20 Old-School Game Series We Still Love Today

Youngsters, prepare to be amazed.


With the recent release of Mortal Kombat X, I began to think. “Mortal Kombat has been around for literally as long as I’ve been alive and people are still enjoying the series! That’s talent!”. As I pondered on this realization, I remembered. There are so many series that we played as children that continue to thrive and be successful. In the age of expanding markets and dimishing returns, it’s always a great day when our favorite characters can continue to stick around and reinvent themselves each iteration.

This blog is simply a trip down memory lane. To all of you younger readers, prepare to be schooled. Here are the games that I have personally witnessed grow up with me for the last 20 plus years.

1) Bionic Commando – 1987

Starting out as an arcade game in Japan, Bionic Commando went on to be ported to the original Nintendo Entertainment System with the same name. Nathan “Ladd or Rad” Spencer uses his bionic arm to aid in crossing gaps, climbing ledges, and disabling enemies with his grappling gun. The latest adaptation of Bionic Commando was Bionic Commando: Rearmed 2, which released in 2011 on PSN and XBLA.

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2) Castlevania – 1987

Castlevania is likely one of the most influential games of our time even having a sub-genre, Metroidvania, coined in the likes of it, and other non-linear sidescolling platformers like the 2D Metroid games. Castlevania is centered around a lineage of vampire hunters, the Belmonts, in their plight to defeat Dracula. Castlevania’s latest installments include Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate released on the Nintendo 3DS in 2013 and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 released on PC, PS3, and Xbox 360 in 2014.

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3) Donkey Kong – 1981

Donkey Kong has seen many decades of success and has changed significantly since his first foray into the arcade scene. He’s been a barrel throwing neanderthal, a platforming hero, a speeding kart racer, and much more. It’s easy to see why he is so beloved. He switches his style up at every opportunity. Check out that neck tie. I’ve never seen a gorilla this suave. The latest installment of the Donkey Kong series released in 2014 on the Nintendo Wii U with Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze, where he and his pals fight for their home land threatened by the hands of arctic creatures.

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4) The Legend of Zelda – 1986

The Legend of Zelda is a franchise closest to my heart as it’s the series that demonstrated to me just how immersive a video game world could be. Sure I didn’t mind jumping on platforms and stomping on top of enemies until they died, but The Legend of Zelda’s story and objectives made me feel that I was Link and it was up to me to keep the kingdom of Hyrule from the clutches of evil demon king, Ganon. The Legend of Zelda will be receiving a new adventure some time in the near future. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, released in 2011 for the Nintendo Wii, and The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds for the Nintendo 3DS in 2013, are the latest in the franchise.

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5) Kid Icarus – 1986

The return of Pit was one of the greatest triumphs for dormant franchises when Kid Icarus: Uprising released in 2012 for the Nintendo 3DS. Before then, Pit was last spotted in Super Smash Bros. Brawl on the Wii in 2008. However, he hadn’t had his own game since Kid Icarus: Of Myth and Monsters in 1991 on the Gamboy, and of course, the original Kid Icarus on NES in 1986/87. It feels great to see Pit, with the assistance of goddess of light, Palutena take to the skies once more to defeat Medusa, mythical minions, and other creatures based on Greek mythology.

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6) Kirby – 1987

Honestly, who could hate this pink little ball of doom? Kirby is adorable, but to never be underestimated. Always doing whatever it takes to defend his home and his loved ones, this little guy gets the job done. The most recent installments of the Kirby franchise can be found on the Nintendo 3DS with Kirby Triple Deluxe (2014) and Kirby and the Rainbow Curse (2015) for the Nintendo Wii U.

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7) Metal Gear – 1987

The Metal Gear franchise revolves around special forces operative, Solid Snake. Metal Gear as a video game franchise, was first introduced on the NES. However, the game series was popularized when it made that step into the 3D era on the original PlayStation with Metal Gear Solid (1998). Metal Gear’s most recent appearances include Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (2014), the prequel to Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which will be releasing later this year on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, and PC.

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8) Metroid – 1986

Samus Aran, galactic bounty hunter, has been around to witness several battles. Her goal is to rid the galaxy of space pirates and parasitic organisms called Metroids. Along the way, she runs into a vital part of the reason she’s a loner, Ridley, leader of the space pirates, whom is responsible for the death of her parents and the genocide of the inhabitants of her home planet. The last time we saw of Samus, in Metroid: Other M on Wii (2010), she was tasked with destroying the super intelligent, and deadly, Mother Brain. Samus also makes regular appearances in the Super Smash Bros. franchise.

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9) Punchout!! – 1987

Little Mac has always been a winner – even when he went through that awkward blonde stage. With the coachings of veteran boxer, Jerome “Doc” Louis, Little Mac has been a formidable opponent destined to defeat the odds regardless of his short stature. Little Mac was last seen in his own game, Punchout!! (Wii) in 2010 and was recently added to the Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS roster in 2014. Go get ’em, Mac!

“You got heart, kid. That’s what it takes to be a champ.” – Doc Louis

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10) Ninja Gaiden – 1989

Ninja Gaiden has always been about placing you in the action and taking down your opponents in the most gruesome ways possible. That being said, I can’t help but wonder what’s underneath that mask. Ryu Hayabusa is probably a very gentle soul that likes long walks on the beach and strawberry daiquiris. We’ll never know. Ryu was last spotted in Ninja Gaiden 3: Razor’s Edge for the Nintendo Wii U, PS3, and Xbox 360.

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11) Street Fighter – 1990

Street Fighter is easily one of the most iconic names in the fighting genre, especially in relation to the competitive gaming scene. Street Fighter gets a bad wrap because of the many super, ultra, and turbo editions it receives, but that doesn’t stop the many fans out there from supporting and enjoying the experience, which is generally a great one. Recently, Street Fighter had the interwebs ablaze when the announcement that Super Street Fighter V will be exclusive to PC and PS4 was made public.  Super Street Fighter V is set to release some time in 2016.

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12) Tekken – 1994

I first laid eyes on Tekken when a buddy of mine played Tekken 3 on the original PlayStation. Hailing from the arcades, Tekken’s Mishima clan is still up to the same ol’ antics. The nonsensical story line, memorable characters, and non-traditional play style keep us coming back for each iteration. Having recently gone back to Tekken Tag Tournament 2 (2011), the series is good old-fashioned fun. I can’t wait until Tekken 7 debuts in the near future for North America.

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13) Super Mario Bros. – 1985

Mario and Luigi are easily two of the most recognizable video games characters by the every day person. Working together since the original NES, Mario and Luigi continue to secure the sibling bond we all covet. Although Luigi is often in his brother’s shadow, he does so humbly and with no back talk like a true champ. The pair and others are playable in their latest foray through the Mushroom Kingdom, Super Mario 3D World (2014). Sometimes it’s difficult to save the day in between playing golf, kart racing, or participating in chaotic parties of sorts.

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14) Tetris – 1989

Tetris is about as old-school as it gets in regards to puzzle/physics games. With a soundtrack and overall gameplay that will never get stale, at least to me, Tetris will always have a special place in my heart as well as my gaming library. Tetris’ latest installment, Tetris Ultimate, is available to purchase and play now on Nintendo 3DS, PS4, and Xbox One.

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15) Mortal Kombat – 1993

Oh yes! This franchise is the newest buzz in gaming and for good reason. Mortal Kombat is back and is just as fantastic as it’s ever been. With a new host of characters, stunning visuals, and a good-for-fighting-game-standards” storyline, Mortal Kombat X (2015) is a winner. Because Mortal Kombat always finds interesting ways to bring us back into that universe, it’s easy to forget that this franchise has been around as long as most of us have been alive. My siblings, cousins, and I would stay up for hours on end trolling each other in this game. Ah, memories.

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16) Sonic the Hedgehog – 1991

The blue blur just can’t catch a break these days. That being said, playing the Sonic the Hedgehog games on my Sega Genesis is still a pervasive memory. I remember my brother and I playing co-op and handing our baby sister a third controller convincing her that she was controlling the AI. She wasn’t. We just wanted her to stop pestering us. The latest Sonic games, Sonic Boom (2014) and Sonic Lost World (2013) were nothing to call home about, but Sonic Generations (2011) and Sonic Colors (2010) were great adaptations on what a modern Sonic should be.

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17) Madden – 1991

One of, if not the biggest name in sports entertainment, Madden Football, is still going strong. One of the most popular sports franchises of all time, the series is still very much relevant and resonates with all gamers – novice, intermediate, or expert. If you’re one that can’t get enough, fellow writer Jaleesa Foster has a series dedicated to the franchise and other sports titles. The latest installment of Madden, Madden 15 (2014), can be found on PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, and Xbox One.

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18) Mario Kart – 1992

Mario Kart has taken the kart racing genre by storm. A crossover title featuring many of gaming’s most iconic characters can’t ever be beat. Introducing faster speeds, non-Mushroom Kingdom residents, new drifting mechanics, anti-gravity, and more, Mario Kart 8 (2014) has truly taken everything fantastic about the game series and “upped the ante”. The only thing we’re waiting for now is a double dash mode, Nintendo. I’d love to see this happen in a future DLC pack or update. Please and thank you.

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19) Pac-Man – 1980

Pac-Man has been through quite the identity crisis over the years. From the simple days of eating power pellets and gobbling down spooky ghosts, Pac-Man has reinvented himself into a 3D platforming hero and he’s also made some friends along the way. Pac-Man was recently added to the Super Smash Bros. roster on the Nintendo Wii U and 3DS, but he’s been doing his own thing as well. You can witness the recent happenings in Pac-Man’s life in Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures 2 released in 2014 for PS3, Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii U, and 3DS.

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20) Final Fantasy – 1987

Final Fantasy is one of those games that I’ve always wanted to get into, but never took the opportunity. Final Fantasy XV will likely be my first one because of the beautiful men – errr – beautiful scenery and gamplay. Final Fantasy XV is slated to release at the end of this year. You can try out the demo now by purchasing a copy of Final Fantasy Type-0 HD on PS4 and Xbox One.

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How many of these franchises do you still play or look forward to today? Are there any that I missed that you’d personally add to a list of this caliber?

Sound off below!

  • Kilthrax

    Someone really likes Nintendo! 😛

  • Nintendo just so happens to have IPs people still like to play these days lol. Would you add some more games to this list? Which ones?

  • –Chris–

    Great list!

  • ShadowFang

    Pretty great list! Hard to argue with most of these, though I don’t think I’d ever see Kid Icarus appear on an identical list from most anywhere else. I mean, 3 games over 30 years is not the type of consistency that screams, “Healthy series still going!” (^-^)

    I mean, y’know, something like Shinobi has done a better job of squeaking out releases over the years – the last being in 2011 for the 3DS (which was ugly but actually played pretty well). Though if just one classic Ninja series is going to land on this list though, I’m glad Ninja Gaiden was the one to do it.

    I think I would mention Tomb Raider instead of Kid Icarus, myself. Although 1996 isn’t that old compared to most of these, I’d definitely say another something from the PSX/Saturn era personally. Tomb Raider or Resident Evil, but Tomb Raider has been more successful, I think, over the years at remaining relevant and having great productions (even if the 2013 reboot and upcoming “Rise of the Tomb Raider” really, really have barely anything to do with what the series was built on).

    Also gotta stick up for Sonic Lost World; that was pretty good. Not as good as Generations & Colors true, but still really fun with a lot of the same kind of gameplay. The soundtrack was fantastic too. There are some definite problems with those drum-like 3D levels, but it’s a lot of fun regardless. Still, nice list all around! All of these are some great, great series that definitely deserve some major props for having current entries decades after emerging on the scene.

  • Ericutz4thewin

    NIntendo with the domination…great list Nia, I finally got around to reading this!

  • How could I forget Shinobi and Tomb Raider?! What’s wrong with me? lol

  • I promise I don’t do these things on purpose lol.