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Top 10 Pre-3D Video Games

For many long time gamers, the industries best games came out during the period from early seventies through mid-nineties, the age before advances in technology allowed for highly developed 3 dimensional games to be made. These games are not merely antiques; many of them are still great plays today.

10. Super Metroid (SNES) [Wikipedia]

10. Super Metroid

The SNES installment of the Metroid series is largely considered the best. The game takes place in a huge world connected by doors and portals. Players take control of Samus Aran, a woman who has to save humanity from space pirates and the like. While not a huge departure from the previous version, the game is more refined and larger, which easily makes it better. Certainly no other side scroller Metroid game matches this one.

Still have your old Nintendo? Bring it out and play Super Metroid at!

9. Donkey Kong (Arcade) [Wikipedia]

9. Donkey Kong

While the title also refers to the Donkey Kong game series where players control DK or one of his friends, the original game was quite different. Players would have to climb to the top of a strange apparatus in order to save the damsel in distress. This version of the game came out in 1981 for the arcade, and was one of Nintendo’s first successes in North America. The game is also one of the first places where classic Nintendo characters Mario and Donkey Kong make appearances.

8. Pong (Arcade) [Wikipedia]

8. Pong

Yes, it’s so simple and so mundane by today’s standards, it seems like pong would have no appeal at all. But back in 1972, pong was all the rage. If you haven’t heard of the game before, then you must be from a third world country; that’s how well known pong is. It’s still fun to play today, even if only as part of a drinking game.

7. Mega Man X (SNES) [Wikipedia]

7. Mega Man X

In 1993, there had already been several Mega Man games, all with the same basic formula: Robot hero fights evil robots and gains abilities and weapons along the way. Well, the plot doesn’t change much here, but the game design has never been bettered. The Mega Man series has always had a problem with game difficulty, but here there was just the right amount of challenge. Players now had to strategize what order to fight the bosses based on what weapons and abilities they have gained. The final fight was a real fight, meaning even the most experienced gamer would need multiple trials to get it right. A great side scroller that has only rarely been bested.

6. Pac-Man (Arcade) [Wikipedia]

6. Pac-Man

Few games are as imbedded into our culture as much as Pac-Man. The game, which is no more than a pie shaped character trying to eat all the dots before ghosts get to him, is enormously popular and has been since its inception in 1979. The game even briefly spun off into a TV show, although I wouldn’t recommend the show as much as I would recommend the game.

Really want to reminisce? You can get the Namco Pac Mans Arcade Game Cabinet at!

5. Sonic The Hedgehog 2 (Genesis) [Wikipedia]

5. Sonic 2

In response to the popular Mario series on Nintendo, Sega decided it needed its own quirky character to make its signature video game around. Success was achieved with the original Sonic, a game that was almost abandoned twice by Sega. The highly anticipated following, Sonic 2, had all the great features of the first game, and attributes that became permanent fixtures in the Sonic catalog, such as the ‘spin dash,’ second character Tails, and Super Sonic which added even more chaos to the gameplay. While Sega added more great features in future installments, no Sonic game felt as revolutionary as Sonic 2 did.

4. Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES) [Wikipedia]

4. Super Mario Bros. 3

Mario single handedly made Nintendo when the fledging company hired Shigeru Miyamoto to create a game for them. Two installments later, the series was a hit, and the third installment became the most famous. Besides its obvious virtues, the game has appeared in many a bad early nineties movie, and has a very famous video of it on YouTube featuring someone beating it in 11 minutes. Astonishing.

3. Space Invaders (Arcade) [Wikipedia]

3. Space Invaders

The game started life in 1978 as an arcade game, and steadily grew to become one of the most recognizable video game titles of all time. While versions of this game are now available on nearly everything from cell phones to graphing calculators, Space Invaders remains one of the all time most popular and enduring video games ever produced.

2. Final Fantasy III U.S. (SNES) [Wikipedia]

2. Final Fantasy Iii

While in Japan it was released as Final Fantasy VI, it is better known as Final Fantasy III. Still one of the Final Fantasy series most venerable releases, FFIII was quite a long game, even by today’s standards. The game follows the path of a few heroes in what appears to be a late 19th century world. In keeping with this lists style of minimal spoiling, nothing else about the game’s story will be revealed, I’ll just say it is worth your time to play and keep up with the story surrounding Terra.

1. The Legend Of Zelda: A Link To The Past (SNES) [Wikipedia]

1. A Link To The Past

The Zelda series had already been established as one of the Nintendo franchise’s best, along side Mario and Metroid. However, the series reached new levels of sophistication with the third installment, A Link To The Past. At the time it was the longest game in the series, featuring 12 full length dungeons and innumerable side quests. This is the game that first introduced the now reoccurring theme of multiple, mirror worlds to the series. The Zelda series has not produced a better 2D since. Perhaps only Ocarina Of Time betters it, but even that is debated.

Contributor: Jason Hirschhorn

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  • Morphy

    Whaaaa???? No ZORK? All those are good games, but ZORK *has* to be on the list!

  • 80toy

    I have to argue for Mario Cart (SNES), which is one of the first really good racing games. No matter how many racing games i play on new 3d systems, Mario Cart can always keep me entertained, especially battle mode. even games like Forza make me bored eventually.

  • Pablo

    STFU n00b!! ZORK iz teh crappyest gaym ever!!! PACMAN 15 teh 1337!!! LOLZ U suxorz

  • Who would have thought a list of games would cause such upset? :)

  • WearShades

    My lists are apparently lightning rods of controversy.

  • WearShades: that is how we like it :)

  • Morphy

    Pablo: alrighty then!

    (Why am I even responding to this?)

  • Morphy: I have no idea – maybe we should add it to the next unsolved mysteries list :)

  • Morphy


  • evan

    80toy, correct me if im wrong, but wasnt Mario Cart a 3d racing game? this list is PRE-3d games

  • no, it the original wasn’t 3D, and it was on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. The one on Nintendo 64 was. am I the only person that has that game?!? that game is freaking awesome, i have been playing it since i was 8.

    images here…

    you guys don’t consider that 3D, do you?

  • Tetris

    that game is amazing.

    but this list isn’t soo bad

  • [ImplosiveFire]

    Megaman X? That really shouldn’t be there. What about Megaman 2 for the NES? Best Megaman game there is! And how could you miss Tetris? And Castlevania!? And ZORK!?? And Nethack!??!!? AND FALLOUT!?!! *breathes loudly*
    Ok, I’m done with my babbling. But seriously, you missed way too many, maybe you could make lists for each genre or console/pc instead of a generic one. Just sayin’ is all :P

  • RobS

    Bah and feh upon all of you! I remember when we played pong with paddles we held in our hands across a green table with a little tiny net in the center!
    Seriously though, I remember playing Pong when it first came out and thinking, “Whoa! It CAN’T get any better than this!”
    Then, about 1981, I became addicted to Missile Command (I wanted to get a hat that read “Missile Commander” on the front… but never did).
    Then, when I got my first computer, I started playing Red Alert and all the other games of that genre.
    Now, about the only games I play are the Combat Mission games.

  • Mario Kart for de SNES was a 2D game…
    The SNES had several rendering options called ‘modes” from 0 to 7.
    Mario Kart used the mode 7. It works by rotating, scaling and resizing the background layer fooling you into a fake “depth mode”.

  • Zelda!
    Megaman 3!
    Metal Gear!

  • Zelda definitely! Excitebike! Bomberman! Contra! Metal Gear! Tetris… the old time classic

  • Sheri

    I have to agree with Steve… Tetris 4 Evah. :-)

  • Che

    No Civilization ?
    For my money, simply the best videogame of all time. And I’m a self-confessed FPS addict.

  • Bill Coffin

    Tetris is a major omission from this list. But that Space invaders is not in the #1 slot is most surprising. Final Fantasy III? Legend of Zelda? Thise might be very noteworthy games, but I think we’re overloking the sheer impact of Space Invaders. This was the blockbuster game that virtually launched the entire coin-op arcade industry. It was so popular in Japan that it actually created a national shortage of their equivalent of a quarter (I think it was a 100-yen coin), and the Japanese parliament had to pass legislation requiring arcade operators to cash in their coins at least twice a week (IIRC) to help alleviate the coin shortage. That’s not just popularity or even a craze. That’s a game so wildly loved that it created a national financial emergency. No other video game, 3D or otherwise, can make such a claim.

  • brennan

    i enjoyed the game Worship. then i started college and stopped playing it. i should give it another try. maybe while i am drunk?

  • god_in_a_cup

    i absolutely demand casltvania symphony of the night. I FUCKING DEMAND IT. seriously play it (if you can find it) its really great.

  • Ed boon

    Im not going to complain because all the listed games are great and honestly their are too many others to name. I would have also suggested the following titles.
    1. Super Street figther 2 Turbo (SNES)
    2. Mortal Kombat 2 (SNE)
    3. Contra the Ailien Wars (SNES)
    4. Super Mario World (SNES)
    5. Secret of MANA (SNES)
    6. Chrono Trigger!!! (SNES)

  • Great additions guys – keep them coming :)

  • OniNeko

    I agree that Mega Man X is a great game, but there’s something wrong with the listing. In saying ‘players now had to strategize the order of the levels they play’, it seems it has been forgotten that this has always been an element of play since the very first game.

    I also agree with a lot of people’s suggestions:

    Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is a massive action-rpg style game that is highly addictive. Finding new weapons and armor and upgrading your character is a main focus here, and there are many effective techniques: When you find the shield rod, you can use it to activate the shield in your hand to cast unique spells!

    Chrono Trigger was an insane amount of fun with huge replay value. In the game you travel through time, correcting cataclysmic events in the past to affect the future. Given the spirit of the game, once it is finished you may select a “New Game +” option that allows you to start at the beginning of the storyline with all the experience, money and items you ended with!

    One game (read: the whole damn series) I disagree with is Mortal Kombat. I’ve never played a fighting game that involves less strategy. Just memorize your character’s cheapest moves and spam away!

    Might I suggest a list of revolutionary 3D games? Sonic Adventure comes to mind.

  • OniNeko: revolutionary games is a great idea

  • Tron

    1. Space Invaders
    2. Asteroids
    3. Pong

  • What about the Secret of Monkey Island?

    Both it and Zork I definitely deserve a place… :-)

  • roscoefrye

    Great Choice. I am a Huge Fan of the Zelda Series and this is my fav. I have played it all the way through at least once a year since it first came out.

  • evan

    Civilization has to be on here, at least as a honorable mention. its truly a classic.

  • Fruckert

    i still play the shit out of super metroid, it is and will always be a classic

  • angelina

    Frogger rules!!!

  • easyallover

    Man, Ive been coming here for awhile and not posting, but Video Games are my weakness >

  • B.

    I found your comment (“If you haven’t heard of the game before, then you must be from a third world country; that’s how well known pong is.”) in the paragraph about Pong really offensive. I’m from a “third world” country and can’t understand what’s the meaning of that sentence. I think you should be more respectful towards countries you don’t know at all. Or perhaps, you should investigate a bit before writing your articles.

  • amoondoo


  • copperdragon

    consider the following:

    original SimCity
    Zork (not 3D, not even 2D!! it’s TEXT!!)

  • Polly Odyssey

    What? No EarthBound? That game was awesome! Well, it’s not like it’s a household name…

  • Polly Odyssey

    Oh yeah, EarthBound was for the SNES.

  • Jess

    I’m suprised that Mario 3 is not the number one game.

  • HKramer

    EarthBound deserves at least a honorable mention.

  • jasontimmer

    nice joke, but i think the liger (a real animal) should have been included

  • meangene

    Super Mario Kart was the best 2D game of all time, anyone who disagrees obviously never had a friend to play 2 player with.

  • Steve2

    greatest game ever:

    ToeJam and Earl

    Played that game for days…

  • Diogenes

    somebody throw down the cardboard. i gotta breakdance!

    Ahhhh. rememberances of videogames past. top score used to be the sh*t

    but sad to see, I’m surrounded by later game players. The arcade was the way of eighties youth..At least in part from where I came from. We use to kill those who stole our quarters/ There were the circles that produced shockwaves around the winners and the tadpoles stood on the outer rim of gawk, while the sound of the arcade produced underage drunkedness. Then when it was time to leave, we would go somewhere and shoot snakes to unwind.

  • Glowbug

    If we’re talking about actual ARCARDE games (as us old farts who remember the dark ages before home systems can recall), I have to vote for Dragons’ Lair. Fine, it was a pretty simple game, but it was the first cartoon game to ever make the market. The animation (by Don Bluth, if I’m remembering right) was pretty amazing as well.

  • Lammy

    Although I’m sad not to see Chrono Trigger on the list, I thank you immensely for putting Final Fantasy III/VI as number two. That is a highly underrated game. I personally think it is better than its more commercially successful, er, successor Final Fantasy VII. And I agree totally with the number one choice.

  • Um, why do you have the Game Boy version’s box for the DK arcade game. The GB version was nothing like the arcade game (except for the first four levels).

  • southparklovr

    ive played every one of those games…


  • Polly Odyssey

    Another thing: I’m genuinely surprised no one has mentioned the NES masterpiece Kid Icarus or Kirby Super Star…

  • B_Rad

    No one has mentioned Battletoads? I use to play that all the time. I’m not the only one to get past the bike part am I? I remember being the coolest kid in school because I was able to beat that part without using the warp.

    Oh, and Spyhunter has to be on this list. I mean, they even have a Spyhunter movie coming out.

  • PipBoy2000

    I’m afraid there are simply too many “top-10” games; we must break it down into smaller genres or something. Maybe even platform-specific lists.

    Even these lists would be highly contended by dozens of titles:

    Top 10 text based games
    Top 10 2D isometric RPGs
    Top 10 Dungeon games
    Top 10 Point-n-click adventure games


  • DotSlash shawn

    Where is Chrono Trigger? *Sadness*

  • Obuibo

    This list seems a little personal, not to say that the games listed are not great but as stated in a lot of the posts before me there are simply too many epic games not included on there.

    I would have to agree that:

    Chrono Trigger
    Space Invaders
    Manic Mansion series?
    Sim City

    should be included.

    I am surprised no one has mentioned the Space Quest series or even Commander Keen? I must admit that these games were very popular in my town.

    All these games and many more started a revolution in modern gaming and are even still going strong to this day. So many of these gaming formula’s are still used today.

    Dare I mention that Warcraft was released in the early 90’s to create a fanbase that is surely putting in a lot of life hours into this instead of procreating or eating/sleeping. (is this a good thing is excessive gaming becoming genetic?)


    Good luck to our children that will be making lists of “games” that started the MMORPG craze that will surely build into a matrix-style gaming future or…

  • unacomn

    Please add “on a console” in the title, it’s better that way >.>

  • Savanti Romero

    ALTTP is Definetly Number 1!!!!!!!

  • Malfore

    Chrono Trigger SHOULD have been on it, but…FFIII/VI is SOOO much better than any other 2D FF installment…much better than VII too, about as good as X

    Castlevania, Phantasy Star IV, Shining Force 2, and Ristar should have SO ben on this

  • NO

    No tetris?

  • Nikki

    i knew pac man would be on here

  • The Grey GOAT

    FF III was definitely a good choice. As far as RPG’s go it beats out Chrono Trigger by just a hair. It’s an awesome game in every way. Both are classic games though that are better than 90% of the RPG’s ever released. I also want to mention another great 2D game that is kinda under the radar, Gunstar Hero’s on the Genesis, if you never played it, find it and play it.

    Other honoralble mentions:

    Castlevainia: Symphony of the Night
    Bionic Commando (NES version)
    Street Fighter 2
    Marvel Vs. Capcom 2
    U.N. Squadron
    Rolling Thunder


    I can’t tell you the fortune in quarters I fed into the machine to play Qix over and over and over,,,

    When games “came home” I wasn’t the only one who loved “Leisure Suit Larry” who taught me the importance of saving my work so that I didn’t hae to tart from the beginning.

  • Danny

    Youll never please everyone on a list so broad – LOVE LOVE LOVE that FF III is on the list

    Would have liked to see Chrono Trigger (SNES), arguably the best game ever made

  • oouchan

    I agree with you Danny….Chrono Trigger should have been on this list. (It was close to being the best until Champions of Norrath came out)

  • Raul

    No way Final Fantasy III or Champions of Norrath is better than Chrono Trigger. Oh well :\

  • Benzane

    green baret,cabal,1942 are games i like…….but my all time favorite R-TYPE! no mention at all? shame on youzzz

  • youngchuck72

    Super Metroid rocked i freaking loved that game its awesome
    sonic 2 also rocked it was awesome

  • Hayley

    I cant believe no one has mention Prince of Persia!!

  • sallysweet

    I think it’s safe to say that the SNES was/is completely awesome.

  • joanne

    I’m old enough to have played some non-3D PC games but am too young for the games on this list. i say “non-3D” because they were indeed not 3D but probably not “pre-3D” because i remember having played some of the earliest 3D games around the time i was playing them. do non-3D PC games count? if so i would like to include in this list of the best non-3D games(for me at least) the following:

    eagle eye mysteries
    capitalism II
    [all the others i have played but could not recall the titles]

    i would also like to add “puzzle quest.” a medieval-themed puzzle game released in 2007 i think. before i played that game i thought it was yet another boring medieval game(a 2D game in 2007??) but then after the first match i was hooked, and i have finished it many times over already.

  • Boo

    SUPER MARIO WORLD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Sparkybox

    Where is Body Haverst?

  • Jason S.


  • “If you haven’t heard of the game before, then you must be from a third world country”
    Jesus, Was that really necessary?

  • bug9513

    there is no way that mario could beat sonic 2, sonic 2 was the best game ever made, though I lost all respect for sega when sonic 3d came out, I still firmly belive sonic2 is the best game I’ve ever played

  • Matt

    Is it Duck Hunt?

  • 83cab83

    FFIII is the best RPG ever! They should make a movie out of it!

    This game is PERFECTION

    I went through it almost 20 times
    and when I saw this game on the list it made me want to do it again

    It’s a total WIN

    Same thing for Zelda!!

    Starfox on the SNES… “3d”?

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  • Seamus

    SNES whore much?

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