1. Area 51 (1995)
Gameplay: Peterson, the protagonist, goes on a military intervention to prevent aliens and their zombie creations from taking over the infamous military facility, Area 51, ultimately tripping the nuclear self-destruct sequence.
Fun fact: In 2004, Paramount Pictures bought the rights to develop the series into a movie; however, it has been on hiatus since 2007.
2. Asteroids (1979)
Gameplay: Score as many points as possible by shooting asteroids and the occasional flying saucer.
Fun fact: Due to programmers underestimating the popularity of the game, the maximum score is 99,990, after which it resets to 0.
3. Battlezone (1980)
Gameplay: Guide your tank across the terrain and avoid or destroy enemy tanks, UFOs, and guided missiles.
Fun fact: In 1985, David Palmer scored the world record of 23,000,000 points. He was never defeated, though—he quit after the game lasted 23 hours. He still had four lives left.
4. Centipede (1980)
Gameplay: Lasting as long as your character can, shoot the centipede to create more mushrooms, avoid additional centipedes, spiders, fleas, and scorpions.
Fun fact: One of the first video games developed by a female programmer, and also the first to have a large female fan base.
5. Defender (1980)
Gameplay: Cruise an alien landscape and destroy aliens while protecting astronauts on the planet’s surface from being abducted.
Fun fact: Unlike Space Invaders and Asteroids (its inspirations), Defender featured a full side-scrolling environment, and was the first shooter to do so.
6. Dig Dug (1982)
Gameplay: To dig as deep as you can eliminating subterranean monsters by either inflating them till they pop or dropping rocks on them.
Fun fact: “Dig Dug,” the main character’s name, is a pun on a Japanese phrase, which translates to “I want to dig!”
7. Donkey Kong (1981)
Gameplay: Long before Mario and Donkey Kong teamed up, the original platformer has “Jumpman” trying to avoid barrels and other objects DK throws and ascending the platforms to save “Pauline” from the clutches of the great ape.
Fun fact: Considered the first video game where a complete storyline visually advanced on-screen.
8. Dragon’s Lair (1983)
Gameplay: In this fantasy side-scroller, Dirk the Daring sets out to rescue Princess Daphne from Singe the dragon. To do so, he must complete a series of quests and ultimately mount a treacherous expedition to the evil wizard Mordroc’s castle, where Daphne is imprisoned.
Fun fact: Dragon’s Lair was the first arcade game that cost $0.50 for a single play, making it the most expensive at the time of its release in 1983.
9. Frogger (1981)
Gameplay: Navigate frogs back to their homes, traversing roads and rivers, all the while avoiding various hazards like logs and vehicles.
Fun fact: Sega originally titled the game “Highway Crossing Frog,” but eventually decided that it didn’t capture the “true nature of the game.”
10. Galaga (1981)
Gameplay: A more advanced Space Invaders, in Galaga you control a straighter that can move horizontally across the bottom of the screen, and you must shoot as many insect-looking enemies as possible.
Fun fact: Writers of the Lost series frequently played Galaga during breaks from writing.
11. Mortal Kombat (1992)
Gameplay: Pick from a number of fighters and defeat all your challengers in a variety of realms.
Fun fact: The original Mortal Kombat is the only one in the series that doesn’t have an introduction explaining its plot, and only slowly reveals what’s happening as the game progresses.
12. Pac-Man (1980)
Story: I think we all know this one. Pac-Man’s hungry, and you have to help him eat all the yellow pac-dots while evading ghosts.
Fun fact: Among American consumers, Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game, recognized by 94% of those surveyed.
13. Space Invaders (1978)
Gameplay: The player controls a vastly outnumbered ship, moving horizontally across the bottom of the screen and shooting the descending ranks of aliens.
Fun fact: Reportedly, part of the inspiration for the game came from the creator, Tomohiro Nishikado, having a dream in which Japanese school children are awaiting Santa Claus’s arrival when aliens suddenly invade.
14. Street Fighter II (1991)
Gameplay: Take on a number of combatants in one-on-one matches, winning two out of three to advance.
Fun fact: Street Fighter II is credited with initiating the “fighting game boom” of the 1990s.
15. Tempest (1981)
Gameplay: Shoot every enemy that appears in your range on the screen and survive as long as possible.
Fun fact: Dave Theurer, the game’s creator, said that he came up with the design based on a dream in which monsters “crawled out of a hole in the ground.”
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