Retro games: How to play classic video games on PC, smartphone and tablet

It’s never been easier to play classic games, with an influx of revamped retro consoles and ports for 80s and 90s titles on iOS and Android. If you’re looking to get a fix of video-game nostalgia, there are plenty of options for PC, smartphone and tablet.

Retro games: How to play classic video games on PC, smartphone and tablet

Whether you want to play Sonic the Hedgehog, Mario or Space Invaders, here’s our rundown of the hits, and where you can find them today.

Play retro games: Sonic the Hedgehog and other classic Sega games

Sega has made its 1991 classic Sonic the Hedgehog available to play for free as part of its Sega Forever collection, along with other retro titles including Virtua Tennis Challenge, Altered Beast and Kid Chameleon. The games have been released for Android and iOS devices, and you can compete with other players on online leaderboards and even use an external Bluetooth controller if you don’t like using fiddly onscreen controls.


Sega says it plans to reintroduce “nearly every Sega game ever released from every console era”, so it’s worth checking the site regularly to see what’s been added. The only major downside to providing the titles for free is that they’re supported by intrusive ads, but buying the premium versions for just £1.99 each removes these and also unlocks the option to play offline, which is ideal when you want to play on the go and don’t have a reliable network connection. You might think that playing on a small screen would be very fiddly, but we were impressed by the swipe gestures Sega has developed for Virtua Tennis, and there’s a handy guide to help you get to grips with them quickly.

Play retro games: Tomb Raider

Believe it or not, Tomb Raider celebrated its 20th birthday last year. Now, thanks to open-source developer XProger, you can play a remake of the original release in your web browser. The aptly named OpenLara looks and feels just like the 1996 game that was released for PC, PlayStation and Sega Saturn, but it has been modernised with higher frame rates and the option to play in first-person view.


To see the controls, simply press H and a guide appears (arrows and control will get you started in the menu screen). In no time, you’ll be drawing Lara Croft’s dual-handguns to tackle fierce wolves, bears and bats, and swimming through underwater tunnels. The game even works in a mobile web browser, although trying to use the fiddly touch-based controls is probably more trouble than it’s worth. Unfortunately, the developers haven’t yet recreated the entire game, so you can only play the City of Vilcabamba level (Level 2). However, OpenLara is still very much under development, so expect to see more updates in the future. The easiest way to follow the project’s progress is to check the Tomb Raider forums.

Play retro games: Pacman, Space Invaders and other arcade classics

Remakes of a range of arcade games from the 70s and 80s, including Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Galaga, were released earlier this year through Facebook’s ‘Instant Games on Messenger’, allowing you to play against your friends on your phone, tablet or PC without installing any software.


To play a classic game in the Facebook Messenger app, open a conversation with the person you want to challenge, then tap the ‘+’ button and select Games. Tap the game you want to play and select Play Now. If you’re playing from your web browser, you’ll see a button to ‘Play a game’ in the chat window. Click this, then click the Play button next to the game you want to play. In most cases, you’ll be invited to take your first turn and your opponent will then receive a message challenging them to beat your score.

It’s great fun if you can’t spare large chunks of time to play games but you still want to challenge friends online.

Play retro games: Using emulators

If you’re beginning to regret selling all your old consoles, the easiest way to get your fix of classic games from the 80s and 90s, including Tetris, Super Mario, Donkey Kong, Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time and the Pokemon series for Game Boy, is to use an online emulator such as those available at and The games are grouped by console and, as long as you have Flash installed and enabled, you can start playing in your browser at the click of a button.


Both sites even let you save your progress, which should help you finally complete those games you didn’t quite manage to conquer all those years ago. A range of other classic titles including Sim City, Street Fighter, Prince of Persia and Bust-A-Move can also be found online at the Internet Archive Software Library.

Buy a retro games console

The best way to play retro games is to use the original console with its purpose-built controller. If you don’t have a collection of vintage games machines boxed up in the attic, the good news is that some manufacturers have decided to relaunch their classic consoles.

Nintendo launched its NES Classic Mini last year, although it quickly sold out, leaving many fans disappointed. The company has done a similar thing with the SNES Classic Mini, which is loaded with 21 classic games including The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Kart.

To rival the SNES Classic Mini, AtGames has released the Sega Genesis Flashback console. It comes with an impressive 85 titles built in, including games from the Sonic and Mortal Kombat series, and also has a cartridge port that supports most Sega Genesis and Mega Drive cartridges. If your original console no longer works but you kept the games in the hope of playing them again one day, you’re in luck.

After emerging from bankruptcy in 2014, Atari has announced a comeback with the Ataribox, a console for playing both classic and modern games. We don’t have any information on games, prices or release dates, so you’ll have to wait for further details.

Super Mario Run

Nintendo’s first smartphone app, Miitomo, launched in 2015, but it was an avatar-based social-networking app rather than a game, so anyone looking for their fix of classic Nintendo characters was left disappointed. That changed with the release of Super Mario Run, a brilliant game for iOS and Android starring the iconic Italian plumber.  super_mario_run

To make Mario easier to control on touchscreen devices, Nintendo decided that he should run automatically. We were sceptical about this at first, but it has enabled Nintendo to create some spectacular gameplay. As in the Super Mario games of old, the aim is to reach the flag at the end of each level, collecting coins on your way, and there isn’t a moment of the game that isn’t enjoyable. The only catch is that you need to pay £9.99 to unlock anything after the four levels in World 1, but we think it’s worth every penny. One other slight gripe is that there’s no offline mode, so you’ll need to have a network connection at all times.

Nintendo has since released Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp (iOS and Android) and has promised to continue to release two or three mobile games a year, so we expect to see the return of more classic characters soon, hopefully including a Legend of Zelda game.

Disclaimer: Some pages on this site may include an affiliate link. This does not effect our editorial in any way.

Todays Highlights
How to See Google Search History
how to download photos from google photos