7 retro-inspired iOS games you should’ve been playing yesterday


Before we had iPhones to game on, we had these. They didn't even make phone calls. Photo Phil Monger/Flickr CC
Before we had iPhones to game on, we had these. They didn't even make phone calls. Photo Phil Monger/Flickr CC

Every gamer over a certain age has a fondness for the 8- and 16-bit titles they grew up with, so it’s no surprise developers born in the 1980s are now creating nostalgia-infused iOS games harking back to the glory days of the Genesis and S.N.E.S. But which of these should you be playing? Fortunately, Cult of Mac can be your guide.

Pop in another quarter, click the button below, and find out what you need to download to truly be down with the kids thirty-somethings.

Docking Sequence (99 cents)

Even today, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey looks positively futuristic — which is why it’s such a hilarious concept to take a genuinely futuristic device like the iPhone and use it to make a retro game loosely based on Kubrick’s classic sci-fi film.

As you can see from the above trailer, Docking Sequence is a fun, slightly Asteroids-style game that asks the player to dock their spaceship on a revolving space station — all without hitting any obstacles in the process.

Photo: Star Marine – Infinite Ammo

Star Marine: Infinite Ammo ($1.99)

If you’re a fan of Contra-style run-and-gun action, you’ll love Star Marine: Infinite Ammo. The plot (as far as it matters) concerns a lone human who crash-lands on a planet filled with battle robots, flying worm-bots and assorted other mechanized nasties. It’s your job to lead your character through 10 grueling levels, mowing down baddies and upgrading your weapons along the way.

There are some great boss battles, some gorgeously inventive levels along the way, and some fun retro touches like the ability to shoot in eight directions. Oh, and don’t forget the pulsating ’80s-inspired soundtrack. Sadly, Star Marine hasn’t been updated since 2012 and there’s no sign of a sequel on the horizon — but that in no way diminishes how much fun you’ll get from this iOS blaster.

Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Tiny Dice Dungeon (free)

With a dice-based battling concept, Tiny Dice Dungeon is the Dungeons & Dragons game we never got in the 8-bit era. And, boy, is it making up for it now! Add in a great chiptune soundtrack and an addictive gameplay dynamic that will have you constantly justifying one more battle, and what you have is a delightfully retro iOS game.

Pizza Boy ($1.99)

There’s still no Mario on the iPhone, but Pizza Boy will make up for Nintendo’s refusal to cater to iOS gamers. Pizza Boy recalls the best bits of not only the original Super Mario Bros. but also Donkey Kong Country. You play the titular Pizza Boy, whose must recover his pizza pie from a villainous thief, traveling through a variety of colorful worlds in the process.

While the developers have been great at keeping this game optimized for the latest iOS devices, it’s worth noting that at five years old, this game is pushing retro status on its own.

Super Scrapped Robot (free)

When I was growing up, one of my video game dreams was for a full-color handheld device to replace the 4-shade green monochrome GameBoy I owned. Now that such a device exists and is called the iPhone, what do we do? We long for the limited color palette of our youth.

To quote Lutricia McNeal, ain’t that just the way that life goes down? All of this preamble brings us around to Super Scrapped Robot, a zany, action-packed, twin-stick shooter with a retro four-shades-of-green aesthetic. With 11 randomly generated levels, five boss battles and plenty of fun weaponry, this will take you back to the GameBoy games of your youth. Mercifully without having to change the batteries what felt like ever hour.

2-Bit Cowboy (99 cents)

Have you ever looked at great Western game Red Dead Redemption and thought, wow, I wish they would strip away those gorgeous 3-D graphics, add a few more coins to collect and possibly a MIDI score? If you’re that kind of retro gunslinger, you’ll find plenty to enjoy in 2-Bit Cowboy, a rootin’ tootin’ gun-shootin’ kind of a game that borrows much of its inspiration from the … Castlevania and Metroid games?

As an added bonus there’s a character-customization mode, along with the chance to get drunk on pixelated moonshine at the game’s Old West saloon.

Photo: Touch Arcade
Photo: Dungeons of Chaos/Touch Arcade

Dungeons of Chaos ($1.99)

With its name alone, Dungeons of Chaos perfectly evokes the feeling of a late-1980s CRPG. It’s the kind of title you’d burn the midnight oil playing on your Apple IIGS. And that’s before you even so much as look at the gorgeously realized retro graphics or set about exploring a world filled with dark dungeons, Tolkien-style villages, all-powerful wizards and some of the best battles this side of the Ultima series.

Deeply immersive and a whole lot of fun, Dungeons of Chaos belongs on the iPad (note: it’s not available for any other device) of any self-respecting 1980s role-playing fan.


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