This was an incredibly tough year to select a top 5. I would argue this is the best year I’ve come across so far. There were at least 20 different games I had to sort through for the top 5 list. Normally there are about 10 or less. If that doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what will. There were only 90 games this year, which is a relief, but the quality of the games overall has improved tremendously in most cases.
#5 – Yie Ar Kung-Fu
This is the first one on one fighter that I personally know of. Yes, it even predates the original Street Fighter. Now sure, there were a couple of fencing games and so on, but this was the first one to have an actual feel of being a fight, not just a friendly karate match or whatever. What also makes this interesting is most of the movements are controlled with a trackball, which allowed for a ridiculous amount of moves and combos.
#4 – Gauntlet
Holy hell, GAUNTLET! How could I not nominate this baby? You and up to three of your friends go dungeon crawling in this oldschool hack n slash/shooter. Play as the elf, wizard, warrior, or valkyrie, each with individual strengths and weaknesses. Sure, there are plenty of sequels, reboots, and whatever now, but back in the day this was the SHIT!
#3 – I’m Sorry
Some people are going to be annoyed that I put this above Gauntlet. I could really care less. This game is HILARIOUS. At first glance, it’s just a quirky little action/maze game…but that’s until you get caught by an enemy. Even the first enemies in the game turn into S&M gear and whip the crap out of you. There are also Michael Jackson enemies…I think you see where I’m going with this. It’s fun, funny, and legitimately challenging.
#2 – Space Harrier
Welcome to the fantasy zone, get ready! This is a pure classic shoot ‘em up with really revolutionary graphics for the time. It’s a simple concept, sure, but to put it all together with fun, frenzied gameplay and great music was a big win for Sega back in the day. Space Harrier also led to the development of various other types of shooters including After Burner.
#1 – Ghosts ‘n Goblins
Oldschool? Check. Tough as balls? Check. This, my friends, was Dark Souls for the 80s. GnG offers a difficulty not found in many platformer games of today, even the ones that claim to be extra difficult. And yet, at no point did I ever feel it was unfair. A little overwhelming at times, sure, but never to the point that it couldn’t be won. It’s that perfect amount of difficulty that provides exactly what you need without overstepping its boundaries and I highly recommend this title for anyone looking for a legitimate challenge.
This is a year where the top 5 honestly do not matter. It would’ve been fairer to have a top 10. It ultimately came down to me thinking about what did the most for the arcades in the 80s and what games came from them. These were 5 very strong titles, but I’m sure there’s plenty you can find in the runner ups section to satisfy your oldschool fix as well.
There were very few disappointments this year and no real bootlegs or blatant clones. This was a damn good year for gaming all around. There are obvious choices like Dig Dug 2, Commando, and Hang-On, and then there are some not so obvious ones like Finalizer, Sega Ninja, and Shao-Lin’s Road. Trust me, you won’t regret going back and checking out what this year had to offer.
’99 The Last War
Champion Pro Wrestling
Cosmo Police Galivan
Crowns Golf in Hawaii
Dig Dug 2
Finalizer – Super Transformation
Go Go Mr. Yamaguchi
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Legend of Kage
Metal Soldier Isaac
Metal Soldier Isaac 2
Onna Sansirou – Typhoon Gal
Return of the Invaders
Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back
Teddy Boy Blues
Tehkan World Cup