Gaming may be going stronger than ever in the 2020s, but there was a golden age for characters that have become icons for the industry. We’re talking about what is now considered ‘retro gaming’, generally from the late 70s through to the early 90s, where a number of games created characters that have become figureheads for the gaming industry. In this article, we take a look at some of the retro characters that have shaped the world of video games that we all love. After all, gaming would be nothing without beloved characters, and these are some of the best.

Perhaps the most iconic of them all, the little Italian plumber and his brother Luigi are still the faces of Nintendo. From his roots as the protagonist fighting the equally iconic Donkey Kong, through his very own series of games that are still going today, there is perhaps no more recognisable face in the gaming industry than Mario. The concept of Mario games, from being one of the best retro game theme tunes to cute platformers, fast-paced kart racing games or any other, is very simple. Mario has stood out every time, able to do virtually anything and even having a movie made about him! Although perhaps the less said about that the better.

It’s quite remarkable that Pac-Man has managed to earn such iconic status. In-game, he is little more than a moving circle with a mouth, moving around a maze consuming everything in his path. But Pac-Man was one of the original goliaths of gaming and his status as one of the top gaming characters is well-deserved. Everyone knows Pac-Man – our parents and even most of our grandparents! The game may be far simpler than what comes out of modern game development, but the concept is a fundamental video game mechanic and game arcades everywhere still celebrate this legendary little hero.

Sonic the Hedgehog
It is a testament to the fame of this sassy blue icon that no one questions the ridiculous concept of a hedgehog that runs fast anymore. He is so ingratiated in popular culture that we wouldn’t have him any other way. He is the mascot for Sega and was the one thing that maintained the brand’s console wars with Nintendo throughout the 1990s. Today, he is keeping Sega alive on the developer front, and he has even undergone a revival in some popular live-action movies. There can be no questioning the iconic status of this figure of retro gaming, and his fast-paced antics and ring collecting are a familiar mechanic for new platformers even today.

Though not quite as iconic in popular culture as the previous names, Megaman has legendary status among true gamers. He’s existed since the 1980s and he is one of the most powerful game heroes there has ever been. He has spawned hundreds of spin-offs and sequels, even taking centre stage in the beloved Marvel vs Capcom beat-’em-up titles. He is undoubtedly one of the greatest retro characters to be celebrated. If you’ve never played a Megaman game, we would recommend the original Megaman, Megaman 2 and Megaman X.

Samus Aran
Perhaps a lesser-known character by name to many readers, Samus Aran was the heroine of Nintendo’s Metroid games and has existed since 1986. She is one of the great female gaming characters and her games were darker and more haunting than the others in this list. It’s important to recognise iconic female characters, such as Samus and also Lara Croft, and those whose games were not all princesses and bright colours. Samus Aran was an incredibly influential presence in retro gaming.

The ever-lasting appeal of retro gaming characters
While many of today’s gamers enjoy soaking up new titles such as the Fluffy Favourites slot game, Call of Duty, Fortnite and more, retro games that have made huge impacts on the way we game today are still proving to be just as popular today! With many gamers still enjoying old titles like Mario Kart, Sonic the Hedgehog and more, the ongoing appeal of these iconic games is an ever-lasting love for gamers across the world.