In the late 70s and 80s, arcade games entered the mainstream and helped to establish the video game culture as a dominant force in popular culture. Even before the video game console revolution, these games were creating legacies and bringing joy to the masses.
Now, you can play them for free. We’ve compiled a list of the best online retro arcade games that you can find and play online, with no fees or subscriptions required! The order is only loosely designed on personal preference, but all of the games are worthy of a shot. Read on for more!
10. Pong (1972)
Pong is a classic arcade game that was released in 1972 by Atari. It has since become synonymous with retro video games, and a lot of people believe this simple table-tennis game to be a key driving force behind the commercial establishment of the video game industry.
There have been a number of remakes and sequels over the years (Pong Doubles, Pin-Pong, Quadrapong), but neither of them has been able to hold a light to the original.
9. Battlezone (1980)
Released in 1980, Battlezone is the original FPS tank combat game. The game utilizes a simple black and white vector monitor with green and red overlay – and it’s the simplicity of the graphics that adds to its charm and sense of nostalgia. It is also considered to be the first-ever virtual reality video arcade game, due to the viewing goggle that the player had to look through in order to play the game.
The game was also the foundation of The Bradley Trainer, a training game used by the U.S. Army for personnel fighting in the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Although some of Atari’s team tried to distance themselves from this military association, Battlezone still goes down as one of the best free retro arcade games to play online.
8. Space Invaders (1978)
When most people think of classic arcade games, Space Invaders is usually one of the first that springs to mind. This 1978 classic, created by Tomohiro Nishikado, is as fun as it is addictive. Even today you’d be hard-pressed to find a gamer who can pick up the game and put down before clearing at least one or two levels of alien hordes.
Everything about the game is iconic, from the simple movement and laser cannon controls, to the incremental movement that coincides with the difficulty of the game. It is often cited as an influence for subsequent games, and its legacy is strong and far-reaching.
7. Paperboy (1985)
Another classic arcade game from Atari Games is Paperboy. When it was first released in 1985, the bike handlebar controllers brought a sense of creativity to arcades around the world, and players could enjoy a retro immersion while delivering “The Daily Sun” to people’s doorsteps.
It has been given mixed reviews since it was first released, but there is a general consensus that the game was graphically impressive for its time. Several re-releases and sequels have cemented Paperboy’s legacy, and the game will always be seen as a classic by many.
6. Pac-Man (1980)
Pac-Man needs no introduction. It is the game that most people use as a reference for video games and remains a classic for all who have played it. The original maze arcade game, Pac-Man has been bringing joy to retro gamers ever since it was first released by Namco in 1980.
Its legacy is so vast that it has spawned TV shows, music, and films in its honor. Several remakes have been released but, in truth, you can’t go wrong with the original when looking for some pure and innocent fun with Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde.
5. Donkey Kong (1981)
How high can you get? For many, the answer is not very high. This 1981 classic arcade game is a game that can get be quite frustrating as you jump, dodge, and climb your way past obstacles as Mario. Yet, despite its relative difficulty in comparison to other arcade games of the era, Donkey Kong is a sleek and beautiful game that rewards skill and patience.
Granted, in comparison to many modern video game titles, the level of skill required to be a good at Donkey Kong is small, but you’d struggle to find an avid gamer who would pass up the opportunity to play a few levels of this retro arcade game for free.
4. Street Fighter (1987)
The original Street Fighter game was released in 1987 as an arcade game by Capcom. Since then, the series has created a huge legacy within the video game fighting genre, but it was the first that kicked things off in such style.
Playing as Ryu or Ken, players were tasked with defeating fighters of different disciplines, such as Geki the claw-wielding ninja, and Birdie, a tall bouncer from England skilled in boxing and wrestling.
3. Commando (1985)
This run and gun classic from 1985 is another classic from the Japanese game developer, Capcom. The aim of the game is simple – avoid enemy projectiles and take down entire swathes of enemy soldiers using Super Joe’s trusty machine gun and a healthy supply of hand grenades.
As vertically-scrolling arcade games go, you can’t get much better than Commando. Several successful sequels have been created, too, while the character of Super Joe has appeared in other more recent video games.
2. Asteroids (1979)
Asteroids is a classic retro arcade game that is thought of fondly by many gamers. Developed by Atari Inc and first released in 1979, the game requires players to take control of a spaceship within an asteroid field.
To avoid being hit by asteroids and flying saucers, players must use their spaceship to gun down incoming objects, and then navigate the space to avoid the debris. Asteroids is often cited as a key player in introducing video games to the mainstream and was one of the first commercial successes in the industry.
1. Galaga (1981)
Endless amounts of fun can be had playing Namco’s 1981 classic shooter arcade game, Galaga. It is the second game in the Galaxian series but is seen by many to be a much more complete and enjoyable title than its predecessor.
Players take control of a spaceship fighter that is fixed to the bottom of the screen. The aim of the game is to defeat enemy Galaga forces and, in turn, stop their alien invasion from destroying humankind. The levels get progressively harder but, with that, so does the completion satisfaction.
Galaga is simply one of the greatest retro arcade games ever created, and now you can play it for free!