Get all misty-eyed over 8-bit graphics
Retro gaming is all the rage these days. Everyone’s selling a mini-console with classic games from years gone by, it seems. The offerings from Sega and Nintendo’s SNES and NES mini consoles are particularly good as a gateway into gaming’s amazing history of quality titles.
However, retro computer games from systems like the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum are also starting to get the attention they deserve. With mini consoles featuring their games also seeing the light of day. It’s certainly a cheaper and easier path to playing these games compared to buying the original hardware and software.
That being said, there’s a fun and even simpler way to learn about retro gaming from people who know more than anyone about the subject. All you need to do is check out these excellent YouTube channels packed with the best retro computer game content on the web.
Just remember, we’re looking at channels that have content related to retro computer games. Sadly channels that focus exclusively on retro console gaming will have to wait for another article.
This channel has been around since 2006 and has become one of the best-known names in retro computer games on YouTube. His real name is Jason Lindsey, and along with a variety crew of friends you’ll find a variety of creative retro computer game topics to explore.
Although Metal Jesus has plenty of video game console content, he’s a big collector of PC games, especially the classic big-box variety. Even better, Jason is a former Sierra On-Line employee, effectively making him classic PC gaming royalty. The show itself has that schlocky 90s vibe, from the cheesy awkwardness to the garage band metal intro, it’s all just so perfect.
Jason himself is a down to earth dude who seems like that friendly nerd friend we all wish we had growing up. Is he the Mister Rogers of retro gaming? We’re not saying he’s not.
For the best of Metal Jesus’ retro computer game content, we recommend heading straight to the Classic PC Gaming playlist.
It might seem a little strange to have Cinemassacre, home of the Angry Video Game Nerd, on a list of retro computer game channels. While it is true that they deal primarily with console gaming, there’s a healthy number of videos that apply the writing, production and humour standards to takedowns of classic computer games the Angry Video Game Nerd is famous for.
Apart from the AVGN episodes, which are the main draw, the folks over at Cinemassacre have come up with some really creative angles when it comes to classic video games. The AVGN: Bad Video Game Art is a notable example, and you’ll find hilarious takedowns of box art for games on the Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, along with all the usual console suspects.
If you’re in a cynical, sarcastic and somewhat darker mood there’s nothing better than a dose of AVGN to really twist the knife. We recommend the AVGN playlist to get you started.
OK, this entry is cheating just a little bit since DF Retro is actually a series that exists as part of the larger Digital Foundry channel. Digital Foundry is a YouTube channel that we’ve featured before as an essential technology destination on the site.
DF Retro applies the same technical detail to the games of yore. There’s plenty of console-centric episodes here, but one of the best parts of their work is cross-platform comparison. Which means that if a game was released on both computer and console, you’ll get to see a fascinating breakdown of the differences.
There are also a good number of episodes dealing with classic PC gaming and the technologies of the various eras. The series is the brainchild of DF staffer John Linneman, who has made some standout footage for the pleasure of retro computer game enthusiasts.
We recommend everyone start with the Mortal Kombat feature. Which is quite possibly DF Retro’s finest work yet.
The Gaming Historian offers a radical change of pace to other retro computer game channels. Episodes are released at much longer intervals, usually months apart. However, this is very much a question of quality over quantity, as each video is a full-blown documentary filled with deep research, excellent editing and great narration by creator Norman Caruso.
As you would expect, many of the episodes center around retro console gaming, but since these are historical documentaries, even those videos touch on contemporary computer games of the time as a form of context. There are also episodes focusing on retro computer game series such as Wolfenstein and pivotal figures such as Steve Jobs and their role in the history of gaming.
If you aren’t also interested in console gaming, many of the documentaries won’t be all that interesting to you, but that still leaves a substantial number of episodes that make the trip over to Norman’s neighbourhood more than worth it. We suggest starting with the History of Wolfenstein three-parter. It’s an essential part of computer gaming history.
Yes, this is the second time the 8-Bit guy has featured on one of our YouTube lists, but for very good reason. This channel features chill, laid-back presentation with simple explanations of how the technology of yesteryear works. It belongs on this list because a significant amount of content is dedicated to classic computer hardware and the games that ran on that hardware.
From a series outlining the history of Commodore computers to fascinating restorations of busted classic computers, if you love retro computer games you’ll find something to love here.
We suggest you get started with the “How Old School Computers and Games Work” playlist. It will unravel the mysteries of CGA graphics and what’s really happening behind the scenes of classic Apple computer graphics. It’s just a good time all around!
This is a bit of a weird one if you don’t know about it already. At the time of writing, Classic Game Room has been done with creating YouTube video content for about four years. It is how a publishing company, which still makes books that deal with classic video gaming as a significant part of their portfolio.
Before that, CHR as the distinction of being one of (if not THE) first online video game review shows. Which means that plenty of their reviews may be considered retro now, but were contemporary when they were made.
The main link in the title above will take you to CGRundertow, which has hundreds of videos from their active years, but you can also head over to 80s Comics which is their active brand and also hosts many of the CGR videos. We suggest you start with the PC/Mac Review playlist.
RetroManCave takes it all back to basics. If you just want to see the original hardware and games in action this is the place to be. There’s also a good measure of emulation when warranted, but there are few channels that showcase retro computer game hardware as well as RetroManCave.
We can’t just stick with recommending one particular list or clip. There’s content on the BBC Micro, building a new Amiga and the Amstrad Mega PC. That’s really just the tip of the iceberg and any retro computer game fan will find just about every video on this channel worth watching. The production quality is beautiful and the presentation is wonderfully chilled out. This is definitely one to support!
This author has a big soft spot for Lazy Game Reviews and not just because the host and creator does a mean Duke Nukem impersonation. This channel is almost entirely dedicated to classic PC gaming. Mainly on DOS and early Windows machines.
It’s one of the largest channels on YouTube with well over a million subscribers, but the videos have never changed their home-made tone or lost any of their charm.
Honestly, it’s hard to pick just one place to start off with all the content on offer. The hardware, restoration and DOS game playlists will most likely give you the best idea of what this channel is about. If you’re a fan of retro computer games from the IBM PC era onwards, there’s hardly a better channel for you to support than this one.
Hello you! Yes, Guru Larry has his own catchphrase and the rest of the channel is similarly packed with personality. Not everyone is going to get along with this channel’s particular sense of humor and style, but there’s not arguing that Larry Bundy Jr is a true original on YouTube and puts out some corking content.
We absolutely recommend you get started with the Fact Hunt which contains some of the most interesting facts and trivia from video game history, plenty of which pertain to retro computer games.
We end this roundup on a particularly high note with Nostalgia Nerd. The channel as a whole takes a look at retro hardware, software, toys and even magazines. Scattered amongst the general retro-ness are some truly interesting pieces on retro computer games. For example, there’s this archive of Demoscene content for Amiga Computers. Who else would have thought to collect that?
Then there’s the superlative collection of videos reviewing various systems. These videos don’t only look at the computers and consoles themselves. You also get a proper historical recounting and all the context you’ll need to understand what all the fuss was about. Nostalgia Nerd is a proper treasure trove and…you’re watching it right now. OK, fair enough.
It’s Like, Only Your Opinion Man!
Are these the best retro computer game channels on YouTube? This author thinks so, but there are plenty of other worthy YouTubers making top-notch retro computer game content.
So here’s your chance to highlight who you think everyone else should give a shot. Sound off in the comments and share the hidden gem channels with the world. Whether established or up-and-coming, we’d love to know about them!