As we eagerly await Stranger Things Season Five, we take a trip down memory lane to 1986 — with retro video games.
These days, gaming is very accessible and there is an abundance of video games to choose from. Whether you’re a casual player wanting something relaxing to do after work, or a competitive one always jumping into action, odds are that there are countless games that would fit your taste already.
That was not the case in 1986, however, as back then, the only mobile phones people were carrying were the size of bricks, and people were actually using the television to watch television. Still, gaming was a vibrant industry; the kids of the 1980s found joy in their local arcades, as well as coming over to friends’ houses to play on the NES or the Atari 2600.
Let’s take a look back on what retro video games were being played at the time, and how they impact the gaming industry of now.
Retro video games from the 1980s, and their impact today
Our favourite Italian plumber made his debut in 1983 for the arcade, with its NES port titled ‘Super Mario Bros’ in 1985. The positive feedback, along with the NES dominating the console market at the time, is arguably what has made Mario Bros. the immense franchise it is today. Now, there are countless spin-offs and merchandise, and the characters of Mario Bros. have become one of the most recognisable icons that have emerged from the gaming world.
Their newest addition is now on Nintendo Switch, titled ‘New Super Mario Bros. U Deluxe.’
Made by Taito Corporation for the arcade and Atari consoles, Space Invaders is a fixed shooter game with the player moving along a horizontal axis, firing a laser cannon at creatures before they descend to the bottom of the screen. The game is vastly considered to be one of the most influential video games of all time. It became a template for the shoot ‘em up genre, inspired countless video games across multiple genres, and helped expand gaming to be a global industry.
It’s easily one of the most well-known retro video games of all time, featuring a simple, yet very replayable gameplay. Following its release in 1980, Pac-Man rose to being the top grossing arcade video game of the ’80s, with an estimated billion dollars of gross revenue worldwide. It’s now listed as one of the greatest video games of all time by multiple publications, and the flagship icon of Bandai Namco Entertainment.
In an effort to rival Pac-Man, game designer Shigeru Miyamoto came up with Donkey Kong in 1981. It quickly became a smash hit in Japan and North America, with over 15 million various ports of the game sold. Most interestingly, Donkey Kong is considered the first video game to have a storyline visually seen on screen, depicting Mario jumping over barrels and other obstacles to save Pauline from Donkey Kong. It also broke new grounds in the industry by integrating cutscenes, telling stories over multiple stages of the game.
Released in 1984 for the arcade, and in 1985 for the NES, Duck Hunt became a major commercial success upon release. Apart from the attractive gameplay, the game earned its legacy for a non-playable dog that appears in the background. Wherever the player fails to shoot any ducks on screen, the dog rises up from the tall grass, and smugly laughs at the player. Because of its notoriety, the dog is still a large referenceable character in gaming, with appearances as both playable character and cameos across many Nintendo games.
Dungeons & Dragons
We can’t simply talk about Stranger Things and the games they play without mentioning Dungeons & Dragons—commonly abbreviated to D&D. Without revealing spoilers, Vecna is the new big, bad creature lurking in the Upside Down for the gang to face. It’s an evil force that takes its name from arch-lich present in D&D. And knowing the show’s creators to be fans of the game, the similarities might be more than just the name.
D&D is a table-top roleplaying game. One player takes the role of a Dungeon Master, having control over the game and story, and other players representing a single player in the game. Together, they solve dilemmas, fight against a common enemy, and keep progressing until the story ends in one way or another.
It’s quite a structured game, yet very open-ended. Each member has their own skills and weapons, and they can basically do anything they want. It is up to the Dungeon Master if the move they choose is successful, and how that move would contribute to the story. Essentially, it’s all up to your imagination.
A campaign can take up to weeks to complete, so get ready and gear up before you embark on a fantasy adventure.