GOG.com is known for having a unique selection of games that span from the early 80’s to the late 2000s. However, unlike Steam, GOG’s games are DRM free. This means you can create local copies of games and it doesn’t require a constant internet connection to enjoy your games. GOG also patches older games to ensure they work with modern operating systems.
These points make GOG one of the best ways to play old retro games. We’ve carefully perused GOG’s catalog of games and made this list of the best retro games to play.
Want a list of the best old school shooters? Here’s our list of the best ‘Boomer Shooters’ to play.
1. Metal Slug 3
Metal Slug 3 defined the arcade, side-scrolling shooter genre. It had simple controls – move, shoot, jump, and grenade – but it pushed the creative limits of its simple control scheme with a plethora of transformations and entertaining interactions. One moment a player may be running around scorching zombies with a flamethrower. Later they may have become a zombie, transforming their grenade button into a screen-clearing blood-vomit attack.
What gave Metal Slug 3 so much replayability was the amount of secrets it held. Players could change the routes they played in each run of Metal Slug 3. Each path has unique enemies, bosses, and unique vehicles (or as they’re called in-game, slugs) to play as. Grabbing a friend and exploring each of these routes is a satisfying way to spend an afternoon blasting through waves of nostalgia and beautifully, drawn pixelated enemies.
2. Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Complete
Heroes of Might and Magic 3: Complete is easily one of the best retro games on GOG. It has a truckload of content to enjoy and a gaming experience that’s good enough to endure the test of time, which is evidenced by how active its community is to this day.
The key to Heroes’ success is its outstanding gameplay. In HoMM3, players take control of a powerful hero and explore a map filled with novel events. Heroes can only explore a certain distance before the day is over. In that time, players can gather resources, rally armies of mythical animals, and conquer other towns. Once the day ends, heroes are sent back to their fortress and must journey out again the next day. Battles are turn-based and fought on a hexagonal grid system. This blend of deep strategic combat, rewarding map exploration, and layered unit interaction is what makes Heroes of Might and Magic stand out from other games.
3. Mortal Kombat 1+2+3
The original Mortal Kombats are classic fighting games. The first Mortal Kombat is fun to play just to see where the series originated. But MK2 and MK3 are two of the best Mortal Kombat games out there.
MK2 has short combos and a heavier emphasis on interactions between special attacks. This created slower but more methodical fights between players. Projectiles would control space or force opponents to block long enough for you to close the gap on your terms.
In comparison MK3 added a run button and chain combos, encouraging more aggressive actions between players. While projectiles still play a part in MK3’s neutral game, they mostly exist to deter your opponent from sprinting into you. Chain combos also added a small learning curve for players, since each character had preset follow-ups for their attacks.
Be aware that if you buy this version on GOG you may need to remap the controls in order for controllers and keyboards to work.
4. Quake 3 Gold
While all the Quake games are worth playing, Quake 3 deserves a special mention here. It laid the building blocks for the modern-day arena and movement shooters like Team Fortress 2, Halo, and Apex Legends.
Quake 3 stands out because of its high-speed movement, reliance on fast flick aim, and gorgeously flashy weapons. Controlling your momentum felt intuitive to learn, but difficult to master. This could be seen from how players will naturally bunny-hop and air strafe, but advanced movement tricks like zig-zagging and rocket jumps gave players even more fine-tuned control.
Even without a strong understanding of its stellar movement, Quake’s chaotic free-for-all mode left an endearing impression on audiences. You didn’t need to know how to play or what was happening on screen half the time. All you had to do was spawn in, grab the nearest gun to you, and get as many kills as possible with whatever guns you could find.
5. System Shock 2
System Shock is one of the most significant sci-fi shooters for the FPS genre. While Quake was revolutionary for making the FPS genre more action-packed, System Shock showed how the First-Person perspective could be used to tell an immersive story. Plus, System Shock 1 is getting a remake that’s scheduled to be released sometime in 2022, making this the perfect time to try out the original System Shock games.
In System Shock 2, you play as a soldier that awakens in a ship filled with humans infected by an unknown mutagen. What follows is a disturbing, claustrophobic journey through the perils of bioengineering and the madness that follows when technology slips its master’s leash. What makes this game such a wonderful sequel is when the antagonist of the previous game reveals herself and asks for your help. It beautifully ties into the previous game and leaves the player questioning if they have any reason to trust their former enemy.
6. Dungeon Keeper
Players in Dungeon Keeper get to create their own dungeon filled with villains and ne’er-do-wells. As they build out their dungeon, ‘good guys’ like knights and heroes will siege their dungeon in an attempt to bring it down. To stall their advance, players have to lay down traps, cast spells, and manage their army of minions to make sure the good guys never see the light of day again. It’s a dark and ominous game that also never forgets to keep fun at its core.
Dungeon Keeper was a rare entertaining blend of the management and RTS genres that hasn’t been successfully replicated since. Sadly, Dungeon Keeper shared the same fate as the Titanfall franchise – it was an amazing series of games, but the second game didn’t sell very well so EA decided to gut the entire project and leave it for dead. But the good news is that this underrated game is finding new life on GOG’s retro playlist.
If you like Street Fighter, check out our list of the best Street Fighter games.