The 80’s were a strange decade for the game industry. Something was not right, and all the products that flooded the stores were going to suffer in a few years. The signs were all there. Cheap knock-offs of more recognizable brands, a lot of games with no quality control being released to public, and very few parents willing to put up with another game that would disappoint their kids. The game industry was about to brick, but a few good surprises showed up here and there to keep everything to come down fast.
Here are some games from the 1980’s that are worthy to take a look:
Maybe one of my favourites in the Atari era, Pitfall! could stand out from the crowd for being simple, engaging and different from the massive number of shooters, space wars or race cars around. You assume the role of Pitfall Harry, and must endeavour the jungles in search for gold, diamonds, silver bars… and bags of gold, left there for some reason.
You have to be careful of snakes, scorpions, quicksand pits, tar pits, and rolling logs (also for some reason), while navigate through a series of screens with different dangers ahead of you. There are a total of 32 items to be collected in the game, and from the start you have 20 minutes to do so.
Pitfall was a great step in the right direction, allowing more adventure games to take a new approach to the hardware limitations at the time and provide a satisfying “Indiana Jones” type of play into the Atari 2600 era.
Also a complete change from the trend at the time, 1942, places the player in the Super ace combat plane, while he is on a mission to reach Tokyo and destroy the air fleet in the turmoil of the World War II.
While not one of the most recognizable franchises today, 1942 was the first monumental hit from CAPCOM, topping the charts of Arcade sales for the upcoming years in the 80’s. It would later be replaced as hallmark franchise by memorable brands such as Mega Man and Street Fighter in the history of Capcom.
As of today, 1942 has spawned several sequels, and eventually became a franchise inside CAPCOM, with titles such as 1943: The Battle of Midway. In fact, the series today has almost ten different titles, including remakes of the original 1942 for the XBox Live Arcade (including multiplayer capabilities, and a new version called 1942: First Strike released for the iOS devices in 2010.
Track & Field
If you played this game, chances are you broke a controller. Combining olympic competition with simple controls depending on the repetition of commands, Track & Field became quickly the favourite for friendly arcade competitions, or local multiplayer to emulate the emotions of an Olympic Games.
Developed and released by Konami in 1983, it was a fever in the following year, considering the official 1984 Summer Olympic Games in Los Angeles, CA.
The game contains 6 different sports of the Athletics department: 100 meter dash, long jump, javelin throw, 100 meter hurdles, hammer throw, and high jump. The basic controls consisted in repeating the same movement in an accelerated motion, which caused failures in the plastic material inside the arcade cabinets.
Later, most cabinets came with a track ball to replace the knobs, but the fame of controller-breaking game was already settled.