If you grew up in the 80s, you probably have fond memories of playing classic 8-bit games. More than likely you spent countless hours in front of a screen (while you should have been playing outside) ingraining wonderful 8-bit sights and sounds into your mind, so deep that they can never be forgotten, even though you might not remember them immediately. The most famous of these games we can recall quickly like Tetris, Mario Bros. and Pac Man. A multitude of other games, however, are not so easy to recall but are locked away in the back of our minds clouded behind decades of memories. Fear not though, since at the first sight of those minimalistic graphics and at the hearing of the first few 8-bit music notes, those memories come back like a flood and will put a smile on your face as they have so many years ago.
For most of us, these games represent so much more than just games, they represent our childhood. They stand for an era, they remind us of growing up, making memories with our friends, our family or even just by ourselves. To us, they are still the most challenging and fun games that we have ever played. Unfortunately though, there are so many awesome titles that the list could go on forever, but let us revisit at least 15 of these forgotten games that 80s kids will remember.
Karateka is a beat ‘em up Karate game designed by Jordan Mechner and it was released in 1984. The plot is that a beautiful princess is held captive by an evil warlord. It is the hero’s mission to save her by doing the one thing that he knows best and that is Karate! The game features unique cut scenes which switches between the protagonist and enemies. This is used to tell the story and makes the game more dramatic and engaging. It almost gives it a cinematic feel. Karateka is a real gem of a game and, if nothing else, it taught us all a very important martial arts rule which will be ingrained into our minds: you can’t just run into a fight, you need to be in combat stance!
Remember Choplifter? It is a helicopter game developed for Apple II and released in 1982 by Brøderbund. Most games at the time were released for arcade first and afterwards ported to home computers. Choplifter, however, was first released for home computers and then ported to arcade. In it, the player controls an attack helicopter and the ultimate goal was to save hostages from captivity. This is easier said than done though, since the helicopter is attacked by jet fighters, anti-aircraft guns and tanks. The player had to destroy nearby enemies, free the prisoners, land for them to board and then take them safely back to the base. Additionally a few trips back and worth was needed since seats on the helicopter were limited. The game is so addictive that legend has it even the submarine crew members in the book The Hunt for Red October were playing it. Probably instead of manning their posts.
Bomberman is a hugely successful game franchise with the first game released as early as 1983 and the most recent one released as late as 2017. Similar to Choplifter, the game was first released for PC and later ported to other platforms. The game concept is quite simple, you run around in a maze and plant bombs to blow up balloon-like foes. Once all the foes have been killed, you proceed to the next stage. Be careful though, since the bombs can kill you too and sometimes you can be trapped between a rock and a hard place. Some walls can be blown away and others cannot and the game features power-ups such as larger blast areas or being able to plant more bombs. Bomberman will never be forgotten partly because of the unique and original concept and also due to the fact that the game franchise is still going strong today.
12 Battle City
Ah, Battle City. As soon as the level started and you heard the distinctive intro clip, you knew right away that an awesomely fun tank battle was on its way and you probably couldn’t help but smile. Released in 1985 by Namco, it was probably the first tank game that many of us played, long before the modern and laborious World of Tanks. The objective of the game was to defend your base, an eagle surrounded with walls, from destruction and to eliminate all enemy tanks. With varying maps, different classes of tanks and in-game upgrades, Battle City was a seriously fun and challenging game. You know that a game is popular when various illegal Chinese clones start appearing. The game play, graphics and sounds were so simple, yet awesome in its 8-bit way that this game will forever be etched somewhere in the back of our minds.
11 Track & Field
Track & Field was released in 1983 by Konami and was originally called Hyper Olympic. We don’t know where the hyper fits in though and are glad they rather went with Track & Field. The game successfully managed to combine sports and gaming and in a sense makes it the quintessential “eSport” game, but not in the sense of eSports as we know it today. It was so popular that over one million gamers took part in the "1984 March of Dimes International Konami/Centuri Track & Field Challenge," setting a new world record. The game includes multiple Olympic events such as 100 Meter Dash, Long Jump, Javelin throw, Hurdles and High Jump. It had excellent graphics (as far as 8-bit graphics go) and some versions even had a worthy rendition of Chariots of Fire in classic 8-bit style. It was a huge hit in North America and Japan, with Konami releasing a total of 13 games in the series.
Q*bert is an extremely successful arcade game released in 1982. The main character and game had no name for a time before it was released and as such was subject to many crazy name proposals. The wackiest name being considered was Snots and Boogers, if you can believe such madness. Weren’t kids playing literal Snots and Boogers already? Well, we are glad that sanity prevailed and they went with the now famous Q*bert. The game involves a character named Q*bert, as you could have guessed, who needs to hop on every cube in a triangular stage. Hopping on a cube changes the colour to indicate that it has been covered. There are also enemies moving around the stage and they have to be dodged. If you have ever played Q*bert, you will remember that you needed to have your 3D perspective down to a tee since it is very frustrating jumping off the wrong side of a cube and into the abyss.
9 Pole Position
Pole Position was ingenious for a number of reasons. It simulated a 3D perspective, motion and the vanishing point accurately while using the popular rear-view camera angle, keeping the car in sight at all times. Successfully pulling this off at the time was huge and highly popularized the game. Also the graphics were quite impressive for the time and it introduced tracks that were based on real racing circuits. As in real racing, players had to qualify before racing against opponents. It was first released in 1982 by Namco and within a year it was the highest earning arcade game in North America. Today it is seen as one of the most influential racing games of all time and one that firmly established the genre. Most of us though will remember it in another way though, as we remember it as the first racing game we ever played.
8 Dig Dug
Dig Dug was released in 1982 by Namco and ported for several consoles. The aim of the game was to dig around and eradicate underground monsters by shooting them with some sort of a homemade air pumping contraption and inflating them until they eventually exploded. This might sound very cruel and it probably is, but it was satisfying to see those green dragon-like monsters pop. You had to time your inflations well though, since while you were pumping you were quite vulnerable and the other monsters might sneak up on you. Another way of killing the monsters was by dropping rocks on them. This was achieved by digging a tunnel directly below a rock while an enemy walked underneath it. Somehow the monsters were able to traverse the underground without having to dig tunnels though. Dig Dug will always be remembered for its unique storyline and ridiculous way of eliminating enemies.
As the name implies, 1942 is shooter based on events that happened during World War II. Sad to say though that 1942 is not the year of the release of the game, since Capcom would only release it in 1984 (Pun intended). Seriously though, it was really based on World War II but more specifically the Asia-Pacific War. However, the chances are that when you were a kid and playing this game, you were totally oblivious to the history behind the game. History or not, all you knew was that you had a plane with a gun and enemies were trying to shoot you down and that wasn’t an option. Like a soldier on a need-to-know basis, you fought tirelessly just for the sake of it. 1942 ended up being the first big success for Capcom just before they started the iconic Street Fighter franchise.
BurgerTime was originally called Hamburger, but it was renamed before entering the North American market. It was released in 1982 and, as the name suggests, requires the player to successfully make (delicious) hamburgers. This is easier said than done though, since the chef, aptly named Peter Pepper, is constantly pursued by dangerous food foes which must be avoided by climbing ladders, temporarily stunning them or dropping burger parts on them, effectively squashing them. The ultimate goal is to complete a number of burgers and have them drop onto plates below. Let’s be honest though, BurgerTime probably wasn't your first choice when deciding which game to play. Maybe, it wasn't even in your top 10 of go-to games. It was more like one of those games you played when you had exhausted your other more popular games. Nevertheless, the game had its moments and it is a game that you are not likely to forget due to how unique the concept is.
5 Duck Hunt
If you have ever played Duck Hunt, then you will remember how that damn dog taunted you by laughing at you when you missed the ducks. So much for man’s best friend. The game was released in 1984 and requires a light gun to play. Light guns work in the same way a camera does by capturing light. It sends this ‘photo’ to the console which then determines where it was aiming when the trigger was pulled and if any target was hit. Quite ingenious for the technology we had at the time. The obvious aim of the game was to shoot a required number of ducks to pass the round. If a duck was successfully shot down, it was retrieved by your hunting dog. However, if all ducks were missed, then the dog instead taunted the player by laughing at him. Those feelings of anger caused by the stupid dog will definitely be one of the reasons Duck Hunt will always be remembered.
Excitebike is a motocross game released in 1984 by Nintendo. The aim of the game is to finish a motocross track within a certain amount of time. This involves driving over ramps, dodging obstacles and opponents. The player had to control the speed and temperature of the bike, along with the pitch of the bike when airborne, since bad landings meant falling off the bike and wasting time. If the bike overheated, it had to stop and cool down for a bit before being able to drive. The game is challenging fun and the graphics have a certain charm to them that made it stand the test of time. No collection of 8-bit games would be complete without Excitebike. If you have ever played Excitebike, you will probably always remember one very important rule with regards to motocross, it’s all in the landing!
3 Circus Charlie
Circus Charlie is one of those games with classically memorable 8-bit sounds and graphics, along with addictively fun gameplay. It was released in 1984 by Konami and was an instant hit. In the game, the player controls a clown who has to complete a number of unique circus-like challenges without failing or running out of time. After all the challenges have been completed, they start from the beginning again, but with added difficulty. From jumping through hoops, tightrope walking, jumping between trampolines or balls, and riding a horse to doing a trapeze act, the game had many different challenges all rolled into one, so it always remained interesting. With Circus Charlie (as with many games of the time) timing was the key to success!
2 Lode Runner
Lode Runner, originally called Kong, is a platform game developed by Douglas Smith and at first was rejected by Brøderbund. He continued to improve the game however and later received offers from a variety of publishers. The game was finally published by Brøderbund in 1983. The aim of the game is to collect piles of gold placed all over a level without being caught by enemies. A player can run, climb ladders and rails or dig holes to traverse the level and evade enemies. Once all the gold is collected, a ladder is available to reach the top of the screen before advancing to the next level. Lode Runner is one of those games where the levels quickly become more complicated with intricate strategies needed to complete the level. You need to be clever to succeed, which makes it much more interesting than mindless button pressing. You know that a game is great when even the creator of Tetris gives it his approval.
1 Operation Wolf
Operation Wolf is an awesome shooter game released in 1987 by Taito. The aim of the game is to rescue a number of hostages held in different locations. The game was the first shooter game to have a proper storyline. It pulled no punches and spared no expense with full on action from the very first seconds of the first level. To complete a level, the player must stay alive and shoot a required amount of enemies before the end of the stage is reached. The enemies include soldiers, tanks, attack helicopters, boats and even animals that when shot provide ammunition or power-ups. The game was a huge success and won several awards including Game of the Year and some even considering it as one of the best games of all time. The graphics were amazing for the time, combined with a proper storyline and, most importantly, intense shooter action which made Operation Wolf a true 8-bit classic that we will always remember.