The 10 Greatest Retro Games

Many of us remember the old times of video games. The days when Mario and Bowser duelled to the death, when Donkey Kong had just began running around the jungle with his companions, and when Pokemon and its cards were the talk of the middle school. If you’re too young for such things, you can always go grab an old Game Boy and cartridges from Amazon to try your luck on some of these titles. They’re definitely worth the time.

But if you already had your fun back in the day, you’re undoubtedly looking for something new. A new device to play things on, perhaps? Or maybe you want a new indie game that’s has such large pixels on the screen you can see the days of old within them. Whatever the case, there are a lot of great games on the App Store that may just fit what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at some of them.

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Another World — 20th Anniversary

Originally making its debut on the Amiga, Atari ST, Apple IIGS and DOS in 1991, this game is truly a classic. Its story is, obviously, about aliens. The game is known to Americans as Out of This World, and lives up to such a title. Back in the day of its release, the French developer Eric Chahi made this game a visual masterpiece with realistic graphics (it’s hard to believe now, since everything looks so pixelated) and remarkable cinematic scenes that gave storytelling a new name.

Since the 1990s, Another World made its way to many other platforms, including the Mac OS, Windows, and iOS — with Game Center support. You can now experience the beautiful Out of This World game with its fluid storytelling and sophisticated gameplay using a touchscreen with revamped controls and graphics. There are now three difficulty settings: normal, which is easier than the original game; difficult, which is the same as the original game; and very hard, which is even more challenging than the original. There are 13 achievements to be earned and a lot of game to start playing, so get cracking.

Price: $3.99
Requires: iOS 3.1.3 or later
Developer: Bulkypix

The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition

Do you like puzzle games? I’m not talking about a boring old puzzle that you have to put together, but rather a beautiful role-playing puzzle adventure. If so, you’ll love this. It’s an old LucasArts game from the 1990s, originally one of the point-and-click genre, and was originally available on the Amiga, Atari ST, DOS and others. All the gameplay was loads of fun back in the day, so why not shake things up for a new generation of computing? The iPad is now one of its new homes, and with good reason.

It’s a game about pirates, stolen treasure, beautiful art — oh, and monkeys, of course. With the touchscreen control scheme, all is even better than it was with point-and-click. Walking around and solving puzzles seems natural, as the island looks. Unfortunately, if you’re mainly using an iPad with a Retina display, you’ll be sorely disappointed to know that this game is not optimised for it and instead looks a bit pixelated. Even though that sounds retro, this title would be better with a perfect appearance on that high-definition display.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iOS 3.2 or later
Developer: LucasArts

Sonic CD

From the experts at SEGA comes a legendary adventure of a blue hedgehog. His name, which is spoken in hush tones by one Eggman, is Sonic. The little fellow is notorious for wreaking havoc on Dr. Ivo Robotnik’s dastardly plans of world domination with speedy jumping and tactical use of loops and springs. He prevents the evil doctor from obtaining the Chaos Emeralds that he so desires and saves the world from destruction.

With the iOS addition to the Sonic franchise, the gameplay and graphics remain the same as the original (released in 1993), but there are new controls for a touchscreen tablet, the game looks beautiful on an iPhone’s Retina display and there are many achievements to reach for your friends to envy your Game Center profile. So be off and travel the Little Planet to have adventures of your own, with a hedgehog and cool acrobatic tricks at your side.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone; iOS 3.1.3 or later
Developer: SEGA

DOOM Classic

When looking at the history of first-person shooters, one can get overwhelmed. Sure, there are the great modern games like the Call of Duty franchise and Battlefield 3, which will soon be known as classics. Those aren’t really much more than modern cultural revolutions right now, though. If you need your pixelated, unrealistic first-person shooter fix, consider something like DOOM, the Classic edition.

This is the kind of game of hell invading Earth. It’s the time of armageddon, when only you can save the planet you so dearly love. So pull out your BFG 9000 and destroy those armies of the underworld as fast as you can — without dying. There are 36 missions in all, and if that doesn’t keep you entertained, try changing up the difficulty to something a bit more arduous, control scheme to an irritating mess, or even putting on your own soundtrack from iTunes. It’s all packed into this universal adventure. Have fun.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone; iOS 3.2 or later
Developer: id Software LLC

PAC-MAN

I’ll bet you didn’t see this one coming. It’s only fair we mention the legendary 1980s Namco game. It’s yet another Japanese development, though it was released far before anything else in this list. That makes it a true classic, and you should respect it. If you’ve never played the game, it’s about earning lots of points and eating all the dots on the screen before any of the ghosts get their cold hands on you.

The iPad version of this classic has a new set of controls: swiping. You just flick your finger in the desired direction to turn Pac-Man. If that’s not old-school enough for you, try out the original controls and use the joystick to guide your hero to victory and advance to the next stage of chomping goodness. Oh, and get those fruit while you can. You can even use the iCade Bluetooth controller if you prefer the feel of tactile buttons.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iOS 3.2 or later
Developer: NAMCO Bandai Games

Final Fantasy Dimensions

You may have been skimming this article looking for signs of Pokémon. Well I’m sorry, but there will be no Nintendo masterwork here, unfortunately. Instead, let’s go with Square Enix. From them came games like Kingdom Hearts, Dragon Quest and Final Fantasy. The last one is significant though, because there are a few official adaptions from the franchise available on the iPad. The one we’re interested in is Dimensions.

Featuring the same classic pixelation — or, as the developer puts it, “pixel art” — as many of the other games in this article, this iteration of Final Fantasy brings the good old experience to your tablet and your smartphone if you wish (it’s universal). The gameplay also features optimization for the iPad’s Retina display, if that’s possible with the intentional pixelation — at least there’s no distortion. The only problem with it is that each chapter costs. The prequel is free, but the first chapter is $2.99 and the rest are $9.99 each. If you want them all, it’s $29.99, which does seem like a bit much for an iOS title. However, remember that this is a classic and you’re paying the same as you would if you had bought it for an older console back in the day.

Price: Free (Chapters 2-4 cost $9.99 each; the first is $2.99)
Requires: iPad or iPhone; iOS 4.0 or later
Developer: Square Enix Co., LTD

Indie Retro Lookalikes

You can’t just develop a classic — it takes time to become one. So what happens to those great indie games out there that try hard to be legendary? I’ve gathered a few of them for this special section.

Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP

This game has appeared in the media a lot since it released. The critics acclaimed it (right now the Metascore is 86) and we gave it 10 out of 10 — it’s a great game. Funnily enough though, it was released in 2011, not the late 1900s or even early 2000s. It’s a classic of this time, and the times to come. The developers put a lot of effort into making the title a truly beautiful pixelated pièce de résistance.

The game is optimised for the iPad’s Retina display, it has its own set of touch controls, the story is grippingly good and the old-school feel of the whole thing makes you think it was created for the retro generation. It’s a universal app too, so you can cast spells and use your sword to fight foes on both devices. The only thing it doesn’t have is iCloud sync, which may one day make it to the game. With that, it’d be complete.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone; iOS 4.3 or later
Developer: Capybara Games, Inc.

Space Invaders Infinity Gene

An original classic with a new twist, this game was released in 2009, has support for the iPad’s Retina display, and is a retro masterpiece from a modern-day operating system. You wouldn’t expect a new version of Space Invaders to be all that much fun, but this game just proves you wrong. It’s smart, and the more you play it, the more it learns. So next time you’re bored, pick up this and start firing away at those invaders.

Price: $4.99
Requires: iPad or iPhone; iOS 3.0 or later
Developer: Taito Corporation

Jetpack Joyride

From, of all people, the developers of Fruit Ninja comes a high-flying adventure of coin collection, machine guns, evil scientists and too many more elements to mention. Simply put, see how long you can stay in the air without running into something and collect coins along the way for bonus points. It’s a Retina-optimised spectacle that draws you in little by little. Playing it more will only make you want to buy the boosters and coin packs (for buying things), so be cautious.

Even though the game is free at the start, there are ways to expand your jetpack’s abilities so you can be triumphant over your various enemies. Of course, there are in-game upgrades available, so try to grab some of those before you go spend your money.

Price: Free
Requires: iPad or iPhone; iOS 4.3 or later
Developer: Halfbrick Studios

Tapper World Tour HD

What’s that? You saw Wreck-It Ralph and still don’t know what Tapper is? Well that’s just ridiculous, we must educate you. Basically, you tend bar in a pub, serving your thirsty and irritable patrons. If their patience runs out, you lose and get thrown out, so be quick for Sam’s sake.

With this reinvented version of the classic comes a more sophisticated bar for more extreme times. You’ll encounter strange new characters, dancers from your stage, and cowboys with weird moustaches who want to tear you apart with their bare hands. There are over 140 levels in over 15 locations in this new game, and you even get to go to Europe. Just know that there’s no optimisation for the iPad’s Retina display. Now, get to bar-tending.

Price: $1.99
Requires: iOS 4.2 or later
Developer: Warner Bros. Entertainment

What’s Your Favourite

These are but a few of the retro games available for the iPad and they may not be the best in your opinion. If you have some that you really enjoy, we’d love to hear about them. Until next time then?


  • Kieran Penrice

    Final Fantasy Dimensions isn’t a classic though. It’s in the same style as the classics, but it was first released in August, so the price isn’t equivalent to what you would have paid when it first came out, it’s a rip-off pure and simple.

    When other companies are releasing RPGs like Zenonia for free or games like modern combat 4 for a few bucks then square thinking they can release this stuff for $30 is just insulting.

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