Arcade games remain some of the most popular and best-sold video games since the launch of the first commercial video arcade game in 1971 – when Syzygy, a precursor to Atari Inc. launched Computer Space. These coin-operated pieces of equipment were usually installed in public businesses like restaurants and bars and have lost their popularity after home-based video game consoles like PlayStation have been introduced in the 1990s. However, those who have been growing up in the late 1970s to mid-1980s will still remember the following 5 arcade games:
1. Space Invaders
Space Invaders has been launched in 1978 and is considered to be one of the earliest shooting games. Successful since its first release, Space Invaders was manufactured by Taito in Japan and was licensed for production in the United States by the Midway division of Bally. The purpose of the game is to defeat waves of aliens using a laser cannon in order to earn points. With games like Space Invaders the current video game industry has truly emerged and overcome the novelty phase. This two-dimensional game is very simple for today’s standards: the laser cannon can be controlled by the player by moving it horizontally at the bottom of the screen and shooting descending aliens. After eliminating more aliens, the enemy’s movement and the game’s music speed up and waves become more and more difficult to defeat. Aliens also try to destroy the cannon by firing at it. The game ends when aliens reach the bottom. Bonus points can be obtained by destroying a mystery ship occasionally crossing the screen. The laser cannon is protected by defence bunkers which are gradually destroyed by alien or player blasts. For eliminating alien invaders players can score from 10 to 30 points, and the mystery ship is worth 50 to 300 points.
Also developed and released by Japanese video game designers, Pac-Man was launched in 1980 and created by Toru Iwatani. Months after being launched in Japan, it was also released in the United States and became incredibly popular. Pac-Man is considered an icon of the 1980s popular culture and it continues to have a strong fan base even today.it is also one of the highest grossing video games, having generated more than $2.5 billion by the 1990s. Pac-Man was different from other successful games from the Golden Age of arcade video games. Pac-Man is controlled by the player through a maze and is eating biscuits or dots; after eating all biscuits, Pac-Man reaches the next level. However, there are four enemies trying to catch Pac-Man: Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde. Being touched by one of the enemies means losing one life, and when all lives are lost the game is over.
Unlike the other two games, Tempest was designed by Dave Theurer and launched in the United States. There are some premieres related to this game: the first game to allow the player to choose their starting level, one of the first games to use Atari’s Color-QuadraScan vector display technology, and one of the first games to provide a progressive level design, which means that levels varied instead of giving the player the same layout without increasing game difficulty. Players need to survive as long as possible and to collect as many points by eliminating enemies that have landed on the playing field. The player is controlling a ship which shots fire down the tube and eliminates enemies within the same segment. A special weapon, the Superzapper, destroys all enemies currently on the playfield.
4. Star Trek
This space combat arcade game is based on the Star Trek television program and was released by Sega in 1983. The player can choose between the two-dimensional and three-dimensional first-person perspective. As expected, in this game you need to control the Starship Enterprise and defend it from Klingon ships. The multiple views of the play field made it different from other arcade games at the time and the multiple controls to activate various weapons like warp engines and photon torpedoes made it very captivating for players in the 1980s. A review published in 1983 in Electronic Games said: “Star Trek is sure to be a top-grosser in the arcades this year. If you can squeeze through the crowd around the machine, you may never want to leave.”
5. Donkey Kong
Back to Japanese games with the last item on our list – Donkey Kong was released by Nintendo in 1981 and is one of the first games in the platform game genre. This means players need to control a character across platforms while also jumping over obstacles. The storyline is simple: the main character, Mario, needs to rescue a damsel in distress, Pauline, from a huge ape called Donkey Kong. The games also uses cut scenes to present the plot and the narrative ends when Mario manages to reach the top platform and rescue Pauline. A lesser-known fact is that Donkey Kong was created to recycle a large number of unsold machines, which originally ran an unsuccessful game in North America, Radar Scope.
Feeling nostalgic after going through our list? Which of these games do you remember best?