog. Hogan’s Alley was the zapper game for real gunslingers, taking out proper thugs and sparing harmless grannies was an art, and we were artists.
8. Ninja Gaiden
One of the best revenge stories in all of gaming history, Ninja Gaiden tested the mettle of an entire generation with its impossibly difficult gameplay and requirement for masterful timing. Coincidentally, it also taught a generation how to cope with failure.
Metroid showed us that girl power didn’t have to bash you over the head. Samus was a badass first, lady second, and a weird, curled-up ball who destroyed an evil alien race third.
10. Mike Tyson’s Punch Out!
Iron Mike may have been going through some heavy shit in the 90s that got his namesake game rebranded as Super Punch Out! Mike's absence aside, we still love KO-ing the colorful cast of characters on our way from featherweight underdog to heavyweight champion of the world.
11. The Legend of Zelda
It’s not safe to go alone. Handing big ass swords to Peter Pan-looking children never seemed like a better idea than in the top-down action puzzler that has literally become legendary.
12. Mega Man 2
When Mega Man 1 flopped, Capcom told the devs they could only make a sequel on their own time. 20-hour days and a whole lotta love paved the way for Mega Man’s return and solidified him as a rockstar in the scheme of video game history, and a must-play to this day.
13. Super Mario Bros. 3
Addictive and iconic, SMB3 was a high-water mark of the 8-bit generation. If you didn’t fall into a lifelong love affair with this game, you were either home-schooled or Amish. Or probably both.