The Best Classic Video Games

Over 15.5K Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Classic Video Games
Voting Rules
Video games released between 1960 to 2000.

Top classic video games from the early years of gaming. This list contains the best games released on any system (arcade, home consoles, portable devices) from the 1960s through the year 2000 (which for this list would be considered the start of the "modern era" of gaming.) This includes all the essential games from the era of the arcade, as well as the original 8-bit consoles and their 16-bit follow-ups.

Many of the retro games on this list have remained extremely popular to this present day, and are often still played by passionate fans on preserved consoles or on computers via emulator software. Some of these games are part of ongoing franchises that have remained vital to this day, such as the classic "Mario Bros." games, "Legend of Zelda" titles and fighting games like "Mortal Kombat."

Experimental video games have been around since the 1950s, but it was two game breakthroughs in the early 1970s that really brought games more mainstream attention. "Spacewar!," released in 1961, became popular enough to generate about 1500 individual arcade machines, but was so complicated to learn that it failed to really develop mass appeal. The same was not true of 1972's "Pong," from the same creators, that recreated table tennis for arcades and eventually sold nearly 20,000 machines. By the late 1970s, video game consoles for the home were becoming more commonplace, with both the Intellivision and ColecoVision competing in toy stores and introducing many of the titles we're still familiar with today (including the original "Donkey Kong" and "Space Invaders.")

1978 is traditionally considered the start of the Golden Age of video games, particularly in terms of arcade games, with the introduction of numerous beloved retro titles (including "Frogger" and "Galaxian.") Finally, in 1985, Nintendo introduced the first Nintendo Entertainment System to stores, bundled with the game "Super Mario Bros.," a landmark release in console history.
Most divisive: Paperboy
Ranked by
  • Super Mario Bros.
    5,492 votes

    Leap into the timeless tale of Mario and Luigi's quest to rescue Princess Peach from the clutches of the villainous Bowser in Super Mario Bros. The gameplay offers several levels of platform jumping, turtle-stomping action, and power ups to challenge even the most experienced gamers. This iconic game burst onto the gaming scene and, to this day, remains a pillar in the foundation of video gaming culture.

  • Super Mario Bros. 3
    4,692 votes

    In Super Mario Bros. 3, you'll dash across mushroom kingdoms more vibrant than ever, battling colossal bosses and puzzling platforming sequences in order to save Princess Peach once again. The title introduced memorable gameplay mechanics like the flying "Raccoon Suit" and the fan-favorite "Super Leaf". The game took the world by storm, raising the bar higher than your average side-scroller.

  • Super Mario World
    3,947 votes

    Super Mario World lets you embark on a quest to liberate Dinosaur Land from Bowser's tyranny alongside Mario's newfound, adorable ally, Yoshi. Its intuitive platforming, coupled with the ability to descend on foes from above riding Yoshi, resulted in an indelible experience. This early '90s gem became the crown jewel in Nintendo's pantheon, defining the future of the platforming genre.

  • Travel back in time to rescue Princess Zelda from the oppressive clutches of the evil sorcerer, Agahnim in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The gameplay blends top-down exploration with adrenaline-fueled swordplay, wrapped in an engaging narrative. This game, steeped in 16-bit glory, cemented the franchise's reputation and influenced countless other adventure games.

  • The Legend of Zelda
    3,801 votes

    Set out on an epic quest to save Princess Zelda from the King of Evil, Ganon, in The Legend of Zelda. The emphasis on exploration, puzzle-solving, and fierce combat reshaped the landscape of adventure games forever. It was a game that proved a force to reckon with, mesmerizing gamers and bucking industry trends.

  • Super Mario 64
    2,198 votes

    In Super Mario 64, experience a groundbreaking 3D platformer as you chase down Bowser to once again save Princess Peach. The free-roaming gameplay and revolutionary camera control make this title a top-notch gaming experience. Mario's 3D debut made waves, slingshotting the genre into a dimension and leaving an inescapable impact behind.