Your Top Games of the 1970s

I figure doing something really retro would be suitable for a first thread.

Top game lists have been done to death on the internet but some topics still manage to get overlooked, like the 1970s. It was a groundbreaking decade for video games. While I think most people would agree that its genres were surpassed in the '80s, that doesn’t mean there isn’t stuff worth playing today both for gameplay and historical value.

One thing that sucks about trying to compare '70s games is that it’s impossible to have access to playing everything. A lot of mainframe games remain lost. A lot of arcade games are super rare now and many haven’t been emulated. And with some that are emulated, I don’t feel I can properly judge them without real hardware (like the Triple Hunt gun games).

Also, many games are hard to determine release dates circa 1979/1980. Atari’s Adventure is a significant game and we don’t even know for sure what decade it hit stores. See this blog post covering that topic -

I’m not sure how to rank dedicated consoles either. For example, the Radio Shack TV Scoreboard has a mix of tennis and light gun games but does it count as one sports compilation or multiple games?

Anyway, here’s my current top 20:

  1. Asteroids (Atari, Arcade)

  2. Monaco GP (Sega, Arcade)
    Last time I checked, this still hadn’t been emulated in MAME but it’s available in Sega Ages: Memorial Selection 2 for Saturn. And there’s a homebrew PC version based on the arcade version called Monaco GP Remake.

  3. Colossal Cave Adventure AKA Adventure (Crowther/Woods, PDP)
    Prior to the re-discovery a few years ago of Peter Langston’s Wander engine games dating as far back as 1974, this was widely considered to be the first text adventure. You can play at AMC’s website since it appears in Halt and Catch Fire (great show, too!).

  4. Star Raiders (Atari, 400/800)
    There were space shooters before it that did action well or simulation well but this was the game that successfully merged the two styles.

  5. Space Invaders (Taito, Arcade)

  6. Combat (Atari, VCS)
    I like other '70s tank games like arcade Tank, Panzer Attack on Bally, Armored Encounter on Odyssey2, and Armor Battle on Intellivision but Combat is the most satisfying one. The controls and variations give it an edge.

  7. Bomb Bee (Namco, Arcade)
    Breakout meets pinball. It’s the sequel to Gee Bee and predecessor to Cutie Q.

  8. Super Breakout (Atari, VCS)
    Even with fancier games in the genre over the past decades, this still holds up nicely. Block Buster on Microvision deserves a mention as well for a similar experience on a cartridge portable a decade before Game Boy.

  9. Dungeon AKA Zork (Anderson/Blank/Daniels/Lebling, PDP)
    Infocom adapted this to personal computers by dividing it into three games (among other changes). But that was starting in 1980. That’s a more polished version but if you want the original '70s experience ported to a modern PC, download the file zdungeon and run it through a program like WinFrotz.

  10. Head On (Sega/Gremlin, Arcade)
    A pre-Pac-Man dot gobbler of sorts. I might have a preference for Atari’s clone, Dodge 'Em, but I haven’t found good evidence of it coming out before 1980.

  11. Galaxian (Namco, Arcade)

  12. Orthanc Labyrinth (Resch, PLATO)
    Out of all the '70s RPGs I have played, this held my interest the most. dnd has more impressive characters including an end boss but even after playing for hours I’m way too bad at the game to make any real progress. I suck at Orthanc as well but it’s not quite as frustrating. There were also more advanced multiplayer focused RPGs back then. If you want to play these emulated PLATO network games, register here:

  13. Checkmate (Bally, Professional Arcade)

  14. Lunar Lander (Atari, Arcade)
    A remake of the 1969 game.

  15. Tail Gunner (Vectorbeam, Arcade)
    First-person vector graphics shooting from the back of a ship.

  16. Lunar Rescue (Taito, Arcade)
    It’s like Lunar Lander with much simpler physics and shooter elements.

  17. M79 Ambush (Ramtek, Arcade)

  18. Night Driver (Atari/Micronetics, Arcade)
    While Vectorbeam’s Speed Freak gets props for being the most visually impressive 3d racer of the '70s, Night Driver has a better speed sensation.

  19. Adventureland (Adventure International, TRS-80)
    At a time when text adventures were mostly on mainframe computers, Scott Adams was bringing them to the emerging personal computer market.

  20. Blasto (Gremlin, Arcade)


I don’t know if this forum could possibly start off better than with an NZE thread. Excellent.

I haven’t played a lot of these, but I like Asteroids, Galaxian, and Lunar Lander.

Nice work on the thread! I don’t have alot of experience with games of that era but I’ve played galaxian and it’s fantastic!

I’m a huge IF fan, so 70s games for me are all about Adventure and Zork. For anyone wanting to learn more about the early days of Interactive Fiction (aka: Text Adventures), I would highly recommend Jason Dyer’s blog Renga in Blue, where he reviews and plays through IF while documenting it, focusing on brand new adventures, and the very earliest.

The link above is his attempt to collect a lot of his blog entries into one, chronological timeline. Fascinating stuff, and a lot of great info about how, when and why people were creating IF back in the 70s.

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I’m quite fond of Heiankyo Alien a Japanese arcade game from 1980 that barely had any ports or even clones. It’s a good game with interesting and innovative mechanics. Red aliens have invaded and you have to dig holes (which takes time) to trap them, and bury them before they escape. The map changes every level and is randomly generated.

[edit] system y do u edit my posts? :frowning:

I think I saw thanks to bVork on Twitter, but Heiankyo Alien got a very Pac-Man CE style release on Steam recently:

edit: whoa Steam embeds

@khaz System edits posts to download local copies of linked images. It’s a smart System.

Galaxian is my favourite of the games listed in the OP. holds up well today and has some cool routing nuance.

Hey that’s super cool! got to try that at some point.

The Windows version (from 1999) is freeware also, for anyone wanting to have a go at it.

Nice to see you here, too, Tain. :slight_smile:

Heiankyo Alien also seems notable to me as it looks to have directly inspired Space Panic, one of the earliest platform games. It’s like the same concept from a different angle.I think my first experience with Heiankyo Alien was with the clone called Alien on VIC-20. Then a few years later there was the GB remake and the similar Boomer’s Adventure.

My experience with Heiankyo Alien is limited to the GB port, but it’s definitely a good game. Read a little about its genesis recently, as well. I just find the premise so quintessential ‘video games’ that it has a solid place in my video game canon, despite not finding it as enjoyable as some other early titles.

Star Raiders is my favorite game from the 70’s (released in 1979) and the killer app that saved the Atari 8-bit computer line. I remember Star Raiders was voted the #1 computer game in the Electronic Games magazine Reader Polls for all of 1982 and the majority of 1983. Star Raiders has aged incredibly well and I still fire it up every now and then on my Atari 65XE.

Nice Thread!!! breakout was easily my most played game next to my little professor handheld.

(not my pic)

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A snake survival that changes sound pattern on each direction? Cool.

For me, there’s something elegant about playing a table top arcade pong machine with a beer in hand. It is the perfect one-handed game and it never gets old if two people are good.

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And four player simultaneous action.

This might be the first 70’s game list I’ve ever seen. We needed this thread, thanks and good job.