1983 Video Game Notes

There’s not much to say about these games. Most of them were either low-quality or unsuccessful because of the crash.

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The “patriarch of football games”

Only uses 672 bytes of RAM, making this the smallest implementation of chess on any computer

Inspired id Software

Remember this one for its unusual concept.

Reminiscent of the chase scene from “Return of the Jedi”

Crappy first-person flying game through a tunnel

Notorious for its tendency to break 2600 controllers.

Used First-person perspective, randomized items, End-game treasure guarded by boss.

Text adventure based loosely on “Colossal Cave Adventure.” Not very faithful, nor very good.

Similar to Time Pilot of the previous year. Interesting, but scaling sprites are not smooth enough and deaths are often unavoidable.

Centers around teddy bear trying to escape toy box with obstacles. Bad flickering and mediocre art assets.

Player controls alchemist who can shape-shift into an eagle. Poor keyboard layout and jerky movement marred the enjoyableness of the game.

Suspiciously similar to “E.T.”

Novel but frustrating arcade-like game. Control a cat! Evade a broom!

Good game about recognizing alphabet letters. Has brief cutscenes between levels.

Space Invaders clone for Commodore Vic-20

A maze-shooter that’s somehow more boring than Berzerk! Example of bad gameplay not being able to overcome great graphics.

Opposite of Sea Wolf. Instead of a submarine shooting surface vessels, player on surface fishes for fish.

Penguin racing game.

Giant ants are attacking. Aah, help.

Very cute and original game. Just falls short of true classic because of trial-and-error.

Introduced neat concepts like crawling and climbing across foliage, but controls aren’t tight enough for 3rd stage to be enjoyable.

A fantasy chess game, obsolesced by its sequel in 1984, Archon II.

Bad Atari 2600 game where two players try to hit each other with artillery.

Phoenix clone for Atari 2600.

A reskin of “Taz,” made the same year. Way to go, people.

First Laserdisc game, preceding Dragon’s Lair. Released 1982 in Japan, 1983 in US.

Fast-paced dungeon-trawler where you must run around maze and find key.

Educational game meant to teach about first few elements.

Strange, surreal clone of Empire Strikes Back

Twin-stick shooter, sort of tower-defense forbear. Has RADAR function.

Based on the comic strip by John Hart.

Yet another game by Mystique

Good maze game with fast action.

ZX Spectrum clone of Burger Time

One of the first titles for the Famicom. Not very good, unfortunately.

Game made up of five sequential mini-games concerning invasion of Normandy beach.

Activision’s answer to Tempest, I guess. Not bad; not good either.

Another ZX Spectrum clone of Burger Time

Similar to Lode Runner

Pleasant, but not a keeper. Gameplay isn’t very deep and whole game is just “nice.”

Vertical scrolling shooter which scrolls way too quickly.

Forgettable golf game for Arcade

A trial and error-based game where player must collect keys and unlock the safe in a set time.

Star-fox of its day. Really cool stuff, but ship handles like a wet sponge. Could have been awesome.

Similar to River Raid. Has 3 Dimensions like Zaxxon, but is totally boring, like Zaxxon.

Copycat of Pitfall!

Reverse tower defense. Very early Strategy Game. Research until memorized.

First game in series. More a rough draft than anything else.

Turn-based strategy game that heavily favored the British. Scoring system was whack.

Clone of Lode Runner for Apple II

Game with cool concept. Take command of a pirate ship and fight other ships 20 years before AssCreed IV: Black Flag!

Frustrating Spanish game about a flea who looks like a frog when jumping.

Rhythmic game where player decorates bun with icing on an assembly line.

Includes two games. Telemark is the better one and is a great four-player game.

Intellivision’s answer to Centipede. Player uses can of bug spray to protect flowers from bees (what?).

Jet pack-wearing captain must fly through tunnels to retrieve thingy. Pretty cool game, actually.

Meh. First person maze game for two players. Luck-based, tedious.

One of 1983’s many shovelware titles.

Early example of shovelware. Included 50 awful games, during the first year of the video game crash.

Excessively difficult but very fun vertical scrolling shooter for Apple II. Milestone of engineering.

The good: contains a training level and requires lateral thinking. The bad: too frustrating to figure out and to work with.

Arcade baseball game that was very popular in Japan.

Champion version of Lode Runner

Just as the title says.

Promotional maze game for 2600 by Purina

One of the first driving simulators. Wasn’t fun because you weren’t racing against other cars.

RPG mixed with board game. Up to four players may play via hot-seat.

Horrible 2600 fighting “platformer”

Collect eggs! Avoid enemies, coz you can’t fight them like in Burger Time!

Laserdisc game using dubbed anime footage. Used unique feedback loop to keep animation and gameplay in sync, whereas other games would desync as the disc players aged.

First football game made specifically with strategy in mind.

The game that just wouldn’t die, Congo Bongo was Sega’s answer to Donkey Kong. Despite being a critical and commercial failure, it was ported to everything.

Fun but frustrating game where chef must pound ingredients into bowl while avoiding bad ones. Random movement of ingredients made avoiding them ultimately impossible.

Middling first-person maze game

Interesting idea but too much like work

ZX Spectrum clone of Space Invaders

Medieval graphical adventure in vein of Mystery House.

Opposite of Kaboom! Instead of catching falling objects, you’re repelling climbing ones.

First game to feature fully digitized sounds. Uses an optical light gun shaped like a crossbow (most other arcade games use a positional gun). Some of the most advanced graphics for 1983. Unfortunately, it masks a shallow gun gallery game.

Pretty blah maze chase game. Its most distinctive feature is the isometric viewpoint.

Maze game where you have to collect widgets.

Tempest meets Star Fox. Polygonal space shooter that could have been cool, if not for the overly limiting technology.

Clone of Space Panic

Clone of Amidar which is based on Pac-Man

Very significant game. Heavily influenced Gauntlet.

Great graphical adventure. Could have been excellent, but the drawings are disorienting in regards to which direction you’re going and the text window is so short (three lines) that you can never see what your last command was. Also, every screen takes a few seconds to draw.

Mr. Do for computer. Instead of being required to kill all enemies, you are required to grab all gems.

Computer platforming game about collecting eggs. That’s about it.

Gets an F for Effort. Could have been pretty cool, I guess, but it’s shallow, repetitive, and difficult.

First official Doctor Who game. Contains 4 minigames that are clones of other arcade games.

Once again, a cool idea marred by bad execution. Imprecise controls mean that you’ll often perform the wrong action, and it could very well cost you your life.

Nonsensical (even for Mario) plot and restrictive play area make this one the Kong to forget.

The worst-selling launch title for the NES and a terrible educational game.

The earliest example I can think of, of a game that was beloved because of rose-tinted glasses.

Computer clone of Joust, without platforms or lava.

From the CGW review: A strategy game based on Anne McCaffrey’s classic space fantasy novels, this product combines tactical elements (thread fighting) and operational aspects (negotiations with other Weyrs). It offers some interesting features, but it is dated and primitive.

Could have been a great shooter. Has lots of great ideas, but fails to take full advantage of them.

Apple II version of Defender, I guess. Very limited and repetitive.

Game allowing you to create and play through RPG dungeons.

Down-to-earth text adventure that takes place in real world. Pretty vivid, short descriptions. Had a lot going for it, but the player often has no idea what to do next or even how to figure it out.

Weird but somehow popular game about an elevator and shooty men.

Spin-off of Zork. A good game with new features (e.g. hunger) that are flawed in execution.

Outstanding game that offers challenge from maneuvering, but without the frustrating slippy-sliding like Pole Position.

RTS concerning space-borne illness

Just like the air at the top of the Himalayas, the enjoyment here is spread too thin.

Showed us that politics can be fun (but mostly hard work :/ )

Jam-packed with tons of features. I assume it was indeed exciting back then.

Repetitive shooter that did a few things right, for example: it has inertia on the space ship.

RPG that had fun with itself but unfortunately had too many serious flaws. Research further.

Text adventure where your goal is to seduce the farmer’s daughter.

Pac-Man clone.

Galaxian clone.

A cute little puzzle game with equally adorable music. Not very clear about control.

Isometric Pac-Man

Cute little game about a boy who fights his way through a food fight to get his ice cream cone.

Very ambitious shooter with excellent graphics, but frustrating limits on shooting.

Perhaps trying to ride coattails of Attack of the Mutant Camels?

Another educational game, oh joy. To be fair, this one is much better than DK, Jr. Math

Only accepts perfect spellings of words, but its spellings are often incorrect, so a Frenchman could fail this game.

Frogger clone

Great game by Activision

Middling licensed game that had little to do with its source material

Handheld system not affiliated with Galaga. Gameplay is like the trench stages from Star Wars

Gameplay is quite similar to Sword of Fargoal. Ruined by excessive backtracking.

First submarine simulation, and also most boring

Strategy game with hex tiles, reminiscent of Civilization V’s strategic view.

Pretty good on first playthrough but the magic quickly fades.

Game about a hungry little guy who blobs his way around creatures to get food. Somewhat shallow gameplay.

Crappy “strategy” game about keeping Godzilla from attacking Tokyo. Mercifully brief.

Digital version of an old game. Obsolesced by SNES version in 1994

Very interesting experimental game. Read Wikipedia for maths and infos.

Sub-par edutainment game that earned a Crap Shoot feature.

Centipede clone

Game about sentient pitcher who drinks clouds to put out living fires.

Unremarkable shooter

Similar to Donkey Kong. Pretty, but soon boring

Difficult for the wrong reasons. Could have been a great mix of twitch gameplay and ponderous strategic thinking, but fails.

First game for the Amistrad CPC. Clunky.

Great minimalist horror game.

Very moody, atmospheric text adventure, but with painfully slow draw times.

Enduro, this is not. It would like to be a top-down version of Enduro, but it widely misses the mark. A track with a lot of variety does not a good game make.

Middling game where you have to use hockey puck to throw opponents into wall, and make a goal to stun them. Only challenge comes from the opponents being faster.

A series of cheap knock-offs of more popular, better games

Platformer that intentionally controlled like crap to suck quarters.

Atari 2600 clone of Donkey Kong meant for children

Game world was too big and backtracking was tedious. Good game, educational and imaginative.

Infidel (video game)

Good game, but far from Infocom’s best. Required too much of player.

Adventure game about a mental patient trying to escape “The Institute.”

First stat-based Baseball game as opposed to the arcade-style recreations past.

Pretty good soccer game. Play short match against human opponent or AI with difficulty from 1-9

Frustrating. High difficulty curve requires you to get the hang of the game before you can have fun.

Absolute travesty of a game. This is a perfect example of why the industry crashed.

Mediocre “collect the widget game.” Similar to Adventures of Tron

Boring version of Moon Patrol for ZX Spectrum. It was a huge commercial success; the Spectrum version alone sold more than 300,000 copies to a market of only one million Spectrum owners at the time,[8] and providing the fledgling company with a turnover in excess of £1 million.[4]

Another terrible license game featuring Journey. Game uses black-and-white digitized photographs of Journey’s faces for the sprites’ heads. That was the only good idea in the game.

Pac-Man levels are zoomed out and very large. Problem is that finishing even one level takes forever. Becomes a chore.

Electronic version of those slide puzzles.

From a user review at World of Spectrum: “Hard on both eyes and ears, this pathetic excuse for a game wasn’t already good in its own time, now it’s absolutely awful. If your idea of fun is to wait 15 minutes or so staring at a mess of crude, color-clashing sprites, for the “right” time to jump through a hole in a platform, just to see another hole opening under your character’s feet and being forced to start all over again, then this piece of garbage is for you.”

Pretty decent Platformer where you have to touch every inch of ground to light it up.

Beamrider meets Defender. Ship’s ice-skating control makes precision maneuvers difficult, and by then you’re already dead.

An early computer music synthesizer for the C64

Very fun game with fast gameplay. Main drawback is that it gets repetitive.

Clone on DK Jr. for computers

Clone of DK. Wonderfully silly box art. Seriously, look at it.

First entry in the King’s Quest series. Has only historical significance. The game itself was crap.

A faithful adaptation of DK for Dragon PC

Strategy game taking place in Sahara during WW II. Slow, plodding, and too easy.

Strange game.

Surprisingly fun licensed game. Somewhat shallow, but a nice diversion.

Berzerk clone for the 5200.

Krull is challenging but too tedious. It sports some fine visuals but the eye candy can’t make up for the lackluster gameplay.

One of many, many snake games.

Way too frickin difficult. Supposed to be like Qix where you cordone away sections of playfield.

One of the greats, this was one of the most popular (and most-copied) games of 1983. The only problem was that the imprecise aim of the hole-digging often left you dead.

Strategy game played over email, moderated by a GM. Full game takes about 25 years to complete.

Was built in a cool way: Like all Level 9 adventures of its time it was written in the in-house A-code language which was platform-independent – this implementation of a virtual machine allowed for quick porting across platforms.

Sequel to Jetpac. Just as boring, if not more so.

Laserdisc game with jet (F-16?) going at, presumably, three times the speed of sound.

Mr. Do clone

Possibly the most downright bizarre concept for a game, ever. Read it now.

Excellent Platformer that’s tough-as-nails. You will die constantly but it’s your own fault.

Two parts, a shooting game and an on-foot mission. Controls for on-foot missions are awful.

Mediocre maze game with finicky controls and (sometimes) luck-based deaths.

Debut of Luigi. Performed poorly in Japan. Controls are way too slippery (Joust?) but this is fixed in the GBA version.

Isometric maze-chase game which had two levels, upper and lower, with 4 elevators in corners.

Another Mr. Do clone

Contains some of the best graphics and sound for the Intellivision. Its presentation and variety are pretty hard to resist. With a few extra layers of polish, it could have been great.

Another game that could have been great. Its great atmosphere and animation are countered by somewhat unresponsive controls and failure to stay enticing after many playthroughs.

ZX Spectrum clone of Centipede

First Massively Multiplayer Empire-building game.

Vertical scrolling shooter. Great game, but obsolesced by later vertical scrollers.

Bothersome arcade-style game where you have to quickly brush teeth before they fall out. Depressing idea, and not even well-executed.

Pac-Man clone for C64

Strange little clone of Lode Runner with blocky, jerky movements.

Arcade-like game centered around killing code bugs. Extremely annoying sound and monotonous gameplay

Game similar to Alien Garden in that it’s more about the “experience” than the gameplay.

ASCII-based Roguelike which is based on Tolkien’s books

Isometric dirt bike racer on Intellivision. Terrible controls, but realistic physics and ability to create user tracks, a year before Excitebike.

Requires too-fast reflexes in order to be successful.

Great graphics and sound, but wretched controls.

Arcade-like game where housewife has to struggle against chores.

Supposed to be maze-chase game, but it sucks and I hate it.

1-4 player strategy game based on colonizing moon.

Cool detective game, but too much like work.

Centipede clone

Annoying and overly complicated herding game. Just play Stampede instead.

Strategy game by MicroProse. Unbalanced but innovative

Boring strategy game that was surprisingly intense during battle.

Cute strategy game where you have to collect apples while avoiding enemies to get to your house.

Boring version of M.U.L.E.

Clone of Anteater

Great game that was a real step ahead for sports games.

Early tower defense game. Could have been really fun, but has awful controls. You have to push button to go opposite direction in order to slow down/come to a stop.

Joust clone. So, a mediocre version of an already mediocre game? Sounds like a winner.

Unnecessary Pac-Man sequel with shallow gameplay.

Pretty fun, but man is that music awful!

Terrific multiplayer game from Starpath for 2600. Innovative split-screen mode was just one of its features.

An official ROM hack (possibly the first). Commissioned by Coke and developed by Atari.

A short and mediocre entry In the Scott Adams series

Unfairly difficult platform game.

Activision game where you control a toothbrush and fight against tooth decay. Game is meant to promote good dental habits but just makes me really uncomfortable. Those poor teeth.

Q*Bert clone that was unusual for being one of the first games to be built by a team. In 1983 most games were still being made by one or two persons who had multiple jobs.

Some misspellings, and the game is too slow.

More stuff than Pole Position, just doesn’t have the same charm.

Pixel hunting ruins the fun. Extremely innovative title, just tedious.

Introduced new take on Space Invaders. After first wave, enemies would move independently (like centipede segments in Centipede).

Bad Amidar clone

Bad twitch game defined by trial-and-error and constant backtracking.

Not a very fun trivia game, and a terrible Pac-Man game

Too meticulous to be fun.

Good text adventure game, but too much like a Sierra game.

Somewhat fun. Somewhat frustrating.

Fun for the first level, but soon gets repetitive and shallow.

Very weird shooting game with unintuitive controls.

Four-player version of the light cycle game from Tron.

Graphical text adventure with no help or direction whatsoever.

Strategy game that’s difficult to understand. Graphics like Ultima, hex grid like Civ V.

First commercially produced 4X game. Boring menus filled with numbers and math and junk. Just go play EVE online if that’s what you want.

There’s really not much to say about this.

Clone of Boulderdash which relies either entirely on trial-and-error or meticulous studying of the map in detail.

Clone of Missile Command

Pretty innovative RPG for its time.

Awful shovelware game. First video game to be based on Le Revange du Jedi.

Fun Atari 2600 game. Did a lot of things right but misses the mark.

Dumb Berzerk clone

More complex version of Battlezone, but misses the mark.

Teaches us that even the best graphics can’t save a bad game.

Had a protagonist that couldn’t jump, years ahead of Bionic Commando.

Amidar clone for IBM PC

Boring clone of Battlezone

Dumb game with a stupid protagonist with an idiot hairdo. Stupid protagonist inspired a homebrew game called Kill Sammy.

Interesting pond simulator where you control a tadpole and have to protect it then mate & build a colony.

Defensive shooter where you fly plane on top of screen instead of drive tank on bottom.

An early adventure game best summarized thus: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mA3xGtlWuK0

Like Battlezone, but entirely defensive. Cool parallax scrolling doesn’t make up for crappy game.

Sequel to Mask of the Sun. Even more dead ends and ways to die.

A breakthrough boxing title published by the same company that brought you “King’s Quest.”

Imagine playing a game like Ghostbusters for the NES, but only the driving parts.

Actually came out in 1985. Something to do with internet.

OK graphic adventure, difficult.

Based on Jump Bug

Crappy open-world shooter. Sort of like Defender, but with a bit of Pac & Pal thrown in.

Half text-adventure, half game.

Important game—was the inspiration for NetWars

Pool game. Since obsolesced by newer pool games

Technically, a very impressive title. Downfall comes from loopy AI and low difficulty.

Very primitive but for its time groundbreaking game. From YouTube user BigDuke6ixx: “I had this. It took 15mins to load from tape and often wouldn’t load at the first attempt. That was a problem with the media rather than the program. Great memories.”

Ripoff of Manic Miner. Sequel to Blagger.

Space Invaders clone

Galaxian conversion

Your Spectrum “This is a collection of bad ‘magazine type’ programs thrown together, with less than spectacular graphics and an average choice of colours. And because it’s written in Basic, it’s not particularly fast. “ [3]

Crash “Nice clear graphics and a veritable MGM musical score makes this a very enjoyable game. Recommended” [4]

Someone’s lying, and if I had to guess I’d say it’s the one that wrote “veritable MGM score”

Very clunky Platformer that gets old real quick. One nice feature is that at the beginning, it starts at end of level and slowly pans to beginning, showing how far away you are in meters on a counter.

Clone of Amidar for 2600

Bad Donkey Kong reimagining. Had nice ideas and cool voice synth, but executes them poorly.

Controls are over-sensitive and scrolling jerky. Good news tho: It let you bind your own controls before game start.

Terrific 8-bit rendition of Concerto in G minor. Unfortunately controls are over-eager and timer is too strict.

Cute climbing game where you climb over an enemy then stomp it. Gets repetitive fast.

Horrible, horrible shooter. A true “crash of 1983” game.

Sluggish, like a wet sponge

Good game, but completely outdated. Better SW games have been made since.

Rubbish game with top down view, two sabers. A mess.

Horizontal scrolling shooter with a vertical-oriented screen—a novel feature. Unfortunately, this vertical orientation doesn’t work with a faster paced game, just with a slower game like Scramble. Also some enemies pop out of the top of the screen for some cheap deaths. Zzxxon-like graphics.

First RTS to have mainstream appeal. And then it constantly crashed.

ZX Platformer that made the most of the color capabilities, but played like butt.

Nasty sex game.

Maze-like shooter. Very uninteresting and boring.

Qix clone. Allows diagonal movement.

First game to have stereoscopic 3D effect made with sprites. Very smooth scaling, but disorienting controls. Horizontal is reversed and vertical isn’t.

Quite similar to that restaurant game from the year before where the waiter has to hop over elevator platforms to reach the customer

Two human players against two computer players. If you’re alone, computer also takes over as substitute for second human player.

Could have been terrific, but after 10 levels the action is too hectic to be enjoyable.

Infocom game where you control six robots but can’t move yourself. Interesting premise.

Like Joe Danger, except crap.

Very fun car game, but too-complicated controls make it difficult for the wrong reasons.

One entry in an unfinished series of games based around a contest.


One of the worst games for the NES, though it was quite innovative.

Very fun beer game.

Boring, excessively easy game with the Tazmanian devil

First in a series. Who cares?

Just another Snake game

Early attempt at a Star-Fox like game. Pretty good try for being on the ZX Speccy

Strategy game takes place in space, with a militant empire originating on the moon Titan.

Very unsettling game where you have to protect teeth from decaying by sugary foods.

Classic innovative game. Uneven difficulty takes away from an almost excellent game.

First train simulator. Bright & colorful, but annoying sound effects and high difficulty. No tutorial level was included.

Decent racing game. One of the very few Spectrum games also available in ROM format for use with the Interface 2.

Clone of Amidar, but only coloring lines, not filling in shapes.

3D first-person maze game for 2600. One of three games to use RAM Plus. Technically impressive but shallow gameplay.

Forgotten text adventure from Bug Byte

Known as the spiritual successor of Pole Position, but 100 times better.

The last of the original Ultima trilogy. Read further.

Terribly simplistic, although it did have a great soundtrack.

IDK, my BFF Jill.

Cute & could be very fun, if not for memorization-based trial-and-error

Original concept but frustrating implementation. Town was fresh and convincing, and game displayed bleak humor.

Another graphical adventure with way-too-long drawing times

Nicolas Van Dyk was only 13 years old when designing and publishing this game. Today he looks back at the game as “terrible.”

Side-scrolling shooter with vertical screen. Doesn’t work because unlike Scramble, it’s fast paced.

RTS with four players. Described in one word, it would be “boring.”

Cute and zany little shooter, but frustrating. Very colorful and detailed sprites, mish-mash of genres. Match-making shooter is an interesting idea.

Whatever. I don’t even care.

So-so graphical text adventure. Because of the graphical limitations, many of the wax statues bear a striking resemblance to the late great David Niven.

Joust clone

Nothing to distinguish it from the previous two games, which weren’t excellent to begin with.

Visually and aurally appealing, but rather WTF? in nature.

Pornographic game made by a man named Poon. Seriously.

Not as good as Imagine’s other titles and not as fun to play.

Good dogfighting game.


<< Runners-up of 1983                              Tetris >>


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