Retro games are big in the Google Play Store. While lush 3D visuals are able to seduce many gamers, solid, fun and addictive gameplay can be found even in titles devoid of buttery visuals and the need for a Tegra 3 chip. Games like Tiny Tower, Game Dev Story and R:Type have racked up both huge downloads figures and positive reviews. Generation-defining classics such as PAC-MAN, Tetris and Sonic CD have also made their way onto the Android platform, and these have literally been around for decades.
It’s obvious that nostalgia gaming is massively popular. Furthermore, people are willing to pay for the pleasure. Developers like Kairosoft charge almost top dollar for their full titles, despite the fact they are made of the blocky retro graphics of the 80’s and 90’s. It was thought high time therefore to group some of these together into a comprehensive round up. From Asteroid clones and RPGs to vertical scrolling shooters and addictive platformers… they’re all here. So, put down that Rubix cube and cast your mind back to dusty arcade cabinets, pockets full of loose change and blistered thumbs – here’s a bumper roundup of retro games available on Android.
Tiny Tower is the captivating tycoon game from developer NimbleBit. Build levels, fill jobs, get new tenants, give the place a new paint job if you want to! It’s hugely addictive and terribly difficult to put down.
This cute little platformer is typical of developers adopting the retro look for 21st century effect. The graphics and sound effects scream early ’90s and the gameplay takes you right back to that era (assuming you were there).
Challenging, fun and full of nostalgic charm, it’s amazing it’s been around for less than a year.
HexDefense harkens back even further to arcade games made up predominantly of 2D vector shapes on a black background. The graphics are actually extremely impressive when you consider the detailed in-game action and clever use of lighting.
As tower defense games go, this is one of my favourites. It’s incredibly tricky and chock-full of cool towers and options. I’d recommend this to any TD fan, even if you don’t like retro style games. HexDefense is just outstanding.
R-Type is a true gaming legend and, after being launched during the late 1980s/early 1990s, has found its way onto pretty much every gaming platform since. Check out my full review for more details, pics and video.
Awesome gameplay that is as challenging as it is thrilling, and compliments the bright graphics and haunting music. Highly original and often copied, R-Type is a classic of its genre and hugely popular.
Namco have released a number of incarnations of PAC-MAN into the Google Play Store to make the most of the perennially popular muncher, and this is the original. Chomp dots and avoid the ghosts in this pure gaming classic.
While some might view this as a form of blasphemy, I’ve never completely understood the appeal of PAC-MAN. It arguably gets repetitive after a short while. Matched with the extortionate Namco pricing, I can only recommend it for its nostalgic hit value. It’s pretty much just as you remember it.
Radiant HD is a beautiful vertical-scrolling space shooter full of neon colours and frantic gameplay. Melding classic games like Space invaders and Raiden, it both looks and feels familiar to any number of arcade games you might have already played.
The visuals are awash with vibrant colours and action, despite it’s lack of pixels and blocky looks. It’s lots of fun and one of the most downloaded games in our round up.
Pixel Towers initially looks a little like Tiny Tower but is actually a game where you control a powerful crane. The aim of the game is to place more and more stories onto your tower to climb as high as possible.
The graphics are pure-retro but acutely detailed in the right places. Check out the way the little people get squashed when you drop your first level – hence the medium maturity rating! It’s a free game and very addictive. Worth a look if you are into casual games.
Kami Retro is a platform puzzler influenced heavily by the likes of Super Mario. Created by popular developers Gamevil, it’s easy to play but challenging to complete.
Gamevil have taken the essence of retro games and added a modern visual twist. The result is a compelling title that is simple yet bright and engaging. It is also brutally challenging as you progress through the 60 stages.
Retro Defense is another game which delves deep into the gaming archive for influence with 2D neon graphics and a Tron-like environment. Like a very early arcade title, looks are simple but gameplay is addictive and challenging.
It has depth too. The 24 levels will give you hours of gameplay, plus the 10 varieties of tower and 6 different enemies make for quite a diverse experience. I think it’s a little expensive for what it is, but there is a Lite version too, so check it out.
Deflection immediately reminded me of when video games first tried to go 3D. It’s blends block-busting games with 3D Pong and is absorbing as it is tricky.
Again it’s a neon-on-black colour-fest but gameplay is frenetic and challenging. It’s also very addictive so definitely give this a try if you haven’t already.
This fast-paced platformer is one of OrangePixel’s most popular titles and is influenced heavily by those chunky pixelated games of the ’80s and ’90s.
Despite these looks, Meganoid is a very modern game. Featuring OpenFeint scoring, hundreds of levels, 3 modes and loads of achievements to unlock, it’s a game that is both nostalgic and engrossing.
In Pixel Hospital you have to keep a nasty pandemic at bay by curing as many patients as possible! Task-orientated gameplay and plenty of levels make for an all-round engaging game.
Stardash, I believe, was OrangePixel’s first Android hit. Graphics are not only the old-school pixels but even colour-free – very “first generation Game Boy”.
As platform games go, it’s extremely typical; run, jump, collect coins, complete levels. But while it sounds easy, it’s as tough as old boots to complete. Addictive, challenging and fun, it’s an ideal starting point for retro gaming on Android.
Another task-specific game, much like Pixel Hospital and by the same developer. Pixel Mall has a more tycoon feel to gameplay. This time your role is to run your very own 2D shopping centre!
This one looks a little like Tiny Tower but gameplay is very different; essentially day-by-day levels to keep as many customers happy as possible. Can get repetitive, but good for casual play.
Dungeon Village is the newest title from Kairosoft, developers of the stellar Game Dev Story. Kairosoft specialise in addictive and easily playable retro-style games and Dungeon Village is no different.
Blending an old-school RPG feel with engrossing tycoon elements has already proved a successful formula in the Google Play Store. Dungeon Village is captivating and insanely difficult to put down.
Now, Gurk II is a proper old-school RPG. Featuring an intoxicating mix of nostalgic visuals with a prolonged and riveting storyline, it attempts to replicate that early gaming adventure experience.
You could just as easily have been playing this sort of game 25 years ago on a ZX Spectrum. It’s clear that a lot of thought has gone into this title to deliver a seemingly authentic game, ideal perhaps for the Android-toting RPG purist.
One of my fondest ’80s arcade memories stems from playing vertical WW2 shooter 1942. Battle of Midway recreates the mayhem of this classic.
The controls are obviously a far cry from the joystick-and-two-buttons of most arcade cabinets, and on-screen controls are not always the best for this kind of game, but Battle of Midway remains cute, challenging and easy to play.
Super Bit Dash is another retro platformer. In addition to running, jumping and collecting coins you can also sweep your finger across the screen to ‘dash’. This feature becomes intrinsic to gameplay and is a nice twist.
Blessed with the pixelation of yesteryear, the game attempts to introduce subtle gameplay changes that work well with touchscreens. A nice blend of old and new.
Accelerate is a retro ‘avoid-em-up’ style game where you drag a halo around the screen ensuring one of the falling squares don’t hit you.
Simple yet very tricky, the game challenges gamers to last more than 50 seconds! Ideal casual gaming then for people with super-fast reflexes.
Move your craft with dual stick controls in this manic 2D space shooter. Not far removed from classics like Asteroid, Attack Wave is easy to pick up and play and feels very nostalgic.
Battle several different enemy types and progress through the numerous levels in a neon grid environment. Engaging and occasionally extremely tough, this is fine example of retro-styles being adapted for modern gameplay.
PewPew2 takes 2D multi-directional gameplay to an entirely new level. There are eight game modes, eight different ships to control and three difficulty settings.
This all means it can be as easy or as tough as you want it to be! The original PewPew was a Google Play Store triumph, achieving literally millions of downloads. PewPew2 is an awesome enhancement that retro game fans should be rightly fawning over.
EVAC HD is the 21st century equivalent to PAC-MAN. Escape from mazes by collecting coloured dots in neon 2D maps. Red squares take the place of ghosts and they really come after you!
A nice twist, the game has undoubtable retro appeal and is great fun. It’s a free game too, so definitely worth checking out.
Game Dev Story is a game I am slightly in fear of. I refuse to download it now after losing days in its challenging web of virtual game development. Quite simply the perfect tycoon game, it’s impossible to put down and insanely immersive.
It’s in no way a cheap game, but worth every single penny. Plus the irony of a video game mimicking the process of making a video game with your own virtual video game company is brain-bendingly sublime. Go full circle by designing a game development game, in-game!
Age of Zombies is pure 16-bit gaming perfection. Take the role of the sublimely ridiculous Duke Nukem wannabe Barry Steakfries as he travels through the fifth dimension wiping out a time travelling zombie pandemic!
Utilise several powerful weapons in challenging and hilarious gameplay. The graphics are deliciously old-school shooting mayhem with cartoon gore and lots of action. A mindless zombie kill-fest of epic proportions.
In a nutshell, Juggle is a richly neon, retro gaming experience that will remind you of both Pong and block-busting games. By controlling your paddle at the bottom of the screen to juggle various blocks, the game is easy to play yet tricky to master, and doesn’t hide its classical influences.
The colours are gorgeously bright and reflect the arcade games of the 1970s. Playing the game feels like genuinely stepping back in time and the music complements this really well. Definitive ‘old school’.
Legends of Yore is an immersive old school RPG full of pixelated fantasy characters and levels and levels of exploration. The good thing about this is not only the superb storyline and enjoyable RPG gameplay, but also that you get 20 levels absolutely free. You can then choose to pay for the full version.
Another fine old school adventure created especially for the modern market, Legends of Yore is built to swallow hours of your time. Just remember to have a break occasionally, huh?
Set in a future dystopia of malevolent mega-corporations, Cyber Knights RPG Elite is an adventure with a difference. In a world of mercenaries, conspiracy, technology, tactical combat and a sinister mystery to unravel, it’s an engrossing game that gets better the more you play.
I’m a big fan of cyberpunk fiction and this was a little like being dunked into the William Gibson novel Neuromancer. If you love the world of The Matrix, Minority Report and Blade Runner or even remember retro titles like ShadowRun, this is superb.
Gailadia 3 is the latest in a series of titles, all available on Android. The final piece in the epic trilogy, it features bright retro graphics, detailed storyline and plenty of questing.
It’s worth noting that both games 2 and 3 are paid apps, yet the first Gailardia is completely free. Definitely try the original and if the storyline and gameplay captivate you, try the latter titles to continue the rich adventure.
Tilt Arena is another 2D space shooter, reminiscent of Asteroid, but this time featuring the tilt-controls of modern touchscreen devices with accelerometer sensors.
Fly around zapping enemies in this neon retro tribute to arcade hits of the ’80s. With dramatic music and often very tough gameplay, it mixes old-school gaming style with up-to-date control technology.
Mysterious Mansion is a wireframe exploring adventure that drags graphics back to basic 3D concepts. The aim of the game is to find a diamond, but with various tricks and puzzles to solve, will the Mansion be too much for you?
Great storyline and simple visuals make for an extremely retro experience… it might even be ‘too’ old school for some. Fun though, and refreshingly different on the Android platform.
What could be more fun than a game that features retro visuals, familiar platforming gameplay, cutesy monsters and a flamethrower with which to slay them all?!
Scorched Monster is a bit of a hidden gem in the Google Play Store, especially if platformers are your thing. Try the free version out first; it’s lots of fun and will give you plenty of nostalgic kicks.
How can you acutely summarise Sonic the Hedgehog? Let’s just say he sandwiched himself between Super Mario and Lara Croft in the popularity stakes and was an iconic figure for many years. This blisteringly fast side-scrolling 2D adventure is a solid port of the original, refined for touchscreen devices.
Whereas Mario was Nintendo’s hero, Sonic belonged to rival SEGA and both series fought for superiority in most countries around the world. This once head-spinningly classic can now be downloaded and played in full on your Android. A truly legendary game.
Last but by no means least, the mighty Tetris has also found its way in the Google Play Store. Now licensed by EA, it’s a polished and bright version of the classic puzzle game that surely everyone on the planet has played at some point.
Quite literally blocky through and through, Tetris is approaching its 28th birthday and remains as addictive and challenging as the day it was released. There have been a colossal 63 official and unofficial versions of Tetris, plus countless clones and copies. It’s pure retro and as ’80s as the Rubix cube.
And there we have it: a hefty list of retro goodness ready for you to download on most Android devices. Despite the spread of sub-genres, this still only scratches the surface of games out there. Prodigious developers such as Kairosoft and OrangePixel have released several old school-style games each and they all appear to be very popular. So, to quench your thirst for nostalgia, dip into this list and try your hand at the games that focus more on pure gameplay and addictive engagement than they do on blistering eye candy.
By no means is this a definitive collection and perhaps I’ve criminally missed one of your favourites – feel free to include your own top retro titles in the comments!