The 20 Best Retro Games on Steam
Some of my favorite games were made decades ago, and there are still plenty of ways to enjoy them today without feeling like you’re in the wrong decade.
If you’re looking to take a break from the hustle and bustle of modern games, you could do worse than returning to some classics that have been given new life via Steam.
Since we already have a list of the best pixel-art games on Steam, this list will only include actual retro games – those that are at least 15 years old – and no titles that are merely ‘retro-looking’ games.
This article contains some of the best retro games on Steam. Pull up an old chair and don’t forget your nostalgia glasses as you explore these retro gems.
Heroes of Might and Magic III
It is a bit hard for me to realize that this game is now decades old. I remember playing a lot of it as soon as I got back from school.
Heroes of Might and Magic III is a turn-based strategy game that combines turn-based exploration with turn-based combat. Certain aspects of it feel like a contained version of Civilization, but in a high fantasy world with elves, undead creatures, and dragons.
In Heroes of Might and Magic III, you and your adversaries have castles that you can upgrade and heroes that lead an army. This also works as a base where you produce units and research technologies to have new units and upgrade the ones you have.
You also get to explore the world looking for buffs, neutral enemies that might join you or fight you, outposts, and so on.
There is a story mode in which you might face one of many enemies, and the multiplayer mode can have multiple players on a single map. You also have different heroes, and they might have various spells and abilities that influence the battlefield.
Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicles of Mystara
This game is something you don’t know you need until you see it. Dungeons & Dragons: Chronicle of Mystara has two old beat ’em up games based on D&D, and one of them is perfection.
Dungeons & Dragons: Shadow Over Mystara is a massive improvement upon its successor, although this product comes with both. The superior game is easily identifiable for many reasons.
In the second game, Capcom made make it as D&D as possible while making it somewhat anime at the same time. One can greatly admire all the effort that the developers put into this game. It feels like a passion project.
The dwarf and human fighter are brick walls that hit hard, the wizard greatly depends on managing his spells, the thief needs to dodge and use items, and so on. Each character has their own unique strength, moves, and strategies that are heavily based on the tabletop RPG.
Not only that, you only have one life. There were legends about kids who could beat this game with a single coin, and I have seen it happen once. However, it is much better to play on Steam. That way, I can enjoy this legendary game without getting poor before reaching the third boss.
X-Com: Ufo Defense
X-Com: Ufo Defense is decades old and is still considered one of the most brilliant strategy games ever. As far as retro games go, this is the one that will please fans of turn-based strategy games and Science Fiction.
X-COM: UFO Defense was a very successful game, and it had many sequels and a remake. It is hard to see the brilliance of this game nowadays, especially with the modern X-Com games that we’ve seen. However, there’s so much about Ufo Defense that impressed all of us back in the day.
You control X-Com, the world’s organization meant to defeat the increasing alien menace. Once the UFOs are taken down, your real job starts. Take a squad of heavily-armed soldiers to investigate the crash sites. That investigation usually ends with intense turn-based combat against the surviving aliens.
This game is decades old, and it has already introduced the idea of stealing alien tech to improve your own weapons. On top of all that, you also have to be careful about how Earth behaves politically. Local conflicts might cause issues and make nation leaders ally with the enemy.
Wolfenstein is one of the original first-person shooters. It quickly became very popular. It first came out in 1994, and although it was a rather violent videogame, most people who liked the hobby wanted to explode the bad guys in this game.
Maybe it was the theme behind it, or maybe it was just the novelty of the genre. Yet, whatever the reason was, Wolfenstein was not only a pioneer but a successful title. After it came out, we saw a bunch of other games that capitalized on the same perspective.
Without Wolfenstein 3-D and other old-school FPS games, we would never have some of the best action games we’ve ever seen.
Wolfenstein is so important to videogame culture that, according to The Computer Gaming World Hall of Fame, it helped shape the overall direction of the computer gaming industry.
This title comes with the original Doom game and the new Doom IV.
Doom might not be the original FPS, but it is one of the most memorable to this date. Doom is a game with a lot of originality, even though it borrowed a lot from Wolfenstein 3-D. This is one of the best examples of how a game can use many essential design elements from another title and still be very different.
Instead of shooting evil soldiers, Doom had you in a sci-fi environment where you were literally fighting demons with guns. This premise is crazy unreasonable, but it works phenomenally well for a video game.
This game knows what it is, and it might be one of the oldest self-aware video games that didn’t take it too seriously. The main character, mostly known as The Doom Guy, can take down dozens of demonic entities alone with a shotgun.
Doom is the original arcade shooter. Enemies have patterns, dodgeball projectiles, predictable behaviors, and so on. It is not a perfect game, but it didn’t become a sensation for no reason.
I know I’ve recommended four iD Software games, but if you like one, chances are you will like them all.
Hexen: Beyond Heretic
This game was published by iD Software. However, it was made by another developed using the same engine used to make Doom.
Hexen: Beyond Heretic is a direct sequel to Heretic, another first-person shooter that looks a lot like Doom and might have borrowed a lot of ideas from it. On the other hand, it also comes with innovative concepts.
You must choose one of the three available classes at the beginning of the game. Each comes with unique weapons. The fighter uses primarily melee weapons and can take more damage. The wizard uses devastating spells and is supposed to be fragile. Finally, we have a class that is somewhat between the previous two classes, the Cleric.
This might be the first game of the genre with a class system. On top of that, it also brilliantly uses pattern learning and the environment to make interesting challenges to the players. Hexen was amazingly well designed for its time.
Like Wolfenstein and Doom, Quake was developed by the legendary iD Software. This game is about a troop that has landed in an alien land and is trying to survive. You lost hundreds of men, and you must fight to pass through an intensely guarded fort so you can defeat your enemy.
It seems that iD Software was riding the popularity of its other titles by making similar but different games. This was a genius move. This method allowed them to keep doing something they were already successful at while creating new and exciting IPs.
Quake was an absolute success and even gained a sequel. After fighting evil soldiers in Wolfenstein 3-D, mythical creatures in Hexen, and invading aliens in Doom, you fight everything in Quake.
In Quake, you play as the Ranger, a warrior with many different weapons who fights deformed ogres, corrupted knights, and other bizarre creatures. You go through military bases, old castles, dungeons, and other weird areas.
Requiem: Avenging Angel
This first-person shooter is an over-the-top adventure that puts you in the shoes of an angel trying to prevent the end of the world.
Generally speaking, this is a classic FPS game where you run around and shoot. Yet, it is set in a dystopian sci-fi world and has biblical elements. I know it sounds weird, but it is fantastic. It is something that could only have been created in 1999.
When it comes to graphics, Requiem: Avenging Angel looks surprisingly good. I also like how Malachi, the main character, reacts to the world and creatures he sees.
You start the game without any weapon and have to rely on your angelic powers. However, Malachi is not that strong at first. You get new abilities as you progress. Eventually, you even get to turn enemies into salt, and it looks so cool.
With time, you will throw fireballs and twist the enemies’ insides. Still, you will also be able to resurrect enemies and make them fight for you. This game even had bullet-time effects even before Max Paine came out. This game is very hard, but I still think it’s worth trying.
Mega Man Legacy Collection
Mega Man will always be a classic. Most of us have played at least one game featuring the blue bomber or based on its jump-and-shoot gameplay.
This game was so relevant that it inspired countless games and influenced an entire generation. It also created spin-off franchises with similar gameplay, such as Megaman Zero, or completely different gameplay, such as Mega Man Network Transmission.
It’s also not just a great action platformer, but it has some of the best boss fights in gaming history. If you haven’t played through Mega Man Legacy Collection yet, just do it.
The collection contains Mega Man games from 1 to 6, including most of the best Mega Man games ever made.
Final Fantasy VI
Known for its unique blend of fantasy, steampunk, and sci-fi elements, Final Fantasy VI follows a group of rebels who seek to overthrow an evil empire.
Its characters have unique skills that make them feel more distinct from one another, making team composition an important part of this Final Fantasy’s gameplay.
This game has some heavy themes and unusual aesthetics. It’s often mentioned that it opened the doors for games like Final Fantasy VII to exist.
Final Fantasy VI still has some of the most memorable characters, story, and soundtrack in video game history. It’s safe to assume this will always be one of my all-time favorite video games.
Mega Man X Legacy Collection
If you’re looking for some classic-style side-scrolling action, look no further than Mega Man X Legacy Collection.
The SNES era is by far one of my favorite video game eras, and most of its games are still significant today.
X is a new kind of robot created by doctor light, the self-aware kind that can make his own choices. His design was used to make Reploids, other robots that also get to make their own decisions.
This new franchise introduces new gameplay elements into what was already a fantastic franchise, like hidden power-ups and dashing mechanics.
Mega Man X has challenging levels with fun boss fights that make every stage feel very distinct. I can assure you that you won’t get bored with this collection.
I was thrilled when I first saw some of Sega’s old games on Steam. It’s an excellent opportunity to play some of the best 16-bits games ever made at a surprisingly low cost.
I don’t know how to talk about my favorite retro games without mentioning Comix Zone. It is still one of my favorite 2D beat-em-ups ever.
This game was considerably hard, but it was so innovative when it came out. It has dark but visually engaging artwork, addicting gameplay, and an engaging enough plot.
It might not be for everyone, but it’s worth trying if you’d like a challenging game with a fresh take on beat-em-up platformers.
Castlevania Advance Collection
I’ll admit that adding Castlevania Advance Collection to this list is pushing the boundaries of what is retro. However, this collection is here because one of its games is Castlevania: Circle of the Moon.
I love this game for so many reasons. It was good to return to Castlevania origins after Alucard’s saga. You play as a whip-wielding vampire hunter, and you don’t have to worry about leveling up, which are two things that I was happy to take a break from.
This game mixed the best of both worlds for me. It added a Metroidvania-like exploration and customization but kept the simplicity of old Castlevania games before they had many RPG elements.
And suppose you’d like something more like Symphony of the Night. In that case, there are other Castlevania games in the collection with heavier customization and levels for you to grind.
Castlevania Anniversary Collection
One cannot talk about some of the best retro games without mentioning the most famous Castlevania games.
If you love this franchise, then Castlevania Anniversary Collection is a must-have. This package includes all Castlevania games from 1 to 4 and a few others like Castlevania Bloodlines and Castlevania The Adventure.
The first Castlevania is one of the most challenging and well-designed games ever made, so I cannot recommend it enough.
This collection is perfect for anyone who loves old-school platformers and adventure games.
One of Treasure’s early Genesis shooters, Alien Soldier is a much-loved shooter for its anime-inspired art style and quirky characters.
This game looks unique, and it has surprisingly good pixel art that used to stand out back in the 16-bits era.
Alien Soldier’s gameplay makes you feel powerful from the beginning, but it can be very challenging at times. I remember playing this on the Sega Genesis and loving every second of it.
If you like super-hard boss battles and platform shooters, Alien Soldier might become your favorite retro game.
Sonic the Hedgehog
Sonic is a true classic and is one of my favorite platform games of all time. This game holds up well even to today’s standards with beautiful pixel art, stunning scenarios, memorable tracks, and very fluid gameplay.
It’s not hard to see why Sonic has been so popular for over two decades now. Even though you might have experienced it countless times before, there’s something magic about Sonic.
Although it has had many different interpretations, the blue hedgehog is often considered at its best in 2D platformer games. Sonic is a timeless series that will continue to thrill for many years still yet to come.
Chrono Trigger can easily pass as a modern, retro-looking game. I’m sure I’d believe it if I didn’t know better. This is how much ahead of its time I think Chrono Trigger was.
This game has some of the most beautiful pixel art ever seen in classic JRPGs. It also has an innovative take on turn-based combats, multiple endings, and so much more.
When it first came out, Chrono Trigger was quick to become one of the most popular SNES titles in the world.
This game is memorable for many reasons, such as a story about saving the world, different timelines, memorable characters, and characters designed by Dragon Ball’s Akira Toriyama.
Chrono Trigger has aged surprisingly well and is still an absolute blast to play. This game is easy to recommend to anyone If you’re looking for something truly extraordinary from the 16-bits era.
Chrono Trigger is a timeless classic, and you must play it to have a sense of how majestic it is.
The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection
The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection brings back many of SNK’s greatest games, dating back to the 1980s, with some special features. This collection has 24 titles, including some true arcade classics like Psycho Soldier and all Ikari Warrior games.
If you’re looking for a nostalgia trip and are into old arcade games, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is an excellent choice.
Clearly, this collection is a niche title, even for those who enjoy retro games. After all, I’m not sure how many people are into games like Time Soldiers, Ikari Warriors, and Beast Busters.
Still, SNK 40th Anniversary Collection has 24 titles with different versions and some bonuses that will probably please any fans of old SNK arcade games.
I remember finding this game so odd when I first played it, yet I couldn’t stop trying to get to the next level.
This Sega Genesis game, released in 1992, is a platformer that many argue was one of its best for that generation.
This unique take on a platformer has you playing as a character who can collect different masks, each one giving you new abilities. For instance, one of them can make you shoot fireballs while another might allow you to stick to the wall.
Choosing what masks to keep and the best one to deal with particular challenges was a significantly fun part of this game.
Kid Chameleon made great use of colorful backgrounds and overall design, making it stand out from other games in its genre.
If you’re looking for an entertaining platformer with original takes and quirky visuals, give Kid Chameleon a try.
Also known as Out of This World, Another World is a single-player action-adventure platformer that came out in 1991. It is a cult classic praised for its story, unique visual aesthetics, and ambiance.
The game puts you in control of Lester Knight Chaykin, an astrophysicist. He finds himself transported to another world after a lab accident.
In a distant and dangerous world, you will have to dodge, outwit, and get past the variety of deadly monsters that will stand in your way. It will take a logical and skillful plan to overcome the different obstacles and enemies that await you.
This is such a good adventure game, and its world of quite fantastic. Weirdly, the art style still looks good if scaled up. This game is very well thought out, and I feel like it was ahead of its time.