The COG Time Machine – 10 Retro Games Everyone Must Play


Millennials. Youngins. Whipper Snappers. Whatever you want to call young people these days, one thing is clear; in their haze of Angry Birds and Call of Duty, many don’t realize the absolute, unfettered glory that came before. The past shapes the present, and gaming’s past is chock full of classics that stand the test of time. So lace up your high-tops and dive head first into our list of 10 must play classic games.

You may also notice related games being mentioned in the list. These games strike similar chords to the main entries, and are also well worth a spin. As a note, we’ve excluded games that we believe have superior contemporary counterparts. That’s why games like Super Mario 64 and Ocarina of Time are nowhere to be found – Mario Galaxy and Windwaker blow those two away.

Chrono Trigger (SNES)

Chrono Trigger is the crown jewel of 16 bit era RPGs, ranking in the top 10 on several ‘all time’ best lists. Why? For one, the time travel storyline’s layering is staggeringly deep, even by today’s standards. The characters are memorable and believable, the score is one of catchiest around (awesome metal medley here), and the game has 14 unique endings. It’s a game that can be revisited endlessly, and is a must play for anyone who even dabbles in the RPG genre.

Related: Final Fantasy VI (SNES)

Super Metroid (SNES)

Super Metroid defined a genre that has recently resurfaced with games like Guacamelee and Shadow Complex. Its gameplay has aged remarkably well, and still feels like the gold standard for the “Metroidvania” genre. Of course, the game is stuffed with items to unlock and areas to explore; the difference is the unbelievable atmosphere and sense of loneliness Super Metroid delivers.

Related: Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (Playstation)

NHL ‘94 (Genesis, SNES)

It was all downhill after NHL ‘94. No, seriously. NHL ‘94 is the perfect balance between arcade action and hockey simulation, despite the lack of fighting. There’s no career mode or create a player, no manager mode, no fluff whatsoever. Just the most entertaining video game hockey imaginable, complete with one timers and glass smashing slap shots.

Related: NBA Jam (SNES, Genesis)

Super Mario World (SNES)

Although not ground breaking by any stretch, Super Mario World is pure joy in a cartridge. It perfected the gameplay set forth by its predecessors with more in depth mechanics, countless secrets to discover, and of course Yoshi. Super Mario World represents a high water mark for 2D platformers to shoot for, and helped propel the SNES to 16 bit dominance.

Related: Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

A Link to the Past (SNES)

A Link to the Past is the best of the Zelda franchise. Sure, I may have liked Ocarina of Time more when it was released, but Link to the Past has aged vastly better. Today, it remains a shining example of the gameplay the series is known for, and is the origin of classic Zelda items like the hookshot and empty bottles. What more does a gamer need?

Related: Secret of Mana (SNES)

Super Street Fighter 2/Street Fighter 2 Turbo (SNES)

Fighting games are almost all alike. They generally show a 2D plane, with two dudes (or dudettes) facing off in combat. The level of finesse and complexity varies, but all those games owe their concept to Street Fighter 2. It’s easy to pick up and play, and remains entertaining 20+ years later. Play Turbo for a high speed, classic experience, and Super if you like more character variety.

Related: Mortal Kombat II

Final Fantasy IX (Playstation)

The masses may consider Final Fantasy IX to be the black sheep of the Playstation era, but is in fact superior to VII and VIII, and near the top of the series as a whole. Why? Because it’s a throwback to old school Final Fantasy mechanically, and is now itself a retro game. It’s retro game inception. More seriously, FFIX is brilliantly written and localized, with equally strong moments of laughter and drama. It’s criminal for RPG fans to miss out on this story.

Related: League of its own!

Turtles in Time (SNES)

I’m sure some people are scratching their heads over this one, but hear me out. Beat-em-ups are a hallmark of the 8 and 16 bit eras, and Turtles in Time is the Super Bowl of brawler games. It looks great even today, and contains classic turtle lines like “Shell Shock”, and “Cowabunga”. At a base level, it’s just plain fun to play.

Related: Streets of Rage 2 (Genesis)

Mega Man 2 (NES)

Mega Man 2 is the definition of a hard game. It is brutally, mercilessly difficult, but also fair. The controls are rock solid, and have a feeling of direct control most modern games lack. The stages can also be attacked in any order, making the Mega Man games the original open world games (pro tip: start with Air Man).

Related: Mega Man 3 (NES), Mega Man X (SNES)

Metal Gear Solid (Playstation)

Metal Gear Solid was truly ground breaking at its release. It paved the way for 3D stealth action games, had an impenetrably complicated (yet endearing) storyline, and showcased (at the time) mind blowing AI that could follow footprints. It’s a bit muddy graphically, but worth playing to see where stealthy games like Arkham Asylum and Dishonored have roots. If you can’t stand the Playstation era graphics, check out The Twin Snakes – a remastered version released on GameCube – though I personally prefer the original.

There you have it. 10 games that every gamer worth their salt should at least try. No, it’s not a ‘10 best’ list. It’s just 10. There are a myriad of games that I considered for this list: games like The Secret of Monkey Island, Sonic the Hedgehog, Super Mario RPG, and Quake. What are your ‘must play’ games? Let us know in the comments!