1984 - Tetris (Electronika 60)

Tetris is available to play in various forms on Switch, from the sublime, sensory experience that is Tetris Effect: Connected, to the excellent battle royale Tetris 99 and the iconic Game Boy version from 1989 if you have a Nintendo Switch Online subscription. Sure, the original '84 version isn't technically playable on Switch, so we're stretching things a little, but there's more than enough of a Tetris fix available.

Honourable Mentions: Punch-Out!!, Tower of Druaga

1985 - Super Mario Bros. (NES)

So much of the foundation of the series, and the medium at large, was put down in Super Mario Bros. It's the kind of release you use to delineate historical eras; when it comes to video games, there was 'Before SMB' and 'After SMB'.

Switch also hosts the arcade version VS. Super Mario Bros., if you're after something a little different.

Honourable Mentions: Gradius

1986 - The Legend of Zelda (NES)

What is there left to say about The Legend of Zelda? The template assembled here has kept a couple of generations of Nintendo fans enthralled, and you can play a great many entries from the comfort of your own Switch — with some notable exceptions.

What's that? No, nuts to Wind Waker and Twilight Princess. We're talking about the DS games.

Not the last of this series we'll see on this list.

Honourable Mentions: Out Run, Dragon Quest, Bubble Bobble, Castlevania

1987 - Contra (Arcade)

In Europe, many of us were first introduced to this series in the form of Gryzor or Probotector, and we knew Bill and Lance as the robots RD008 and RC011. What we didn't miss out on, though, was the sweet run 'n' gun gameplay in this Konami classic. Whether you prefer the arcade or NES version, you're in for a good time.

Honourable Mentions: R-Type, Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!!

1988 - Super Mario Bros. 3 (NES)

Super Mario Bros. 3 was a colossal leap forward from the original SMB in practically every way. It refined the basics, switched up the visuals, and added more mechanical variety and one-and-done elements than any video game to that point; so many that even today there are certain suits, stages or secrets that fans of the game may never have found.

So many ‘old’ games are best approached with historical context in mind, or come with caveats when playing them years after release, but SMB3 needs none. It's just as boundingly inventive and fresh as the day it was released, and easily one of the very finest video games ever made. Play it, now.

Honourable Mentions: Mega Man 2, Ninja Gaiden

1989 - Final Fight (Arcade)

Final Fight set the blueprint for the belt-scrolling beat 'em up for the following decade, and as much as this writer adores Streets of Rage II, there's no denying that someone took a long hard look at Capcom's homework. Final Fight itself takes inspiration from elsewhere, of course, and Metro City is still a great place to engage in some two-player co-op.

Honourable Mentions: Castlevania III: Dracula's Curse

Non-Switch Nom: SimCity

Please note that some external links on this page are affiliate links, which means if you click them and make a purchase we may receive a small percentage of the sale. Please read our FTC Disclosure for more information.

1990 - Super Mario World (SNES)

Super Mario World remains an incredible achievement of invention and entertainment — one that the 2D platforming genre has struggled to match ever since. Introducing Yoshi and an expanded overworld with multiple paths, this game overflowed with secrets and secret exits, perfect for fuelling playground gossip and elevating it to the upper-est echelons of platform video games, 2D or otherwise.

All games have flaws, but if there's an exception to that rule, Super Mario World is it.

Honourable Mentions: FFIII (soon)

1991 - Street Fighter II: The World Warrior (Arcade)

Back in 1991, Street Fighter II essentially birthed the fighting genre as we know it, and gave gaming an iconic set of characters to rival the Marios, Sonics, and Pac-Men of the world. Which version of the game is best is a subject for debate, but SFII is by far the most significant fighter in video game history.

Honourable Mentions: A Link to the Past, Sonic the Hedgehog, Another World

Non-Switch Nom: Civilization

1992 - Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (MD)

Any Sonic fan alive at the time will remember ‘Sonic 2sday’, the November launch date of Sega's sensational sequel. If you had a Genesis / Mega Drive in your household throughout Holiday Season 1992, it almost certainly had a copy of Sonic 2 in the cart slot.

Switch is lousy with versions of Sonic 2 to play. In addition to being part of the Nintendo Switch Online Expansion Pack offering, it's also in the SEGA Mega Drive Classics collection, part of the SEGA AGES series, and features in revamped form in Sonic Origins. However you play, it still stands as one of the best sequels ever made.

Honourable Mentions: Streets of Rage II, Virtua Racing, Super Mario Kart

Non-Switch Nom: Mortal Kombat

1993 - DOOM (PC)

The Switch port of DOOM is the best version of the game ever released on a Nintendo system by a country mile. In fact, after launching with a smattering of small technical issues, subsequent updates have improved things to the point where this ranks alongside the very best versions of DOOM available anywhere. Purists may suggest that DOOM should only ever be played on a PC with a keyboard, but after a couple of minutes with this exquisite port you'll feel like it was made for a gamepad. If you’re looking to slay hordes of Hellspawn at home or on the move, there’s no better way.

Honourable Mentions: Secret of Mana, Gunstar Heroes, Link's Awakening, Star Fox

Non-Switch Nom: Day of the Tentacle