Definitions of exactly what constitutes “retro” gaming are ten a penny. Everyone’s got an opinion about retro, and it usually boils down to when you were born and what sort of games you played when you were younger. For some, retro means 1980s, NES, Sega Master System, and arcades. For decidedly younger gamers, a definition of retro could include consoles as recent as the PlayStation 2. That’s terrifying for older gamers, but it’s the truth.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll be classing “retro” as anything released prior to 2007. We’re not including any newer games than that – you can click here for a list of the best of those to play if you’re interested – since those are well-documented. No, instead, we’ll be taking a trip into the misty pasts of gaming history to take a look at what games flew under everyone’s radar. Here are what we consider to be 11 of the most underrated retro games of all time.

11. Shadowrun (SNES, 1993)

It’s no overstatement to say that Shadowrun is a massive influence on modern RPGs. Beam Software’s cyberpunk action RPG featured an oceanic conversation system, surprisingly accomplished combat, and a deep and compelling cyberpunk world to explore. If you’re looking forward to Cyberpunk 2077 and you want to know where the genre began in gaming, this is a game you should definitely revisit. Don’t expect an easy ride, though; the original Shadowrun is tough as nails.

10. Batman (NES, 1990)

True, Sunsoft’s 1990 NES classic Batman might not look like a licensed game from the outside. In fact, several notable Batman characters do appear in the game – Electrocutioner, Firebug, and the Joker, among others – but they’re not hugely recognisable. What you do get with Batman is a tight, tense, and focused platformer with pin-sharp mechanics and a ludicrously high difficulty level. You may not complete Batman, but you’ll have a whale of a time trying to. Almost as good a time as watching the ’89 Batman movie.

9. Beyond Oasis (The Story of Thor: A Successor of the Light)(Sega Mega Drive, 1995)

Ever wanted to play The Legend of Zelda, but with Sega-style mechanics and aesthetics? Then you’ll definitely want to check out Beyond Oasis. It’s not quite a clone – the strange perspective and more fluid combat see to that – but many of Zelda’s core mechanics are intact; items that open up more of the map, the top-down perspective, and the overworld-dungeon game flow. This is a seriously fun game that’s been unfairly overlooked by gaming history.

8. Roblox (PC, 2006)

Yeah, that’s a sobering thought, isn’t it? Roblox is basically a retro game now. While Roblox still has a thriving community online, we still think this creative sandbox game is massively underrated for its sheer potential. Community creations in Roblox have been remarkable, with everything from meme pastiches to complete games occupying a space in the Roblox pantheon. If you’re looking to get started with this game now, you still can, and here’s how to get free Robux.

7. Shadow Tower (PlayStation, 1998)

Fans of From Software’s action RPGs Dark Souls, Bloodborne, and Sekiro might want to apply here. Shadow Tower is monstrously, stupidly hard. Some of that is the clunky control scheme. The difficult menus certainly don’t help, and the enemy design is wonky. If you want to see where Dark Souls began, though, there’s no better place than here to do it. From Software’s characteristic varied enemy design and exploration-heavy RPG formula are definitely visible in Shadow Tower.

6. Rocket: Robot on Wheels (Nintendo 64, 1999)

The fact that more people haven’t played Sucker Punch’s debut title is an unanswerable crime. Rocket: Robot on Wheels is a gloriously inspired 3D platformer with genuinely innovative physics mechanics and an emphasis on exploration. If you love Banjo-Kazooie, Super Mario 64, and Spyro the Dragon, you will absolutely adore Rocket: Robot on Wheels. It gets a little tough towards the end, but the freewheeling spirit (no pun intended) of the game will win you over.

5. Penguin Land (Sega Master System, 1987)

Penguin Land is a shockingly advanced game for its time. Released in 1987, this puzzle-platformer sees players controlling Mission Commander Overbite as he endeavours to deliver an egg to his spaceship crew. The downward-scrolling vertical puzzle mechanics call ahead to games like Downwell, but the most revolutionary aspect of Penguin Land is its level editor. That’s right – this game, despite coming out in 1987, features a level editor with a capacity to store up to 15 stages.

4. Bonk’s Adventure (Turbografx-16, 1989)

In the great annals of forgotten mascots, Bonk will go down as one of the more unfortunate inclusions. The Turbografx-16 mascot’s first game is actually an extremely enjoyable 2D platformer, full of interesting level design, solid mechanics, and a fair difficulty curve. It was, naturally, overshadowed by Super Mario World in 1990 and Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991. Still, if you’re feeling nostalgic, go back and give this unfairly overlooked 2D platformer a try.

3. Tomba! (PlayStation, 1997)

In retrospect, it was probably impossible for Tomba! to do well outside of its native Japan. The non-linear 2.5D platformer is simply full of characteristic Japanese colour, life, and energy. Expecting a game this weird to perform outside its homeland is probably unfair. Revisiting Tomba! now will immerse you in a Metroidvania-style backtracking platformer way ahead of its time, with some of the funniest and silliest writing in ‘90s gaming.

2. Terranigma (SNES, 1996)

We’ve tried not to rely overmuch on SNES games for this article, as they tend to get more of a look-in than other platforms. Still, it’s hard to write a “most underrated retro games” article without Terranigma. This excellent Quintet game falls into the same category as titles like Illusion of Gaia; it’s a tight, focused action-RPG with a fun, bouncy plot and frankly beautiful graphics. Not enough people played this, partly because it was never released in North American territories.

1. Panzer Dragoon Saga (Sega Saturn, 1998)

Perhaps you saw this one coming. Panzer Dragoon Saga is, quite simply, a breathtaking game. It’s a beautiful JRPG with gorgeous movement mechanics, a chunky world to explore, and one of the greatest soundtracks of any video game ever made. With the recent announcement that the original Panzer Dragoon will be getting a remake for the Nintendo Switch, our hopes are high for Saga. Please, please, please, let us get what we want.