The 9 Best Classic Video Games on Xbox Live Arcade

Because sometimes it's fun to go old-school

Sonic the Hedgehog screenshot


Best Classic Platformer: Sonic The Hedgehog

Sonic the Hedgehog
Courtesy of

In 1991, Mario’s biggest rival was more universally recognized and popular than him – and for good reason. Sonic The Hedgehog was a fast paced platform game with vibrant colorful graphics and catchy songs that featured a little blue hedgehog. His attitude was modeled after Bill Clinton, while his shoes were inspired by Michael Jackson (who eventually composed songs for the game series) and Santa Claus.     

Sonic The Hedgehog makes it to the list for it’s defying place in video game history. It was the biggest threat to Nintendo’s Mario as the definitive platform game because it transformed how exhilarating the genre could be by pushing its limits. Boss battles were stress inducing, death was at every turn and it was your job to save animals that were captured in robot bodies.

Any millennial that loves the 1990s and video games will recognize the Sonic series. For some, Sonic is a nostalgic trip down memory lane, and if you haven't played it, you should give it a try.

Best Classic Puzzle: Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix

Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
Courtesy of

Made as a spinoff from the popular Street Fighter Alpha and Darkstalkers series, Super Puzzle Fighter II is Capcom’s answer to Puyo Puyo 2 and Tetris. Players compete to fill their opponent's play-space with timed gems by building and shattering large same-color gems on their side. The competitive high intensity puzzle fighting game is best played against a friend (or foe), but it's still fun in its own right as a standalone single player game.

Best Classic Cooperative: Gunstar Heroes

Upon its initial release back in 1993, Gunstar Heroes was an amazing two-player, side-scrolling, run-and-gun shooter way ahead of its time that’s a lot easier than Contra. Fast forward to 2018, and the game still lives up to the enjoyment and charm it began with, with various gaming magazines throughout the years listing it as one of the best video games of all time, never falling below a 90 percent score.

Gunstar Heroes — which is suitable for both kids and adults — involves a mercenary family out to stop a shadow dictatorship called the Empire from reviving an ancient weapon. Players collect four different weapon types that can be combined together to create up to 14 different hybrid weapons (seeker bullets with a straight laser, flamethrower machine guns, etc.) allowing for multiple play-styles. Together, two players can toss enemies, perform sliding and jumping attacks, and numerous acrobatics as they battle their way through swarms of robot enemies. If you’ve never played this game, you absolutely need to.

Most Challenging Classic Co-Op: Contra

Courtesy of

The classic run-and-gun action game that was difficult as hell is available on the Xbox Live Arcade. You and a friend (or if you’re crazy enough, play by yourself) can team up as two characters that are intentionally modeled after Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone. Aliens invade earth and you’re set on a mission to take them out with various weapons, including machine guns, lasers and the ever popular spread gun.

Though difficult and fast paced, Contra is one of the most addicting games out there (because it feels rewarding when you earn the wins you're fighting so hard for). Of course, if it’s too difficult and you want a chance to actually beat the game (and give yourself 30 lives) you can always put in the famous Konami Code: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A.

Best Classic Shooter: Doom

Courtesy of

Four years before Goldeneye 007 for the Nintendo 64 there was Doom. Every gamer craved for a first person shooter and PC users got their first taste of what would become a definitive turning point in gaming history.

What could be more fun than playing as an unnamed space marine on Mars fighting off a horde of grotesque monsters from hell? Enter Doom, the game that pioneered the idea of multi-player death matches, co-op missions in modern first person shooters and helped push legislation for a rating system for the kids.

In 1993, Doom was the biggest cause for decreased productivity in IT companies because everyone with a PC was playing it. Doom became so popular that Bill Gates credited it for helping boost the sales of Microsoft Windows 95. Some couldn’t play it, because it was too violent and showed satanic imagery (in a bad light, no doubt), but now you can get your adult hands on it and experience the gory glory of a yesteryear heavyweight.

Best Classic Multiplayer Versus: Bomberman Live

Bomberman Live
Courtesy of

Bomberman first came out in 1983, when things like “bomb” or “man” weren’t see as threatening as they are today. It features a deceptively cute looking robot guy in a white leotard who can produce an endless supply of bombs. His mission? To escape a labyrinth of bricks where everything from balloons to angels are out to kill him. In the stones that trap him are power ups to make him more dangerous, faster and capable of his own self-destruction.

Bomberman Live is an updated version of the classic, allowing for a therapeutic (or heart breaking) first player mode or massive eight-player mayhem. It’s one of the best games on the list for when you have a party over.

Best Cult Classic: Radiant Silver Gun

Radiant Silver Gun
Courtesy of

Debatably one of the best cult-following games on the list is Radiant Silver Gun. It’s a vertical shooter released exclusively in Japan, but was later made available on Xbox Live Arcade. For those familiar with the popular Ikaruga – this was its predecessor.

Radiant Silver Gun features a unique game style where you can use various combinations of seven weapons at a time to defeat enemies. The weapons gain in strength as you score points with them. Each enemy you face off has a weakness to one of these weapons, so it’s a game of constant intense strategy. It’s also incredibly hard.

The plot draws influence from 2001: A Space Odyssey and tells of a story of biblical proportions with elements of hard-hitting nihilism to a hopeful future. The soundtrack accompanies the feeling of flying into oblivion. If James Cameron, Nietzsche and Mozart made a Sega video game, it would be Radiant Silver Gun.

Most Modernized Classic: Pac-Man Championship Edition

Pac-Man Championship Edition
Courtesy of

Everybody knows Pac-Man. Why is Pac-Man on the list? It’s almost a 40-year-old game. Well, Pac-Man Championship Edition breathes new life into the Pac-Man series – all while staying true to its original form.

The Pac-Man Championship Edition is similar in gameplay with the original Pac-Man, but offers many different gameplay elements and modes. Pac-Man CE is a faster-paced game with each maze divided into two halves. It progressively changes as you score more points. Once you eat all the dots on one side, you gain a power up and continue to play until your time or lives run out. The longer you stay alive, the faster the game gets.

Pac-Man Championship Edition is the best-remade game of an old classic on the list. Anyone who loves Pac-Man or doubts him will find enjoyment in this game.

Best Classic Fighter: Street Fighter II’ HF

Street Fighter II is the quintessential fighting game that defined the genre, having spawned multiple iterations throughout the years, and now, through the Xbox Live Arcade, you can play its original first release. Players who grew up with the familiarity of the hadoukens and upper cuts will get a blast from the past and relive those intense moments with friends as they relearn old tricks.

Mortal Kombat almost made the list, but due to Street Fighter II’s marketing for all ages and record sales, we just had to give it the spot. The Xbox Live Arcade’s Street Fighter II still has that intense moment to moment gameplay, where blocking, jumping and attacking techniques can mean the difference between winning or losing. For anyone that wants to remember those glorious moments of yesteryear or is just picking it up for historical reference, Street Fighter II is the classic fighting game to get.

Was this page helpful?