11 Classic Video Games Millennials Probably Haven’t Played

Video games have been around for several decades now, which means younger gamers might not have played some of the older classics, or those brilliantly challenging early Nintendo games. That’s a shame, because the best older games built the foundation for the games coming out today. And it’s not like experiencing these classics is like being forced to eat your vegetables. Many of them are just as fun for today’s audiences as they were for us old folks growing up in the 1980s.

Below, we run down a list of essential games you may have missed (or not been born yet) when they were the hot new thing. All of the games on this list are available to play in some form today. Most of them are on the Nintendo eShop, available on the Wii, Wii U, Nintendo 3DS, or all three.

So without further ado, here are a handful of time-tested classics from the 1980s that are well worth your time if you get the chance to play them now or in the future.

1. Bubble Bobble

Available on the Nintendo eShop

Local co-op didn’t get much better than Bubble Bobble in 1988. Come to think of it, it still doesn’t get much better than this. In this adorably colorful game, you and a friend play as bubble-blowing dragon creatures who hop around screen-sized levels and defeat enemies by encasing them in bubbles and popping them.

Throw in some collectible letters, fruits and veggies, diamonds and gems, and an insanely catchy (and highly repetitive) musical backdrop, and you’ve got yourself a game that’s pure joy from start to finish. Make sure you play with a friend if you can, though, because you won’t be able to reach the game’s true ending all by your lonesome.

2. Wrecking Crew

Available on the Nintendo 3DS eShop

Here’s a Mario game you may not even know exists. In this 1985 Nintendo game, you play as everyone’s favorite plumber, but instead of going down pipes, you’re there to break stuff. In fact, the levels don’t end until you’ve smashed everything in the room that can be smashed. Success takes quick thinking, because you have to avoid Elmo lookalike enemies while making sure you don’t destroy the route to other destructible objects you haven’t gotten to yet. It’s a fast-paced romp that gets pretty tough in later stages.

3. Contra

Available on iOS as Contra: Evolution

Contra wasn’t the first game to use the ubiquitous Konami code, but it’s the one that popularized it. That’s because this side-scrolling shooter is really freaking hard if you don’t enter the code to get your 30 lives. You play as a shirtless muscular soldier who single-handedly (or cooperatively if you’re playing with a buddy) takes down an army of enemies and aliens. The variety of stages, weapons, and enemies is remarkable even by today’s standards. Better yet, you can beat the game in about 20 minutes, leaving you plenty of time to check out the other games on this list.

4. Adventures of Lolo

Available on the Nintendo eShop

HAL Corporation has had a hand in some of the best games Nintendo offers, including Kirby, Earthbound, and Smash Bros. One of the developer’s earliest efforts was Adventures of Lolo, a fantastic action puzzle game in which you play as a blue character who has to figure out how to escape a series of rooms without dying in the process. The enemies act in predictable patterns, but they’re all very different and require smart thinking to get past. If you like action puzzle games, you’ll love Lolo.

5. Castlevania

Available on the Nintendo eShop

One of the more ridiculously challenging classics is 1987’s Castlevania, the first outing in the long-running series about slaying Dracula, who never quite stays dead. Konami sets the mood incredibly well in this game, with gloomy environments, horror movie enemies, and some of the best music of the NES era. You play as vampire slayer Simon Belmont as he uses his whips, daggers, holy water, axes, and more to slice through all manner of creatures on his way to the master bedroom in Dracula’s castle. The controls are on the clunky side, but even that can’t detract from what a fantastic game this is.

6. Lode Runner

Available on the Nintendo eShop, with an HD remake on Xbox Live Arcade.

This game has you run around, climbing ladders and traversing ropes to collect piles of gold as enemies try to corner you. It’s tougher than it sounds, but thankfully you can dig holes to trap the bad guys when they come near. But don’t dilly dally, because they don’t stay down for long. If you’d prefer a modernized version of the game, the Xbox Live Arcade remake is also fantastic.

7. Mega Man 2

Available on the Nintendo eShop, PlayStation Network, and iOS

The Mega Man series has some of the most precise controls of any game from any era. You play as a blue robot boy who has to defeat the mechanical creations of the evil Dr. Wiley. You can play the initial eight stages in any order, and defeating the boss of each one unlocks a new weapon. It’s a challenging game, but persistence is rewarded. If you get really good at it, try doing a speedrun.

8. Tecmo Bowl

Available on the Nintendo eShop

These days sports games are usually ultra-realistic and have a high barrier of entry for newcomers. Tecmo Bowl is refreshingly simple. On offense, you pick a play and you run it. On defense, you pick the play you think the offense will pick, then you try to tackle the guy with the ball. But just because it’s easy to pick up doesn’t mean it’s not fun. A word of advice: If you don’t know which team to pick, always go with the Los Angeles Raiders and hand the ball to Bo Jackson. He’s pretty much unstoppable.

9. Double Dragon

Available on the Nintendo eShop

This classic beat-‘em-up is basically an ’80s action movie in video game form. Your character’s girlfriend has been kidnapped by a gang of street thugs, so you and your brother use your martial arts skills to fight your way up the gangster ladder. The combat is full of fists, jump kicks, and lead pipes, and you even learn new moves as you progress through the game. It’s great to play solo, but if you’re looking for a co-op brawler, try Double Dragon II.

10. Ninja Gaiden

Available on the Nintendo eShop

Like Mega Man 2, Ninja Gaiden is an extremely challenging game that’s based on pixel-perfect fighting and jumping mechanics. You run through levels, slicing down everyone in your path on the way to collect a pair of statues capable of destroying the world. It’s a fast-paced action game that will test the reflexes of even the most hardcore gamers. Ninja Gaiden is also notable for being one of the first action games to have cutscenes between levels. The story isn’t much to write home about, but it had little competition at the time.

11. Final Fantasy

Available on PlayStation Network and mobile

It might seem rudimentary by today’s standards, but many of the role-playing game tropes we all love are represented in the game that kicked off one of the best-known franchises in games today. Story takes a backseat to a set of RPG systems you’ll instantly understand when you set off on a journey to rid the world of evil and Chaos (the game’s final boss). Essentially, you go from town to town, solving whatever problem ails the residents as your party becomes increasingly powerful and capable. Despite its back-to-basics gameplay, it’s still as satisfying as ever to fight imps and giants and save the world.

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