Most Iconic 80s Video Games

Matt Kasper


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80s video games

Ah, the 80s. A time of neon lights, big hair, and the birth of some of the most iconic video games in history. It was a decade that saw the rise and fall of gaming giants, the advent of home consoles, and the creation of games that would become cultural touchstones. So, grab your joystick, insert a coin, and let’s take a trip down memory lane as we explore the most iconic video games of the 80s.

80’s Video Games

Dust off your cartridges, and join us as we countdown the most iconic video games from the 1980s that left us reaching for the ‘Continue?’ button!

Super Mario Bros.

super mario bros nintendo
  • Year Released: 1985
  • Console System: Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)

This platform game introduced us to the Italian plumber brothers, Mario and Luigi, who embark on a quest to save Princess Toadstool from the villainous Bowser. With its catchy music and challenging gameplay, Super Mario Bros. quickly became a staple in the gaming world. For a full nostalgic flashback of the groundbreaking game check out our Super Mario Bros Character List.

super mario bros flag
super mario bros water
super mario bros bowser

Donkey Kong

donkey kong nes game
  • Year Released: 1981
  • Console System: Various home consoles including Atari, NES, Colecovision

Debuting future Nintendo superstar Mario (originally named “Jumpman”), Donkey Kong challenged players to climb their way to the top of a construction site to rescue Mario’s girlfriend from the titular, cranky ape. Donkey Kong’s enormous commercial success helped to establish platforming as a dominant genre in the gaming world and was a key player in the rise of Nintendo as a video game juggernaut.

donkey kong nes level
donkey kong nes
donkey kong nes finish


pac man nes
  • Year Released: 1981
  • Console System: Atari 2600, NES, Colecovision

Navigate Pac-Man through a labyrinthine maze, munching down on dots and avoiding ghostly enemies. Pac-Man’s simple, yet challenging gameplay and charming character design quickly cemented it as an arcade classic, propelling it to global recognition and contributing significantly to the video game boom of the 1980s.

pac man gameplay
pac man power up
pac man ghosts

The Legend Of Zelda

zelda nes game
  • Year Released: 1986
  • Console System: NES

As the hero Link, players traverse the expansive, open world of Hyrule to save Princess Zelda from the evil Ganon. With its innovative non-linear gameplay, challenging puzzles, and epic fantasy storytelling, The Legend of Zelda set the standard for adventure games and became an enduring and beloved franchise with a dedicated fanbase. If you know one of these hardcore Zelda fans you may appreciate our big List of Zelda Gifts.

zelda nes gameplay
zelda nes screenshot
zelda nintendo


metroid game nes
  • Year Released: 1986
  • Console System: NES

Take on the role of Samus Aran, an intergalactic bounty hunter, tasked with eradicating the parasitic Metroids. Metroid’s atmospheric exploration and action, combined with the surprise reveal of Samus’ gender, made it a breakthrough in gaming culture. It’s influential “Metroidvania” style gameplay has inspired countless games since.

metroid samus aran
metroid nes
metroid gameplay nes

Mega Man

mega man nes video game
  • Year Released: 1987
  • Console System: NES

As the heroic robot Mega Man, players face off against the villainous Dr. Wily and his rogue robots. Mega Man’s unique mechanic of gaining new abilities from defeated enemies, along with its high difficulty level, made it a standout title in the 80s. Its success spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and crossovers, and the blue bomber became an icon of the era. Not to mention the final Bosses In Mega Man who were groundbreaking characters in their own right.

mega man boss screen
mega man nes
mega man clone

Duck Hunt

duck hunt nes game
  • Year Released: 1984
  • Console System: NES

Grab your NES Zapper and get hunting in this charming yet challenging light-gun game. Duck Hunt wowed players with its “interactive” gameplay, making it a staple in many 80s households. Plus, who could forget the smirking dog who became an iconic, if slightly irritating, symbol of the game?

duck hunt dog
duck hunt ducks
duck hunt clay shooting


contra nes game
  • Year Released: 1987
  • Console System: NES

Two muscle-bound commandos, Bill and Lance, battle alien forces in this side-scrolling shooter. Known for its cooperative play and infamous for its brutal difficulty (cue the Konami Code for extra lives), Contra was a hit at arcades and in homes alike. It’s become an iconic staple of 80s gaming culture and remains one of the decade’s most popular and influential titles.

contra nes gameplay
contra waterfall level
contra alien nes

Final Fantasy

final fantasy nes
  • Year Released: 1987
  • Console System: NES

An RPG sensation that almost wasn’t, Final Fantasy was so-named because it was potentially Square’s last attempt at a successful game before bankruptcy. The bet paid off, and players around the world fell in love with the game’s vast world, intricate battle system, and rich narrative. This game was only the first in what would become one of the most successful and enduring franchises in video game history.

final fantasy nes
final fantasy ogre
final fantasy nes screen


tetris gameboy
  • Year Released: 1984
  • Console System: Multiple systems, but famously on Game Boy in 1989

This hypnotic puzzle game, born out of the Soviet Union, tasks players with arranging falling geometric blocks into complete lines. Tetris, with its addictive gameplay and simple yet strategic mechanics, caught on like wildfire worldwide and is often cited as one of the greatest games ever made. Its popularity exploded with the Game Boy release, making it a must-have for the handheld.

tetris on gameboy
tetris on gameboy
tetris gameboy final scene

Phantasy Star

phantasy star sega
  • Year Released: 1987
  • Console System: Sega Master System

As one of the first RPGs to hit consoles, Phantasy Star was revolutionary. Set in a distant future that interwove science fiction and fantasy elements, it broke new ground with its immersive 3D dungeons and epic narrative. This gem showcased what the Sega Master System was capable of, and its influence echoes in modern RPGs today.

phantasy star sega
phantasy star armory sega
phantasy star fight


frogger video game
  • Year Released: 1981
  • Console System: Arcade, Atari 2600, ColecoVision

Guide a frog across a perilous highway and river in this simple yet addictive game. Frogger, with its increasing difficulty and charming concept, leaped into the hearts of many gamers. Its success on various systems, including the Atari 2600 and ColecoVision, made it a defining part of the early 80s gaming scene. It has been a pop culture reference since its debut and was even featured in one of Senfield’s most popular episodes, The Frogger.

frogger atari 2600
frogger colecovision
frogger commodore 64


pitfall video game
  • Year Released: 1982
  • Console System: Atari 2600

In Pitfall!, you navigate a daring adventurer through a perilous jungle filled with treacherous obstacles. The game’s side-scrolling platform gameplay and time limit added a thrilling challenge that had players coming back for more. As one of the best-selling games on the Atari 2600, Pitfall! swung into gaming history, leaving an indelible mark on the platforming genre.

pitfall atari 2600
pitfall swinging vine
pitfall game crocodiles


excitebike video game
  • Year Released: 1984
  • Console System: NES

Excitebike is a motocross racing game where you control a little biker on a side-scrolling race track. The game is known for its unique feature that allows players to create their own racing tracks, a pioneer in user-generated content. As a kid, building your own track truly was a game-changer for the time. You could spend hours just building the most insane course your mind could come up with before even playing the actual game.

excitebike nes
excitebike nes jumps
excitebike nes gameplay

Alex Kidd in Miracle World

alex kidd sega
  • Year Released: 1986
  • Console System: Sega Master System

Alex Kidd in Miracle World is a platform game that was basically Sega’s answer to Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros. The game’s fun power-ups, challenging levels, and catchy music made it a definitive title for the Sega Master System. You could definitely see the Super Mario Bros. influence in the levels and actions of Alex Kidd.

alex kidd sega game
alex kidd in miracle land
alex kidd level

Double Dragon

double dragon nes game
  • Year Released: 1987
  • Console System: Arcade, NES, Sega Master System

Double Dragon is the godfather of co-op beat ’em ups. Brothers Billy and Jimmy Lee punch, kick and elbow their way through waves of street gangs to rescue Marian. Its success influenced countless other beat ’em up games.

double dragon nintendo
double dragon nes play
double dragon boss

Bubble Bobble

bubble bobble nes game
  • Year Released: 1986
  • Console System: Arcade, NES

Bubble Bobble is a cute platform game where you play as a little dragon that traps enemies in bubbles and then pops them. The game’s 100 levels offered hours of addictive gameplay and became a defining co-op experience of the era.

bubble bobble nes level
bubble bobble gameplay
bubble bobble game


galaga sega master system
  • Year Released: 1985
  • Console System: Sega Master System

Galaga, the sequel to Galaxian, is a fixed shooter arcade game where players shoot down waves of insect-like aliens. Its simple but addicting gameplay and the strategic ‘double ship’ mechanic made it a hit and a must-play in the arcades before it hit home console systems.

galaga sega gameplay
galaga game
galaga sega hard


q bert video game
  • Year Released: 1981
  • Console System: Atari 2600, ColecoVision

Q*bert is a quirky game where you control an orange critter hopping around pyramid levels changing tile colors while avoiding enemies. Its unique gameplay mechanics and charming character made it a standout game of the early 80s. I personally can attest to how addictive this game was as I would often come home from school to my father trying to sneak in games.

q bert snake
q bert colecovision
q bert colecovision game

Adventure Island

adventure isalnd video game
  • Year Released: 1986
  • Console System: NES

Adventure Island is a side-scrolling platformer where you control Master Higgins, a skateboard-riding, fruit-eating adventurer. Known for its challenging gameplay, it started a successful series of sequels and spin-offs.

adventure island gameplay
adventure island game skateboard
adventure island boss

Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out

mike tyson punch out nes
  • Year Released: 1987
  • Console System: NES

You are Little Mac, an up-and-coming boxer with dreams of glory. Fight your way through the ranks, battling quirky characters like Soda Popinski and King Hippo, all the way up to the heavyweight champ himself, Mike Tyson! With its charmingly cartoony visuals and addictive gameplay, Punch-Out was a knockout hit that’s still fondly remembered today. It is one of the best video games ever made no questions asked, discover all the Characters In Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!

don flamenco
punch out piston honda
mike tyson punch out

Wonder Boy

wonder boy sega
  • Year Released: 1987
  • Console System: Sega Master System

As the titular Wonder Boy, you embark on an adventure through forests, hills, and oceans, battling monsters and bosses to rescue your girlfriend. With its unique life/energy system and varied level designs, Wonder Boy is a beloved classic that kicked off a popular franchise for Sega. It was clearly Sega’s version of Adventure Island which it mimics very closely.

wonder boy screenshot
wonderboy sega game
wonder boy skateboard

80s Video Game Revolution

The 80s was a period of rapid technological advancement in video games. The decade started with simple arcade games that had basic graphics and gameplay. But by the end of the decade, games had evolved into complex, multi-level experiences with improved graphics, sound, and storytelling.

One of the most significant tech changes was the shift from arcade to home gaming. The introduction of home consoles like the NES meant that people could now play video games in the comfort of their own homes. This not only made gaming more accessible but also allowed for longer, more complex games that couldn’t be completed in a single arcade session.

Golden Era Of Home Consoles

The 80s was a golden age for video games. It was a time of innovation and creativity, where developers were constantly pushing the boundaries of what was possible. The games of this decade laid the foundation for the industry we know today, and their influence can still be seen in the games we play now.

From the rise of home consoles to the birth of iconic characters, the 80s was a decade that changed video games forever. So next time you pick up a controller or swipe on your phone, take a moment to appreciate the rich history of this incredible medium that was brought to life by the iconic games mentioned above. After all, we wouldn’t have the games we love today without the pioneers of the 80s.

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