Original version: River Raid, released on 1982/08/19 for Atari VCS a.k.a. Atari 2600
Recommended version: River Raid, released in 1983 for Atari 800
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!
Original version: Yar’s Revenge, released on 1982/05 for Atari VCS
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.
Original version: Galaga, released in 1981 for arcade
Welcome to my new category “HONORABLE MENTION,” which is reserved for games that just barely fall short of being timeless classics. Perhaps a game has a technical or gameplay flaw that holds it back, or perhaps a game’s core gameplay is completely eclipsed by a later game. Nevertheless, a game with the title of “HONORABLE MENTION” is still good and is deserving of an article; and if you were to play it you would probably have a great time. In the interest of fairness, only one game per year can receive this title.
Original version: Centipede, released in 1980 for arcade
Refinement has always been as central an aspect to video gaming as innovation. As soon as a brilliant idea comes to the medium, it is edited and polished at such a dizzying pace that cinema seems downright sluggish. Devil May Cry (2001) introduced a semi-fixed camera that was refined by God of War (2005). Stardust (1993) used pre-rendered 3D sprite graphics that were refined by Donkey Kong Country (1994) and perfected by Vectorman (1995). Back in 1980, Dona Bailey was inspired by Space Invaders which created the “shoot ’em up” genre in 1978. Let’s look at her addition to the genre after the jump.
Original version: Asteroids, released in 1979 for arcade
In art, throughout the ages, there has been a push towards representing the subject with as much realism as possible. We can see a drastic difference between a work by Cimabue and one by the later Gaddi, who had the benefit of living a century later and thus could start out with knowledge Cimabue and his colleagues had to discover during their careers. Only after the advent of cameras and the quick, realistic “paintings” they could produce did artists adopt a widespread genuine interest in the stylized and abstract. These artists, possibly feeling threatened by the cheaper, quicker photography, founded a movement called Impressionism, in which the likes of Monet and Picasso flourished.