Arcade Games Turning 30 this year

arcadehero January 5, 2012 1
Arcade Games Turning 30 this year

For a little over a year we’ve had some talk about games reaching their 30th birthday, in particular with Pac-Man but as this marks the 30th year since 1982, I figure why not take a look at some important titles from ’82 that are turning 30. There are quite a few to look over – on KLOV there are 218 games listed as being released that year (although it is a little lower than that when you consider prototypes and bootlegs – but still, there were a lot of games to choose from) It’s also worth pointing out that Pong, which really got the ball rolling for arcades turns 40 this year. It’s taken me a few days to put this together as I have been busy with working on my arcade but I hope it’s expansive enough. Just a note that I’m not saying that all these games need remakes or anything, it’s just a stroll down memory lane, when quite a few notable concepts came onto the scene. I do notice once thing looking down the list and that’s the use of some crazy ideas which worked together to come up with some innovative concepts that have withstood the test of time.

Also for anyone wanting to take a trip down 1982’s memory lane:
Cool footage from an arcade convention in Chicago from 1982 (updated)
The Netherlands Arcade scene, circa 1982
The Video Fever circa 1982
40 Years of Arcades Part 1 (1972-1989)

Bagman – Valadon/Stern – You play as a mine robber trying to get bags of precious gold to the surface while avoiding the relentless miner in the tunnels. Probably not the most recognizable game on this list but it was a fun one worth checking out if you come across it.

Black Widow – Atari – Atari’s answer to dual joystick shooters like Robotron but in glorious color vectors. You play a spider on a web that shoots bugs but you can also grab eggs and shove  them off the side for points. This was released as a conversion for Gravitar which wasn’t doing so hot on the market as it was a little too hard for most players.

Bump N’ Jump – Data East/Bally Midway – Before Spy Hunter gave cars some guns, there was Bump N’ Jump which game them abilities to jump. You race on a vertically scrolling track and in addition to jumping over cars and rivers, you can also bump into cars to destroy them for points.

BurgerTime – Data East/Midway – A quirky game that found a way to make preparing virtual food, fun. You are a chef who navigates various platforms, walking over food to make it drop a level until you’ve completed an entire burger at the bottom of the screen. Great sideart on the cabinet and it was popular enough to be ported to numerous home game consoles.

Dig Dug – Namco/Atari – While the concept of digging tunnels through the dirt wasn’t exactly fresh, it hadn’t been done quite like this as you seek out underground creatures and then you pump…(clap) zem up! using your trusty air pump o’ death. This continued a trend as seen in Pac-Man at promoting various characters and likewise was given the home treatment ad nauseum afterwards.

Donkey Kong Jr. – Nintendo -Never as popular as his dad, Donkey Kong Jr. offered a sequel to Nintendo’s hit from the previous year, following a similar formula to the first game of climbing past obstacles to reach the top. It’s also well known for being a game where Mario is the bad guy for once.

Front Line – Taito – Growing up I didn’t have a chance to visit the arcade too often as we didn’t have a lot of money and didn’t go out to places like arcades too often as there wasn’t any really close to where I lived but I got to know some arcade games through the Atari 2600. For a long time I didn’t even know they were in the arcades. Front Line is one example of that for me, one of the first  run ‘n gun shooters out there. To this day I have not played the arcade version but my 2600 still works fine. The arcade used a joystick/spinner combo for the control and of course had much better graphics and features.

Gravitar – Atari -A color-vector game that took some elements of Lunar Lander and Space Wars, then blended them together on Hard mode.  This game’s high difficulty kept it from becoming a huge hit but I know a few collectors who really enjoy this one. I’ve only played the 2600 version which is a far cry from the arcade one.

Joust – Williams – What could go wrong with a game about knights riding on flying birds? Nothing, until you get to Joust 2 at least (or Hollywood tries to make a movie about it). This is another game that was milked endlessly through home console ports because it was just so darned fun and unique. The cabinet featured some great artwork as well.

Jungle Hunt/King – Taito – Before 2D platform games were a thing in the 80’s there were games like Jungle Hunt. You navigate various scenes in a jungle, swinging on vines, stabbing crocodiles under water, jumping over rocks on a hill, all to save your beloved who is about to become a meal for some cannibals. Made as Tarzan game until the owners of the Tarzan property objected, it also did something most platforms eschewed – you went from right to left as opposed to moving left to right on the screen.

Kangaroo – Sun Electronics/Atari – Taking a page from Donkey Kong but without a clever name, this is a game pretty much forgotten by time that Sun licensed to Atari, you are a mother Kangaroo with a boxing glove (well of course!), who must navigate the platforms on your way to the top to save your joey from the evil apple-throwing monkeys. It sounds crazy but it was fun.

Liberator – Atari – This is a mostly forgotten game that is a favorite of mine. Essentially a reverse Missile Command where you get to bomb the planet surface as it rotates in space. Defend your turrets from being shot down, which are located in each corner of the screen. I personally enjoy this more than MC, but it never quite caught on fire compared to many of the other games on this list.

Millipede – Atari – The sequel to the popular Centipede added more enemies for the player to deal with and DDT bombs on the playfield.

Moon Patrol – Irem/Williams – How do you turn something as simple as a moon rover into something awesome? Make it jump and give it guns. Drive along on a multi-colored moon somewhere in the universe, avoiding obstacles in the ground and enemies in the air. Has a great catchy tune that might get stuck in my head now.

Mr. Do! – Universal – Not entirely unlike Dig Dug, Mr. Do also finds himself underground with mutant creatures but he has a thing for collecting cherries. Oh and I almost forgot to mention that he is a clown – not your typical hero character in video games. Your weapon is a bouncing ball that might take a little practice to get the hang of. This would lead to some other Mr. Do games by Universal, such as Mr. Do’s Castle and Mr. Do’s Wild Ride.

Pengo – Sega – Before Sonic the Hedgehog, there was Pengo, although it’s obvious who would win the battle of the mascots in this regard. In this game, you control a penguin who pushes ice blocks around to smash or trap the Sno-Bees. Sega did test out a new arcade version of Pengo in 2010, one that would have featured a much larger playfield and support for up to eight players. It seems to have been canceled since we haven’t heard of it again. Although I think that had the graphics been given a slight update and a unique cabinet built to take advantage of the eight players (it’s been done before, see Tank 8 or Indy 800 not to mention some of those new Chinese cocktail games that support 10 players) then it could have had a good chance in the West.

Pole Position – Namco/Atari – Not the first nor the last racing game to come along, Pole Position would be a pretty big hit at the time by showing off the type of experience one could get out of an arcade machine along with packing in some pretty sweet graphics at the time. I remember coming across this in arcades in 90s every now and then, it was one game operators milked for a long time. Also Pole Position II would be the pack-in game for Atari’s failed 7800 home game console.

Popeye – Nintendo – The time had finally arrived that a beloved cartoon character could now be playable. This was a single screen platform game with a few different screens to make it through, you have to capture a certain number of Olive Oil’s falling objects (hearts, music notes) while avoiding Bluto and the Sea Hag. Naturally you get access to some spinach but it’s limited to one can a screen so you have to use it wisely.

Reactor – Gottlieb – Well known for it’s attract music, this was also unique in it’s concept. You are inside of a nuclear reactor working on keeping the reactor cool while smashing particles into the side walls. I actually have never played it in arcades although I did play it often on the Atari 2600 which had a decent enough port, along with a great rendition of the tune.

Robotron 2084 – Williams – This intense and challenging game was the granddaddy of “twin stick shooters” which have become prevalent (to put it mildly) on home consoles. You are presented with a single screen arena that is filled with colorful bad guys and a family of humans you need to try and save, which of course means bigger points. A great game that embodies the essence of “easy to learn, difficult to master” – and fun to play.

Q*Bert – Gottlieb – I played this on a number of home consoles where sometimes the controls were frustrating but at the arcade there was no issue since the stick was firmly fixed to the diagonal directions, not mention the superior graphics and sound. One of the first games to “swear” although censored – you could probably extend that to saying it was a game with personality which enhanced its appeal.

Quantum – Atari – Using a powerful Motorola 68000 CPU, this game was certainly strange – you control a probe that has to capture atomic particles by surrounding them with your tail. The game used a trakball to make controlling that easy. In a way it was kind of like Taito’s Qix but a little more dynamic. The monitor was also capable of drawing solid objects which wasn’t too common among vector games. Unfortunately the game was a flop at the time and only 500 were made.

Satan’s Hollow – Bally Midway – Space Invader-style shooters had been a big thing through the Golden Age and Satan’s Hollow was among the last of the age to give the concept it’s own unique and devilish twist.

Sinistar – Williams -I didn’t discover this Asteroids-esque shooter until a few years ago but it didn’t take long to discover how it earned it’s reputation for being as tough as nails. The villain Sinistar speaks with some memorable lines and any elation you get out of defeating him is quickly routed by the next, even harder level than the last. I’ve only made it as far as the third level once but despite the challenge, there is something about this game that always draws me back.

Space Duel – Atari – Essentially Asteroids 3, the concept not only entered the realm of color vector, it also included some interesting co-op play modes, such as the two ships tethered together. Great physics were at play on this as well; I did notice a little issue on the date for this one, some saying 1981, some with ’82 and others with ’83. Looking at the Atari production numbers, it’s listed as Feburary 1982.

Star Trek – Sega/Gremlin – I wrote an article that covered a few of the Star Trek games in arcades of the past and I still maintain that this is one of the more enjoyable Star Trek games out there (sorry Star Trek Online). The color vector graphics were only surpassed in their awesomeness by the “Captain’s Chair” version of the game which had a unique cockpit style setup going for it. Another movie-to-game translation that worked well, being based upon the Kobyashi Maru scenario from Star Trek II which was released that same year.

Super Pac-Man – Namco/Midway – As Pac-Man was always though of as eating tons of food, this game made that clear by using food instead of dots. You also had to eat keys and unlock doors to progress to eat other types of food.

Time Pilot – Centuri – Multi-directional overhead shooters never really caught fire, with vertical or horizontal shooters taking precedence but there were a few good ones, such as Time Pilot. You pilot a futuristic aircraft that jumps through time almost like Sam Beckett, always finding yourself in the midst of an aerial battle each time where you have to shot down so many enemy craft to make your next jump into the future. Maybe this was part of the inspiration for the cheesy movie Time Chasers, aside from Back to the Future. Like Front Line I knew this first through the Atari 2600.

Tutankham – Konami/Stern – This would probably be the sleeper of the group here, as I can’t say I’ve heard it come up often in classic game discussions. It uses a dual joystick control scheme for movement and firing although strangely you can only fire left or right. Navigate the tomb labyrinth to collect treasure on your way to the exit. Naturally, numerous enemies make it much more difficult that just that.

TRON – Bally Midway – The video game known primarily for besting the actual film is was based on, in terms of earnings. As such, it’s one of the few film-to-video game translations that doesn’t suck, which I attribute to the arcade game style that requires you to focus solely on the action from a film that people liked, and not the story or dialogue that the film is better suited for anyways. When TRON Legacy was released at the end of 2010, the value of old TRON cabinets skyrocketed, I’m not sure if they have come back down recently or not. This title also led to the excellent Discs of Tron which released the year following.

Zaxxon – Sega – Another “killer app” that arcades had was Zaxxon. The isometric view was something quite different from anything else, creating a pseudo-3D effect for the time. That made it a very challenging game, but one that players went crazy over. I actually have a Zaxxon cabinet collecting dust in my garage, I just need to replace the monitor chassis, which I probably should get working on.


One Comment »

  1. Arcades4ever January 6, 2012 at 11:02 am - Reply

    You forgot super pacman

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