The 80s was a revolutionary decade for computers, primarily because of the emergence of affordable personal computers like Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, and later on, IBM-based personal computers with graphical operating systems like Windows and Mac OS. Suddenly, you don't have to be a millionaire with a warehouse-sized living room to own a computer. You also don't have to be a programming or computer science student to operate a home computer.
However, aside from the novelty factor, why would people buy home computers? After all, productivity applications were still almost a decade away. The answer is, naturally, games. Enticed by the booming arcade game industry, there was a strong demand for computer games played from the comfort of home. While the graphics and gameplay were nothing like we know now, there were still a few games that were pretty great. We've compiled five of the best below.
Pac-Man, cherries and ghost – the famous elements of the iconic game. Image courtesy of Pixabay
Tetris is a geometric puzzle game created by Russian computer engineer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984. Two years later, Spectrum HoloByte published the game for IBM PC and Commodore 64, and it became the best-selling game of the year in the United States and United Kingdom. The remarkably easy gameplay made Tetris appealing to every demographic group, and the light hardware requirement made the game cheap to produce. Over the next couple of decades, Tetris had been adapted to play in every commercial gaming platforms, including console, handheld and arcade.
However, Pajitnov had to endure multiple legal battles before his ownership of Tetris was finally established in 1996.
2. Sim City
Will Wright's iconic world-building simulation game practically reinvented the wheel of strategy games. The premise of the game is straightforward: grow your city by developing and managing your resources. However, beneath the seeming simplicity, lies an exceptionally complex urban planning game that tests the player's creativity, discipline and foresight. Since there is no definitive endgame, players can spend as much or as little time on the game as they like. And the replayability factor is off the charts! There have been several dozen versions of SimCity produced since, and the game remains one of the popular around.
3. Donkey Kong
Donkey Kong is one of the most famous video games of all time. There have been dozens of versions, spin-offs, franchises and crossovers for the game. On top of that, there's merchandising and a clothing line sold based on the game. It has also been adapted into a cartoon on TV. Donkey Kong even had a cameo on Adam Sandler's 2015 film Pixels. Although the handheld versions are more well-known (especially the Game and Watch versions), Donkey Kong was ported into almost every major platform in the 80s.
Pac-Man is the greatest arcade game of all time, bar none. Almost four decades after its arrival into the gaming scene, Pac-Man continues to be a social phenomenon. In fact, Pac-Man is an integral part of the 1980s, along with Michael Jackson, denim jackets and MTV.
Adjusted for inflation, Pac-Man is also the highest-grossing video game of all time, with over $12 billion in revenue. If you meet someone who doesn't know what Pac-Man is, chances are, the person is an alien.
5. Pole Position
Sure, it doesn't look like much now, but back in the early 80s, Pole Position was considered a state of the art racing game. Motorheads were raving about the realistic gameplay. Released by Namco in 1983, Pole Position was a huge arcade hit. Over 21,000 arcade machines were sold, and at its peak, each generated revenues in excess of $450 a week. It was ported into personal computers, consoles and handhelds within by the following.
Pole Position is considered by many as one of the most influential classic games, not least because it demonstrated that video games should not be limited to simple shoot-‘em-up themes.