Thursday, August 18, 2011

25 Greatest Old School Videogames Of The Day

Most of these are from Entertainment Weekly, but I added a few of my own favorites at the end. Some of these I never played: Gauntlet, Contra, Elevator Action or Spy Hunter. The rest I know all too well.

Which games were your favorites?


Sure, Donkey Kong was the villain and Mario the hero in this game. But, as my childhood doodles will attest, I’ve always rooted for DK. — Gary W.

NBA JAM (1993)

The first time I played NBA Jam, I pulled down a rebound and launch a full-court shot — nothing but net! Total beginner's luck. My opponent unleashed an insane tirade about how ''f---ing unrealistic'' it was. — Chris S. (The most frustrating videogame you will ever play. You kick its ass for three quarters, then the overcharged AI turns the computer's players into monsters who sink threes from the half court line and block every shot you make. - C.)


Hacking, slashing, shooting my way through ghosts and orcs and evil wizards, only to inevitably hear the words ''Warrior, your life force is running out.'' — Marc B.

CONTRA (1987)

The joystick not only moved you up, down, left, and right, but also swiveled. That swiveling came in handy when you were running through the jungle. But I calloused my hands something fierce whipping that joystick around. — Marc B.


The lives of millions of innocent citizens were in your (trackball-rolling and button-mashing) hands! I remember trembling with fear and excitement trying to prevent the thin spidery lines of incoming missiles from laying waste to the burgs I was sworn to protect. — Wook K.


I loved doing the job incorrectly: chucking newspapers at windows (instead on neatly placing them in mailboxes) or coaxing the neighborhood's pesky dog into chasing after me. — Lindsay S.


In the first scene, a thug knocks my girlfriend unconscious and carts her away on his back like a sack of potatoes. Of course I’m going to go after him, knocking down anyone in my way! And my brother Jimmy’s coming with me! We’re Double Dragons! — Gregory K.


One thing I never got to check off on my adolescent to-do list was getting good enough at Spy Hunter to get to the upper level where the spycar acquired heat-seeking missiles. — Gregory K.


I loved how cinematic the concept was: you’re a spy, and after rappelling down to the top of a building, you ride the elaborate open-door elevator system down to the bottom, collecting secret documents and offing baddies along the way. If you think about it, Elevator Action was Die Hard before Die Hard. — Bob J. (My idea of elevator action is something entirely different than this - C.)

RAIDEN (1990)

Those alien forces may have had zero artificial intelligence, but when their pre-routed attack waves started coming in rapid succession, there was really no time to think. — Chris S.

DIG DUG (1982)

Featuring perhaps the most memorable and catchy sound effects of all time (its tinny theme song is destined to be my iPhone’s ringtone — well, once I figure out how to do it), Dig Dug had the coolest monsters this side of the Muppets. — Gary W.


What made MKII so memorable was that if a parent (or court-ordered child psychologist) were watching, instead of finishing off your opponents with a violent ''fatality'' move, you could always trick them by performing a ''friendship'' that instead presented them with a bouquet of flowers. Awwwww. — Gary W. (The fatality moves were gnarly -- and awesome. One of the female fighters would devour her losing opponent whole and then spit out his bones. I see some symbolism in that, don't you? -C.)


Say it with me now: ''HA-DO-KEN!'' Street Fighter 2 was an after-school fight club for pre-teen Tyler Durdens. The genius of the game was the option to play it from beginning to end with each global character or just take on wave after wave of wannabe challengers. — Jef C.


Of all the elements in the late '80s TMNT craze, my favorite by far was the arcade game. You could join in a game at any time, which meant you didn't have to wait for the 19-year-old dork with $50 in quarters to finally leave. — Adam V.
(My favorite weapon was the bo staff. You'd jam the stick into the bad guy's gut, then fling his ass across the room. The nunchuks were second best. The other weapons sucked. - C.)

MS. PAC-MAN (1981)

OK, so it was basically Pac-Man with a few minor tweaks but the romance between the Mr. and Ms. was the ace in the hole for me. I never got past "pretzel" level, but watching the digital lovers bonk noses (noses?) and fall in love (awww!) was more than worth my two bits. — Adrienne D.

TRON (1982)

I was one of the very few chicks I knew that was actually good at it. Tron's light-cycle subgame was admittedly a weakness, but after mastering the ''Grid Bugs'' and pulverizing the enemy's battle tanks, I knew in my heart that Ms. Pac-Man was for wusses. — Nancy V. (Tron sucks. - C.)


You got to knife crocodiles. And that’s just gangsta. — Rocco C.


Sure, the gearshift was basically set to “fast” or “slow,” but life was a lot simpler back then. — Nisha G. (A game that got old fast, because the car was terrible on curves. But flattening billboards on purpose was fun. - C.)


Chucking the then-clunky joystick (I’m talking to you, Space Invaders!) for a swift trackball, this assault on a vertically descending ’pede was a thrilling exercise in rapid hand movement. — Artie (I've always hated this game. - C.)

My additions...

PITFALL (1982)

My very first taste of 8-bit home console heaven.

GALAGA (1981)

Galaga owns more hours of my life than any other game, and I still can't beat the third Challenge Stage.

FROGGER (1981)

I still love this game. In later rounds, the traffic and logs became so ridiculously fast that you know you're dead meat before you ever move.


In college, my friend Les' dorm had one game in the lobby, and this was it. Not Pac Man. Not Space Invaders. Not Frogger. Food Fight. An odd choice, but it didn't take long to get hooked on a game where you pummel angry chefs with various types of food.


A tough game to master. I hated the speedy little red spaceships, but, if memory serves, you had an atomic-type bomb that would take care of them and anything else on the screen.


You could always spot kids who played this game. They were the ones whose palms were black and red from rolling the shit out of the big trac ball that made your player run. You only had four plays on offense or defense, so this was a glorified version of Rock-Paper-Scissors as you tried to guess what play your opponent had chosen so you could pick the defensive play to stop it. I just blitzed on every down, because it worked on every play except the screen pass.


At my first job out of college, my buddy Len and I got paid to play this game. Our bosses didn't know this, of course; they thought they were paying us to write print ad copy.



  1. The Zelda series is my favorite of all time, too, but I don't think they were counting anything from the Nintendo era. Otherwise, Zelda and Super Mario Bros. 3 (or any of them) would surely have been on the list. These games are all from the Atari/Intellivision/Coleco days.

  2. I can only remember playing three of these: Ms. Pac-Man, Pitfall, and Donkey Kong, none of which I played very much or very often. I managed to dodge most of the whole video game craze.

  3. Tempest? Robotron? Joust? Xenophobe?

  4. Paperboy was created by Beelzebub. Frogger is the absolute best game in the history of games. End of discussion.

  5. Paperboy and the Smurfs video games are two of the best memories of my childhood.

  6. Where the f*** is Alex Kidd in Miracle World?! Best game ever.

  7. Oh yeah, that one was--wait a sec--Alex who?

  8. Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger, and Space Invaders. The Holy Trinity of video games in my youth. I LOVED Ms. Pac-Man, still do. I really stink at the video games my kids have now. All I can play is Wii "Find Mii" (which I RULE) and the Zumba games. (Which my children insist do not count. But that's just because they suck at it.)

  9. What about "Joust"? When I was in college, a guy would come into the coffee shop where I worked and play Galaga for more than an hour with a single quarter. There is a built-in cheat: if you wait long enough and shoot the aliens in a certain order, they won't fire at you the rest of the game. I finally did this at the dorm laundry room, scored nearly a million and went to get my friends. When we got back, the laundry room was closed and someone unplugged the game - clearing my high score. Argh!

  10. I was amazing at Pole Position. Wait.. that sounded wrong ha. Loved Centipede and Millipede. I had Donkey Kong on my ColecoVision but I sucked at it. Wait.. what about Street Fighter? I had no idea what I was doing in that game but it was fun giving someone a smackdown.

  11. Does anyone remember Tapper? You had to serve people beer ... good times.

  12. Tapper? I just met her!


  13. Growing up video games were not a $$$ priority with my folks, so whenever a relative upgraded from their old system I usually wound up with it.

    Atari and the original NES games were the hardest most aggravating fun I had as a kid. You could spend an hour fighting to get to the "boss" only to have all that progress wiped out losing your last guy.

    It wasn't until "Kid Icarus" and "Metroid" that you could save your progress and start again later, but God forbid if you lost the piece of paper where you'd jotted down the password.

  14. Nothing was better than Tempest. For such low-tech graphics, that game got frantic.

  15. I was JUST going to mention beat me to it! Tempest and Galaga (and Tron) got a LOT of my quarters, and they were "guy" games, so naturally I played them until I could compete with my guy friends.

    Don't forget Moon Patrol...not very challenging, but the theme music pops up all over the place these days. They used to play it over the loudspeaker at my local IKEA to make announcements.



Related Posts with Thumbnails