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Video Games of the 80s

Take a trip down memory lane with the golden age of arcade games.

By Banji GanchrowPublished 7 years ago 6 min read

The eighties were totally awesome. Everything about them was great. The clothes, the hairstyles, the music-it was all good and uncomplicated. Truth is, any time period before everyone had their heads in their phones was a good time. There was no texting-there was talking. People had to look you in the eye; What a concept! If there was a boy you liked, you would call him and then hang up when he would answer the phone and no one would know it was you. The television shows taught you life lessons and the movies had incredible soundtracks. You would listen to your tapes on a walkman and if you were really cool, the walkman had a buckle attachment-the first hands-free technology; And then there were the video today would look at those games and scoff at them, but they were so radical, dude. What was cooler than being able to type your initials into the game when you got the high score? It was so awesome! Let's take a look down memory lane at some of the great video games of the 80s...


Image via Youtube

This 1981 game was made famous again when it appeared in an episode of Seinfeld. George Costanza tries to acquire the Frogger machine that has held his high score since high school. But does anyone remember the machine that you needed to sit down to play? Yup, this was not just a legend, it did exist. You actually needed a chair to play it. The goal of Frogger was to get the frog across the street and then across the pond. If you got run over by a truck or a car, you would hear a resounding "splat." And you had to make sure not to get eaten by an alligator when you were crossing the lily pond. The graphics were simple, but the game was addicting. And if you heard the music, you knew you were going to be humming it all day long.

Space Invaders

Image via Medium

We will round 1978 up to 1980 and that is when this classic game hit the arcades. It was the game that launched a thousand games based on its model. There was that incessant humming in the background as you tried to shoot the aliens with the constant, repetitive pressing of the button. The goal was to shoot and destroy the five rows of aliens that would move back and forth across the screen as you tried to kill them. You could also put in two quarters and play against your friend. That's right kids, video games only cost a 25 cents way back in the 80s. And it was totally worth every cent.

Pole Position

Image via Seandmcfarland

Racing car themed games were really big in the 80s and this game was the grandfather. Originally released in 1982 by Namco, sources say that it was the highest grossing arcade game in North America in 1983. Not sure how that is determined, but we will believe the sources. How do you play the game? Well first your Formula One race car must participate in a qualifying lap to see if you qualify to play the game-so realistic! Driving as fast as you can, you must avoid driving off the road, slamming into a barrier or even a billboard. This single player game became the model for many more racing games to follow because that is what the 80s were all about, setting trends for the future. As long as you remember to drive the speed limit in real life, you could put the pedal to the medal in your virtual race car.

Donkey Kong

Image via Youtube

The beloved monkey, the King Kong of video games. The game that kids could talk to their parents about because the parents loved playing it as well. Another Nintendo classic that was released in 1981, this game brought the Mario character to life as he jumped around avoiding all sorts of pitfalls that would roll his way. Video game aficionado's refer to this as "one of the earliest examples of the platform game genre." Donkey Kong was considered pretty complex when released since the player had to go through four different stages to be truly victorious. Grab a banana and get jumping kids..


Image via Replay Museum

This adorable little creature with the dirty mouth hopped his way into our hearts in 1982. It was a 2 dimensional video game, with a 3 dimensional looking playing space. Our friend Q*bert had to hop from square to square changing the colors as he went along. The goal was to change all of the colors on his pyramid without getting "attacked" by Coily the snake or having the colors changed back by Slick and Sam. Q*bert let you know when he was killed by uttering "@!#@." What a funny little guy. The game was so addicting that you could go through a whole role of quarters. Q*bert became famous again when he appeared in Wreck-It Ralph, A Disney computer-animated creation and then in 2015 he had an Oscar worthy appearance in Columbia's live action film Pixels.

Road Runner

Image via Youtube

With Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov's "Flight of the Bumble Bee" playing in the background, this 1985 video game classic followed the plight of Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner. The soundtrack just added to the game's appeal and quick-paced nature. Released by Atari in 1985, the cartoon series was brought to life as you controlled the Road Runner's fate. The Road Runner would stop to eat bird seed and was continually trying to avoid getting run over by cars.


Image via Github

Another game with an addictive soundtrack, the music speeds up as your level of play increases. Introduced to the world in 1984, Tetris became the ultimate puzzle game. The player tries to complete each row before the different shaped pieces begin to overwhelm you and the screen fills up. When this game first game out for Nintendo's Game Boy, it was as addictive as an actual drug. People even reported dreaming in Tetris pieces.

Ms. Pacman

Image via Youtube

Every independent woman is a fan of the liberated Ms. Pacman. It was even nominated for a Kid's Choice Award for Favorite Videogame. In this 1981 release, take your lady around the board to eat up all of those dots and avoid the monsters. Each level brings you to a different stage in Ms. Pacman's life. Such a simple concept for a game has brought so many people hours and hours of wasted-time enjoyment!

Star Wars

Image via Tumblr

This game was released back in 1983 and was based on the original Star Wars movie. You pilot Luke’s X-wing fighter through several different levels. I was (and still am) a big Star Wars fan and for that, I really enjoyed playing this game which also featured some of the real character voices. It was at the bowling alley that we would go to and I remember playing that game more than I remember actually bowling.


Image via Invisible Gamer

Another 80s classic, this game was totally, gag-me-with-a-spoon incredible. The goal of this game was to shoot the bad aliens and clear the board. If you were really good, you would get to a bonus "Challenging Stage" that gave you the opportunity to acquire more points, without the risk of getting blown up.


Image via Arkzoft

If you have never heard of this game, you are probably not from Planet Earth. Released in 1981, this game became the favorite of millions of fans and launched the career of Ms. Pacman. The same premise has his female counterpart, Pacman is guided through the screen, eating the dots as he goes along. When he would devour a flashing dot, he could then eat the monsters. According to Wikipedia, this game generated more than $2.5 billion in quarters by the 1990s. It is hard to imagine how much money that round, yellow guy has made by now!

Super Mario Bros.

Image via Youtube

Being one of the later games on the list, Super Mario Bros. originally came out in 1985. Who can ever forget this iconic game and how many countless amounts of times you would fail, trying to rescue the princess from the almighty Bowser. And although Mario gained popularity with Nintendo Entertainment System, it was originally an arcade game: and one of my all time favorites, at that.

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About the Creator

Banji Ganchrow

Self-proclaimed writer, masters in social work. Has driven 3 sons to 22 baseball stadiums. Hopes, because of this, they will never put her in a nursing home.

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