Wednesday, May 12, 2010

20 Classic Arcade Games

Simple game, right? No. You're floating in space, shooting at a bunch of giant rocks flying by. Every time you shoot the rocks, they don't just explode. That would be too easy. Instead, the rocks just get smaller and smaller. And if you touch one of the, your ship explodes. And to add to the fun, every once in a while an unfriendly enemy UFO cruises by to shoot at you. Still sound easy? It wasn't, at least once you got past the early stages of Asteroids. Sure, it might not have the flashy graphics and AI of today's games, but Asteroids was still loads of fun to play.

When Battlezone first came out in the early 1980s, it was like "Wow! A game that really puts you right into combat!" It seemed pretty real at the time. Even the military thought it was pretty realistic. Atari, the creators of Battlezone, created two special versions of the game for the U.S. Armyfor training. The Army's version of Battlezone was called The Bradley Trainer and was named after the military's Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

This was kind of a goofy but fun game. In Burgertime, you played a chef who climbed around the screen while making giant burgers. Hot dogs, pickles and eggs would try to stop you. Your only weapon was a pepper shaker to stun your foes. Though you could also topple giant burger buns on them. Yes, it sounds kind of ridiculous, but Burgertime provided hours of entertainment.

You're shooting bugs. Centipedes. Spiders. Lady bugs. And mushrooms are constantly growing in your way. What do you do about the mushrooms? You shoot them, too. A fairly simple game, but it wasn't easy. A lot happened very quickly in Centipede, and the various enemies came at you from all sides.

Defender seemed like a somewhat realistic game of space combat when it was released. Why? Because there were so many different friggin' buttons to push, and each one did something different. It almost felt like you were actually flying and shooting a fighter jet in outer space. All those buttons looked scary and confusing to those of us raised on one joystick, one button, but everyone soon learned the controls and Defender became a favorite.

Dig Dug
You dig, you use an air pump to kill your enemies, and you drop rocks on your enemies, all the while hoping they don't catch you and don't escape from you. Again, simple by the standards of today, but Dig Dug was loads of fun. I could usually make it to 7 or 8 levels, but beyond that the game was just too fast for me.

Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong was one of the early big arcade successes, right after Space Invaders and Pac-Man. It's a fairly simple game of climbing and jumping, with a little hammering from time to time, but when it came out it seemed like science fiction was coming to life before our eyes. All those colors! And different levels and fireballs and, and ... it was an exciting time, let me tell you.

Donkey Kong Jr.
The sequel to Donkey Kong seemed even more fantastic than the original. There were more colors, and they seemed brighter. The game's levels were more difficult than those of the original game, and the action seemed more inventive.

Another simple game. You're a frog. You're trying to cross the street without getting hit, then you're trying to make it across a river without drowning or being eaten. Despite its simplicity, Frogger was a big hit at the arcades. The only video game I could ever get my dad to play.

This game was like Space Invaders on acid or something. The enemy ships flew around in crazy spirals and came at you from crazy angles. The stars in the background moved down the screen, almost making it look as if you were really looking into space. But of course you weren't. Galaga is also the first shoot-em-game I can remember where you could potentially have a ship that shot two shots at a time at your foes.

The next big shooting game after Space Invaders came out, and in a lot of ways Galaxian put Space Invaders to shame. For one thing, there was color, a lot of color. For another thing, the enemy ships didn't just move across the screen, but they actually flew down at you. Scary stuff!

Joust was a different kind of game. You sit on the back of a giant ostrich while flying it around to take out your enemies. Weird. Different. But lots of good times. I never could master this one. Hitting that flapping button all the time was just a little annoying to me, but I still liked the game.

Missile Command
This was a game that had a lot going on on the screen. And everything happened quickly. Tons and tons of missiles were constantly bombarding you, and to make thins worse a UFO would float by every so often to cause mischief. The first major arcade game I can remember that had a track ball instead of a joystick, and that track ball took some getting used to.

Mrs. Pac-Man
When Mrs. Pac-Man came out, it was a thrill to see all the different levels the game provided. No more of the same maze every level like in Pac-Man! And the short video stories between some of the levels were fun to watch, too. Still a classic game to this day.

Pac-Man might have been the grandaddy of all the arcade games. It seems this one was the most popular game ever. Or at least it seemed that way in 1980 and 1981. Everyone was playing Pac-Man, and the game could be found everywhere, even outside the arcades in places like laundromats and restaurants and plenty of other places. People lined up for this game. And then the experts showed up, those players who had worked out a pattern that would allow them to play the game for what seemed like hours. I had my own pattern, and it worked pretty good. I was never the best player, but I could rack up at least 3 or 4 of those little keys that showed you were in the higher levels of the game.

Q*bert was an odd game in that all movement in the game was diagonal. It's the only arcade game I can remember that had such a feature. It took some getting used to, but once you did you could keep those points rising. Q*bert also had some of the funniest sound effects of its day.

Space Invaders
In a lot of ways, Space Invaders is where it all began. Sure, there were a handful of other arcade games around before, games like Pong, but Space Invaders is the first game I remember that seemed to be a big hit. It was everywhere in the late '70s and on into 1980. A simple game. You shoot the aliens UFOs without getting shot yourself. Didn't have a lot of color, but that didn't matter. At least not until Pac-Man came around.

Star Wars
Star Wars was huge in the '70s and early '80s, and this arcade game made you feel like you were taking part in the first movie. It made you feel like you were flying an X-wing fighter yourself. Not the best of graphics, but there was color. And anyway, the gameplay was so good, you didn't mind the lack of great graphics.

A different kind of game. Sort of a shooting game. Sort of, kind of a mazey game. But not exactly. Tempest stands alone in a lot of ways. Once again, not great graphics, but they seemed to fit the game appropriately.

Tron was a great arcade game because it was like playing four games in one. You actually had four different games you had to play to pass a level, and each game was unique in and of itself. I miss this game. Been a long time since I've played it, or even seen it anywhere.

More on Classic Games
20 Classic Atari 2600 Games
10 Classic Games for Intellivision
Remember Those Awesome Mattel Handheld Games?

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