Herscher Tigers

Herscher High School Class of '82 30th Reunion
August 18,  2012

Popular Video Games of 1981

Platform: Arcade

Bosconian was a free-roaming multi-directional scrolling shooter arcade game which was developed and released by Namco in 1981. In contrast to the more linear shooter games from its time period, Bosconian allows the player's ship to freely roam across open space which scrolls in all directions. Below is the ZX Spectum port of the game from 1987.

Platform: Arcade

Defender was a shooting game featuring 2D graphics, the game is set on a fictional planet where the player must defeat waves of invading aliens while protecting astronauts. Development was led by Eugene Jarvis, a pinball programmer at Williams; Defender was Jarvis' first video game project and drew inspiration from Space Invaders and Asteroids. Defender was one of the most important titles of the Golden Age of Video Arcade Games, selling over 60,000 units to become the company's best selling game and one of the highest-grossing arcade games ever. It is frequently listed as one of Jarvis' best contributions to the video game industry, as well as one of the most difficult video games.

Castle Wolfenstein
Platform: Apple II

Castle Wolfenstein is an early stealth-based action-adventure shooter video game developed by Muse Software for the Apple II. It was first released in 1981 and later ported to MS-DOS, the Atari 8-bit family, and the Commodore 64. This game is notably considered to be the first game that had a World War 2 setting, and the first series in general that would popularize this setting across succeeding games and other unrelated game series in various genres. Below is the original Apple II version.

Donkey Kong
Platform: Arcade

Donkey Kong was released by Nintendo in 1981. It is an early example of the platform game genre, as the gameplay focuses on maneuvering the main character across a series of platforms while dodging and jumping over obstacles. In the game, Mario (originally named Mr. Video, then changed to "Jumpman", then Mario) must rescue a damsel in distress named Pauline (originally named Lady), from a giant ape named Donkey Kong. The hero and ape later became two of Nintendo's most popular and recognizable characters. Donkey Kong is one of the most important titles from the Golden Age of Video Arcade Games, and is one of the most popular arcade games of all time. Below is the MS-DOS version.

Platform: Arcade

Frogger is regarded as a classic from the golden age of video arcade games, noted for its novel gameplay and theme. The object of the game is to direct frogs to their homes one by one by crossing a busy road and navigating a river full of hazards. The Frogger coin-op is an early example of a game with more than one CPU, as it used two Z80 processors. Below is the Atari 2600 version.

Platform: Arcade

Galaga is the sequel to Galaxian, released in 1979. The gameplay of Galaga puts the player in control of a spacecraft which is situated at the bottom of the screen. At the beginning of each stage, the area is empty, but over time, enemy aliens arrive in formation, and when all of the enemies arrive on screen, they come down at the player's ship in formations of one or more, and may either shoot it or collide with it. During the entire stage, the player may fire upon the enemies, and when all enemies are vanquished, the player will proceed to the next stage. Galaga is one of the most successful games from the golden age of arcade video games. Below is the 1991 version for the Sega Game Gear.

Platform: Arcade

Gorf was released in 1981 by Midway Mfg. The name was an acronym for "Galactic Orbiting Robot Force". It is a multiple-mission fixed shooter with five distinct modes of play, essentially making it five games in one. It is well known for its use of synthesized speech, a new feature at the time. Gorf was one of the first games to allow the player to buy additional lives before starting the game. Gorf was originally intended to be a tie-in with Star Trek: The Motion Picture, but when the game designers read the film's script, they realized that the concept would not work as a video game. Even so, the player's ship bears a passing resemblance to the Starship Enterprise viewed from above.

Platform: Atari 2600

Kaboom! is an Activision video game published in 1981 for Atari 2600 that was designed by Larry Kaplan. It was well-received and successful commercially, selling over one million cartridges by 1983. It is an unauthorized adaptation of the 1978 Atari arcade game Avalanche. As an ex-Atari programmer, Larry Kaplan, originally wanted to port Avalanche to the Atari 2600. In Avalanche all the boulders are lined up at the top which is difficult to accomplish on the 2600, hence the shift to the Mad Bomber. David Crane coded the overlaid sprites for the Mad Bomber. Below is the Atari 5200 version.

Ms. Pac-Man
Platform: Arcade

Ms Pac-Man became the most successful American-produced arcade game, selling 115,000 arcade cabinets. The game went through several name changes. The original name was going to be Pac-Woman. That name was eventually dropped and then Miss Pac-Man was chosen, but because of the family imagery in the third intermission, protests were feared about the Pac-couple having a Pac-baby out of wedlock. The name was changed to Mrs. Pac-Man, and then finally to Ms. Pac-Man, which rolled off the tongue easier. These later changes (Miss, Mrs., and Ms.) all occurred within 72 hours of actual production. Below is the Apple II version.

Platform: Arcade

Electronic Games in 1983 reported that the arcade version of Qix "grabbed the gaming world with its color and imaginative design. Almost immediately it rose to the top of the charts." Its popularity quickly declined, however; Taito's Keith Egging stated "Qix was conceptually too mystifying for gamers ... It was impossible to master and once the novelty wore off, the game faded." Below is the DOS version.

Platform: Arcade

Tempest was one of the first video games to sport a progressive level design in which the levels themselves varied rather than giving the player the same layout with increasing difficulty levels. The game was initially meant to be a 3D remake of Space Invaders, but early versions had so many problems, a new design was used. Designer and programmer Dave Theurer said that the design came from a dream where monsters crawled out of a hole in the ground. During the prototype stages the game was entitled "Aliens", to "Vortex" and finally titled, Tempest. Below is the ZX Spectrum version.

Ultima I: The First Age of Darkness
Platform: Apple II

Ultima I was the first game in the Ultima series of role-playing video games created by Richard Garriott. Since its release, the game has been completely re-coded and ported to many different platforms. The 1986 re-code of Ultima is the most commonly known and available version of the game. The game was one of the first definitive commercial computer RPGs and is considered an important and influential turning point for the development of the genre throughout years to come. In addition to its influences on the RPG genre, it is also the first open-world computer game. Unfortunaely, I could not find any available version that one could play online.

Platform: Arcade

The goal of Venture is to collect treasure from a dungeon. The player, named Winky, is equipped with a bow and arrow and explores a dungeon with rooms and hallways. The hallways are patrolled by large, tentacled monsters (the "Hallmonsters", according to Exidy) who cannot be injured, killed, or stopped in any way. Once in a room, the player may kill monsters, avoid traps and gather treasures. If they stay in any room too long, a Hallmonster will enter the room, chase and kill them. In this way, the Hallmonsters serve the same role as "Evil Otto" in the arcade game Berzerk. The more quickly the player finishes each level, the higher their score.

Zork II
Platform: various

Zork is one of the earliest interactive fiction computer games, with roots drawn from the original genre game Colossal Cave Adventure. The first version of Zork was written in 1977–1979 using the MDL programming language on a DEC PDP-10 computer. When Zork was published commercially, it was split up into three games: Zork: The Great Underground Empire - Part I (later known as Zork I), Zork II: The Wizard of Frobozz, and Zork III: The Dungeon Master. Zork distinguished itself in its genre as an especially rich game, in terms of both the quality of the storytelling and the sophistication of its text parser, which was not limited to simple verb-noun commands ("hit troll"), but recognized some prepositions and conjunctions ("hit the troll with the Elvish sword"). Below is the MS-DOS version.

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