Arcade culture started to gain true momentum in the late 1970s, with the release of games such as Asteroids and Galaxian and became widespread by the time Pac-Man and Defender were released. The golden age of Arcade Games started with the release of Space Invaders in 1978 which stands as one of the richest in technological advancements for video games. The era is representative of gaming for adults now in their 30s and 40s and laid down gameplay standards that video games of today still lean on.
Even though games have evolved much since then, we can still appreciate the beauty and genius these older titles brought to the table. They were (and still are) fun, challenging and extremely entertaining. After all, they are the reason why so many of us had a great childhood! Remember the hours spent waiting for your turn at an arcade cabinet? If you do, I’m sure you’ll be happy to join me in reflecting on the most popular arcade games.
Pac-Man is one of the most widely recognized arcade games in the world, and it is considered an icon of arcade video games and 1980s culture. It also generated a large amount of income for the producing company, resulting in countless remakes for newly available platforms such as Xbox Live and mobile phones. Nowadays you can play Pac-Man on a wide range of devices and see the iconic characters on all sorts of graphic material.
The game is developed by Namco and was released in 1980 in Japan and the USA. It was also the first of this genre and managed to put a damper on the development of shooter games, such as Space Invaders and Asteroids, which were very popular at that time. A chief reason for its success was how accessible the game was. It was easy to pick up and enjoy the game’s simple mechanics, but more dedicated players who progressed further into the game discovered a much more intense play experience. This balance between accessibility and difficulty is something many modern games struggle to achieve, especially in the mobile scene. Pac-Man is a fantastic game and many adults and children can relate to it which is why it is very popular even today.
Tron, the arcade game is based on the film that was released in the same year, but it comes with significant differences that make the game more fun (the Battle Tanks game, for instance, doesn’t show up in the movie). The game dates back to1982 and it comes as four sub-games with 12 difficulty levels. For those of you with a passion for programming, the levels are named after programming languages such as RPG COBOL, PASCAL, FORTRAN, and more.
The game takes place in a completely new universe that depicts the inner-workings of the digital world. You get to see a completely new world, with new rules and a long and difficult path to the end of the game. Even more, it started an entire legacy and you can find a plethora of video games for both mobile devices and browsers featuring the same universe. A good example is Slope, a game where you have to control a ball in a Tron-like universe. While the movie may be remembered more in popular culture, this little-known arcade cabinet presented an engaging, completely new world, ultimately foreshadowing with simple mechanics the complex universes that video games would later be able to represent.
We can’t talk about classic arcade games and without mentioning Space Invaders! This is a shooting game that became popular around 1980 and is considered one of the forerunners of modern video games. It is a bit addictive and, even though you have to fight pixelated enemies from outer space, it is popular in the modern age as well. Actually, Space Invaders is considered a legend in the world of arcade and video gaming and saw many subsequent re-releases in the years following its initial launch.
As a player, you are introduced to a two-dimensional world where you control a laser cannon that is capable of shooting down aliens. However, aliens come in large groups and you only have one canon which requires some speed and agility from the user. To make things more difficult, the aliens also shoot at you and the game speeds up as you put down more aliens. The game ends when the canon is destroyed or one of the aliens reaches the bottom of the screen. So, if you’re good, the game can continue in an infinite loop, bringing more aliens on the screen with each new level. This infinite loop structure can be found in many of the most popular mobile games and while it was present in other arcade cabinets, few achieved the same kind of addictive, punishing, and fun gameplay that Space Invaders did.
A Few Final Words
If you were lucky enough to enjoy the charm of arcade games, you had a wonderful childhood! Many are available on modern platforms and while they are still fun, the experience is definitely not the same. You don’t get to share the game with your friends like you used to when you were playing on that huge machine. I guess that every gaming era has its charm and this is why many games stay with us all our life. As the origin point for so many game design elements, we take for granted nowadays, we simply cannot afford to forget about the great arcade games.
**Katie Green is a game designer with a big passion for writing about the video games industry. She is obsessed with cars, planes, and starships and really hopes that someday life on Earth will look like life in the Star Trek saga.**