These days, we’re used to video games that look hyper-realistic and run at 60 frames per second at the very least. In fact, some games now look more real-life than real life itself. Back in the 1980s, though, we relied on just eight bits to get us by, and there were still some amazing games produced despite the limits of technology.
Let’s take a trip to the past and look at five of those games that really stand out. Not just because of their fantastic gameplay, but because they were so addictive that people couldn’t stop playing them, spawning an entire community of speedrunning video games.
Considering Tetris is the third best-selling game of all time, it’s no surprise it is also one of the most addicting retro 8-bit games of all time as well. Tetris was first created in 1984 by Soviet software engineer, Alexey Pajitnov. While Nintendo did get its hands on the publishing rights for years, those rights eventually went back to Pajitnov following a lengthy court battle.
The zen 8-bit puzzle game has since gained international popularity and has sold over 100 million copies alone from its 2006 release via EA Mobile Inc. Gamers and regular folk alike can’t get enough of the relaxing gameplay. Matching various colored shapes to make them disappear, while racing the clock and the quickly piling mass of blocks. Since the first Tetris release, there have been many versions, including a Nintendo 64 Tetris game with a wild story mode.
The Legend of Zelda
Developed in 1986 by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, the classic game was originally released for the Family Computer Disk System in Japan. Later being released overseas for the NES. The Legend of Zelda is the first installment of the incredibly popular series and the first NES game to include the ability to save your progress, something we take for granted in today’s era of gaming.
The incredibly addictive action/adventure game took the world by storm and had gamers lining up to play. There’s so much to explore and uncover in the various dungeons and many intriguing enemies to defeat. The Legend of Zelda sparked an entire franchise that would quickly become one of the most popular in the world, featuring titles such as Breath of the Wild, Ocarina of Time, and Twilight Princess.
Super Mario Bros.
Super Mario Bros is arguably the most successful gaming franchise to date. With the hugely successful release of the first animated Super Mario Bros movie on the big screen in April 2023, it’s no wonder the 8-bit game that started a multiple decades-long frenzy is still so addicting to this day.
Developed and published by Nintendo in 1985, Super Mario Bros is the predecessor to the original Mario Bros arcade game. The intense, yet fun array of levels poses an enjoyable challenge for players. Whether you’re stomping goombas and koopas on land or avoiding the bloopers underwater, the original Super Mario Bros. game offers a challenging but doable experience. Of course, this is the title that launched video games into the stratosphere in terms of popularity.
Many younger people hear the name Castlevania and think of the games like Symphony of the Night, Lords of Shadow, or maybe even the Super Smash Bros. series that features some of the characters. However, the entire franchise started with an 8-bit version back in 1986 by Konami and became a smash hit.
Some consider Castlevania to be one of (if not the) best game released for the Nintendo Entertainment System. Playing as Simon Belmont, you go on the search for Count Dracula, making your way through enemies using a magic whip and various other weapons. It’s a bigger challenge than Mario, but one that’s definitely worth it.
Pac-Man is a wonderfully addicting 8-but maze game, developed and published by Namco in 1980. Originally called “Puck Man” in Japan, the coin-operated arcade game quickly took over the world with its fun, fast-paced, yet simple gameplay. Pac-Man earned the title of “Most Successful Coin-Operated Game” by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008. It’s undoubtedly an 8-bit arcade classic that true gamers adore.
Unlike the other titles on the list, Pac-Man didn’t really get a ton of games made afterward that strayed from the original. There was a Super Nintendo release that had a point-and-click story mode, but other than that, simply a few variants like Ms. Pac-Man that attempted to shake things up a bit.