Gaming Highlights From 1984

Generation X.

Turn back the clock 30 years to 1984. Ronald Reagan was reelected into his second term as president of the United States, the United Kingdom signed an agreement to transfer ownership of Hong Kong back to China, and Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, was born.

Those events, and many more, made a lasting impact on society for the decades that followed, but 1984 was also a hallmark year for video games. A major hardware manufacturer found itself backed into a corner, while another introduced a console that would forever change the shape of the North American video game industry.

Here's a look at the major events in video gaming that took place 30 years ago, in 1984.

Atari announces the Atari 7800, sells out to Commodore

The Atari 7800 was eventually delayed until 1986.

Atari unveiled the Atari 7800 console in 1984, as a follow-up to the failed Atari 5200. The 5200 launched just prior to the North American video game crash in 1983, which saw an oversaturated gaming market decimate Atari's market valuation by almost two-thirds. Unfortunately for Atari, it would have to sell its consumer devision and brand name in 1984 to Jack Tramiel, the ex-head of Commodore, after he left his company earlier that year. As a result, the Atari 7800 was delayed and eventually released under the Atari Corporation brand in 1986. A total of 59 games were released for the 7800 before the system was discontinued in 1991.

Nintendo teases its NES prototype, the Advanced Video System

The AVS was eventually released as the NES in '85.

Nintendo found its footing in North America in the arcades, like many video game publishers of the day. It would eventually break into the home market with the Nintendo Entertainment System in 1985, but roughly a year earlier, it revealed its breakthrough console as the Nintendo Advanced Video System during the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. When the system was eventually released as the NES, Nintendo omitted accessories such as the keyboard and the data storage unit.

Alexey Pajitnov creates the legendary puzzle game, Tetris

A screenshot of the first version of Tetris, running on the Soviet Electronika 60 computer.4

The legendary game Tetris was created by researcher Alexey Pajitnov on an Electronika 60 computer while he was employed at the Soviet Academy of Sciences of the USSR. It's one of the most widely played video game in history, having landed on nearly every platform and operating system since its inception. Its success and worldwide appeal inspired some developers to create inventive interpretations of Tetris' simple yet challenging puzzle mechanic, including Tetrisphere, Welltris, and Tetris 64, which featured a mode called Bio Tetris that altered the game's speed based on your heart rate, which was recorded via a biometric ear clip.

Space simulation games blast off with Elite

Elite is one of the earliest space sims, but it's still regarded as one of the best examples of the genre. The co-founder of CCP games, Thorolfur Beck Kristjansson, cites it as the primary influence in creating the successful massively multiplayer online role-playing game EVE Online. The Elite series is currently making a comeback in the crowd-funded Elite Dangerous, which is in beta.

Namco debuts the life bar in Dragon Buster

Dragon Buster may not be familiar to a lot of people, but it's notable for being the first game to feature a life bar, which has become a mainstay feature of modern games.

Atari releases Paperboy, makes delivering newspapers fun

Newspaper delivery may not sound like the most compelling model for an arcade game, but Paperboy was popular enough to justify a sequel, and was subsequently ported to nearly 20 platforms, including iOS and the Xbox 360.

King's Quest jump starts an adventure game renaissance

Sierra Entertainment is known for creating numerous PC adventure games in the '80s and '90s, but its reign began with the success of King's Quest: Quest for the Crown in 1984.

Current president of Nintendo, Satoru Iwata, gets his first break

Balloon Fight is responsible for launching the career of Nintendo's current president and CEO, the affable Satoru Iwata, who is credited as a programmer on the game.

What do you remember about gaming in 1984? Let us know in the comments below.

See more coverage of VGHM 2014.

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Discussion

124 comments
Chronologo
Chronologo

The 7800 was backwards compatible with the 2600. Back then there was even an official module for the Intellivision that would let you play atari games, yeah it's true, something that today would have lawyers go apeshit.

CruiserCaptain
CruiserCaptain

I still have my the family Atari 2600 and a bunch of games from when I was a kid. All wrapped up in plastic and safely stored. And my Nintendo plus WAY too many games, hell I have 2 copies of Contra I loved it so much. I don't ever play them much any more. But with the advances of gaming in the last decade alone, the History of those old consoles will be great.


I wish every month could be Video Game History Month.

huddie
huddie

Playing Missile Command on our Atari 2600.

Nepti
Nepti

As a kid of the 70s and a teenager of the 80s, I have so many great memories of early technology and I am glad I was there at the dawn of it all. I can still remember the fevered days of playing Donkey Kong in the arcade and booting up King's Quest 1 on my IBM PC 8088. Fun days when hardware was largely a mystery and you never knew just exactly what you'd experience with each new 'generation.' Good times.

Zloth2
Zloth2

1984... Atari 800 XL!  That thing had a whole 64k of memory!  (Well, the top 16k was bank selected so you would only have it if you switched off the OS so almost nothing used it... but still!)

thedre666
thedre666

For those the enjoyed/loved/lived Elite, there is a version on in Itunes Called "Unknown - 3D Space Trader".

Controls are a bit dicky, but it is Elite.

sigmact
sigmact

i remember i liked to fed the fish in balloon fight with the enemies... a lot

mxpower
mxpower

I was 8 in 1984 and it was a big deal when we finally got a floppy drive for our C64. We could now get the "good" games. I seem to remember really wanting zaxxon, We had a vic20 and then a c64. We also had Oregon Trail on the Apple computers at school. May not have been 1984 but close enough. 

iwantlilo
iwantlilo

I spent tonnes of time on Kings Quest. 

Gallanteer
Gallanteer

About this time I moved from my Vic20 to C64. Pitstop 2, way of the exploding fist, typing in code from Commodore Format, starting my coding career and finally losing at least a year solidly pkaying Elite. Only ever made it to Deadly though dammit.

Lytnin
Lytnin

Loved my Atari 2600.  Actually ended up burning up two of them because I played them so much.  One of my friends got the Colecovision when it came out and I remember the graphics on Donkey Kong being way better.  Then I upgraded to a NES and he eventually got a Sega Genesis.  The one kid in the neighborhood with the Intellivision just really didn't seem to fit in for some reason.  Good memories though.

aquoon_0nly
aquoon_0nly

back then on atari H.E.R.O was revolutionary with a character with more than a single action(eye beams and the bomb)

GinsuVictim
GinsuVictim

In 1984, I was seven, playing in the arcades with my older brother, and learning BASIC on our Texas Instruments TI-99/4a. Parsec (with voice synth box) and Hunt the Wumpas! We didn't get an Atari until the 7800, then the NES two years later.

Miriani
Miriani

I was just getting into gaming as a kid but was huge into some of the Commodore 64 games like Questron and Bard's Tale II.

sportdroptops
sportdroptops

Best port of a game from 2600 to 7800...Food Fight!

playstationzone
playstationzone

well never play Atari it bring gameing but aslo destroy game world until Ninendo on nes save gameing.

couly
couly

I was 9 years of age playing Atari.  I still play games today and feel privileged to be in a position to buy any game I want, when at the time my parents worked hard to get me a game for Christmas and my birthday if I was lucky.

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

What I remember about gaming in 1984 was my Atari 2600 still being 100% relevant, having no idea any sort of "crash" had happened.  There were still games to buy and no internet to tell us anything was wrong.  Spy Hunter was the great must play game in arcades.  We were years from "Genesis does what Nintendon't"; it was a happy era when you played games for fun and not out of bizarre brand loyalty.  Sequel-itis didn't exist so even bad games generally at least had an original idea behind them.  Good times.

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

"Mark Zuckerburg, the founder of Facebook, was born."

At this point are we just pretending MySpace never existed?  Zuckerberg at best is like the guy who invented Cherry Coke.

Deamon59
Deamon59

got an article about games in 1984, yet still haven't posted about gta v's high life update release date (5/13). how about staying on top of 2014 before going back in time

fcga1976
fcga1976

Good times. Love those old games. It is amazing that we had so much time to play games those days. Nowadays I can barely play half to one hour.... :-(

spartanx169x
spartanx169x

Whats missing from this article is how arcades took prominence during 1984 thru 1991or so. (until NES came along). Once the NES and SEGA came along it was the beginning of the end for the arcades. With the purchase of my Sega . I pretty much quit spending any money on arcade machines.

I got the Atari 2600 used near the end of its life cycle(around 1982-83 I think). played the hell out of it. didn't get another console until 1994 because I got my learner's driving permit in 1984.  From that point on my number one mission was to get laid as much as possible.Which meant a part time job and a car. I slowed down with that around 1994 hence me buying the Sega Genesis., then the N64, then the xbox, 

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

Noticed something here.  These stroll down memory lane articles where us old dudes (and dudettes) get together and sit in the rockers and talk on the old times.... the comments are so nice.  Happy.  We're remembering things that, let's face it, weren't perfect, but damn, they were fun.  


So many articles lately.... the comments seem to be packed with people who just plain don't like games.  They hate the companies, the franchises, the graphics, anything.  I find myself saying "Dude, why do you play games at all if you don't like them?"  Then I come to one of these history ones. 


I think you gotta be old enough (like most of us here) to realize that games are just fun.  You look back, shake your head at how silly it looked, and smile cuz, silly as it is, DAMN you loved it.  


I hope that some of these younger, angry gamers just stop, go play what they like, and realize that someday they'll look back on 2014, shake their heads at how silly it all looked, and smile cuz DAMN they loved it.  


If they're lucky, that's how they'll remember it, anyway. 

ProjectPat187
ProjectPat187

Then 1 year later Nintendo comes with the NES and owned everyone.

Tarant0ula
Tarant0ula

I guess i have same memories with Gladestone1. That decade was really great with all those home computers. Had several, Amstrad CPC6128, Commodore 64, Atari 520st, even a Spectrum 48k. That little black thing with rubber-buttons. Had also an Amiga 500 and an AGA, Was never same category as others, was far better. But also was the top computer back then. The perfect OS and hardware.. If only would live instead of Winslows (pretty dark story there)... Anyway, i still remember games from back then, (maybe not same year but around then): DropZone, H.ER.O., 1942, Out Run, Karateka, Spy vs Spy, King's Quest of course, Boulder Dash, and my favorite Bank Panic... So many games, fun times.

LJNkickstarter
LJNkickstarter

1984 i was playing hide and seek with my friends around the neighborhood. We cant afford videogame machine back then because we were poor. Well im still broke:(

sigmact
sigmact

and i also remember how thrilled i felt when i heard paperboy had real speech sounds, that was quite a lot back then :P

CruiserCaptain
CruiserCaptain

@liquidbutter You should have been, gaming was being reborn and fashion was terrible. Like truly terrible! Just awful.

mxpower
mxpower

@Gallanteer  

I remember typing out those codes from magazines. I think I typed out a centipede style game once.  

pelvist
pelvist

@playstationzone  Gaming was doing ok before Nintendo. Nintendo just made gaming more popular, especially in the US. There where other platforms such as The Commadore64, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, BBC, Acorn and the Amiga in between Atari and Nintendos' consoles.

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

@Deamon59 I thought you had to go back in time to find people who still care about GTA V.

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

@fcga1976 That's one of the things they don't tell you when you're all looking forward to being an adult. :(

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

@spartanx169x Arcade games were still dramatically better than their console iterations until the mid 90's when Playstation came along.  I remember scoffing that Royal Rumble for SNES wasn't nearly as good as WWF Wrestlefest, which hit arcades two years earlier.  To counter stronger consoles, arcades turned to new pinball machines and ride type games, helping them hang on until the late 90's.

youre_a_sheep
youre_a_sheep

@olddadgamer I don't think it's age related.  If we'd had the internet in the 80's to tell us to hate things, we would be just like today's younger gamers, for whom resolution, free play and unreasonable game length are all more important than fun.

Cloister56
Cloister56

@olddadgamer  I think they will, I'm sure if the internet in it's present state existed back then we would be moaning about yet another Dizzy game, calling each other out about how the Speccy Sux LOL and saying Ocean were the worst thing to happen to gaming.


Now I can look back at the Sega v Nintendo wars and appreciate both consoles, but at the time Mega Drive was best, (we got blood in Mortal Kombat :) and no amount of jealous looks at Mario Kart and Star Fox were going to make me change my mind.


It is nice to swap memories with others who played the same games I did, my friends from that time are scattered to the winds sadly. (just to clarify they are alive not cremated, I just want to make that clear)

paulszki
paulszki

@olddadgamer Eh, I think there's not that strong of a relation between loving to play games and having a asshole-internet-persona that complains & craps about games, that you don't like.

Kids now just have the means to do so. As opposed to back then, when there wasn't really a place or medium for like minded video nerds to be pricks to each other, or they probably would have acted the same way.

sportdroptops
sportdroptops

See, that's what I get for believing the Wikipedia page... Oh well, I still played the hell out of it when I was a kid.

Cloister56
Cloister56

@youre_a_sheep @spartanx169x  Yes Wrestlefest, they had that at my local Superbowl. I used to look forward to the arcade certainly more than the bowling, maybe slightly more than even LazerQuest. 


I loved Mad Dog McCree and even one time had a crowd watching when I played it (well at least 4 people) but couldn't kill Mad Dog, stupid bullet proof vest, I swear I shot him in the head but I think you just have to shoot him twice.

It was a sad realisation when the arcade games were worse than what you had at home, no more trips to see the future. Though think of the money we saved from that point on :)

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

@youre_a_sheep @olddadgamerMaybe.  Dunno, though.  Arcades didn't have any of that.  You didn't sit with a pack of dudes playing dig dug hating on the dudes playing Ms. Pac Man.  Arcades were always such friendly places.  They were places where no matter what, if you were 8 or 14, if you were a skater punk or a nerd, if you were black or white, you knew when you walked in you had something in common, something you could have fun with.  


Dude up there was talking about bringing in a crowd to watch you play.  I remember, vividly, the biggest crowd that I got watching me.  Must've been about 11, playing gauntlet on the boardwalk on the beach.  Three strangers were playing with me: girl, about 14 (yeah me), skater dude about 15, black kid about 17.  We must've had nothing in common at all, except that we loved games.  And for those 20 minutes, all those damn quarters, that was all that mattered.  


Sometimes I still find that here.  But I wish I'd find it more.  


Sorry.  Feeling morose today.  I'll stop.

GinsuVictim
GinsuVictim

@sportdroptops Same here. I loved it. The arcade version had analog sticks, but the 7800 stick worked decent enough.
I used to play Sega Master System with the 7800 controllers sometimes.

olddadgamer
olddadgamer

@Cloister56 @olddadgamer@youre_a_sheepI was, and am, a cheap sonofabitch so I was always Valkyrie.  Shield.  Got more for your quarter. 


My food shooting brother was the elf.  He's younger than me, and always thought when it said "Elf has shot the food" he did something right.