Turn Your Phone Into an Arcade With These Amazing Retro Reboots

Are you fed-up with in-app purchases? Do you miss the days of simple games done well? Perhaps you long for the retro gaming experiences of your youth? Fear not friends, because we’ve compiled a list of the classic games you can play on a smartphone.  

They include timeless arcade classics, the earliest mobile games, mobile ports of vintage PC titles, and more. Some of them have been updated for the era, some stay completely faithful to their original form, and all are downloadable from major app stores.  

So, leave the Nokia 3310s and the SNES in the attic but get ready for a nostalgia overload as we run through our list of the best retro mobile games 2021.  

Space Invaders (AndroidiOS) – 1978 

Long before the age of pandemics and social distancing, a “space invader” had a very different meaning. If you’ve found your way onto this list of retro mobile games, then it’s a meaning that shouldn’t need explaining. The vintage arcade classic known for its difficulty, was for many, their very first gaming experience.  

While the mobile reboots are still challenging and resemble the originals in nearly every way, older gamers who remember the arcade joystick version will be pleased to hear that the controls are at least slightly less sensitive.  

Pacman (AndroidiOS) – 1980  

Alongside Pong, Tetris, and Space Invaders, games don’t get much more classic than Pacman. Who would have thought that a hungry circle eating dots and avoiding ghosts would have become a cross-generational phenomenon? Well, it certainly has, and the arcade staple is available for free today on both Android and iOS. Unsurprisingly, there are multiple mobile versions of Pacman available, but the version we’ve linked to above is the most authentic one we can find – complete with original 8-bit graphics and music.  

Tetris (AndroidiOS) – 1984 

We couldn’t run a retro games list without mentioning Tetris. Nearly everyone on the planet would recognize its famous blocks, though few know the full fascinating story of its creation – complete with KGB agents and a debt to Tchaikovsky. The version we’ve linked to is not an exact replica of the original, but it’s close enough, looks great on handheld devices, and features refined graphics. For a mobile version truer to the original, try Classic Blocks

Prince of Persia (AndroidiOS) – 1989  

The original Prince of Persia game was way ahead of its time. Its graphics were ground-breaking in 1989 and many of us remember days pleasantly whiled away jumping spike-traps, defeating foes, and escaping from exotic dungeons. Since its release, Prince of Persia has spawned countless sequels, spinoffs, and even a (terrible) film starring Jake Gyllenhaal. While not an exact port of the original, both of the latest mobile iterations Prince of Persia: Escape and Ubisoft’s Prince of Persia Classic HD will transport players right back to those early days of gaming. 

Sonic the Hedgehog (AndroidiOS) – 1991  

Ah Sonic, the blue spinning hedgehog that stole all of our hearts back in 1991. Excluding Mario and Luigi, Sonic is perhaps the most iconic video game character of all time. In recent years, there have been remasterings, reboots, movies, and plenty of 3D sequels of varying quality. But like with so many things in life, nothing compares to the original.  

Unlike the other games in this list, the authentic Sonic the Hedgehog mobile experience is best accessed via a bundle. The SEGA Forever collection contains nearly every classic SEGA game, including Golden Axe, Altered Beast, Kid Chameleon, and Phantasy Star II. But let’s face it, we’re all here for the wisecracking hedgehog. The entire collection is available for free (with an optional $1.99 fee for the removal of ads). Alternatively, most of these classic SEGA titles (including multiple Sonic iterations) can be accessed individually and freely with the Google Play Pass

Doom (AndroidiOS) – 1993  

Moving slightly forward in time to 1993, the PC FPS game that created a genre, DOOM, is now available as an app. It is a faithful recreation of the classic DOOM title so expect to be blasting plenty of baddies as you roam through sinister blocklike labyrinths. Bethesda has kindly fixed some of DOOM’s most notorious bugs, and many gamers will be pleased to discover that there are no in-app purchases or ads. That means players can recreate that vintage monster-eradicating joy completely uninterrupted.  

DOOM II is also purchasable on mobile for those who just can’t get enough slaying.  

Snake (AndroidiOS) – 1997 

In the intro to this article, when we mentioned the Nokia 3310, you thought of the game Snake, didn’t you? It was the fruit-munching ever-growing serpent that kept every child, teenager, and adult glued to their first mobile phone.  

Twenty years since its first release, that hungry snake is still going strong. Over the years, there have been plenty of reboots and spinoffs offering more functionality, colour, and game modes. And yet none of them could surpass the nail-biting thrill of the original. Fortunately, the classic Snake experience can still be downloaded as the app Snake ’97 so there’s no point in going searching for your 3310. That said, it’s probably still working – as unlike the eponymous snake, those things never die.  

Bonus Entry: Crazy Taxi (AndroidiOS) – 1999 

We couldn’t finish this list without mentioning one more classic game beloved by retro gamers. Crazy Taxi was like the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) we all know and love while the actual GTA was still in 2D form. The title is now freely available on mobile (featuring the original soundtrack from The Offspring and Bad Religion), allowing smartphone users to unleash their road rage and inner stunt drivers without risking life and limb.  

What other retro mobile games have you rediscovered? Do you enjoy playing arcade games on smartphones? If you enjoyed this list but you haven’t yet found your favourite smartphone-playable classic game, check out our special guest post on the classic MMORPGs relaunched for smartphones 

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