Tom Nook, Cloud Strife, Ezio Auditore, and Sonic the Hedgehog, these are all familiar faces of modern gaming who can stand alongside many of the media’s greatest. But for some famous faces of the virtual world, experience speaks volumes, especially when your series is still going strong since the 1980s.

Whether you realize it or not, many of our favorite video game characters have had surprisingly long careers, some dating as far back as the earliest days of the arcades. Today, we’ve compiled a list of various virtual veterans who have been with us since the very beginning. How many of these guys have you played with?

10 Mega Man (1987)

Although his second title is by far the ideal starting point for his series, the Blue Bomber has been blasting his way through Robot Masters since the NES era in 1987. Definitely one of the games that defined the term “NES-hard,” Mega Man is an icon of Capcom games and the platformer genre.

Having appeared in 29 different titles since he first graced the NES, Mega Man has had more than his fair share of adventures, powers, and looks. Robot superheroes hardly go out of style, so we don’t think Mega Man will be retiring anytime soon.

9 Solid Snake (1987)

For those of you thinking our old pal Snake made his first debut back in the good old days of the PlayStation 1, we regret to inform you that you are horribly mistaken. In fact, along with the likes of Mega Man, the original Metal Gear Solid first appeared on the NES in 1987.

Although the original top-down title is almost nothing like some of his more action-packed outings we know and love today, the difficult stealth play and fight sequences were still there, just in a more 8-bit aesthetic. Although the series didn’t truly take off until the PlayStation title, the boss has still been with us a good while.

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8 Link (1987)

It should come as no surprise that the Hero of Hyrule graces our list. After all, he did define the adventure game genre as we all know it. Until the green-clad champion set out upon his quest to rescue Zelda from the clutches of Ganon, adventures were more text-based than exciting and exploratory.

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The Legend of Zelda was quite literally a game-changer. Until Link hit the scene, adventure games were attempts at D&D campaigns, focusing more on storytelling than action. games like the Zork series weren’t awful, but they hardly had us going for our blades. With a Breath of the Wild sequel reportedly on the rise, Link’s adventures are far from over.

7 Ryu (1987)

The Street Fighter series made its debut in arcade cabinets around the world. For those of you expecting something along the lines of what you played on the SNES, try scaling it back a few pegs. The original game was Ryu against the world in this 1987 classic.

Although the first entry isn’t as nearly as good as what the series would become, it revolutionized the fighting game genre. While it featured the likes of Ryu, Ken, and Sagat, the rest of the international fighters went out with the dodo. Everyone has to start somewhere, right?

6 >Samus Aran (1986)

Next to Sigourney Weaver’s Ripley, Samus Aran of Nintendo’s Metroid series is easily one of our all-time favorite alien bounty hunters. Although her outing on the Super Nintendo will always be her best work, the original NES adventure definitely sets the tone for what the series would become.

If you can, think back to the original Metroid title. The environments are dark, mysterious, and somewhat haunting. You can only progress so far without the right equipment and it’s very easy to get lost in this alien world. It ain’t all mushrooms and princesses, folks.

5 Carmen Sandiego (1985)

Say it with us now, “Where in the world is Carmen Sandiego?” we’re giving the crimson caped femme fatale an honorable mention on our list thanks to her recent introduction into modern media through the Netflix series of the same name. Whether she’s on the home computer, a TV game show, or streaming service, there’s no telling what she’s up to.

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Premiering on PC back in 1985, Carmen Sandiego has been around just as long as Link or Samus, and she definitely deserves more props. Though her series is an educational tool nowadays, she was originally designed to be a video game icon. But who said learning can’t be fun?

4 BJ Blaskowitz (1981)

You might know him from the revolutionary  Wolfenstein 3DReturn to Castle Wolfenstein, or even the much-beloved reboot series on the PlayStation 4. But this guns-blazing hero made his debut in the original Castle Wolfenstein way back in 1981, a top-down maze game featured on the Apple 2 computer.

Nowadays, BJ is good at one thing and one thing only, blasting the swastikas off of Nazis with extreme loads of firepower. But before 1992, Wolfenstein was as simple as a game environment could be. You could still shoot a few soldiers here and there, but it was nothing like the modern series we know.

3 Donkey Kong (1981)

He’s Nintendo’s original boss battle, he’s the leader of the bunch with a tremendous appetite for bananas, he’s none other than DK himself. Although the big ape has had his own solo series for a good while now, he first premiered in Nintendo’s arcade classic, Donkey Kong.

The arcade days were a simpler time, a time where all an ape-like DK needed was an 8-bit construction site, a princess, a plumber, and lots of barrels. Yes, the big guy has come a long way since 1981, but he didn’t do it alone. We think you know who we’re talking about.

2 Mario (1981)

Honestly, was there ever any doubt that Mario wouldn’t make our list? Although the title that jump-started his series premiered in 1985, many people forget that along with the previously mentioned Donkey Kong, Mario made his debut in arcade consoles a full 4 years prior. Since then, Mario’s career has simply skyrocketed.

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The portly plumber has done everything from saving the Mushroom Kingdom on a regular basis to go-karting to tennis and to even practicing medicine. With all of the various entries in Mario’s library, it’s no wonder he’s arguably the most recognized video game character of all time.

1 Pac-Man (1980)

Mario might be one of the most famous video game characters in existence, but if you’re talking numbers and experience, you have to go all the way back to the year 1980 when everybody caught Pac-Man Fever. If there’s one game everyone has played, it’s Pac-Man.

This yellow ball of fun has probably swallowed more quarters than cherries in his day, and with a tried-and-true formula that has rarely changed aside from a few oddball entries here and there, Pac-Man’s games still retain their classic pick-up-and-play style anyone can enjoy. You know what they say, if it ain’t broke don’t fix it.

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