October 6th, 2021: Updated the best retro games for iOS list - new games added.
Whether a game is inspired by an older game, a remake of an older game allowing it to be playable on newer devices or a straight port of a classic onto new technology, retro games have a strong community behind them. They also retain the fun and character that they had around when they previously launched, and serve as a great reminder of how technology was previously.
When it comes to the number of retro games out there, so many classics have been revamped for iOS and so many new games have come out of the ashes of older games, inspiring generation after generation of games for us to play now.
We’ve compiled some of the best retro games and retro-inspired game on iPad and iPhone to bring some nostalgia to your mobile gaming life.
Original Article by Jupiter Hadley, latest update by Pocket Gamer Staff
Doom is a household name - a retro game held above many others. On Doom’s 25th anniversary, Bethesda bundled up the 1993 version of Doom to include the Thy Flesh Consumed expansion, and placed it on iOS. This first-person shooter is challenging, fast-paced, and truly a classic of the genre.
If you’ve not tried Doom before, now’s really your chance.
Bringing this blue hedgehog to your phone, Sonic the Hedgehog 2 looks exactly like the original Sonic games, featuring the same protagonist, enemies, and environments you might have previously seen in its other games. There is additional content in the form of leaderboards, Time-Attack mode and Boss-Attack mode - which adds extra depth and worth to the mobile version.
Crazy Platez is a food delivery game that takes inspiration from Crazy Taxi but provides it’s own twists along the way. Driving around a map of a Rochester, you will find yourself picking up and delivering garbage plates - a Rochester delicacy - instead of people. Much like Crazy Taxi, you will have a timer that’s counting down but you will gain more time when you do successfully deliver a plate. It's quite a funny update on a retro classic.
Adapted from the original PlayStation version of the game, this mobile game breathes new life into Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 2. With touch controls, players will find it's much easier to land some of the amazing skating tricks that Tony Hawk seems to know like the back of his hand. Even if you can’t skate in real life, you can probably master some amazing tricks using just your finger tips!
Retro Racing is a modern remake by the original programmer of the racing game Nitro, taking all of the concepts of Nitro and bringing it to modern technology. Racing around the track is as simple as tapping the controls on the screen, grabbing power-ups and drifting as you move, hoping to make it to the end of the finish line first.
Retro Racing is minimalist in the way that it’s made, with a steep learning curve that can be rewarding once you have the movements and timings down!
Inspired by the likes of Contra, this run and gun action game with some intense boss fights and strange enemies! In Star Marine: Infinite Ammo you will need to fight your way through a planet infested with robots that come in many forms - upgrading your weapons to fight better along the way.
The game even has an 80's inspired soundtrack, if you like hearing the games you play.
Sid Meier’s Pirates is an iOS port of a remake of a game by the same name on Commodore 64. The remake changed the view of the game, adding 3D graphics, which the mobile version kept instead of the previous top-down point of view. You can take on the role of a looting pirate, fighting on ships in the 7 seas!
Final Fantasy Dimensions re-visits the 2D look that Final Fantasy use to have, bringing you into a very nostalgic version of the Final Fantasy world. This game is meant to take the best of all Final Fantasy games and bring them together to a new game, which contains a battling system, the ability to grow and change your character, and a story that will probably feel very familiar. Final Fantasy Dimensions is meant to feel fresh, along with feeling quite retro, so it's an interesting addition!
Looking like a game straight off of the GameBoy, Super Scrapped Robot is a twin-stick shooter that has you trying to keep a previously discarded robot alive, in a world full of enemies. The levels in this game are generated upon load, giving you a bit of variety in each run, as you get new weapons and face off against strange enemies!
A more puzzle based, slower game, The Secret of Monkey Island: Special Edition provides a funny story within a point and click adventure game full of puzzles to be solved. The game feels quite nice on iOS - hints even appear if you shake your phone - giving life to this classical point and click adventure game. The Secret of Monkey Island also features pirates - I guess they were popular back in the day!
Did you know you can play Pac-Man on your phone? I didn’t. Updated with more mazes and a better UI, Pac-Man seems to have regular updates while keeping its original look and feel as a simplistic game where you play a wheel of cheese trying to eat pills and fruit, while avoiding ghosts. Along with the classic mode, there are daily challenges and online tournaments added to the game!
Another game inspired by the GameBoy era, 2-bit Cowboy is a Castlevania and Metroid inspired game where you can shoot down the town, ride horses or minecarts, and track down people who are WANTED dead or alive! There is a lot to do in this world, from drinking at salons and gambling in casinos to collecting rewards for the quests you’ve completed.
Double Dragon is known as the game that started the golden age of beat-em up styled games in the late 80s, providing a challenging, street fighting game with co-op gameplay. The iOS version of the game does include new features only on mobile devices, including new characters, combo attacks and updated graphics!
TheVideoKid is an 80s inspired game dripping with references and nostalgia. Playing a version of Paper Boy - you find yourself skateboarding down a busy road, throwing cassette tapes at mailboxes while avoiding characters from older movies and TV shows, grabbing power-ups and avoiding traffic. It’s a simple game, but quite well done.
In a huge bullet frenzy of destruction, Kick Ass Commandos is a top down shooter where you can use machine guns, flamethrowers, rocket launchers and more to destroy enemy bases - and well, basically everything you see. Everyone has been turned into mindless zombies, so there is no real reason to not kill everyone apart from your team.
Grid Rush is a simple looking mystery, with no controls or tutorial, where you are looking to just figure out what to do while looking at a screen of blinking colors and numbers, trying to spell out a word as the screen changes. The retro look is quite old-school in style, so it fits in well with this list, but offers something quite different as it’s a word-based puzzler.
Inspired by arcade, homebrew titles that had a British twist, Toast Time sees you firing toast out of your toaster body and enemies on the screen, trying to control your knock-backed movement as you whizz through the air yourself. This game is full of challenge, power-ups, and even bosses - as well as features a pixelated look.
Mortal Kombat is a game basically everyone remembers. You can create a team of Mortal Kombat warriors, and use them to fight against others in 3 by 3 battles or in multiplayer faction wars, where you can play against other player's entire teams. There are tons of characters from the older games, as well as new characters that you can discover and master. It's a mix of old and a mix of new, but a really fun game to play - especially when it comes to mastering epic knock outs!
I remember playing McPixel on my first mobile phone, as a kid. It’s a point and click game full of wacky humor where you will probably die more times than you expect, as it’s trial and error if you click the right place and end up advancing the story. With that said, there is something simply hilarious about the different paths you can go down in this random game!
Super Hexagon is a game that you’ll end up playing from muscle memory, trying to move a triangle through a small gap that’s slowly moving down the screen, then adjusting for the next gap, and continuing as the world changes around you. It’s a really addictive game that you’ll end up playing for quite some time, getting just a little further as you go.
Organ Trail, inspired by Oregon Trail, adds a new twist to this survival game: zombies. This zombie survival game has you trying to travel west in a wagon of four people, gathering supplies and fighting off the undead. Members of your group will end up dying along the way and you’ll need to continue moving forward anyway.
A homage to 16-bit beat em ups, Destructipus has you protecting endangered animals and getting rid of pollution - something that you may not see in retro games made many years ago, this game looks like Rampage but has you breaking down buildings with a purpose in mind.
This side-scrolling classic from the SEGA era has made its way onto mobile, following Axel, Blaze, Skate and Max to get revenge for the kidnapping of Adam Hunter. You can fight your way through the streets, taking out enemies as you past, and finally defeating Mr. X’s crime syndicate.
If you’ve not played Enviro-Bear 2010, you really should give it a look. You play as a bear, who needs to collect food before hibernation - but you are trapped in a car, where you can steer, grab stuff, eat stuff, and try to drive fast! It’s a wild ride.If you’re lucky, you can drive right into your cave and go back to bed.
Chrono Trigger is a retro game, however, the mobile version of the game has been updated to work better on mobile devices and include some small changes to the game, while still giving you that retro feel and nostalgia if you have played the previous version. This is an RPG game, made by the developers of Final Fantasy, where you travel through different time periods, to take on an epic quest as time unravels.
Connect some bubbles so that they pop in Bust-A-Move, a classic game where you just tap to throw out bubbles and then if you connect enough of them, they will pop. I am sure you’ve seen this game in some form or another, as it’s a classic genre that has been adapted again and again. If you sit on your phone, Bust-A-Move works great.
Taking a more challenging version of the game by the same name, but bringing in a gentle hand, 1942: First Strike has lessened the challenge in hopes of bringing this game to more players. Flying your plane around by tilting or moving your finger, firing straight forward in front of you, as enemies come towards you, 1942: First Strike is a classic plane fighting game.
You can also play Tetris on your phone - and I am sure you’ve played some form of Tetris before. It’s nearly impossible to not have. The mobile version of this game benefits from different control options and online leaderboards, if you want to take on the challenge of pros.
Pacific Wings is essentially a re-titled game called 1941, which allows you to play as a fighter pilot - moving your plan around the screen, shooting down enemies as you go. There isn't any difference between this mobile adaptation and the original game - the graphics even look nearly identical. You can easily move your plane around by using your finger, and can find power-ups as you make it further. There have been loads of newer games, following the same format, but Pacific Wings feels like a replicate of 1941, exactly.
If you had one of the old Nokia phones, you are in for a flash from the past. Everyone knows the classic game of Snake, but if you'd like to play this game - for whatever reason - on your smartphone, you can find it! This version of Snake comes with the look of an old phone - giving you a digital phone screen to interact with, in order to control your snake. It's a simple game, but quite quirky in it's visuals.