My '80s Arcade Game Five

I will always remember the ‘80s fondly. I may have spent a little over five years of my life in the ‘70s, but the ‘80s were when I became really self-aware enough to appreciate cartoons and music. And of course, my nostalgia includes video games. I may have been rocking an Intellivision at home, but the cutting edge stuff was in the arcades. I had a few at local malls I liked, but was too young to spend much time in. I think advancements in home entertainment have all but killed those dark caverns in malls, and I found casinos to be a poor replacement in my adult life. But where I got the most exposure to arcade games was at a Modell's, back when it was a full department store and not just sporting goods. I remember when they got rid of the larger store and sold the space to The Home Depot. The sliding doors and lobby have been renovated but retain the basic structure, and whenever I'm there I can still envision the bank of games that flanked either side, where I'd spend my time while my folks shopped. I was exposed to a lot of games there before they were ported over to systems like the NES, and here are My Five favorites:

1) Rampage:
I loved this game. You could take control of one of three giant monsters, and up to three people could play at once! Your mission was simple: bring down the buildings and eat any people or army guys who got in your way. When you “died”, you'd shrink back down into the human being you were apparently mutated from. In my adolescence, I always played “Lizzie” the giant lizard, because she turned into this little blonde in tattered clothes. It's sad how honest I am about my sad youth.

2) Super Mario Bros.:
By the way, and this is probably the best place to mention this, my list is in no particular order. Because I first played this game in the arcade, I thought it predated the NES console version, but the link above seems to say the opposite is true. Chicken or egg, I do remember the arcade version being a lot harder, and some subtle differences in the layout of the boards. And I'm pretty sure the home version offered more warp zones making it easier to skip to the end. I guess they wanted more quarters in the cabinet version. In any case, it hooked me and was the main bait that led me to agree to go to an all-boy's Catholic high school if my parents bought me an NES. Honestly, I probably didn't have a choice in the matter, and it wasn't a bribe so much as something to appease me. And it worked. Couldn't find a clip of the arcade version, but World 1-1 on the NES didn't differ as much as later levels:

3) Ghosts ‘n Goblins:
Oh, the quarters I would have poured into this thing if my parents let me! I used to watch other people play, and always hoped I'd get to the store when someone was close to navigating the little knight through the cemetery, haunted forest, village, and caverns to save the princess(because there was always a princess to be saved). In between boards, a little numbered map would scroll and show progress, and while I saw some people get far, I never saw the very end. It wasn't until years later when I played a computer version, with infinite lives enabled and infinite patience, that I learned the cruel secret: you had to play through the whole game TWICE to win. It was a long game, and even though Super Mario Bros. told us that our princess was in another castle for 7 of the 8 worlds, you only had to play those 8 worlds once. Still, it was a fun game in which the knight would only be killed the second time he was struck. The first hit would knock off his armor and this little Morgan Grimes-looking dude would be running around in his tighty-whities until he found new armor, or was hit a second, fatal time.

4) Baby Pac-Man:
Now here's a novel idea that never spawned any further developments of the concept: marrying a pinball machine to a conventional video game. I'll probably cover the original game and its contemporaries in a separate five, but by the mid-'80s when I was checking out these other games in Modell's, this one blew my mind. I don't know why there weren't more hybrids...

5) Kung-Fu Master:
Wow, it was hard to pick this last one. Honorable shout-outs to Paperboy, Rygar, Bionic Commando, Dragon's Lair, Altered Beast and all the others that are now flooding back into my memory. But I definitely spent more time on Kung-Fu Master than any of those others, and got really good at Kung-Fu when it was ported to the NES. It was simple punching, kicking, jumping, and ducking in a side-scroller, the basics that got so complicated as fighting games evolved, and I dug the music. And of course you had to save a girl. On the NES this was infinite, and every five floors you'd save her and then start all over again from the first floor. There were rumors that by the 100th time there was an ending, but I never had the patience even with a Game Genie to sit there and find out if that was true.

Did I leave out any of your favorites? I definitely thought of a few that I may have to spin into future posts....classics...'90s...games with the color blue....good times....



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