Top 25 80s Arcade Games

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Today, games are accessible on many devices and platforms. Whether you have a phone, a console, or a personal computer, it’s easy to download and install games on your device for hours of enjoyment.  Today people also use custom controllers, Fightsticks or even customized personal gaming computers. You can even talk with your friends while you play the game, all thanks to technology and the internet!

 But that wasn’t the case back in the 80’s. You had to buy a console or go to an arcade just to enjoy and pass the time while playing Super Mario or Pac Man. Many of those classic games live on in our memories of great days playing video games. 

Are you a retro video game buyer or have just started to get into retro gaming? In either case, you might find it interesting to learn about the arcade games of the 80’s. After all, these are the pioneers of the gaming industry as we know it today.

We made this top 20 list of 80’s video games that set the bar and started the trend. Most of them still exist today, but they have been upgraded and can now run on your phone, tablet, or gaming computer. So take a seat, and read along. We’re going to take you on a trip down memory lane:

1. Super Mario Brothers

This game was created and published by Nintendo as the follow up for their 1983 arcade game, Mario Bros. It was first released in Japan in 1985 at the Famicom. Then, it was later introduced in Europe for the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1987. This game was always named as the greatest video games of all time and the best selling games of all time because it has sold over 40 million physical copies worldwide.

As most fans of classic games would know, Super Mario follows the adventures of the Italian-American plumber named Mario and his brother Luigi. They have to defeat different kinds of creatures that come out from the sewers and eventually rescue Princess Peach.

2. Galaga

This Japanese arcade game was published by Namco in 1981. This was the sequel to the 1979 game Galaxia. Galaga’s gameplay is to score as many points as you can while you’re in control of a spacecraft that is on the bottom of the screen. All you have to do is fight off enemy aliens that come in groups in a formation. This video game is one of the most commercially successful games in the 80s and has had several sequels. Today, you can download an app of this game named Galaga 30th Collection for iOS.

3. Pac Man (and Ms. Pac Man)

Considered as one of the most famous and iconic video games of all time, Pac Man was released in Japan with the title spelled as Puck Man in 1980. When it was widely released, its title was changed to Pac Man. This game is so popular that several Pac Man derivatives were made, including Pac and Pal, Ms. Pac Man, Pac- Land, Baby Pac Man and many more. Its merchandise gained success and popularity as well. Pac Man also had an animated television series and a hit song by Buckner and Garcia entitled “Pac Man Fever.” This truly created a new genre for arcade games.

One of the most successful derivatives of this arcade game was Ms. Pac Man. This arcade video game was released in 1982 as a sequel for the original Pac Man. It was almost identical to the Pac Man game except that it featured a female version of Pac Man with a little red bow. There were certain levels that showed Pac Man and Ms. Pac Man’s relationship. Eventually, Ms. Pac Man became one of the most successful American produced games in 1982 with over 115,000 arcade cabinets sold.

4. Q*bert

Q*bert was published and created in 1982, by an American arcade game corporation named Gottlieb. Your goal is to hop from one cube to another and change the color of every pyramid without falling off or getting caught by the bad guys. One of its most popular antics was whenever Q*bert was caught by the enemy, a dialogue bubble shows up with “@!?%@!” These symbols represented swearing.

This video game was one of Gottlieb’s most successful games; that’s why it has evolved into several sequels and different merchandise such as toys, lunch boxes, and even an animated TV show. This game was even featured in a Disney movie entitled “Wreck it Ralph” in 2012.

5. Tron

Tron was based on a Disney Film of the same title that was released in 1892. It has four different subgames that include tanks, spiders, cycles, and a “breakout” style wall that was inspired by the events of the said movie.

6. Burgertime

This 1982 arcade game features Chef Pepper who walks over hamburger ingredients and layers of sandwich to create hamburgers while avoiding enemies such as the hot dog, egg and pickles. Peter Pepper is lost if he gets run over or trapped by an enemy.

7. Donkey Kong

This 1981 game follows the adventure of an ape-like lead named Donkey Kong. It has two different genres and a few spin-off titles. Donkey Kong was first seen as an antagonist, but later on he was turned into a protagonist on the game Donkey Kong Jr. This game has a total of 30 sequels until 2015. Characters in Donkey Kong even appeared in Super Smash Bros, and Mario Kart series.

Donley Kong Jr. deserves a special mention here. This game was one of the many sequels to the Donkey Kong series that was released in 1982. In this game, you will have to control Donkey Kong Junior in order for him to save his dad from Mario, who is guarding Donkey Kong’s cage.

8. Star Wars

This game was released in 1983 and it is based on the original Star Wars movie. In this first person space combat game, you will control Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter through different levels. Unlike other games, this does not require you to fight every enemy to get to the next level; instead, you will have to survive a certain length of time. This game was hailed as one of the greatest video games of all time by many sources such as the Killer List of video games, Next Generation, and Flux magazine.

9. Pole Position

This arcade racing video game was released in 1982 by Namco. This was the most popular arcade game in 1983 because you can actually play it with a steering wheel complete with a gear shifter for high and low gears. This became the highest grossing arcade game in 1983, selling over 21,000 arcade machines.

10. Zaxxon

This isometric arcade game was released in 1982 by Sega. It features a space craft that flies through a fortress. It is the first video game that was advertised on television. In order to play this game, you will have to control a spaceship and hit as many targets as you can without running out of fuel or being shot down. At the end of the game, you will have to battle the boss Zaxxon robot.

This game was also one of the first in the market to utilize the isometric perspective. It gave players the illusion of playing with 3-D graphics even when they were displayed in 2D. Since this feature was quite innovative back in the 80’s, it was very well-received by the gaming audience. Eventually, the success of Zaxxo led to many adaptations and sequels for various gaming systems.

11. Frogger

This 1981 arcade game was released and developed by Konami. All you have to do in order to win this game is to lead the frogs on their way home. You do this by having them cross a busy road and rivers that are full of threats. Frogger was one of the most popular games in the 1980s. This game reportedly sold 20 million copies worldwide. This game was also famous in other pop cultures like television shows and music. It also set the bar high in the video game world.

12. Defender

This game was probably one of the most difficult games in the 80’s. The objective of this game is to defeat waves of aliens on an unnamed planet while you’re protecting astronauts. What makes this more difficult is that you need to play with a joystick and five other buttons.  The player also has to be fast, otherwise they lose. This game is one of the best-selling arcade games in the golden age (from the late 70’s to mid-80’s), selling almost 55,000 units.

13. Xevious

This vertical scrolling game was released in 1982. It lets you control an aircraft so you can shoot and drop bombs. You will be fought by a different aerial enemy that fires slow moving bullets at you. This game was created and released by Atari, Inc.

14. Centipede

This game uses a roller ball to control the game as you fight off spiders, centipedes, fleas, and scorpions in order to complete a level. This game was considered as one of the most commercially successful game releases in the 80’s.

15. Tempest

Tempest was one of the very first arcade games in the 1980s. You had to control a claw shaped spaceship that moves the edge of the playing field. This was also one of the first video games that featured a progressive level design that gives you a different layout on each level.

16. Rampage

This 1986 game allows the players to take control of enormous monsters that are being pursued by the military forces. These monsters are named George, Lizzie, and Ralph; they were previously humans who were turned into monsters as the result of some experimental vitamins. They climb and destroy the buildings and eat people, taxis, boats and police cars. This game allows three players to play at the same time, with each player taking control of one of the monsters.

17. Dragons Lair

This video game was made by Cinematronics in 1983. It follows the adventures of Dirk the Knight, who is trying to rescue a princess from an evil dragon. Dragon’s Lair was so successful that it had several sequels, and home ports. It is one of the three video games that are stored at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C. Learn more about Dragon’s Lair here.

18. Street Fighter

Street Fighter

Street Fighter was released in 1987 by the company Capcom. It was one of the most revolutionary releases then, being one of the pioneers of the fighting game genre. Players of this game were able to experience one-on-one combat with several different characters. The first version of this game allowed players to select Ken or Ryu as their avatars and then battle a range of opponents. Each opponent had a unique set of skills, fighting styles, and special moves to keep the game interesting.

The first release of Street Fighter was successful in its own right, but its sequel, Street Fighter II, was what skyrocketed the name to a global level. It was definitely one of the top games of the 90s, but the original Street Fighter set the stage first.

19. Dig Dug

Dig Dug

Additive gameplay was one of the main features for any 80’s arcade game, and Dig Dug is no exception. Released in 1982 by Namco, this game was simple yet gripping. Here, players control the main character Dig Dug. The character had to dig using his air pump and do away with the monsters. The latter task could be accomplished by dropping rocks or inflating the monsters until they burst.

While the pretext is easy enough, this game required strategic thinking and the attraction of bonus points. The mechanics were quite engaging, which is why Dig Dug was a popular addition to many arcades in the 80’s. It was also adapted for a range of home gaming platforms later on.

20. Bubble Bobble

“Bubble Bobble,” released by Taito in 1986, is a timeless classic that has captivated gamers for decades. Bub and Bob, two loving dinosaurs on a quest to save their kidnapped ladies from the hands of the evil Baron von Blubba, star in this amusing arcade platformer. The unique premise of the game relies around the ability to blow and burst bubbles, which players utilize as weapons to trap and fight numerous opponents as well as platforms to advance through the levels. “Bubble Bobble” provides a joyful and enduring gaming experience that has been appreciated by gamers of all ages, thanks to its bright graphics, catchy music, and easy yet addicting gameplay. Its ongoing popularity has resulted in countless sequels and spin-offs, solidifying its legacy as a classic.

21. Double Drago

“Double Dragon,” first released by Technos Japan in 1987, is a groundbreaking beat ’em up arcade game that has left an indelible effect on the gaming world. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic metropolitan scene and follows martial artist brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee on a mission to rescue Billy’s kidnapped love, Marian, from the Black Warriors, a deadly street gang. To beat swarms of foes, players must go through a series of side-scrolling levels utilizing a combination of punches, kicks, and special moves.

What set “Double Dragon” apart were its innovative co-op multiplayer mode, allowing two players to team up to take on the adversaries, and its strategic combat system, which introduced the concept of combo attacks and weapon pick-ups.

22. R- Type

“R-Type” is a video game that challenges players to pilot the R-9 starship over waves of alien adversaries in a desperate battle to defend humanity from the Bydo Empire. It is known for its punishing difficulty and novel power-up system.

The Force Pod, a detachable and upgradeable module that may be tactically positioned to block enemy fire, absorb energy, or offer additional firepower, is one of the game’s defining characteristics. Players must be cautious with their power-ups, as losing the Force Pod can have a big impact on their chances of survival. The level design of the game is expertly created, giving a broad mix of adversaries and obstacles that require exact timing and maneuvering.

23. Gryruss

What makes Gyruss special is its circular playing field. Instead of traditional horizontal or vertical scrolling, the game features a tube-shaped screen where players navigate their ship around the edges, shooting at waves of enemy ships that approach from the center. This design added an extra layer of challenge and strategy to the gameplay.

The game’s soundtrack, Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Toccata and Fugue in D minor” reworked in a spacey electronic style, became instantly identifiable and is regarded as one of the 1980s’ most famous pieces of video game music.

Gyruss gained critical acclaim for its innovative gameplay and audiovisual presentation, and it achieved popularity in arcades and, later, on home gaming systems. It is still a renowned classic among retro gaming fans, cherished for

24. Out Run

It was released by Sega in 1986 and quickly became famous for its groundbreaking hardware and gameplay.

“Out Run” is a racing game at its core, but it distinguishes itself from others by emphasizing the driving experience rather than just racing. Players drive a Ferrari Testarossa Spider through various landscapes with a time constraint. The non-linear gameplay is the game’s most distinguishing characteristic. At important junctures, players take multiple paths that lead to varied landscapes and difficulties, ultimately leading to one of five endings.

Conclusion

The 80’s saw arcade game cabinets being all the rage among the young population. Teens and kids would spend hours enjoying the adrenaline and challenge of these games. Whether it’s the legacy of Pac Man’s yellow circle or the one-on-one combat of Street Fighter, these games formed many happy memories for at least a whole generation. They weren’t just a means of amusement, but a cultural phenomenon of that time. Even the passionate gamers of today are aware of the arcade game legacy, and most would probably love to revisit their old favorites. Top of Form

We’ve discussed the top 20 video games in the 80’s above. Which of these would you want play again?

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