I can remember looking forward to going to the local convenience store as a kid to play the latest arcade games in the 1980's. My friends and I would dig up as many quarters as we could find and spend countless hours playing these ground breaking games. The late 70' and early 80's were known as the "golden age" of the arcade game industry. These games reached mainstream popularity during this time in part because of new types of game play involving hand-eye coordination, skill, timing and shooting things as fast as possible. The arcade game industry reached its peak in 1982 by generating $8 billion in quarters, equal to $18.5 billion in 2011! These are our top 5.
I remember this being an extremely hard game although very challenging and entertaining to play. The object of the game is to fight waves of invading aliens while protecting astronauts on an alien planet. Any astronauts that are captured by the aliens come back as mutants to attack you. If you failed to protects the astronauts, the planet would explode and become full of mutants. Defender earned high praise for its audio and video and was listed as the number six arcade game in technical, creative, and cultural impact by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2008. It is noted as being one of the most difficult games in the industry, utilizing a joystick and five other buttons in order to play. Defender sold 60,000 hardware units and generated gross revenues of $1 billion through 2002.
4. Ms. Pac-Man
Coming in at number 4 is the girlfriend of the original Pac-Man with 125,000 hardware units sold. Although she never got her man, she managed to entertain millions of people around the world. She was also a television star, appearing in the Pac-Man animated TV series where she played Pepper, Pac-Man's wife. The object of the game was to eat all the pellets and avoid the ghosts to score as many points as possible. Eating certain power pellets allowed her to eat the ghosts and there were also fruit bonuses that when consumed would increase point value. As you reach higher levels, the ghosts move faster and the energy pellets change the ghosts for less time. Ms. Pac-Man wears a little red bow and scenes of her and Pac-Man's relationship are shown during intermissions between levels. One other noteworthy feature that differs from the original Pac-Man game is that the orange ghost is named Sue, instead of Clyde. The game is said to have 256 levels but obviously I have never made it that far!
3. Donkey Kong
This was one of my ultimate favorites to play as a kid. The game was groundbreaking for its time and featured an ape, a damsel in distress and an Italian plumber playing out a wacky storyline. Mario, a carpenter, runs up platforms and climbs ladders at a construction site while the ape named Donkey Kong throws barrels at him. Mario must also dodge fire and other obstacles to get to the top of the platforms and rescue the damsel being held by the grouchy Donkey Kong. Mario became Nintendo's flagship character and spawned several different game sequels. Nintendo originally wanted to make a Popeye comics game but could not get a license for him. They decided to develop their own characters and created a love triangle between an ape, a carpenter, and a girlfriend, that was similar to the love triangle between Popeye, Bluto, and Olive Oyl. Donkey Kong was created in 1981 and sold 132,000 hardware units and generated $280 million through 1982.
2. Space Invaders
This is probably one of the most addictive games I have ever played. When it eventually came out on Atari 2600, my friends and I would play it for hours on end. The game consists of a laser canon at the bottom of the screen that moves from side to side while you shoot at waves of approaching alien invaders. After shooting the first wave of aliens, the remaining ones begin to approach much faster. Soon the aliens begin firing back and there are bunkers you can move beneath to avoid their fire. Eventually the bunkers are destroyed by the aliens firing at them which make the game all the more challenging. The sound effects are eerily exciting as you play. Although this game was released in 1978, we decided to include it in this list because of its impact on the video gaming industry. It was so advanced for its time and was almost solely responsible for expanding the video game industry from a novelty to a global industry. It sold 360,000 hardware units and generated $2.7 billion in gross revenues.
This was the grandaddy of them all! What made Pac-Man so popular was its appeal to both genders. While many of the early games involved space and aliens, Pac-Man was a game almost anyone could enjoy regardless of what their interests were. It was basically the same concept as Ms. Pac-Man except it was released before her. The object was to eat all the pellets and avoid the ghosts to score as many points as possible. The ghost's movements are preset and were given their own distinct personalities to help keep the game interesting. The red ghost chases Pac-Man and the pink and blue ghosts try to get in front of Pac-Man. The orange ghost, Clyde, chases Pac-Man but moves towards the lower left corner of the screen when it gets too close to him. The game has 255 levels but a bug in the programming keeps you from going past that. Pac-Man is one of the highest grossing games of all time. It boasts 400,000 hardware units sold with gross revenues of $3.5 billion!