With all the talk about the increasing use of innovative tech like AI and VR, gaming is often seen as being at the cutting edge of technology. Whoever can use the best tools to come up with new and more realistic games will hit the top of the game charts and rake in the financial rewards.
That’s fine as far as it goes, but we’ve been playing computer and video games for the past 40 years or more, and over that period, some true classics have come and gone. Here, we pick some of the best retro games that you can play, absolutely free, online or via a smartphone app.
According to apocryphal history, when Space Invaders was first released on an unsuspecting Japanese public in 1978, it led to a shortage of 100-yen coins. For many, it is still the archetypal video game, even though the difficulty curve, whereby shooting more aliens means they appear faster, was an accident brought about by faster rendering when there was less showing on the screen. The game is available to play online, frantic four-note soundtrack and all.
When we weren’t blowing away aliens in those bygone years, we were at similar sized cabinets trying to match three bells, or bars, or lemons, on the fruit machine. These days, there are hundreds of online slots to choose from, but the most popular of them all is Starburst, a simple game that follows the classic format. It’s perfect evidence that sometimes less is more.
In the early 80s, we were introduced to Jumpman and his unpredictable pet gorilla, Donkey Kong. The game was one of the first to introduce a narrative, which really added to the engagement factor. It was also an early pioneer of the jump and run format that became so familiar in the years that followed. Some call Super Mario groundbreaking, but arguably it was Donkey Kong that laid the foundations. Google the game and you will find a few online versions to choose from.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Just as Donkey Kong ushered in the 80s, so Sonic the Hedgehog was the gaming superstar of the 90s in the MegaDrive era. Sonic was cooler, faster and edgier than Mario, and he became synonymous with the Sega brand. Today, he is still duking it out with Doctor Robotnik and the rest, albeit on a smaller screen – you can download the game on iOS or Android for free, from the usual places.
Way back in the 1970s, a computer game called Blockade was released, to very little fanfare. It almost disappeared into obscurity, until Nokia decided to reinvent the game as Snake in the late 1990s and to start preinstalling it on their mobile phones. The rest, as they say, is history. The game was installed on an estimated 400 million phones, and gave most people their first ever experience of mobile gaming. Download it onto your smartphone from itunes or play.com to give your handset the ultimate retro touch