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.
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.
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
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.

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