Continuing our retrogaming adventure on into 1981 with the birth of new series and the first appearance of one of video gaming’s most iconic characters.
1981 Arcade Games
Mario, I’m talking about Mario. The Italian plumber’s first appearance is in Nintendo’s landmark platformer Donkey Kong, though in this game I believe he’s some sort of carpenter.
1981 turns out to be a power year for gaming franchise births as we see the first Frogger, Defender, and Centipede games as well – all classics, alongside Ms. Pac-Man – arguably more popular than her predecessor and the first game with cut-scenes, and Vanguard, slightly less well known but with a slapping musical score.
1981 Atari VCS games
1981 saw the release of the best game for the system, Yar’s Revenge, and their port of Pac-Man, one of the worst. Other notable Atari ports this year are Asteroids, Defender, and Missile Command. We also see the release of Kaboom, a remake of the game Avalanche, and Haunted House, a VCS original.
1981 Apple ][ Games
The big debut in 1981 is Richard Gariott’s Ultima, first in a series that eventually spans over a dozen games, spinoffs, and even an MMO. We also see Castle Wolfenstein, itself largely notable as a footnote as predecessor of one of the first FPS games. Other 1981 Apple II releases include Olympic Decathalon, the racing game Autobahn, graphical adventure Cranston Manor, and the movie monster game Crush, Crumble, and Chomp.
1981 TRS-80 Games
Tandy’s TRS-80 continues bravely struggling along with a port of Zork II, the graphical adventure games Institute and Asylum, text adventure Dragons of Hong Kong, and the scrolling shooter Sky Warrior. The system has really started to show it’s age, however, and next year will see the final nail in the TRS-80’s coffin – a competitor so fierce that it quakes the entire microcomputer industry to its knees.