Gaming through the decades: the 80s | Virgin Media
Donkey Kong

Gaming through the decades: the 80s



The 80s were a pivotal time for videogames. The decade saw the arrival of Pac-Man, Mario, and the SNES, just to name a few important moments – but there were many more. If you’re in the mood for a hit of nostalgia, take a look at these key gaming moments from the 1980s… 




1980: Pac-Man


The biggest 80s home console was the Atari 2600.

As the 80s started the biggest home console was the Atari 2600, but all the really interesting stuff was going on in the arcades. Primitive 3D graphics were already around in games like Battlezone, but the year's biggest game was Namco's classic Pac-Man.

1981: Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong

The first glimpse of 'Jumpman'.

Nintendo's first big hit came with the coin-op game Donkey Kong, which brought us a first glimpse of 'Jumpman', who would later become Mario. Donkey Kong was the first game by the legendary Shigeru Miyamoto, who went on to develop the Mario and Zelda series.

1982: E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial

Putting an end to Atari's dominance.

The most infamous release of 1982 was E.T., which helped cause the American video game crash of 1983 and ended Atari's dominance. This didn't affect UK gamers much though, as the shiny new ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 were much more popular.

1983: Manic Miner

Manic Miner

The year that the UK experienced its golden age.

With the U.S. games market almost dead, the UK experienced its golden age. Platformer Manic Miner, precursor to Jet Set Willy, was the biggest game on the Spectrum, alongside Jetpac and Atic Atac. It was also the year Nintendo released the NES in Japan.

1984: Elite


Elite was decades before its time.

Made popular on the BBC Micro, and then ported to every format under the sun, 3D space trader Elite was decades before its time with its open world gameplay that let you explore and play however you wanted. A sequel has recently been released, which is much more realistic.

1985: Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros.

The year the NES console was released in America.

This was the year Nintendo really took off – in 1985, the NES console was released in America. At the same time the very first Super Mario game was released in Japan, cementing platform games as the dominant genre for over a decade. Neither console nor game made it to the UK till 1987 though.

1986: OutRun


Sega's OutRun was the hit of the year.

What a year for games this was! Not only did it see the very first Legend of Zelda game, but also Metroid, Bubble Bobble and Dragon Quest. Arcade technology was still well ahead of consoles though, with Sega's OutRun the hit of the year.

1987: Defender of the Crown

Defender of the Crown

Atari ST and the Amiga 500 were most popular with UK gamers.

This year saw the first ever Metal Gear game on PC Engine, as well as Double Dragon and Final Fantasy. But most UK gamers were still experiencing games on home computers like the Atari ST and the Amiga 500, playing hits like Defender of the Crown and Starglider instead.

1988: Super Mario Bros. 3

Super Mario Bros. 3

The year there was also rumblings of the Mega Drive.

Still topping best ever game lists over 20 years later, this was the year that Nintendo released the critically acclaimed third Super Mario Bros 3 in Japan. By this time there were rumblings of the new SNES and Sega's rival console, the Mega Drive…

1989: Tetris


There was a killer app for the new Game Boy portable.

By the end of the decade gaming was big business, with Robert Maxwell leading a corporate battle for the rights to Tetris - a battle Nintendo won when they made it the killer app for the new Game Boy portable.

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