2nd Generation Video Game Notes

  • 1981—Jump Bug

First game to feature parallax scrolling. Crappy Donkey Kong clone.

  • 1981—Castle Wolfenstein

First stealth game, far-reaching influence. Game itself is not that good.

1981 arcade game—only game ever made in East Germany. Contains knockoffs of Western games.

Alien Garden

Strategy game, more about “experience” than gameplay. Discover through trial and error which crystals are food and which are deadly.

Blended together Frogger, Donkey Kong, and Jungle King’ also adds fourth gameplay element

Early 4X game

Improved upon Combat for the VCS

Read the history behind the game.

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

Used Intellivoice. Console-ified version of Eastern Front (1941)

Collection of games for the Apple ][, all unlocked and open. Now in the public domain.

Pornographic game by Mystique, one of the worst ever made.

Very difficult to crack. Wikipedia article explains.

Early educational game

Music played only while character walks over squares ~1 note per square

First console sequel, just barely misses the mark of excellence.

Strategy game somewhat similar to FTL, uses Newton’s first law.

One of the earliest pinball games. Based on real-life table.

Murder Mystery, very good NPCs

Worth an honorable mention. Very solid, but not groundbreaking (Phoenix clone)

Has a cool name (the game itself sucks, though)

First contest involving video game (that I know of)

Very interesting concept. Research further.

Could be downloaded using Game Line for the Atari 2600. Research game further.

  • Dragonstomper

Awesome RPG for the 2600

First text adventure to have a real-time deadline, same year as Executive Suite. Game itself was awful, though considered good back in 1982.

Promotes player within company based on series of questions. Interesting premise.

Included updated dialogue including “I’m a robot, not a chicken.”

Game in the same vein as “Adventure,” based on Monty Python & the Holy Grail.

Players goal is to become the Godfather. Evading the authorities is a must.

Player is Prime Minister who tries to manage England’s economy before reelection.

One of the games was released as “Attack of the Mutant Camels,” which was hilariously and coincidentally the name of a completely different game released the same year.

Licensed game starring Journey. “Escape” doesn’t actually play anywhere in the game. The title song is “Don’t Stop Believin’.”

Unique control scheme, quite popular, had jumping & flying which were still new.

Protagonist’s ship is a plastic toy, projected with mirrors onto the screen.

Based on Julius Caesar’s campaigns. One of the first Real-Time Tactics games.

Opposite of Missile Command; player destroys bases. Good game, but not great.

Early puzzle game. Looks just like the hacking mini-game from Bioshock.

First example of a sequel that’s really a 1.5 instead of 2.

Naming contest for game went unfulfilled since publisher went bankrupt. Called “Octopus” in Europe. In 1994 Digital Press had a contest resulting in name “Going Under—” referring to both the game’s content and the publisher’s fate.

Renowned for being strange and very creative. Crisp visuals and great sound, but falls short with unintuitive gameplay.

First erotic computer game. Just read the article.

Based on “The Three Little Pigs,” player never attacks wolf; only rebuilds house.

Phaser Patrol

A very good space-shooting game with a high level of ambition typical of Starpath.

Treasure hunt that led to real-world solution.

Centered around emergency relocation of a population.

Never officially released. Twin-stick shooter that lets player face eight different directions.

Required 2 joysticks—one to move and the other to work the inventory. Some good ideas here.

Flying sim by Sid Meier. Proved how diverse & innovative 1982 was, but unfortunately a bad game.

First-person shooting game similar to Star Fox

Crappy text adventure with Monty Python-inspired humor shoehorned into it

Strategy game requiring player to manage country (military, taxation, etc.) while going up against eight other players or AIs.

Sword-fighting game. Remember this one when you’re reviewing Monkey Island.

Swim upstream. Go left/right and dive to avoid obstacles, collect fruit.

Interesting idea suffering from horrible implementation. Meant as a series of four games, only two were made.

An early rogue-like. Would go on to inspire Diablo.

Premise is to shoot down aircraft from WWI bi-planes to flying saucers in 2001.

Time-travelling text adventure by Sierra. Marred by frequent disk changing exacerbated by frequent red herrings.

Tron: Solar Sailer

A terrible game based on Tron. Use as an example of a bad licensed game, and Tron Deadly Discs as an example of a good game based on the same property.

Earliest commercial Star Trek game

Developer must have been confused. In the book no one could harm the alien ships. In this game that’s all you do.

Xenos (video game)

Interesting adventure about destroying an alien’s mother ship.

Beautiful vector arcade game about taking back 8 cities from aliens. Hilariously, this vector monitor (as with many others) had a notorious tendency to catch fire.

Good game (not great) about trying to keep animals locked up and saving your girlfriend Zelda from a coconut-throwing monkey


Innovative title that used isometric view to simulate              3D environment. Unfortunately when the wow factor is removed, the game left over doesn’t have much to it.

Yar’s Revenge [1982-05] |Atari 2600|

It’s funny how game consoles and computers carry different connotations with them. Even though consoles are just computers designed for a specific purpose, they carry a different association. Today, consoles are considered more “sociable” whereas PC gaming is often considered suitable for a “lone-wolf.” Multiplayer games on consoles are built with the living room in mind, and up until the seventh generation any game with a multiplayer mode included local multiplayer (i.e., the other players are sitting next to you instead of miles away) by default. In the 1970s and ’80s consoles also carried the connotation of shrinking down arcade cabinets to cartridges. Ever since the days of Home Pong consoles tried their hardest to bring arcade games to households.

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River Raid [1982-08-19] |Atari VCS|


Isn’t it amazing how war, the greatest misfortune, often provides the greatest backdrop for a story? Whether it’s an epic tale of a warrior’s fight as in The Iliad, or the slow torment of a man’s mind as in “Lawrence of Arabia,” war has a seemingly limitless capacity for showcasing the ultimate struggle in all its manifestations. It makes sense then that video games, tasking the player with overcoming a struggle, would be so well suited to war. What makes River Raid so special, though, is that it’s one of the first shooters to take place on a “realistic” depiction of Earth. The cover of the manual even appears to be alluding to the mountainous jungles of Viet Nam. So let’s go raid that river!

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Q*Bert [1982-10] |Arcade|

There are exceptions to everything, it seems. It’s possible to build a Chevy that’s better than a Ford (in theory), it’s possible to make a cartoon about ponies that men can enjoy, and Q*Bert has proven it’s possible for an isometric viewpoint not to muck up your enjoyment of a game.

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Mr. Do [1982] |Arcade| HONORABLE MENTION


There are some questions in life that are just crazy hard to answer. “Can a game be called a maze game if there’s no actual maze?” Universal seemed to think so when they made Mr. Do. Other questions are easier to answer, such as, “Are clowns absolutely terrifying?” That answer is obviously no.

Look how happy he is to see you! ^_^

And now that Pennywise has filled you with good cheer, let’s look at Mr. Do!

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Serpentine [1982] |Apple ][| HONORABLE MENTION


“Hi-res” had a different meaning back in 1982…

It’s time to conclude our snake trilogy with Serpentine, the maze chase game where the hunter is also the hunted. It’s all been building up to this. First, you saw how the maze chase genre was open to interpretation, then you saw how snake-based gameplay could compliment it. And now, it’s time for some serious snake-eat-snake action! Er, snake-eat-other-snake. This isn’t like Nibbler; you eat other snakes, not yourself. On purpose.

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Nibbler [1982] |Arcade|

In my Ms. Pac-Man feature I remarked that the 1981 game Lady Bug demonstrated that the “maze chase” genre allows for many different interpretations, and now I’m here to show you that it can be taken in an entirely different direction with Nibbler, a game that makes traveling through the maze steadily more and more restrictive by filling it with a snake. Intrigued? I thought so. Read on after the jump.


Pictured: an unrelated Nibbler.

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Snake Byte [1982] |Apple ][|

“I have had it with these mother***ing snakes on this Euclidean plane!” -not Samuel L. Jackson

Let us remember these words of wisdom as we look back on the granddaddy of snake games. Although not the first game to feature snakes, Snake Byte did set the template off of which countless games would be based. Just as Pong and Space Invaders before it, Snake Byte was at the head of a list that would only grow longer and longer just like its myriad protagonists.

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