I was seven years old during the great heyday of video games in the 80s. The arcade was the place to be, a markedly different situation than the vacant rows of games I see when I go to the movie theater. There are always plenty of kids sitting around playing games, but handheld versions. But for a few years I had a pretty sweet deal. My dad’s friend Charles was a huge fan of 80s arcade games, and every Tuesday night he would pick me up, give me two rolls of quarters, and we would go over to the campus arcade in Socorro New Mexico and save the universe in that whirlwind of flashing lights and beeping.
Very cool. All of my memories of those trips are good, but the best of all revolve around the best (to me) games. Here are the arcade machines that I have vivid memories of standing in front of, oblivious to everything else around me.
No brainer here. Everyone loved Pacman. It inevitably had the biggest crowd of people around the machine as everyone tried to beat everyone else’s score. The little yellow guy and the ghosts were big business and a lot of fun.
Your mission: get across the street. You are a frog and everything on the screen either wants to run over you or eat you. Frogger was fantastic in terms of gameplay and good times, but I have to say that the soundtrack was the most memorable part for me. I can still hum it on command, not that anyone ever commands me to do so!
This game took a bunch of squiggly lines and made you feel like you were battling for the survival of earth itself. The reality wasn’t quite that grim–you were only trying to defend six cities from nuclear attacks, which you had to preemptively explode with your own missiles. Epic story with minimal learning curve–good for a laugh now, and still a lot of fun. This was one that I also had for the Atari 2600.
You are a mother kangaroo wearing boxing gloves. Your kid (joey) is up on the top of each level and you have to get to him. If only there weren’t a bunch of insane monkeys throwing things at you en route.
Kangaroo reminded me of Donkey Kong, which I also loved. Get to the top of the screen and dodge everything you see on the way (or hit it in the face). I also remember this game as having very vivid colors.
I’ll wrap up this first installment with Qbert, just because I have such a soft spot for the little orange guy with the dirty mouth (but only when he got killed by the purple snake or green kiwi in sunglasses roaming his pyramid).
Qbert’s job was to turn the surface of each of the pyramid’s cubes to their proper color. He would do this by jumping on top of them while being chased all over by the aforementioned baddies. I got a copy of the Qbert cartridge for my seventh or eighth birthday, and we let the good times roll. Indeed we did.
That’s it for now! I’ll be back to review everything I can think of from the golden age of arcade video games.