The early phase of the 80s was home to some very entertaining, arcadey games that left a mark in our memories. By the decade’s end, electronic gaming became a much more complicated affair, sprawled with high dozes of interactivity and sprawling narratives. As intricacy and graphic quality increased by manifold, many influential electronic games were introduced in the 80s. Below is a list of the best releases that a true Eighties kid is bound to remember.
The potable Tomytronic 3D was first introduced in 1983, and the handheld gaming device was purported to be the first “dedicated 3D home video hardware” of that time. It came with a strap so that the buyer can easily carry it around their neck. The device’s two LCD panels also created a 3D effect by lighting up via an external light source that came through the device’s top window. This electronic game company was home to seven game releases: Thundering Turbo, Jungle Fighter, Sherman Attack, Shark Attack, Skyfighters, Planet Zeon and Sky Attack.
A staggering 40+ ‘Game and Watch games” were seeded by Nintendo starting from 1980 and going up to the 90s, and it’s extremely challenging for enthusiasts to pick a favorite title. But if someone had to choose, Donkey Kong would be up there at the top. The storyline and appeal of the game had games worldwide hooked to the console for years.
This company created several wrist-watches (toy-based) during their time, often intriguing the kids who loved characters like the Mario and Ghostbusters. But they became notable in the 80s when they became the first US company to release multi-purpose game watches that worked both as an electronic game and a time-device. Popular titles released by Nelsonic include the popular Legend of Zelda.
Galaxy Invader 1000
Another addictive and popular 80s electronic game saw people battle it out against the weird alien invaders, which made Galaxy Invader 1000 one of the hottest games of the early 80s. In fact, it’s hard to forget that elegant yellow design with a big red button that didn’t break no matter how frequently or hard we tapped it for several hours during gameplay.
Remember the Tomytronic 3D game we talked about earlier? From the list of the 7 games that followed after that electronic game’s release, Thundering Turbo went on to become the most popular. That’s because it was lit to racing cars go up against each other on a racing trip. It was like Need for Speed of the old times. No other game kept people more hooked during the time when Thundering Turbo went on sale.
Electronic Basketball 3 by Entex
Entex released a variety of electronic basketball games during the early 80s, which consisted of red LED lights below a red “diamond-shaped” display as a playing field. The last of the gaming range, Electronic Baseball 3, went on to become the most popular. That’s because sports were a rising gaming genre during that time. Another game, classic Football unit from Mattel, also stayed popular throughout the early 80s.
Tandy’s Hungry Monster
The 80s darling, Pac-Man, was a huge hit, which lead to the release of multiple handheld electronic games that were a copycat version of the title. Hungry Monster can be somewhat classified among those lines, but it become extremely popular on its own. In Hungry Monster, the gamer’s main objective was to eat as many pellets as they could while preventing contact with the ghost-based antagonist, Bogey. It was a fun game to play from start to finish.
Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest
Tiger Electronics released a large range of LCD-based handheld games starting from the 70s all the way up to 2010. While the period spans multiple decades, the 1980s was indeed the golden era of Tiger devices. A major reason for this was the low competition. One of the most popular games from the company’s handheld line was the NES game “Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest.” It featured a rounded form-factor and a white case that any 80s kid is bound to recognize upon first glance.
Pac-Man, originally known as Puck Man in Japan, is an arcade labyrinth action video game that Namco created and released in 1980. As part of its licensing arrangement with Namco America, Midway Manufacturing distributed the game in North America.
The arcade game Mario Bros. was created and released by Nintendo in 1983. Shigeru Miyamoto and Nintendo’s top engineer, Gunpei Yokoi, created it. Mario and Luigi, two Italian plumber twin brothers, kill animals that emerge from the sewers by flipping them over and kicking them away.
Sega launched the arcade-driving video game Out Run in September 1986. Innovating hardware and graphics, nonlinear gameplay, a customizable soundtrack featuring Hiroshi Kawaguchi’s music, and the hydraulic motion simulator deluxe arcade cabinet are some of its most well-known features.
A multidirectional shooter called Robotron: 2084 was created by Vid Kidz’s Eugene Jarvis and Larry DeMar and launched in arcades by Williams Electronics in 1982. The game takes place in a futuristic setting in the year 2084 where robots have rebelled against humans using cybernetic means.
Atari Games created and published Gauntlet, a hack-and-slash arcade game with a fantasy theme, in 1985. One of the first online dungeon crawl arcade games, as far as is known. The 1983 Atari 8-bit dungeon crawl game Dandy, which led to legal threats, is where Gauntlet’s fundamental design originates.
A graphic adventure video game called Maniac Mansion was created and released in 1987 by Lucasfilm Games. The story centers on the adolescent protagonist Dave Miller, who is on the run from a mad scientist whose mind has been captured by a sentient meteor, to save his girlfriend Sandy Pantz.
Jet Set Willy
Jet Set Willy is a platform video game originally designed by Matthew Smith for the ZX Spectrum home computer. It was released by Software Projects in 1984 and ported to most home computers at the time. The second game in the Miner Willy series, the game is a follow-up to Manic Miner, which was released in 1983.
A space trading video game is called Elite. It was written and developed by David Braben and Ian Bell and initially published by Acornsoft for the BBC Micro and Acorn Electron computers in September 1984.
Duck Hunt is a 1984 light gun shooter video game developed and published by Nintendo for the Nintendo Entertainment System video game console and the Nintendo Vs. System arcade hardware. In Japan for the Family Computer gaming system and in North America as an arcade game, the game was first made available in April 1984.
Bally Midway released the arcade game Rampage in 1986. Players take control of three enormous monsters fending off attacks from armed troops. Each round ends when a specific city is reduced to nothing but ruins.
Taito created and released Bubble Bobble, a platform game, for arcades in 1986. In the US, it was distributed by Romstar, and in Europe, it was distributed by Electrocoin. The two dragons Bub and Bob, which the player controls, are on a mission to rescue their women from the land known as the Cave of Monsters.
Astro Wars is an electronic tabletop game that was produced in the UK in 1981 by Grandstand under a license from Epoch Co., who sold it in Japan as Super Galaxian and in the US as Galaxy II. Initially, the game’s housing featured a red logo; later, it was changed to a white one.
Sega created and published the isometric shooter arcade game Zaxxon in 1982. The player controls a ship through fortified space colonies that have strong defenses. The game’s development is also given to the Japanese electronics manufacturer Ikegami Tsushinki.
Contra is a run-and-gun shooter video game that Konami created and launched on February 20, 1987. It was first created as a coin-operated arcade game in 1986. In 1988, a home version and ports for several home computer platforms, including the MSX2, were made available for the Nintendo Entertainment System.
Dungeon crawling video game Rogue was created by Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman with later assistance from Ken Arnold. Rogue was first created in the 1980s as a freely distributable executable for Unix-based minicomputer systems. Later, it was incorporated into Berkeley Software Distribution 4.2’s official operating system.
Atari Games released Marble Madness in 1984, a Mark Cerny-created arcade video game. In this platform game, the player controls a marble across six levels that are filled with opponents and obstacles. There is also a time constraint. Using a trackball, the player may control the marble.
Pole Position is an arcade racing simulation video game that was first launched by Namco in 1982 and is currently manufactured and distributed in the US by Atari, Inc. It is regarded as one of the most significant games from the heyday of arcade gaming.
Crazy Climber is a 1980 arcade game that scrolls vertically. It was created by Nichibutsu. Taito America also distributed the game in North America. 1982 saw the release of ports for the Arcadia 2001 and Atari 2600, with the Famicom and X68000 following in 1986 and 1993, respectively.
Action game Joust was created by Williams Electronics and made available in arcades in 1982. Despite not being the first two-player cooperative video game, Joust’s popularity and flawless execution made the idea more widely accepted. A stork is ridden by player 1, and an ostrich by player 2
Ghouls ‘n Ghosts
The side-scrolling platform game Ghouls ‘n Ghosts, also known as Dai Makaimura in Japan, was created by Capcom and first released as an arcade game in 1988 before being transferred to various home platforms. It is the second game in the Ghosts ‘n Goblins series and the follow-up to Ghosts ‘n Goblins.
Capcom created the side-scrolling beat’em-up video game Final Fight. It was the seventh game to be made for the CP System hardware after its 1989 arcade release.
Action-adventure game Castle Wolfenstein was created by Muse Software for the Apple II personal computer in 1981. It is among the first video games that include stealth mechanics. 1982 saw the release of a port for the Atari 8-bit family, which was followed by releases for the Commodore 64 and MS-DOS.
A 1982 arcade game created by Data East was first launched in Japan as Hamburger and was designed for the DECO Cassette System. Chef Peter Pepper, the player, must traverse a labyrinth of platforms while dodging characters as he searches for hamburger components.
Platform game Ice Climber was created and released by Nintendo in 1984 for the arcade VS. System and in 1985 for the Famicom and Nintendo Entertainment System consoles
A 1981 arcade action game called Frogger was created by Konami and produced by Sega. Sega/Gremlin distributed it in North America. The goal of the game is to guide various frogs to their homes by navigating a congested road and a perilous river.
Firefox F-7 was essentially Star Wars without the license, with us playing as “Luke Skywalker” and facing off against waves of “Tie Fighters” in the “Death Star Trench.”
Scramble, another game from the prolific Grandstand, was based on the identical arcade cabinet game. One of the first side scrolling shooters was called Scramble, and it paved the way for the plethora of games of this genre that would appear in the years that followed.
In the 1982 video game Caveman, you took on the role of a caveman as you carefully sought out dinosaur eggs without being discovered. The game included a multicolored display and two varying degrees of difficulty.
These were some of the most popular electronic games in the 80s. The incredible thing is that you can still get your hands on a few of these. Tomytronic 3D, for example, retails on Amazon, and a few others are also listed for sale on independent online stores. So, if you have an appetite for nostalgia, fire up the web and search for these games on Google. Who knows, you might be able to get your hands on a limited-edition electronic game that you can later sell for a good price.