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Best games before 1980


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I'm partial to early Atari titles like Air-Sea Battle, Star Ship, Video Olympics, Home Run, Breakout, Street Racer, Indy 500. Combat and Outlaw are good if you can get somebody to play with you. I'd say Night Driver, Maze Craze, and Adventure as well, but I think those came out in 1980.

 

Odyssey 2: Slimmer pickings, but still a few good 'uns. Probably Showdown In 2100 A.D.!, Cosmic Conflict!, Bowling!/Basketball!, Thunderball! (okay, it's shit, but I like it), or Computer Golf! The Odyssey didn't start getting really good games until about 1981.

Astrocade: 280 Zzzap/Dodge'Em, Gunfight, Brickyard, Dogpatch (I *think* this was pre-1980), Sea Wolf/Missile Attack (or whatever they were called). The maze and biplane dogfight games were decent, too. Like the Odyssey, not too much until '80 or '81.

Channel F: Video Blackjack (probably the best video card game of its time), Video Pinball (Breakout with tons of options), Sonar Search (clever sound-based Battleship game). Desert Fox is a pretty cool Tank knockoff with independently rotatable turrets and strafing capability. Drag Race is good if you're into that kind of thing.

Studio II: Bowling, Gunfight, Squash. They're still not as good as anything on other systems, but if you got stuck with a Studio II, these were your jams.

 

TRS-80: Flying Saucers (pretty shallow, but good for '70s computer arcade game), Star Trek III, Adventureland (and other Scott Adams games), Zork (that was '79 still, wasn't it?).

Atari 400/800: Star Raiders. Possibly the game of the decade there.

Apple: Apple Invaders, Breakout, Beneath Apple Manor

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There's Ultima 1 for Apple II and the temple of Apshai for Commodore Pet and TRS-80.

I honestly can't get into the Apshai games. I've tried, but they just move too slowly for me. But, it's been a while, and lately when I revisit games I remember not liking that much, I like them more than I thought I would. So maybe I'll have to give it another look. :)

 

Almost all Atari VCS games are 2-3 minutes of gameplay prevent me to enjoy those games.

That's the kind of game that was in arcades at the time, and that's what got ported over or adapted to consoles. If you want something deeper than "score as high as you can in 2:15" or "score 10 points before your opponent" in the 1970s, you probably have to go to the home computer systems.

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I honestly can't get into the Apshai games. I've tried, but they just move too slowly for me. But, it's been a while, and lately when I revisit games I remember not liking that much, I like them more than I thought I would. So maybe I'll have to give it another look. :)

 

That's the kind of game that was in arcades at the time, and that's what got ported over or adapted to consoles. If you want something deeper than "score as high as you can in 2:15" or "score 10 points before your opponent" in the 1970s, you probably have to go to the home computer systems.

 

That's why I'm not interested in video games until 1985.

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If we can expand this beyond console games, I would add Rogue, Moria, and the original Adventure.

 

Probably none of these would have been ported to home computers of the time, but they were definitely available on mainframe systems.

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Some of the best games that I can think of before 1980.

 

Channel F: Dodge It, Drag Strip, Black Jack, Desert Fox, Sonar Search, and Spitfire

 

Odyssey 2: Alien Invaders Plus, Baseball, Cosmic Conflict, Thunderball, Speedway/Spin Out

 

Atari 2600: Combat, Outlaw, Video Olympics, Indy 500, Street Racer, Home Run, Star Ship

 

Astrocade: Astro Battle, Clowns/Brickyard, Dog Fight, and Gunfight

 

Lot of games from the mid to late 1970's were head to head and multiplayer titles. By 1980-1981 you started seeing great games and killer apps.

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Rogue was early '80s, wasn't it?

 

Well, the CPRG addict lists it as 1980: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.ca/2010/02/rogue-story-and-gameplay.html

 

and Wikipedia states that it was " first developed by Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman around 1980" https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rogue_(video_game)

 

so it is right on the line...

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Just a while ago I put together a collection of the most playable 40 column Commodore PET games, a total of 31 games. To be honest most of those also date from 1980-82, although the machine arrived in the late 1970's. So even among the hobbyist PET games, it took a couple of years to get really good action out of it. Of course many of 31 are clones of arcade games, which means the home version could not predate the arcade one.

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On the Channel F, I am strongly partial to Video Whizball which is from 1978 so out of all the home console/computer games from before 1980, it might be my choice. However I haven't really played any early Atari 2600 games, nor Star Raiders for the Atari 400/800.

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I used to (kinda) think about gaming the same way as you do. I'm probably a little older than you, but when I hit double digits, I wondered why anyone would ever want to play an arcade game. Amazing games with great depth were being developed on computers and for the NES. I would pop in a disk on my C64 and play the original Mario Bros for a while, but eventually the game would kill me (as they all do), and I was left wanting more.

 

As an adult, I took the time to try and see what all the fuss was about in those old arcade games, and I discovered that there really is some depth there (but you have to look for it). A suggestion I like to make is to play them with a friend and add some competition. I'm not a very competitive person, so this didn't come naturally to me, but the arcade was about socializing and competing. If you are going to understand the draw, you've got to put the games in their context a little.

 

Get a list of the top arcade games of all time and pick 5 you know you and a friend will want to play. Create a sort of double elimination tournament out of it - here's how (this works best if neither are experienced players)

 

Player 1 gets an opening shot at a high score

Player 2 attempts to beat the high score 2x

--If player 2 succeeds

Player 1 gets up to 2 attempts to beat the high score

--If player 1 succeeds

Player 2 gets a final attempt to beat the high score

 

Each of you should get a max of 3 attempts at the game which is enough to develop a little skill and determine if you think it is ever worth playing again. Move on to game two and reverse the turn order to balance things out.

 

When you start trying to play these games for score, you discover little things about how they work. So you start to master the surface elements which frees you up to see the harder to spot details. A basic example would be when playing Dig Dug, you realize that dropping rocks triggers the vegetable but after you play a while, you see that dropping two rocks without dying on any stage drops the vegetable. You also start to develop strategies, sometimes these are simple like "At this part of 1942, I have to focus my eyes around the plane to avoid bullets." Sometimes these are a little more advanced - Pac Man strategies come to mind here. I've also got my own strategy for eating the letters in LadyBug that I've settled on to try and get higher scores. Two people actively engaged come up with better strategies, and you generally have more fun with the game as a result.

 

As for best game with release < 1980 . . . I think my vote would go to the Sprint series. This one was updated many times over the years, but the core gameplay was there way back in '76. To demonstrate its longevity, the Rare Replay (just released yesterday) even includes 3 games clearly inspired by Sprint (RC Pro Am 1/2, Cobra Triangle).

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