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80's Review

On 07/30/2022 at 12:01 PM by KnightDriver

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August is coming up in a few days. My plan is to watch/play favorite and new media from the 80s. I also like to review what I watched/played back then. So here is a list of the games I played the most in the 80s year by year. 


 Car Wars: This is a Steve Jackson pen and paper game set in a post-apocalyptic future where you have to battle other cars for survival. You build your car, adding defensive and offensive weaponry and take on all opposition. Gameplay is turn-based with dice on a grid with game pieces or toy cars. I played this in college with my roomate Will later in the decade. 

Squad Leader Expansion: Crescendo of Doom: This added new western front units to the base board game including those from countries other than Britain and France. I remember the new Finish troops with high morale. I used to own this expansion. I mostly played the game solo but in my college years my roomate Will and I played Squad Leader fairly often. I've was obsessed with Squad Leader back in the 80s for it's realistic detail of military hardware and expansive rule set which allowed for a lot of realism, eg. buildings could catch fire from being shot at, troops could break morale and run, and tanks could just break down. I will reaquire this one day. 

Atari 2600's Golf and Adventure:  Golf was a very simiple game on Atari but challenging enough. Adventure was baffling and even scary at the time. Bring a bunch of items to different locations in the near idenicle set of rooms and avoid the duck-like dragon who was nevertheless terrifying as it would appear suddenly and rush you faster than you could move. 

Intellivision's Sea Battle: Some call it the first RTS. It's a ship-to-ship fighting game. You have battleships, destroyers, submarines, pt boats and a minelayer. I would play it with various neighborhood friends at the time. It was strictly a two-player game. I loved the way the game gives you a overhead veiw of the islands and then zooms in when your ship gets close to an enemy so you can fire at each other in real-time. Today I wish it had a single player option. 


Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord: I played this rpg on an Apple IIc around 1984 when that computer came out. It has a wire frame 3D dungeon and turn-based battles. Pictures of monsters appear during battles and your six party team has to coordinate to defeat them. The dungeon has traps, secret doors and elevators. There are only ten levels but you will have to work hard to level your characters and carefully draw the map on graph paper to get to the final rooms and meet the overlord Werdna. It's a classic RPG grind and was a lot of fun. My friend Mark and I would play it and we still do from time to time. I play it now on the NES where it's been ported to perfection. 

Atari 2600's Stampede and Activision Tennis: Stampede is far and away my favorite Atari game. I must've been a cowboy in a past life. All you do is keep the cattle from getting by you with your lasso/whip. The game speeds up as you go. You try and get as many points as you can before you let 3 cattle (doggies) pass you. Activision Tennis was a virtual extension to my real-world competitive tennis playing in the 80s. I liked that you could slice the ball to give it a curve. Action was fast too. 


Front Line: You're a single soldier up against an army of enemies. It scrolls vertically and you can shoot in six directions, throw grenades and eventually get into a tank. Like many arcade games, it was hard, but I always came back to it to see how far I could get. 

Colecovision's Venture: Like many of the Colecovision's games, this was a port of an arcade game. You're just a head with a bow moving from room to room shooting every darn thing. Think RPG Berzerk. It was colorful too. I didn't see it much in the arcades so Colecovision was my go to for this game. 


Xevious: Vertically scrolling shooters were my favorite of the 80s arcades. Xevious was hard scifi in design asthetic. I liked that you both shot forward and could bomb the ground. The game was hard, but I was always drawn to it in the arcade. I always made sure to spend some quality time with it as I made my rounds of all the games in the arcade and play any new ones. 

Dragon's Lair: My friend Phil and I played this together even though it was just a single player experience. We'd challenge each other to see how far we could get. It's basically a memory game. You'd be presented with different gorgeously animated Don Bluth scenes and decide what to do to make it to the next scene. Fail and you are given a cool death sequence. Eventually Phil and I defeated the game and got to the end. I forget who won. 

Squad Leader Expansion: GI Anvil of Victory: This was the last expansion to the original Squad Leader board game before Advanced Squad Leader came out. For some reason, I didn't continue on with ASL. GI Anvil of Victory added a lot of US forces and new rules (as if there weren't enough already). I used to own all three SL expansions at the time. 


Marble Madness: I played a lot of this game. Why? I had a friend to play it with. My friend Phil again. It was probably the best use of the trackball controller for any arcade game. You just rolled a marble down an Etcher-like geometry of ramps and platforms. You had to clear 6 courses within a time limit. It was a very physical game that felt like a sport. Phil and I were both into a lot of sports at the time, so it made sense we would compete with each other in this game. Ports of this game have always been terrible because you really need that trackball for precise and satisfying control. 


Gauntlet: The first really good action RPG that I played. I've since played every sequel and anything with its style of gameplay. Just remember, "don't shoot the food". 


Dark Castle: I wasn't aware of NES or Super Mario Bros at the time, but I did play a platformer on the Macintosh Plus computer and that was Dark Castle. It had 2D space, single fixed screens, shooting, and rooms with puzzles. I really loved playing this on the Mac. The sound too was really good because, I think, the Mac had the best sound chip at the time. 


1943: Battle of Midway: My friend Mark and I played this co-op whenever I was back home from college. I loved the powerups you use to take down planes or ships. 

Sky Shark (called Flying Shark outside US): The pizza shop in my tiny college town had this arcade game. It's a very colorful vertically scrolling shooter like Xevious but you fly a biplane. I was always playing this if my roomate Will and I weren't playing Chess at the coffee shop down the street over lox and bagels. 

Beyond Dark Castle: The sequel to the Mac game Dark Castle. It had color and a jetpack. That's about all I remember. It was good. Too bad this series hasn't been ported anywhere because I'd play it again in a heartbeat. 

Shadowgate: I played this on the Mac. It looks really good on a Mac too. I still remember the flute melody they used for the item lifted from a Jethro Tull song. It's a fun point-and-click puzzle/adventure game. Before the internet, I had to go find someone who'd played it for clues in order to finish it. 


These years, plus the next few in the 90s, I didn't play a single video game. I met my current girlfriend, left school, and started working in upstate New York. I sold my Mac and didn't have a single console. I didn't go to arcades either. I missed out on Phantasy Star, Golden Axe, Dragon Quest and many others. But I would return to gaming probably around '93 or so. I'll review that decade in September. 




07/31/2022 at 03:11 AM

The only Wizardry game I've actually played was one of the Japanese-made Wizardry games on PS3, years after Wizardry 8 was releeased and Sir-Tech disappeared completely. I was always more of an Ultima fan.  I have played the Wizardry-like Shining in the Darkness in Sega Genesis collections. My favorite first person RPG from the 1980s was called Alternate Reality, it was on the Atari 8-bit computers. My favorite 1981 game is Donkey Kong, which is still my all time favorite arcade game. It was, and is, brilliant. 


I didn't really play Xevious much. I did play a similar game, Megazone, which was made by Konami and which I keep hoping shows up on Arcade Archives. 


1943 is an awesome shmup. I have Capcom Arcade Stadium and still play it.  


08/04/2022 at 01:56 PM

Alternate Reality sounds interesting. I've never heard of it. Shining in the Darkness was a favorite of mine on Genesis. 

I feel like I've played Megazone on Game Room for Xbox 360. Is it a Konami game?

There was a PS2 Wizardry I played after 2000 and I got into the Etrian Odyssey series as well. I'm always on the lookout for new first-person dungeon crawls. 

Cary Woodham

07/31/2022 at 08:06 AM

Aw man, you have this whole 80s list and not a Pac-Man game on it?  And you've even got access to Pac-Man Museum+!

I never saw Front Line in arcades as a kid.  But one Taito game I seemed to see everywhere back then was Alpine Ski.  Not sure why.

I was never very good at Xevious but was always fascinated by it for some reason.  

Dragon's Lair was more fun to watch than it was to play.  A lot of arcades back then would put a second screen up on top of the cabinet so you could watch people play it over the crowds.

Marble Madness is probably my favorite Atari game.

At first it was hard to play Gauntlet in the arcade because it was so crowded.  But one time as a kid, some really nice teenagers invited me to play it with them.  I was surprised because usually I'd try and avoid the teenagers in arcades because they were so much bigger than me as a kid.

1943 is one of my all time favorite shooters, even to this day!


08/04/2022 at 02:02 PM

Well, all us 80s kids played a lot of Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man. I liked it and almost always played it at least once when I went to the arcade. I've just never considered it a favorite of mine even though, if I only listed games with the most plays, it would have to be on the list. I guess it just didn't capture my imagination enough to put it in the pantheon of all-time favorites of mine. Kind of like Frogger, which I loved, but didn't feel like I had much to say about it now. 


08/01/2022 at 10:38 AM

I've heard of that Car Wars game. Sounds pretty cool! I heard somebody talking recently about Car Battler Joe on...Game Boy Advance?...which is another weird little car battle RPG. Seems like an underserved subgenre.


08/01/2022 at 06:19 PM

I had a TI-99/4A computer as a kid, and when I saw "Car Wars," my first thought was a game on that system that was a clone of Head-On/Dodge 'Em.


08/04/2022 at 02:08 PM

Car Battler Joe sounds interesting. I'll have to look that up. 

Super Step Contributing Writer

08/02/2022 at 02:35 AM

That's a lot of shadows and darkness.


08/04/2022 at 02:12 PM

I love a dark fantasy game. 

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