Books, movies and music thrive on their classics, which are still regularly enjoyed by everyone, yet classic games are often hidden behind a maze of hardware conflicts, software emulation and copyright laws.
There are, however, a few places on the Internet that offer classic arcade games. I’m not talking about terrible rip-offs or copies, either – I’m talking about the real thing.
A few years ago Atari realized that it owns a lot of classic titles that probably aren’t worth a re-release but still might attract web visitors. Thus, the online Atari Arcade was born.
The games on this website are indeed Flash based, but they’re not terrible copies. Atari has used an emulation engine to provide the best experience one could expect without going to an arcade. The controls are responsive and feel correct, the graphics are exactly as they should be and the gameplay is as it was in arcades twenty or thirty years ago.
All of the games are free for your computer via the website. There’s a lot of classics such as Asteroids, Missile Command and Lunar Lander. You’ll also find a few new games like Atari’s popular Facebook game – Dungeons & Dragons: Heroes Of Neverwinter.
You can also access many of the online arcade games on your iPad, and Atari even offers a controller called the Duo that turns your iPad into a mini arcade cabinet. It looks fun, but obviously it’s not free – you’ll have to shell out $59.99 just for the controller.
Microsoft is a strange company. It has this tendency to seemingly forget about side-projects, even if those projects showed some promise. This is the fate that has fallen on Microsoft Game Room.
You can download the Microsoft Game Room through the Windows Marketplace website. It’s so forgotten that the company hasn’t even provided many of the game pack downloads with icons. But it still works, and there’s a lot of games that you can play. The Game Room itself is basically an interactive storefront interface. It’s rather clunky, but it does provide excellent game emulation and responsive (though unintuitive) controls.
You can download the Game Room for free and play demos of games for free. You also receive 20 tokens that can be used for “bonus play.” But eventually you will need to buy the games if you want to keep playing. The going rate for everything seems to be 240 Microsoft Points, which is about three bucks. That’s not bad, though with lots of games on offer, you’ll end up spending a lot to buy out the entire arcade.
This recommendation is a bit specific, but it’s packed into NewsGrounds, a place with a lot of great games that oddly doesn’t have a “classic” category.
The game itself is a Flash port of three different games – Doom, Heretic and Hexen. These classics of the FPS genre can now be played in a browser without any performance issues. In fact, if anything, the smoothness of this port is its only downfall. Playing an old shooter on modern hardware feels a bit odd.
The controls of this port are smooth and the gameplay is what you’d expect. And best of all, the entire thing is free. If there’s any problem, it is the fact that only the “demo version” of each game is ported. Thankfully these games were made at a time when demos were long and gave you a good glimpse of the full title.
If these demos give you an appetite for the real thing I suggest you check out Chocolate Doom, a free downloadable source code port of the original that works on modern PCs. Heretic and Hexen can be purchased on Steam for $4.99 each or $9.97 as a bundle that includes both original games and all of Hexen’s sequels.
Quake Live received a lot of fanfare when it was released, then sort of faded from the spotlight. It’s still around, however, and seems to be at least moderately successful. It’s a rare example of a free-to-play shooter done right.
It’s also based on Quake III Arena, which in my opinion was the best of the Quake games. It was the first game where its developers realized that single-player quake wasn’t much to brag about and the game would be better if multi-player was the focus.
Though considered a graphical masterpiece at the time of its release, Quake III is now rather old and thus can be easily handled in a browser. The gameplay is much as you may remember it, but finding a game is easier and leaderboards let you compete with friends or strangers.
After scouring the Internet these are the best sources for classic arcade games online. There are many, many Flash ports and rip-offs of classic titles online, but most aren’t worth your time. Everything listed here is legitimate, high-quality classic gaming.
Still, I might have missed something – do you know of an alternative that’s not here? Let us know in the comments.