Computer Games of the Eighties

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Me playing Daley Thompson’s Super Test for the Spectrum Sinclair ZX 128k circa 1987.

Being a child of the eighties I consider myself to be in the first generation where home computer gaming really took off. Yes the graphics and sound were crude (we have better quality gaming on our phones nowadays), and games needed fifteen minutes to load and often crashed, calling to be reset while we cursed the technology but the games were simple, even my father could play them, and mostly comical.

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Remember the loading screen that seemed to take forever to finish?…oh and the noise!!!

Our first computer console was the home version of Pong (originally released in 1975 by Atari), a game consisting of two small bars at each end of the screen and a ball that you had to deflect back towards your opponent. The ball would start off slowly then get faster and faster as the rally progressed.

The game was extremely addictive, hence its popularity. The makers of the game obviously had the good sense to make it a two player game else it may not have been as successful.

However, Pong was the game of the generation before me as was the next computer we bought which was the Sinclair ZX Spectrum 128k. Originally released in 1982, this computer also had my grandfather interested who enjoyed playing games like Colditz and The Great Escape, which made sense considering he was a World War II veteran.

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The beautiful Sinclair Spectrum ZX 128k, released in UK in 1986.

Here is a list of the games I most remember playing on the Spectrum Sinclair ZX:

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Postman Pat (1988) – Basically you spent the game delivering mail although I do recall having a task where you had to round up sheep in a farmer’s field.

 

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Custard Kid (1985) – Although I never actually understood the concept of the game, as far as I could tell you had to find keys of different colours to fit certain doors while being chased by strange creatures, and even a policeman who would arrest you with a “You’re nicked mate!” message flashing on the screen.

 

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Saboteur I (1985) – A particular favourite of my fathers, which I remember as being awesome and addictive, but having revisited since I often wonder how such a young child was able to even play these games as I certainly wouldn’t be able to complete them now.

 

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Saboteur II (1987) – Just as fun as the first.

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Fantasy World Dizzy (1989) – The funny little egg with boxing gloves who would get himself into all sorts of misadventures. Who would have thought an egg would be such a popular hero.

 

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Skool Daze (1984) – Trying not to get expelled by ensuring you attended classes on time and sat in the correct seat, all the time dodging the school bullies.

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Spellbound (1985) – I don’t actually recall the plot to this game.

We owned hundreds of games but many never worked properly and crashed regularly which would be followed by a few minutes of cursing the screen before re-loading the game. I would sit and wait patiently each time for the game to load watching the endless multi-coloured lines flickering up and down the computer screen. It’s a good job I wasn’t epileptic.

For those too young to remember, the games were not on CD nor were they on cartridges, nor were they on floppy disc. They were on cassette tapes. Apparently there was a way to save your progress in a game by recording onto the tape but I never got the hang of it, probably because I was only five at the time.

Eventually we moved up in the world and acquired a NES (See below) (Nintendo Entertainment System released in Europe in 1986 although we didn’t get ours until 1989) which I’m pretty sure we purchased second-hand with Mario Bros, Duck Hunt and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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NES (1986)

The console even came with R.O.B or Robotic Operating Buddy which helped play the game Gyromite. The object of the game was to help navigate a sleep-walking professor safely through the level. This could be done easily on two player mode but for one player mode you needed the assistance of R.O.B. You would place the controller into a special holder which connected to two levers. R.O.B would place spinning discs on the levers in order to help navigate the professor through the level.

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R.O.B (1985)

Unfortunately R.O.B didn’t always work but the idea was, to me at least, ingenious and way ahead of its time.

I remember being amazed at how fantastic the graphics were and the fact that you could just push the cartridge in and the game was ready to play, although many times you would have to get on your hands and knees to blow the dust out from the inside of the console as well as the game cartridges (Something this generation of gamers will never have to experience). That was all part of the fun though wasn’t it?

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Super Mario 2 (1988) – One of my favourite NES games of all time.

Do you remember the same computer games and consoles that I had/remember? What were your experiences of computer games in the eighties?

If you have enjoyed reading this post, please check out Part 2: Computer Games of the Nineties

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11 responses to “Computer Games of the Eighties

  1. For me it was the Commodore. The Plus 4 then the 64. The Commodore 4 had classics like Fire Ant, G-Man and a really cool ghost game called Sparky. The 64 brought gaming for me to a new level (though most of my peers had the superior Atari and/or Nintendo etc. The most relevant game to me was Track suit manager as it was the first football manager game I ever played. The idea was to take the likes of Waddle, Liniker, and Shilton to world cup and European cup glory. There was actually a pool of 100 real English players to choose from. Or you could be another country, but you had to manually type in the names of the players each time.

    • I think football manager games have for the most part been consistently good. I never had a Commodore 64 or Amstrad for that matter, which is a shame as many of my friends did and I remember being envious at some of the games they had.

  2. I was too late to fully experience the eighties (born in ’91), but when I was young we did have an old NES we bought at a garage sale. I remember playing Super Mario Bros. for hours, along with the ultra-difficult Ghosts n’ Goblins. To this day I still hate that game for how difficult it can be at times.

    I remember a lot of these games having no story or being very light on story, and despite that I still played them and loved them. I actually liked making up my own story in my head sometimes while I was out saving the princess or aligning my Tetris blocks.

    • Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins was mega hard. I think maybe game developers need to go back to basics. how many times have I played the Uncharted trilogy? A handful of times? How many times have I played Sonic the Hedehog? Hundreds. I’m glad you seem to have an imagination just like mine. It is a shame that I am no longer that interested in playing modern computer games. Maybe they are getting too complicated for an old gamer like me. 🙂

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