Tetris Game Boy

The Top Ten Video Games of the 1980s

The 1980s were a great era for video gamers, with dozens of cult classics paving the way for the epic games of today. It was a period when console games came on cartridges, and personal computer users loaded games via cassette tape recorders to machines like the Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, and being able to save your progress in a game was only a pipedream.

Gamers in the 1980s spent countless hours on 8-bit consoles like the Sega Master System and Nintendo Entertainment System (NES), and later 16-bit machines such as the Super Nintendo (SNES), Sega Mega Drive, and, if you were rich, the Neo Geo. The internet wouldn’t be released to the public until 1993, mobile phones resembled and weighed the same as house bricks, and Bovada betting apps hadn’t even been thought of, yet the 1980s were a golden age for many games. In no particular order, these ten games are the reason why.

Tetris (1985)

You may not have heard of Alexey Pajitnov, but he is arguably one of the most influential men in video game history. Why? Because he created the puzzle game Tetris in 1985. Tetris is so simple yet effective that it has sold over 520 million copies since its release, with billions of sessions played online annually.

Anyone who has played the original Tetris and is reading this article will now be humming the iconic music and remembering fond memories of trying to beat your friends’ high scores. Simple, addictive, challenging, and a masterpiece in every sense of the word.

Pac-Man (1980)

Pac-Man is the game that put Namco on the gaming map. In 1979, Toru Iwatani, then only 24, created Pac-Man, and the game was released a year later in 1980. Initially, Pac-Man was only a modest success, but its popularity exploded when the arcade game was released in the United States.

By 1981, Namco had sold over 100,000 arcade units that grossed more than $1 billion in quarters! Pac-Man has become a cultural icon, with dozens of ports, merchandise, animated television series, and appearances in Hollywood movies!

Super Mario Bros 3 (1988)

Released by Nintendo in 1988, Super Mario Bros 3 is arguably the greatest-ever platform game. The two-dimensional side-scroller allowed players to control Mario or Luigi, who had a range of new moves and abilities. In addition to running and jumping of previous titles, Mario and Luigi could not climb vines, pick up and throw certain items, and had several new power-ups at their disposal.

Super Mario Bros 3 also has a multiplayer option, one of the first of its kind. The game is genius from start to finish.

Out Run (1986)

Do you love playing Forza and Grand Turismo games on your PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X? They would not exist without the 1986 classic Out Run. Developed by Sega for the arcade market, Out Run became the highest-grossing arcade game of 1987 and was Sega’s most successful arcade cabinet of the 1980s.

You drive a Ferrari Testarossa from a third-person rear perspective through winding roads, crests, and dips, attempting (and often failing) to reach the finishing line against a timer. Gamers loved being able to steer and control the car with a steering wheel and pedals, with some of the later arcade cabinets featured force feedback, which was unheard of at the time.

Kung-Fu Master (1984)

Kung-Fu Master started life as an arcade game before finding its way to the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Commodore 64, ZX Spectrum, and even the Nintendo Game Boy and NES. It is a highly influential game, regarded as the first beat ‘em up brawler and one of the earliest examples of a side-scrolling action game.

A little-known fact: Kung-Fu Master’s boss battle formed the base of the fighting game Street Fighter and its subsequent sequels, and we all know how they performed, don’t we?

Track & Field (1983)

Track & Field was one of the original sports video games and a massive commercial success, particularly in the arcade realm. Any gamer aged around 40 will have bashed button and waggled joysticks at a frantic pace in a vain attempt to propel their character to a world record 100m dash time or throw a javelin off the screen!

Up to four players could play Track & Field at once, making it immensely popular with friends who spent countless hours trying to set the best times and distances.

Jet Set Willy (1984)

Jet Set Willy was initially written for the ZX Spectrum, so its graphics are basic and not to everyone’s taste. However, the sequel to Manic Miner was a hit with early 1980s gamers, with the title spending three months at the top of the charts and becoming the best-selling home video game of 1984.

Jet Set Willy has over 60 playable screens, each increasing in difficulty. There is no save facility, and players have limited lives, often resulting in massive frustration when they run out of lives in the latter levels. Still, Jet Set Willy has a place in gamers’ hearts.

Maniac Mansion (1987)

Maniac Mansion is a graphic adventure game developed by LucasFilm Games in 1987. It is one of the first point-and-click adventure games that spawned other incredible adventure games, such as Day of the Tentacle and the Monkey Island series.

Later ports to the Amiga, Atari ST, and NES vastly improved graphics.

Gauntlet (1985)

Atari’s Gauntlet was released in the arcades in 1985 before making its way to various platforms, including the original PlayStation. The fantasy-themed, top-down hack-and-slash was one of the first multiplayer dungeon crawl arcade games that allowed four players to embark on an adventure simultaneously.

Aside from the ability to have four players at once, gamers loved the narrator’s voice, something that was not common in games at the time.

Prince of Persia (1989)

The modern Prince of Persia games are superb, but they all owe their video game lives to the 1989 original. Developed and published by Broderbund for the Apple II computer, the game went on to have over two dozen ports and another dozen unofficial ports.

Prince of Persia used rotoscoping for its realistic animation, with the designer using videos of his brother’s acrobatic stunts while wearing white clothes for the animation process.

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