It took a while for the technology to catch up with the concept, but virtual reality gaming is finally (and slowly) become a legit genre. Headsets like the Oculus Rift, the HTC Vive, and the PlayStation VR are bringing fully immersive gaming into living rooms in ways that we’ve never seen before (sorry Nintendo fanboys, but the Virtual Boy was a huge flop).
While developers are working hard at getting the most of the new technology and trying to create truly great games in a brave new world of VR, we think the platform is the perfect place to resurrect some of our favorite retro titles too! While getting some of these games onto an existing VR headset is nothing more than a pipe dream due to licensing issues between Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft, and hundreds of different game publishers, we are putting on our rose colored glasses and hoping for a miracle.
Here are 15 retro games that would be perfect for the VR revolution.
Let’s start with the most obvious game on the list, the classic NES pack-in Dunk Hunt. Zapping 8-bit ducks with the Nintendo Zapper was great (except when the dog laughed at us), but imagine Duck Hunt in full VR. The player could stand in the middle of a clearing, fully surrounded by ponds, trees, tall grass, and hidden waterfowl. Ducks could emerge behind you, meaning that players would have to constantly be on the lookout, and use their ears to listen for rustling grass or air born quacking. It’s a simple concept, sure, but simplicity is what made Duck Hunt work so well in the first place.
Everyone loves to play Pac-Man, but what if you could play AS Pac-Man? In our virtual re-imaging of the arcade classic, gamers would don a VR headset and actually take over the role of Pac-Man himself (or Ms. Pac-Man, if you prefer). The top-down view of the map would switch to a first-person view, where you never know what’s around the corner. Obviously, avoiding the ghosts and planning your route is one of the key skills in Pac-Man, so slight tweaks would have to be made so that gamers don’t turn a corner and run straight in Blinky. Either a visual HUD, some sort of audio clue, or shorter (or transparent) walls would be necessary so that gamers would know where the remaining dots are and where the danger is.
Pole Position/Excite Bike
One of the game types that should work perfectly for VR is racing. Strap on your headset, plug in a steering wheel controller, jump into a souped up race car, and tear up the pavement of some world famous track. Pole Position was one of the first racing games, featured in arcades first before being ported over to the Atari and then other consoles. A VR version from inside the driver’s seat, but maintaining the charming 8-bit graphics, would be awesome.
Likewise, a VR version of Nintendo’s classic Excitebike, with a first person view of dirt-bike motocross racing, would be amazing. Imagine looking over your shoulder to see how close your nearest opponent is, while still trying to line up your next turn, jump, or landing!
This classic Nintendo game was an easy choice to include. We want the technology of VR to put us in our own power suit, just like the one bounty hunter Samus Aran wears throughout the Metroid franchise as she hunts down strange alien creatures and space pirates. It doesn’t even matter to us whether they port over the original game, released in 1986, or develop a brand new Samus adventure for VR technology. We just think that playing a bounty hunter on a strange planet from a first-person virtual reality view sounds amazing!
First-person shooters were always going to be a popular choice for VR games. And sure, the latest zombie/WW II/space marine shooters will all have their rightful place in VR gaming lineups, but let’s go back to their roots for a moment. We’d love to see Doom and Wolfenstein 3D, both originally developed by id Software, make a comeback on virtual reality devices.
Whether you prefer to fight demons in Hell, or Nazis in Germany, both games are largely responsible for popularizing the first-person shooter genre, and were some of the first games to feature full 3D environments. It would be amazing to strap on a VR headset and mow down those enemies again, this time fully immersed in the game.
Much like Pole Position, flying games are also perfect for virtual reality. You can basically enter a full fledged flight simulator, whether the world is realistic or not. In this case, taking on the role of lovable Nintendo ace Star Fox, as he battles through the Lylat space system fighting against evil.
Rather than the third-person (third-plane?) view that was used in Star Fox and Star Fox 64, the VR version of the game could put players right inside the cockpit, alongside Fox’s sidekicks of Flaco, Peppy, and Slippy. Sounds like a blast to us!
Street Fighter/Mortal Kombat
We’re not entirely sure that a fighting game would translate perfectly into VR, but if anyone can make it work, it would be one of the two iconic franchises of the genre — Street Fighter or Mortal Kombat. Instead of the traditional side-view of the violence, imagine stepping into the shoes of Sub-Zero or M. Bison and going toe-to-toe with another iconic fighter. The fists would be literally flying towards your face, forcing you to either block, counter, or simply get out of the way. Think of it like Wii Boxing, but on steroids, and with a 360 degree view of the combat environment.
Super Mario Bros.
We admit that Super Mario Bros. might not translate perfectly to a first-person, VR type of setting. But dammit, it’s a classic, and games are going into VR, we want the Mushroom Kingdom included. Modders have actually already tried to recreate this type of thing, especially in Minecraft, but we want an official polished version, where we get to look through the eyes of Mario (or if you prefer, Luigi) and traverse through a level filled with goombas, Bullet Bills, and warp pipes. Plus a first-person battle with Bowser sounds both terrifying and amazing. Alternately, a VR version of the open-world Super Mario 64 would also be incredible.
Like Pac-Man, but with a twist. Both games have a top-down view of a maze, except Bomberman is more of a puzzle game than a dot-munching adventure. Players must use carefully planned explosions to defeat enemies and open up new corridors, allowing them to escape each level. Later versions of the game also included hectic multiplayer deathmatch mini games, which we think would be perfect for virtual reality. You and your friends strap on a bunch of VR sets and enter a virtual maze, as you try to outsmart each other with sneaky bomb attacks. The perfect to to solidify friendships — or ruin them completely!
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron
We mentioned a lot of reasons why aerial dogfighting games would be great for VR when we talked about Star Fox earlier. Many of those reasons also apply to Rogue Squadron, except this game has something extra going for it — Star Wars! Originally released for PC and the Nintendo 64 in 1998, Star Wars: Rogue Squadron has you take on the role of Luke Skywalker as you lead a team of X-wing pilots through various flying missions against the evil Galactic Empire.
A VR version would put you directly into the cockpit, as you use the Force (and your flying skills) to battle Darth Vadar’s enemy TIE fighters, AT-AT walkers, and various other tanks and turrets on the ground. It’s as close as a gamer could get to actually entering the Star Wars universe!
This is one of our all-time favorite NES games, and it’s also one of the hardest (if you play without the aid of the iconic Konami Code, that is). Released in 1987, Contra was a 2D side-scrolling platformer shoot-em-up, with a couple small twists. Levels 2 and 4 switched to a unique third-person 3D-like view, which is hardly a big deal now, but was a really unique game mechanic at the time. And just when you thought you were battling some sort of mercenary group in the Amazon jungle — bam, aliens! Okay, so maybe the plot makes no sense, but Contra in VR would be awesome, as you step into the shoes of Commandos Bill or Lance and battle the Red Falcon Organization in a variety of stages, including a jungle, a waterfall, a industrial plant, a snowy field, and, of course, an alien lair.
The Incredible Machine
Okay, this concept is one of the abstract on this list, but hear us out. The Incredible Machine was a genius puzzle game when it was first released requiring gamers to build a Rube Goldberg device from a defined set of random objects in order to complete a seemingly simple objective (“put the ball in the box” or “turn on the light”). We can picture a fully 3D gaming world, where VR players would be placed in a room, with some objects already set in place, and tasked with building the Rube Goldberg device with their own (virtual) hands.
Update the graphics, but keep the same simple-but-still-challenging concept. The game could even have levels where the physics of gravity and air pressure are altered, creating interesting new puzzles.
Prince of Persia
Another side scrolling platformer to make our list, Prince of Persia gets a special mention because it’s a unique mix of genres. It’s a platformer, yes, but it’s also a puzzle game, and maaaaaaybe a bit of an RPG too, as you have to quest for potions and a sword before you can do battle and advance levels. The original game was released way back in 1989, but still holds up today with it’s clever design and fluid animation. We want to experience the same dungeon escaping adventure all over again, only this time through the view of a VR headset.
Punch Out! is another fighting game that we want to experience on VR, but not quite in the same vein as the previously mentioned Mortal Kombat or Street Fighter. Those games feature magic projectiles and insanely unrealistic combos. The original Punch Out! was much simpler, pitting good ol’ Little Mac against a roster of increasingly tough cartoon boxers, who relied only on their fists and a series of predetermined patterns. The gameplay wouldn’t even need to updated, really, we just want to actually step into the ring (complete with Mario as the ref) and take part in the sweet science ourselves.
Maybe it’s too early to call Portal a “retro” game, but the original puzzle platformer by Valve is already ten years old! That’s basically ancient, by technology standards. The one thing that would lend it perfectly to VR is its simplicity. In an era where every game seems to have a complicated inventory system or some sort of crafting mechanism, Portal was easy. Blue portal, orange portal, jump, action button. Only four things to know. That would let VR gamers focus on the craziness of the physics bending puzzles that endeared Portal (and it’s sequel) to fans everywhere. Stepping directly into the shoes of Chell as she battles GlaDOS would be an amazing VR experience.