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?
DONKEY KONG (1981)
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.
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.
MISSILE COMMAND (1980)
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.
DOUBLE DRAGON (1987)
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.
SPY HUNTER (1983)
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.
ELEVATOR ACTION (1983)
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.)
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.
MORTAL KOMBAT II (1993)
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.)
STREET FIGHTER 2 (1987)
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.
TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES (1989)
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.
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.)
JUNGLE HUNT (1982)
You got to knife crocodiles. And that’s just gangsta. — Rocco C.
POLE POSITION (1982)
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 very first taste of 8-bit home console heaven.
Galaga owns more hours of my life than any other game, and I still can't beat the third Challenge Stage.
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.
FOOD FIGHT (1983)
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.
ATARI ARCADE FOOTBALL (1978)
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.
DARK CASTLE (1986)
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.