From Mario to Zelda: The Best Video Games of the 80s

The 80’s saw vast changes in video gaming. From the whole industry plummeting and nearly destroying itself, to the decade seeing the arcade business rise quicker than ever. The early 80’s had their number of arcades double, while generating $5 billion dollars in revenue – the largest anyone had ever seen!

By why was there such a drastic change in gaming popularity? That’s because the games being produced were the best ever! They created a passionately addicted fan base through their vibrant, intense, gameplay.

Below I will be discussing the best games of the 80’s, to show you why they gained such a big audience and made the gaming PC business a whole lot of money!

Donkey Kong (1981)

I’m sure many of you are aware of the Donkey Kong saga, and how he has developed in gaming throughout later generations. However, Nintendo actually created the hulking, rude monkey back in the 80’s – as an arcade game. 


The games saw various different main characters; the gamer never played as the character of Donkey Kong. In fact, they played as characters protecting themselves from Kong’s exceedingly annoying skills and personality. For example throwing food down at players or just being the King Kong of games and making life as difficult and frustrating as possible. 

Donkey Kong was the reason Mario was brought to life – from the character jumping around and running from the gorilla himself to eventually allowing the saga to prosper in so many different genres. Donkey Kong pops up here, there and everywhere in Nintendo games now.

The gameplay was intense and was complex upon it’s release due to having so many levels you needed to work through in order to complete the game. This consequently only made it all the more addictive. 

Ice Climber (1984)

Ice Climber was a game that made you want to pull your hair out and never return to the arcade again…

The game was notorious for it’s extreme difficulty, and 32 (yes 32!) levels which you had to climb through. Not only that, but as you were climbing you were faced with various enemies and obstacles in which you had to avoid or defeat to continue your ice assent into the next level.

The game ends with a final boss battle between you, the Ice Climber, and the condor that stole all of your food – which is the reason why you are climbing through all those levels.

This is a game that comes with an immense feeling of satisfaction (and of course points) as you proceed to the next level – after 20 attempts trying different techniques – you can finally breathe a sigh of relief.

Pac-Man (1980)

Pac-Man was another game intended to create heart pounding, sweat-dripping-from-the-forehead moments. The maze arcade game was developed and released by Namco, who have continued the saga for decades in the gaming industry. 

As the player, you find yourself in control of a small yellow circle,with a mouth. This is Pac-Man. The aim of the game is to eat all of the dots in the maze before one of the coloured ghosts capture you. Intense right? You are given ways to slow down the pesky characters chasing you, but sometimes one wrong turn means death.

Pac-Man is one of the highest grossing, best selling game series ever. In its lifetime so far, it has generated more than $14 billion in revenue and $43 million in sales combined. Who would have through such a stressful game would gain so much popularity!

Mario Bros (1983)

Super Mario has became the most iconic game of every generations. A fun filled adventure game made with vibrant colours and cool characters, Mario Bros is one to beat.

The 80’s version – unlike the versions most of you will know of today – saw Mario actually practicing his job description as a plumber. Sent to investigate the sewers of New York, Mario has the job of fixing the pipes underground that have been overtaken by crabs, turtles and fireballs.

A tough job.

However, the character you’re probably wondering about, Luigi, is there to help Mario. Luigi was created solely to allow the game to be played in multiplayer, which makes it more appealing to the audience, as they can play alongside their friends rather than having to take turns. 

The saga continued through the 80’s creating Mario Bros 2 and 3, which saw the brothers continuing their adventures underground, and more trials being served to the pair. 

Tetris (1984)

Tetris took a slightly different path when it came to arcade gaming. Rather then being adventure or competition, Tetris was a tile matching puzzle game. It was composed of geometric shapes (made up of only 4 squares each) slowly descending from the top of the board. You could move the shapes left or right, but that was your only freedom. The aim of the game was to create a full horizontal line with no gaps, with the shapes you were offered. 

When filled, the line would disappear generating points and board space – a great necessity if you wanted to achieve high in this game. As we all know, if the shapes reach the top of the screen with no space left, you’ve lost and must start again. 

The game was devised by Soviet game designer Alexey Leonidovich Pajitnor while working at the Dorodnitsyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the Soviet Union in Moscow. 

The Legend of Zelda (1986)

The slightly later end of the 80’s saw the development of the first issue of the Zelda series. 

This game became extremely popular as it was devised as a fantasy, action-adventure mashup catering to many audiences. This is because all things magic and fantasy was extremely popular with many groups of school kids in the 80’s – with fighting and weird demons, it somewhat made them feel like adults playing a higher rated game. It also took a certain degree of smarts to get really good at this game!

The game franchise was created by Shigeru Miyamoto and Takashi Tezuka, and produced by Nintendo. 

When starting Zelda, you see yourself as the character Link – an elf-like protagonist. Throughout gaming, you see Link challenged with the tasks of rescuing Princess Zelda, and the kingdom of Hyrule from the evil warlord-turned-demon, Ganon. Not only is the franchise composed of different genres, it also encapsulates the different styles of gaming such as mind puzzles, adventure and exploration. 

This game really delivers in all aspects, proving why the gaming series has been so successful, even in this generation!

Gaming creates a whole lot of happiness and fun for so many people. And, seeing it explode in the 80’s would have made that an excited buzz for many. The success of gaming is so shocking and produces an amazing amount of money for its curators. But games aren’t just for children, take yourself back to your childhood and play some of your favorite arcade games!

Sydney is a digital marketing assistant who writes for Novatech.

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