The 1980s was a revolutionary decade of big hair, big music, big neon lights and big advances in technology. The first mobile phones, microwaves, and home computer systems all came to life in the 1980s, and as technology advanced so too did video gaming.
We may not have had hi-tech consoles or super-powered computers to play intense virtual reality games on back then, but we did have the world of arcade games. Back then, arcades were some of the most popular recreational activities for teens and young people.
Let’s reminisce about some of the great games that this decade gave us, some of which are still played by millions of people today.
We’ll kick off this list with what is arguably the most recognizable arcade game ever made, thanks to an extremely simple concept and an increasingly ramping difficulty level that has made Tetris well-known the world over. Invented in 1984 by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov, Tetris was actually the first software to be imported from the USSR to the United States.
Tetris is so popular and addictive that it even has a medical brain effect named for it. The Tetris Effect is the literal, clinical term for becoming so obsessed with a visual interactive activity that you dream or even daydream about the game when you’re not playing. This effect applies to many games, but it’s named for Tetris – and for good reason!
2. Fortune Coin
Arguably, this is the least famous of all the games on the list. However, it had probably the greatest worldwide cultural impact of any of the games listed. The Fortune Coin games began to appear in casinos throughout the early 1980s, and it is these games that inspired the video slots and online slots games that are today the most popular forms of gambling in the world.
Fortune Coin was the first slot machine that was not simply a “one-armed bandit” and instead used an electronic video game to have interactive bonus features – as well as award potentially life-changing jackpot prizes. Nowadays, the world of mobile gambling and online casinos is built around electronic video slots, all of which owe their existence to Fortune Coin.
3. Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong was the first step into the US market for then little-known Japanese video game developer Nintendo. Originally conceived as a Popeye game, Nintendo could not secure the rights to the characters and had to make quick changes; Olive Oyl became Pauline, Bluto became an ape named Donkey Kong and Popeye became “Jumpman”.
Who is Jumpman? It’s-a me, Mario! One of the reasons that this game is so historic is because of Jumpman, a small mustachioed man clad in red and blue is the first video game appearance of Mario the plumber. Of course, Mario is now the lead character of by far and away the most popular video game series and franchise in the world.
Pac-Man is quite simply the game that people think of when they think of retro arcade games. Pac-Man, released in 1980, redefined the world of video games upon release; before Pac-Man came along, the world of arcade games was dominated entirely by space games.
Pac-Man remains one of the most influential video games of all time, introducing the first video gaming mascot character who remains easily one of the most recognizable video game characters in the world, almost forty years later. Pac-Man introduced the concept of power-ups in games and is one of the few arcade games to have been consistently re-made since release.