Top 5 golden-age arcade games

5 January, 2021
Episode notes

Guest

Nicholas Bond

Creator of the Retrogame Deconstruction Zone, focusing on early 1982.


Today Mark is talking the golden age of arcade games, which ran from 1979 til around 1983. Mark and Nick start with their own childhood arcade memories, and Mark gets quizzical about the American quarter as a “unit of fun”. As this was recorded during the Quarantimes, conversation inevitably turned to the decline in in-person entertainment like arcades and cinemas.

Pac-Man

Nick’s first pick is the 800lb gorilla in the arcade, a game in which many other video game historians aren’t in love. Nick tells Mark about how he discovered a later-in-life love for the game, and gives a little behind-the-scenes colour on the game’s nascent AI.

Space Invaders

Mark’s first pick is almost the quintessential video game, but this iconic selection raises complex feelings in our listmate, due to its incredibly repetitive nature.

Defender

You can write a book on how many different strategies that can be used to play this 1981 shooter. It would go on to influence a great number of side-scrolling shooters in arcades and in the home.

Pole Position

Mark remembers sitting in a Pole Position cabinet, many years after the game has passed its peak, but this simple prototypical racer was a firm favourite and lived long into the 90s.

Mario Bros

Rather than picking its predecessor Donkey Kong, Nick elected to go with the beautiful, joyous Mario Bros. Can you believe Mark has never played a Mario platformer? Sacrilege.

Paperboy

From back when the pinnacle of video game destruction involved knocking over someone’s garden furniture or perhaps smashing in a window, Paperboy is Mark’s third pick

Galaga

At a time when many arcade games introduced random elements to make them operate a little more like slot machines, Galaga gave players the chance to learn and improve with each new pass.

Asteroids

Mark’s final pick is a classic to those who remember it, but hasn’t perhaps been passed down through the generations like some of the others discussed. The physics in the game are pretty impressive, and it does give us the chance to learn a little more about vector graphics.

Robotron 2048

Nick describes this as possibly being the single best action game of its era, but the maximalist explosions bely the deep strategical nature of the game. It was an early innovator in that it employed two joysticks: one for moving, and another for firing.

Honourable mentions

More on Nicholas Bond

Nick blogs at the Retrogame Deconstruction Zone, and you can find him on Twitter @MrVGBrow.

Links