10 Retro Games to Play Together as a Family

Posted by | March 18, 2015 | Feature, Opinion | One Comment
retro games

With all the new video games coming out every year, it can be easy to forget that there’s a rich history just waiting to be tapped into. Whether you’re talking Pong or The Sims, games have been bringing people together for decades. But it’s not always easy to get a hold of the highlights and lowlights from the olden days. Here’s a selection of the best retro games that are readily available. They’re best when played together, fun for all ages, and cost less than $10 via digital download stores like GOG, Steam, Nintendo’s eShop, or the PlayStation Network.

Space Channel 5: Part 2

retro games

ESRB Rating: T
Content Descriptor(s): Mild Fantasy Violence, Suggestive Themes
Where to Buy: Steam
Platforms: PC
Price: $7.99
Space Channel 5: Part 1 was originally released on the Sega Dreamcast. The game stars groovy reporter Ulala as she dance-battles her way out of a tense situation with a group of alien baddies. Part 2 offers more of the same, only it’s better, less repetitive, and unfortunately a little harder. While Ulala executes her funky moves, you tap out sequences along with directions in a not-so-simple game of Simon Says.

Two-player mode is a touch easier for beginners with responsibility split between the two of you for the directions sequences. Either way, it’s worth the trouble to master, as your kids may get hooked on the fun dances and everyone can get into the upbeat story (which also features a large cameo from Michael Jackson).

Um Jammer Lammy

retro games

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): Comic Mischief
Where to Buy: PSN
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PSP
Price: $5.99
This quirky forerunner to Guitar Hero and Rock Band was originally released in 1999 on the PlayStation. Um Jammer Lammy stars a spunky but shy and nervous anthropomorphized lamb as she goes on a bizarre music-infused adventure. It’s a ridiculous and fun rhythm game where you have to tap buttons on the controller in a given pattern that echoes back the quirky lyrics of the teacher.

With stage names such as Chop Chop Master Onion and Chief Puddle, you know you’re in for extreme silliness, and the music is catchy to boot. Best of all for family play, you can dig into co-op or versus action once someone’s worked through the Solo mode.

Katamari Damacy

retro games

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): Mild Fantasy Violence
Where to Buy: PSN
Platforms: PlayStation 3
Price: $9.99
In Katamari Damacy, you control the diminutive Prince of All Cosmos as he works to roll enough random objects into a giant ball so the King might have the material necessary to recreate the stars and constellations (which he accidentally destroyed during some party-like activities that are only alluded to). There’s something magical about the game that people of all ages can—and do, going by the reviews—get into, and you may be surprised at how much fun it is to compete to collect the most objects in a split-screen two-player mode.

Theme Hospital

retro games

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): Comic Mischief
Where to Buy: GOG or PSN
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, PSP, PlayStation Vita
Price: $5.99
Don’t let the name fool you into thinking that Theme Hospital is something serious. This classic simulation comes with a heavy dose of hilarity, as you build a hospital in which doctors treat for conditions like invisibility and oversized heads (which are popped and reinflated). It has a bit of a learning curve, but it’s both fun for all ages and a great conversation starter about how diseases and illnesses work.

If you have the game installed on multiple computers, you can set up a networked game where you compete to build the best hospital and send each other patients, but it’s a bit finicky to get working. Even so, Theme Hospital is perfect for an adult and a couple of kids to share management duties on a single machine.

Hogs of War

retro games

ESRB Rating: T
Content Descriptor(s): Animated Blood, Comic Mischief, Mild Language
Where to Buy: GOG or PSN
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PSP, PlayStation Vita, PC
Price: $5.99
Hogs of War is basically Worms with an extra layer of British-style humor. You control a squad of uniformed pigs named and dressed according to exaggerated stereotypes of one of six different nations. You take turns to try to turn the others into bacon with an arsenal of World War I (and some more creative) weaponry. The American team Uncle Ham’s Hogs speaks in a southern drawl, for instance, while the Russian-styled hogs from Piggystroika call each other “comrade.”

Sometimes the one-liners delivered by the pigs cross the line from funny to offensive, and parents may have to discuss with their kids why stereotypes are problematic to begin with, but the light-hearted tone of the game and the great fun that can be had blowing each other up in an overtly cartoony way make it a delightful multiplayer experience. Get the PlayStation version off PSN as opposed to the buggier PC version from GOG, if you can.

SimCity 2000

retro games

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): None
Where to Buy: GOG, Origin, or PSN
Platforms: PC, Mac, PlayStation 3, PSP, PlayStation Vita
Price: $5.99
I spent many a day building and managing my metropolises in SimCity 2000 as a kid, with a close friend of mine as copilot whenever possible. Will Wright’s city-building masterpiece may appear to be a game suited only to solitary play, but it’s actually ripe for intergenerational strategizing. It’s fun to pair up and debate over how to manage your funds (or whether to cheat) and to tussle over what to call your buildings (I used to rename everything). You must also decide where to place buildings and whether or not to set the giant mechanical monster loose. The latter is fun to watch together as it burns the whole city down. And of course you can compete with separate cities to see who can reach a million people first or stave off bankruptcy the longest.

Super Mario Kart

retro games

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): None
Where to Buy: Nintendo eShop
Platforms: Wii, Wii U, 3DS
Price: $7.99
If you’re hooked on Mario Kart Wii or Mario Kart 8 tournaments, you’ve got to take a stab at the classics from the series. Players can’t be called true Mario Kart champions until they prove themselves dominant in the game that started it all: the 1992 Super Nintendo hit Super Mario Kart. For a true test of skill, take your multiplayer matches to the original, wall-less Rainbow Road and see who cracks first. And coin collecting for cumulative speed boosts adds a cool extra dynamic to the strategy that’s been missing in most of the later entries. And, perhaps best of all, there’s no blue shell to throw the race.

Crash Team Racing

retro games

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): Mild Violence
Where to Buy: PSN
Platforms: PlayStation 3, PSP
Price: $5.99
There may be no better example of the mascot-crazed world of ’90s console gaming than Crash Team Racing’s attempt to rain on Mario Kart’s parade. It stars the PlayStation’s unofficial mascot, Crash Bandicoot, along with the cast of wacky characters from his platforming trilogy. They race around colorful tracks in carts, using power slides, power-ups, and weapons grabbed from crates that give them an edge over the competition.

It’s not quite a carbon copy of Mario Kart. Crash Team Racing has its own personality, a story-driven adventure mode, and some of the best design you’ll find in the genre. It looks great, plays great, and is great fodder for old-school multiplayer racing for anyone without a Wii or Wii U.

Myst

retro games

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): None
Where to Buy: GOG, Steam, or PSN
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 3, PSP, PlayStation Vita
Price: $5.99
A difficult, opaque point-and-click adventure may seem a strange selection in a list about classic games you can play with your kids, but look beneath the surface and Myst is an ideal experience for families that like puzzle-solving and mysteries to share. It drops you on a deserted island covered in strange buildings that are connected in some way to a number of books that act as bridges between worlds. You must figure out how everything in the world works as well as what you’re supposed to do.

The original graphics were considered photorealistic at the time, but if you find them or the screen-by-screen movement too quaint there’s also a remastered version with real-time graphics called Real Myst.

Super Mario Bros

retro games

ESRB Rating: E
Content Descriptor(s): None
Where to Buy: Nintendo eShop
Platforms: Wii, Wii U, 3DS
Price: $4.99
The perfect game for the “back in my day” speech also happens to be an easy one to learn how to play and a fantastic introduction to the exciting world of video games. The original Super Mario Bros made the NES a hit and set Mario on his path to becoming a household name. It remains a masterpiece to this day. You can easily pass the controller around and work your way through the game’s eight worlds together.

Richard Moss

About Richard Moss

Richard is a freelance writer based in Melbourne, Australia. He covers science and emerging technology news and writes features about the cool ways people play, develop, or modify video games both new and old. He’s also stay-at-home dad to a mischievous, temperamental, and neurotic (but beautiful and sweet) Bengal kitten.