34 Things We Loved About Playing Video Games in the 80s

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Ah, the 80s. Back then things were a little more carefree. Whether you watched Muppet Babies episodes or Hulk Hogan body slam Andre the Giant at Wrestlemania 3, the decade of excess had something for everyone.

Of course, it was also the era that video games took hold of pop culture. The arcades thrived, only to dwindle again, and the home market found a pick-me-up from a surprise player, Nintendo. It was a special time.

On that note, we stepped into the time machine to recap 34 awesome things we loved about 80s gaming. You may not remember them all, but it's worth reliving or experiencing for the first time.

Blowing up the Death Star in the Star Wars Arcade Game


Watching the Death Star explode in the original 1977 Star Wars was incredible. Atari somehow replicated that feeling with its arcade game, where you could destroy the battle station on your own terms. KABOOM.

Seeing "The Chase" Cut Scene from Ms. Pac-Man

Bally/Midway's follow-up to Pac-Man included a handful of great cinemas to keep the player going through each maze. One in particular was a real delight, watching Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man pursue each other like true lovebirds. Image Source

That Annoying Dog Laughing at You in Duck Hunt

It's bad enough that your aim sucks with the NES Zapper and you can't hit ducks. On top of that, your loyal mutt snickers at your performance after the round. Hey buddy, don't forget who feeds you. Image Source

Flying in Super Mario Bros. 3

Wait...you can fly? When playing Super Mario Bros. 3 for the first time and acquiring the Raccoon suit, you can build up speed and take to the air with Mario, reaching a new area. Who knew that a plumber could soar? Image Source

Beating Mike Tyson in Punch-Out!!

Nintendo's boxing game throws many opponents your way, but the most challenging one, no doubt, is Tyson. With his lightning quick punches and reflexes, you'll be lucky to land enough strikes to make him tumble. At least your ears are safe. Knocking him our, naturally, was sweet science indeed.

Using the Konami Code to Beat Contra

With the release of Contra on the NES, Konami introduced its famous code: Up, Up, Down, Down, Left, Right, Left, Right, B, A, Start. With it, you could get 30 soldiers, as well as other effects in different games, like Gradius and Life Force. Clearly the greatest cheat code in video game history.

E.T. Almost Destroys the Video Game Industry with the Infamous Crash


Leave it to Atari and the mega-licensed but poorly produced E.T. the Extra Terrestrial for the Atari 2600 to bring the video game industry crumbling down. In 1983, excessive and unsold copies of the game led to a crippling blow for sales – and the industry didn't recover until 1985 with Nintendo and the NES. How bad was it? Atari reportedly buried the unsold cartridges in New Mexico.

Becoming a World Warrior in Capcom's Street Fighter

In 1989, Capcom launched a new franchise that would stick with fans for well over 20 years – Street Fighter. Featuring two-player versus mechanics and the ability to perform special moves, the game achieved cult status. However, its popularity exploded two years later with the arrival of Street Fighter II. For the record, Karate Champ was the first competitive fighting game, but its two-joystick system wasn't well received.

Beating Dragon's Lair for the First Time


Back in 1983, Dragon's Lair was quite the innovation, allowing gamers to play through an interactive cartoon. It had its frustrating moments – pushing the joystick the wrong way and leading Dirk the Daring to a hilarious demise – but the true satisfaction came from beating the game and getting that kiss from Princess Daphne. So worth it.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles' Four-Player Arcade Romps


When Konami introduced the popular Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles in a four-player beat-em-up, it gained huge success, allowing a group of friends to work together to battle the likes of Shredder, Krang and other foes from the series. The fun continued on the NES a year later with a modified port of the game – although the real fun was playing through it again in 2007 on Xbox Live. Cowabunga!

Discovering that Samus Aran...is a Woman?!


One of the biggest shockers to come out of Nintendo's games in the 80s occurred during the ending sequence for Metroid. After fighting through various rooms and eventually bringing down Mother Brain, you discover that Samus Aran is in fact a kick-ass chick. This was an epic move on Nintendo's part.

Getting Double the Firepower in Galaga


Know what bummed us out the first time we played Galaga? Watching our ship get captured by a snarky alien. Fortunately, we were able to retrieve it by shooting that sucker out of the air, then connecting the captured ship with our current spacecraft for double the firepower. Now that's how you clean up high scores on the challenging stages.

Grabbing a Falling Human in Mid-Air While Playing Defender


Saving humans is a big hassle in Williams' classic arcade game, especially when enemy ships try to pick them up. Luckily, you can blast those ships out of the sky, then come swooping in to grab the human before he or she perishes from the fall. Sorry, aliens, it's just not your day. Image Source

"Thank you, but our princess is in another castle!"


Wait a second. There's a booby-trapped castle that Mario has to get through, and then a monstrous turtle creature guarding the door that needs to be avoided. After defeating him, we go to reap the rewards – and it's just a toad person? It would've been nice to know which castle the Princess was in. Oh wait, world 8-4. Yep, we're there. Image Source

Mario Pulls a Surprise Heel Turn and Becomes the Villain


After playing the 1981 arcade game Donkey Kong, you come to appreciate the character's (originally called Jumpman) heroic deeds. However, then you play Donkey Kong Jr. and realize that Mario has not only captured his nemesis, but also commands an army of evil animals. Thankfully, he would make amends years later – but the scars remain. Image Source

Using the Power Glove and Going to See The Wizard


Mattel's Power Glove controller was – and continues to be – a perplexing device where you use your hand to play certain games. For that matter, Nintendo couldn't help but promote the peripheral with the Fred Savage movie The Wizard – which by the way, advertised Super Mario Bros. 3. It sold well, and continues to be a popular prop, though it still doesn't work as well as we'd like. As for The Wizard, it was a better flick than Super Mario Bros.: The Movie, right? Even with dialogue like, "He touched my breast!" Not to mention Christian Slater.

The First Time You Received the Power Sword in the Legend of Zelda


"It's dangerous to go alone, take this!" After walking into a cave and finding a helpful old man, you're blessed with a powered-up sword that can shoot a beam at enemies with a full charge. The first time using it, we couldn't help but feel like we had all the power in the world – even if the Triforce was just outside our reach.

Genesis Does


After spending years with the Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Master System, we thought gaming couldn't get any better. In 1989, the Sega Genesis came along and changed that, with faithful ports of such arcade games as Altered Beast, Ghouls n' Ghosts and more – but for home play! It would lead to an infamous 16-bit war in the early 90s that changed the game industry.

To see the rest of the list, head over to Prima Games.

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