In the down moments of playing a distressingly long Mario Party 2 game this weekend—my friends get a garbage truck full of NES and Super NES games with their Nintendo Switch Online membership—I started wondering what other retro games were only a download away on publishers’ official storefronts.
By that I mean the Microsoft store for Xbox-compatible games, Nintendo’s store for the Switch, and so on. There are actually some hidden freebies therein, and you might not have realized these five games were so directly within your grasp. So hang your hat, partner. The long night is over. Keep reading and check out five throwback games you can download now for free.
1943: The Battle of Midway
In 1987, Japanese developer Capcom published Street Fighter, Mega Man, and, among other arcade games, the vert shoot ‘em up 1943: The Battle of Midway. It was a somewhat disconcerting followup to Capcom’s also-disconcerting shooter 1942, released in 1984. Both games center, oddly, on the players’ U.S. army planes gunning down Japanese fleets during World War II.
But if you don’t often analyze the presence of war in games and aren’t concerned with why a company decided to kill off its own country’s soldiers to appeal to Americans, then, well, 1943: The Battle of Midway is kind of cool.
It’s simple—make the evil planes explode!—but its colors are vivid, its music is dynamic , and its repetitive shooting will make you feel so zen that you’ll instantly forget the plot of any anti-war documentary you’ve ever seen. It’s available for free when you download Capcom Arcade Stadium on PlayStation or Switch, and you can add on four other 19XX games for $2 each.
Fortune cookie-shaped Pac-Man started eating his way through a ghost-lined maze in 1980, and publisher Bandai Namco is still trying to stave off his endless hunger in its often-updated mobile version of the arcade phenom.
This version contains the traditional Pac-Man maze you probably associate with arcades—a midnight blue map spotted with edible dots and bonus-point fruits—along with additional “story mode” mazes, themed “adventure mode” events, and a leaderboard for its “tournament mode.” Submit to the sounds of whiny ghosts and download for your Apple or Android device.
Sonic the Hedgehog Classic
1991 Sega Genesis side-scrolling platformer Sonic the Hedgehog gets another life on mobile while retaining, for the most part, its original look and feel—pixelated waves and trees, tufts of grass and blocky dirt patches that frame the way to taking down bad baldie Dr. Robotnik.
This refreshed version features a remastered version of the original, the classic sparkly soundtrack by Dreams Come True, and is compatible with Xbox controllers. You can play on Apple and Android devices.
Microsoft Studios published Pinball FX2 in 2010, not reinventing any wheels, but providing a solid virtual pinball experience with different-themed tables (the aquatic Secrets of the Deep, a Las Vegas take on Rome, etc.). Flicking switches won’t feel or sound as snappy as in a real pinball game, but then again, you can’t typically play those from the safety of your couch. You can play Pinball FX2 on Xbox, and download free trials of additional themed boards like Star Wars and Aliens vs. Pinball, too.
Download from the Microsoft Store.
Shadow Warrior Classic
Former Zilla Enterprises bodyguard Lo Wang gets a wakeup call in the 1997 first-person shooter Shadow Warrior: Megacorporations are bad. He learns this after his power-tripping former boss sends a slew of demons after him as punishment for quitting, which he responds to by blasting them in the face as he runs across Japan.
Good for him. Though, Lo Wang is undoubtedly a racist caricature, with stilted dialogue lines delivered in an awkward accent. And though the game was built with the same engine as Duke Nukem 3D, a modern audience might instead note how simplistic the graphics look by modern standards. It’s far from perfect.
But, like in Duke, Shadow Warrior’s fast-action gunplay holds up, and developer 3D Realms’ obsession with packing every square inch with secret rooms and unexpected (sometimes crude) references provides an enlightening trip back to the weird early days of first-person shooters.
Download from Steam.
What other official freebies have you found in your sojourns through the Switch, PlayStation, and Xbox app stores? Tell me your best finds in the comments.