Welcome to my list of Top 10 80s Video Games played in the 80s. This is by no means a definitive list of the best 80s Video Games out there, more a list of ones I wholeheartedly recommend. If you play them, you will love them!
First off, yes I know, Space Invaders was from the late 70s. I've included it in my list because the first time I saw it and played on it was in the 80s, probably 1981. I used to stay with my Grandpa for a few hours every Saturday, and his version of "minding" me was to take me to his local social club, give me 50p in 10ps and let me wander over to the electronics while he had a pint.
The club had fruit machines (that I couldn't reach the coin slot to), a "Prize Every Time" chicken that dispensed tiny pieces of toy-shaped-plastic in eggs, and a Space Invaders machine. I used to get an egg from the chicken, then play Space Invaders four times.
There is definitely something hypnotic about those side-stepping invaders. I think it is the regularity of the sound effects. They have a reassuring beep about them.
As long as you don't shoot any of them, the sound effects remain constant, like a heartbeat, but that changes the more of them you wipe out. The tempo of the beeps slowly increase with each kill, and the invaders start to advance in speed, drawing you in and making each shot more exciting.
By FAR my favourite video game ever is Outrun. I've loved it from the first time I saw a photo of the sit-down arcade machine, probably in C&VG. I loved it even more when I got a copy of the soundtrack free on some Spectrum magazine (Crash? YS? I wish I still had it.) Outrun was something I promised myself, aged 13, that I would buy one day. I first got to play it in real life on a visit to Blackpool. It was the first thing I saw when I went through the front doors on Central Pier. It was 50p a go, and whoever had set the machine up had decided to put the volume all the way up to 11. It absolutely blasted, and I loved it.
The faux Ferrari even had a seatbelt, to prevent you being thrown out as the pneumatics tilted the entire cab on every corner and violently bumped with every crash. Magical Sound Shower was, and has remained, my favourite piece of Outrun music, (imagine a game that lets YOU choose the background music!?!) The others are great, but MSS is the one for me. So much so in fact, that my default actions for starting Outrun are: 1) Sit Down. 2) Insert Coins. 3) Steer left (Magical Sound Shower) 4) Press start. There is literally nothing about Outrun that I don't like.
Imagine being 10 and someone telling you "Hey, I know this cartoon that you can actually play!" Dragons Lair WAS such a game! It was a Laserdisc cartoon that in effect played itself, but gave you the option to select directions or use your sword at certain points.
You played the part of Dirk the Daring, on a quest to rescue Princess Daphne from a castle owned by a Dragon called Singe. The aim of the game was to guide Dirk away from harm, getting through each room or area without dying. Most rooms had set paths to get through them, so if you knew the correct combination of moves you could get through anywhere easily enough.
In the 80s there were trading cards and stickers to collect, which gave you walkthroughs for the rooms. I think there were around 80 stickers to collect in the set, of which I had 75.
The attract mode video was brilliant, showing you little snippets from most of the levels, with a beefy voiceover inviting you to "Lead on, Adventurer!"
I like that it gave the impression of you getting through all manner of threats and dangers, despite you actually doing very little. And, being a Don Bluth creation, it looked gorgeous!
Popeye arcade game is a one-screen-per-level game, like Donkey Kong or Dig Dug,
Olive Oyl wandered around across the top level of the screen, dispensing her hearts down from the top while you, as Popeye, had to run around catching them while avoiding Bluto.
Tins of spinach would appear occasionally at the sides of the screen, which you could collect as a power-up (I have no idea what the powered up version of Popeye would be called? Mega-Popeye, maybe?) You could then chase Bluto for 10 seconds or so, and punch him in his fat stomach, sending him hurtling down to the bottom of the screen.
There was also a witch that appeared occasionally, throwing bottles. I have no idea what that was all about, though.
Speaking of single-screen games, Tapper is another classic. This time, all the action takes place in a one-screen bar.
You play the part of a barman, serving drinks to an endless stream of alcoholics. People come to your pub, start walking down the bar towards you, and it is up to you to pull a pint and send it whizzing down the bar towards them. This would either send them flying off the screen, drink in hand, or stop them in their tracks while they took a swig.
This would be quite a simple game, sending pints down to a queue of people, if it wasn't for the fact you have to oversee many bars at once each with their own individual queue.
Occasionally, patrons would leave tips on the bar that you would have to run down to collect, but then you have the dilemma of the people on the other bars still advancing towards you. Do you have enough time to get your tip? Collecting tips means that a dance show would appear on the stage at the top of the screen, making some patrons turn to watch and slowing down the progression of the queue.
If any of them get to the end and have not been served, you get slid down the bar and lose a life. Also, if you don't catch their empties when they slide them back, you lose a life.
Kung Fu Master
This was another game I played in Blackpool when I was younger, this time at Lucky Star Funfair, an arcade quite close to South Pier.
You are a master of Kung Fu. You have to make your way down a long corridor, kicking and punching an onslaught of baddies. If you get grabbed by any of them, a good waggle of the joystick would free you and you could continue down the corridor.
There were also baddies who could throw knives, which you had to jump over or duck under accordingly, who took two hits to defeat.
At the end of level 1 you had to defeat a man with a big stick. Jumping and kicking was the order of the day for him, a tactic I only learned after spending at least two quid in 10ps.
The spectrum conversion of Kung Fu Master, by US Gold, was something I saved up to buy. I really wanted to like it, because it cost me a tenner, but after a few plays I had to face the fact that it wasn't very good.
Ever wanted to be a trampolining detective mouse? Well now you can!
In Mappy, you played the part of a policemouse, exploring and retrieving stolen goods from mansion inhabited by a group of cats. Your aim was to collect all the goods and avoid being caught.
It was a cool scrolling platformer featuring doors you could open, which triggered cat killing sonic booms, and trampolines you could bounce on which helped you to get to different levels.
I first played this in Coral Island, in (yes, you guessed it,) Blackpool.
I'll be honest, I didn't like Bomb Jack too much when I first played on it. It seemed a bit hard for me. You jumped, got a bomb or two, then fell down and got a few more. You had to jump a LOT to get the higher bombs.
It was only when I watched someone else playing it that I realised you could jump higher by pushing “up”, and also hover by repeatedly tapping the fire button. Suddenly, Bomb Jack became fun again. Getting those higher lines of bombs was easy!
I like how the levels repeat, but adapt. Ledges are repositioned the second time you play through a level, meaning it isn't the same thing over and over again.
And those little droids reminded me of Robocop-type creations, with their metallic bodies and glowing eyes.
Any game that has a massive joystick as a controller is good in my book! From its bassy music, its whizzy exciting graphics, and the opening vocals "Welcome to the Fantasy Zone. Get ready!"... Space Harrier rocked!
You got to sit in a cockpit to play this! It was awesome.
This wasn't a bad home computer conversion, either. The Spectrum version was really good, and something that helped fill the void when I wasn't at Blackpool!
About 15 years ago I was playing Shenmue on the Dreamcast. I (Ryo) was exploring an arcade and found playable versions of this, and of Outrun, and they were superb. I saved the game onto my VMU in the arcade, so that when I got home from (real life) work the day after, I could jump straight onto Space Harrier again.
Flying dragons, Moai Statues, Firebreathing green Mogwai... it had it all!
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
This was the first time I'd played real multiplayer arcade game, and it was a great one to have my first experience on! Four players, all huddled round, smacking some foot soldiers, throwing scenery and punching stuff. Then when Bebop and Rocksteady come out, it was even awsomer!
Donatello was my turtle of choice, as he had the longest reach. My mate Nick went for Michelangelo, I think. Whoever was late to the party got the other two.
This was the only game out of my list that I didn't first see in Blackpool. This was in some dodgy arcade in Wigan, down a side street they demolished a few years back and have now built over with a massive shopping arcade. (Which was exactly what Wigan needed - more shops to leave vacant.)