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April 9, 2021

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We discuss the top five games from each decade, the most important, genre defining or iconic titles that changed the face of gaming through history. In 'Part 2' we look at 1980's.

Time to read article

10 mins

THE 1980's

Some of us here at SPOV were around in the 80's... it was "the best of times and the worst of times" as somebody famous once said. A time of caring about who shot J.R., believing that a drug epidemic was solved by "just saying no", jazzercise was how you got your cardio and 'Blockbuster and chill' wasn't a saying.

Video/computer games had a tough time in the 80's, arcade game popularity was riding high but home console sales nearly bankrupted the major companies due to substandard games, the most infamous being 'E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial' from Atari, which had such bad sales figures unsold cartridges were buried in a desert.

But in 1985, this was all about to change as Nintendo announced their 'Famicom' system was coming to North America, rebranded as the 'Nintendo Entertainment System'. After a couple of years they were credited with saving the home console market and introducing titles and characters that are still at the top of sales charts today.

1. PAC-MAN (1980) Namco

Up there with Mario, Sonic and Link, Pac-Man is one of the most iconic game characters ever created. Designed by 24 year-old games designer Toru Iwatani who wanted to create a game that was appealing to women, as predominantly games of that time revolved around war and sports. The original name Puck Man was derived from the characters' hockey puck shape and the Japanese phrase 'paku paku' meaning 'chomp chomp'. Because of its use of animated sequences between levels it is also one of the first games to feature 'cutscenes'... for which SPOV are eternally grateful!

The Pac-Man franchise is one of the best-selling games franchises of all time, making more than $14 billion and selling 43 million units worldwide.

2. DONKEY KONG (1981) Nintendo

The game that defined the 'Platform' genre was created in 1981 by Shigeru Miyamoto for Nintendo. When Nintendo failed to license 'Popeye' they changed 'Bluto' to a gorilla, 'Olive Oyl' to 'Pauline' and 'Popeye' to a carpenter. This 'carpenter' was the first time we were introduced to the character that would become 'Mario'... but more of him later.

'Donkey Kong' is also credited with the 'First Use of Visual Storytelling' by the 'Guinness World Records: Gamers Edition' because of the introduction of distinct characters, their conflicts and an unraveling plot.

3. TETRIS (1984) Electronika 60

A game almost everybody has played, 'Tetris' was designed by Alexey Pajitnov while at the Soviet Academy of Sciences when tasked with testing the capabilities of the institute's new computer system. He wanted to create something that made people happy and allowed people to get to know each other better.

Originally developed with only brackets, spaces (as the Elektronika 60 had no GUI) and no scoring system, the first version proved so popular the institute had to remove it from it's computers as people became so addicted they stopped working.

The GameBoy version is one of the best selling games of all time having sold 35 million copies.

4. SUPER MARIO BROS. (1985) Nintendo

Along with the NES this game has been credited with saving the industry and is considered one of the greatest games of all time selling over 50 million copies.

One of the first side-scrolling platform games, it was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Takezuka who wanted to create a more colourful version of Nintendo's popular arcade game 'Mario Bros.'.

Featuring one of gaming's most recognisable soundtracks composed by Koji Kondo, a study in 1990 found that more children recognised Mario than Mickey Mouse.

5. THE LEGEND OF ZELDA (1986) Nintendo

Created by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka (see above!) this 'legendary' action-adventure game defined a genre. Players had to use their own ingenuity to navigate and solve problems in this sprawling open-world game at a time when answers and clues couldn't be found on the internet.

The exploration of action, adventure and a character arc for it's protagonist 'Link' (based on Disney's 'Peter Pan') was ground-breaking at the time and made 'Zelda' one of Nintendo's most successful franchises that it still topping charts with its new releases.

Yes, there are some titles that you may think should be on here, Elite, Tempest, Missile Command and Sim City to name a few, but we think we have picked the five games that really laid a foundation and helped define game design forever. Next up 'The 90's', lots more titles to choose from than the previous two decades combined, so contentious choices will be made but as we have said before, "our house, our rules"!

'Part 3' coming soon!