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10 Classic Video Games That Shaped The Way We Play

by Guest Contributor on June 25, 2013

classic video gamesBy Will Stevens

Gaming has come a long way in a very short time and people picking up a control pad for the first time in 2013 may be surprised by the progress that has been made in just 30 years. Thanks to YouTube, we can take a quick trip back in time to see what it looked like to play some of these games. Here are some classic video games from the 80s and 90s that helped shape the video game industry as we know it today.

1. Manic Miner (1983) 

Manic Miner was an instant hit and remains a classic video game. Although unremarkable to modern eyes, it was ground-breaking at the time. In it players must guide Miner Willy through 20 perilous levels, collecting items to unlock access to the next stage. It’s also notable for its use of music; the start screen features The Blue Danube and In the Hall of the Mountain King can be heard during play. Get a glimpse of the game by watching this Manic Miner video.

2. Elite (1984)

Although space combat and trading game Elite would also become associated with The Blue Danube, its original release on the BBC Micro was largely mute because of the computer’s limited audio capabilities. The game’s success saw it ported to a further 11 platforms and its enduring popularity recently helped co-creator David Braben secure Kickstarter funding for a follow up called Elite: Dangerous.

3. Super Mario Bros. (1985)

If flying through space shooting at things isn’t your cup of tea, you could always take on the role of an Italian-American plumber who is transported to a strange world and asked to save a princess. Super Mario Bros. is undoubtedly one of the most successful video game franchises of all time and the title has spawned countless spin offs and sequels.

Here it is in all its original NES glory:


4. Paperboy (1986)

Paperboy started out as an arcade game, but was soon ported to home entertainment systems ensuring it would be one of those classic video games that would achieve cult status. The idea was simple – players had to guide a bicycle-riding paperboy through a suburban street, delivering periodicals to subscribers while simultaneously avoiding a range of obstacles. This footage of Paperboy is taken from the Amstrad version.

5. Dizzy – The Ultimate Cartoon Adventure (1987)

Another offbeat platform game that won the hearts of the gaming public is Dizzy. Here, our egg-shaped hero must navigate a perilous world in order to collect the ingredients for a potion that will destroy the evil wizard Zaks. It might not be Shakespeare, but it’s certainly a lot of fun. Watch the Amstrad version of Dizzy in this YouTube classic video.

6. Sid Meier’s Pirates! (1987)

Sid Meier’s Pirates! has enjoyed such longevity it seems almost unfair to pin it down to one release date.  Originally created for the Commodore 64, the game was adapted several times and a Windows Phone 7 version was released in 2012.

Unsurprisingly, the game allows players to take on the role of a pirate and sets them loose in the Caribbean Sea. The open-ended nature of the game was revolutionary and paved the way for strategy titles such as Civilization and SimCity. This video is of the opening sequence of the 1990 Amiga version:

7. Driller (1988)

Driller wasn’t a huge hit, but it was massively innovative. Its use of 3D graphics, something very much in its infancy in the late 80s, helped it secure rave reviews. In the game, players take control of a drilling rig and must use it to vent gas from under the surface of a planet which will explode if the task is not completed within four hours.

It’s not the most thrilling game ever released, but it sparked a flurry of imitations and helped shape things to come. Watch the Driller video to see how much video games have advanced.

8. The Secret of Monkey Island (1990)

Looking for another pirate theme classic video game? Then look no further than The Secret of Monkey Island (TSMI), one of many point-and-click adventure games released in the early 1990s. Its unique brand of humor and storytelling places it, and its sequel, among the greatest games of all time. In the classic video game, players must guide wannabe pirate Guybrush Threepwood through a series of puzzles as he tries to defeat the evil ghost pirate LeChuck. Fans still sing its praises to this very day. This TSMI footage is from the Amiga version of the game and it’s over two hours long.

9. Lemmings (1991)

Lemmings might not seem like the logical choice of animal to star in a strategy game, but in 1991 DMA Design decided to see what would happen when the two were combined. The result? Hours of maddening fun.

The concept of the game is simple – players must guide their lemmings to an exit and a certain number must survive for the level to be completed. However, with huge drops and deadly traps littered across each stage things are far from easy and making full use of the eight different roles a lemming can take on is crucial. If all this sounds too confusing, the Lemmings video will paint a clearer picture.

10. Wing Commander III: Heart of the Tiger (1994)

Aside from its action-packed missions, space combat game Wing Commander III was notable for its use of full motion video and a comparatively star-studded cast. Mark Hamill, Malcolm McDowell, and John Rhys-Davies all feature in the game’s cut scenes. The use of digitized video footage in games has given way to CGI, but there’s no doubt Wing Commander III had a huge influence on how stories are told in today’s video games. Here’s the opening sequence in all its glory:

Do you have a favorite classic video game or console? What do you think of these classic video games? Let us know in the comments below.

Will Stevens is a gamer and journalist who is part of the blog team. The company is the UK’s largest domain name registrar.

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Brad June 25, 2013 at 3:30 pm

Where are galactica and asteroids? I played them all the time. Are those considered ancient video games rather than classic video games?

2 RealPlayer June 27, 2013 at 3:05 pm

Those are good additions. Though Asteroids didn’t have some of the more cutting-edge graphics at the time.

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