Whether bedroom or living room, we all started playing games at some point. Here are our 10 favourite retro games from the “good old days.”
Living in the mid-90s was an exciting time. The first PlayStation came out in 1994, the N64 in 1996 and Tony Blair was doing some stuff in the background. This all meant a lot of time spent in pyjamas, cross-legged in front of the TV.
At Lost Universe, this is when we began to really get into gaming. In a fit of nostalgia, we’ve decided to go back through our memories and pick out the best retro games from that exciting era. (We were inspired when collecting retro gaming consoles for our store.)
So, in no particular order, here are the top 10 retro games from the late 90s and early 00s:
Mario Kart 64, N64 (1997)
You can tell a Mario Kart veteran by how they start a race. Only the pros consistently get a turbo on the final starting light.
The magic of Mario Kart was how it brought friends together. This game was at its best when played split-screen with others. Playing solo was simply a training session so you could beat your pals later.
We remember hours spent finding the shortcuts on Luigi Raceway, D.K.’s Jungle Parkway and the psychedelically fiendish Rainbow Road. A whole weekend could slip away playing Battle Mode, trying to pop Toad’s balloons.
This is hands down one of the most popular retro games around. The high pitched voices from Mario, Peach and the others when hit with a lightning bolt still ring in our ears... “Ah-wowowo”.
Goldeneye 007, N64 (1997)
This Bafta-winning James Bond game is consistently rated one of the best video games of all time. Praised for its visuals at the time of release, looking back now we can scoff at the blocky graphics. But it has stayed in our hearts for over two decades, and for good reason.
The story was great – following the beloved film of the same name – the gameplay was fun, and the multiplayer was amazing
At the time, Nintendo was known more for its family friendly Mario franchise. Going down the shooter route was a risk, but they pulled it off. Goldeneye became the third-best selling N64 game ever, selling more than 8 million units.
We’ll never forget the satisfaction of blowing someone up with a remote mine in the Complex map. Or playing Temple with Unarmed only. “Karate Chop!”
Metal Gear Solid, PlayStation (1998)
One of the first 3D games we played with such a gripping story., this is a PlayStation classic. You play Solid Snake, an elite soldier trained in stealth, who has to end the terrorist threat from FOXHOUND, who are threatening to nuke the world. You are greeted at major moments by charismatic bosses who you must take down with your stealthy snakey tricks.
The game was also really hard. It paid to be patient – in a world of button mashing games – which meant we lost hours of our lives trying to get past guards. The sound of a guard noticing you in MGS is still one of the most jarring sounds in gaming.
It was the first Hideo Kojima-directed game in the Metal Gear series and it launched him to international fame. The Solid Snake story is a series with multiple twists and conspiracies, and we recommend starting it from here.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1-3, PlayStation (1999-2001)
Out of all the games we played around this time, Tony Hawk’s was the most liable to give us blisters on our fingers. Skating around various locations in the US, performing unrealistically complicated tricks by pressing several buttons in the right order, over and over. It was enough to strain a tendon or two.
Luckily, it was worth it. These games were the best introduction to skateboarding without breaking an arm at the park, and they had the best soundtracks. Though they were probably not the best way to learn how to skate, seeing as we still don’t know how to do a kickflip to indy to nose manual.
The series went on to release several more games but these ones, coming at that time, were major moments in history.
Spyro the Dragon, PlayStation (1998)
Spyro, the short purple dragon, who has to save all the frozen dragons and dragon worlds from Gnasty Gnorc and his minions. Somehow GG missed Spyro, so we get to take control of the little fella and fly through portals solving different problems on each world.
This was a feast of colours and fun animations when we were kids. The relatively innocent storyline made a soothing experience, but it was challenging enough to make it hard to put down the controller.
You can replay all the Spyro games, or you may want to introduce your kids to something more family friendly than Fortnite. They were remastered and re-released in 2018 with updated graphics and audio.
Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver, PlayStation/Dreamcast (1999)
From one side of the gaming spectrum to another. We loved this game’s darkness as much as we loved Spyro’s colourful optimism. Raziel, a vampire noble, is cast down to the underworld by his king Kain, who grew jealous when Raziel evolved to have wings. After years lying unconscious while his body decays, he is handed a new job by a god: revenge!
Soul Reaver was atmospheric and moody with excellent voice acting and eerie music. We loved solving its puzzles between the material and the spectral realms, and sucking down souls of the recently departed. And the story took so many twists and turns on separate timelines that we had to spend time contemplating who and when we were.
The following games in Raziel’s Legacy of Kain series, Soul Reaver II and Defiance carried on the story, but fizzled out when the studio ran into problems. We are still waiting for Raziel’s tale to pick up where it left off.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, N64 (1998)
Another of the N64’s top sellers, though this was the fifth Zelda game, this was the first time many of us went to Hyrule in 3D.
As Link, a wandering adventurer, you have to save the land from evil king Ganondorf who is trying to become invincible with the Triforce relic. Princess Zelda tasks you with finding it before he does.
You learn how to solve musical puzzles with your trusty ocarina (some kind of wind instrument) that lets you win new items and teleport places.
If you are loving Breath of the Wild on Switch or Wii U, we recommend you try this one out too.
Tomb Raider, Sega Saturn/PlayStation/PC (1996)
Tomb Raider was the debut of the character Lara Croft, the pixelated sexy archaeologist, who carries pistols and uzis when searching ruins for artefacts. Several games and movies later, she is still an iconic piece of gaming culture.
In the first game, you explore Peruvian tombs, and Egyptian pyramids, fighting off toothy beasts and shady henchmen, looking for powerful artefacts from Atlantis. The game is more about solving puzzles, jumping and rolling, than it is about shooting. And you’re more likely to die by swan diving off a cliff – the crunch sound at the bottom still reverberates in our bones.
We recommend playing Tomb Raider II as well. If only so you can explore Lara’s mansion in the English countryside, and lock her butler in the pantry. You can tell we were starved for entertainment in the 90s.
Halo: Combat Evolved, Xbox/PC (2001)
Made for the launch of the Xbox in 2001, we only got in the UK the following year. As Master Chief, you are one a dwindling number of super soldiers called Spartans, fighting against an alien religious confederation called The Covenant. The aliens believe that the ringworld Halo is a weapon they can use against Earth, and you have to stop them.
Playing this game was like a whole new world opening up. So many weapons, so many aliens and so many vehicles! Driving around in the Warthog with marines shooting aliens was so much fun.
Grand Theft Auto III, PlayStation 2/PC/Xbox (2001)
The first 3D open-world shooter, this was a groundbreaking game at the time. It was the first time you truly felt free to do whatever you wanted. Whether that was stealing cars, running people over or leading the cops on a high-speed chase.
It was controversial, but that only made it more popular. With hilarious talk shows and ads on the radio, you could spend a lot of time getting to know the streets of Liberty City.
It will certainly go down as one of those games the older generation thought was poisoning the minds of youngsters. But, then again, it was so much fun!
Relive the magic with our retro gaming consoles.
Retro games of the 90s and 00s were momentous
This was a golden age of gaming. The previously unheard of processing power that came with new consoles meant that we could fully dive into story-rich, beautiful worlds. Today’s triple A games are amazing, but complex and intense. Sometimes, we yearn for a simple, but not too simple, game of days gone by.