Games of the Twentieth Century. The year 1983

Ah, how many happy moments were experienced behind the bulky monitors and keyboards of the '80s and '90s. PC-speaker squeaks were as inspiring as the latest sound cards, and four-color or even black-and-white graphics seemed like a miracle. But most important of all, the games. What excitement they stirred, what passions boiled in the blood of players in the early '80s. As I remember now, a monochrome Hercules monitor with 16 shades of gold on black, Larry, Digger, Pac-Man. Have all these memories disappeared into oblivion? Is their fate - the dusty corners of our memory? We decided not to be nostalgic alone, and to share all this with you. Each issue of the new column will be dedicated to a specific year and memorable games. The year 1983 was not a random choice - it was the dawn of the golden era of video games, and the first masterpieces that we still remember and love to this day started to appear on personal computers. On this joyful note, our introduction ends and we set off on a journey back in time, to a time when the grass was greener, the air was cleaner and the sky was bluer...


  • Genre: arcade
  • Developer: Namco Limited
  • Publisher: Atarisoft

If the legend is to be believed, Toru Iwatani came up with his creation while looking at a pizza, which was missing one slice. That's how Pac-Man’s mouth appeared. In an interview, Toru says that this is only part of the truth and that the character came from the Japanese character "kuchi," meaning mouth. But however the inspiration came to him, the game became extremely popular, surprising both its creator and the head of Namco Corporation, where he worked.

Pac-Man Screenshot

Interestingly, the name Pac-Man comes from the Japanese "paku-paku". These words refer to the movements of the mouth when a person eats, something like "yum-yum". Basically, this whole game is about food, and the dots scattered around the haunted maze are bits of food!

This is interesting: the game was originally called Puckman. But because pranksters liked to erase the piece of the letter P and remake the name into something that could offend the sense of beauty, Puckman turned into Pac-Man.

Toru describes his character as a completely innocent child. It doesn't know what is good, what is bad. It just eats and eats. When it can, it runs away from its enemies, when it can, it eats them itself. Speaking of enemies! Their names are Blinky, Inky, Pinky and Clyde. One of the biggest challenges in creating the game was programming the behavior of this cute foursome. If they were just mindlessly chasing us, it would be boring. But as if it wasn't, they each have their own behavior. One moves clockwise, the other counterclockwise. One speeds up and chases the packman, the other can easily go the other way. Serious players specifically studied their behavior and developed their own game strategies. Even championships were held and records were set. For example, such as passing all levels without loss of life with the eating of all the prize fruit. Yes, if you want to repeat the record, keep in mind that it is a little more than three million points... Entertainment for true fans, no less!

What happened next: the number of clones of the game is counted in hundreds, and the last edition (Pac-Man Museum +) will come out in May 2022. Curiously enough, to create it, Bandai Namco collaborated with Toru Iwatani, who had to work on his brainchild one more time - half a lifetime later.


  • Genre: arcade
  • Developer: Marvin Glass and Associates
  • Publisher: Bally Midway

When in 1941 Marvin Glass started to produce toys and board games, he certainly had no idea what entertainments would flood the world in forty or fifty years. Nor did Bally Midway know about it, and there was no time to dream! All kinds of shooting galleries, pinball, mechanical game machines, plastic robots and dozens of other fun for children and adults occupied the minds of these serious companies and businessmen in the 60's and 70's.

In 1983, the paths of game-makers crossed and it was born. Tapper. Its first incarnation took place at arcade video game machines. The essence of the game - customer service, eager to get another mug of cold beer. And at first it even led to a scandal - parents of young Americans were outraged by such overt promotion of alcohol. As a result, the slot machines were moved to bars, so as not to embarrass the public with Budweiser ads, but this did not prevent the Tapper from settling on Spectrums, Commodores, and personal computers.

Tapper Screenshot

But enough of the historical excursions! In front of us is a mustachioed, balding, and very nice-looking man, plus four barstools. Along the racks of steel rows, slowly but steadily moving beer lovers. Our task is to quickly fill up a mug and toss it toward the invading beer drinkers. After that we move on to the next bar and satisfy the next one.

This is interesting:Б The prototype of the main "hero" was a Marvin Glass and Associates employee named Michael Ferris. He had a bald head, a long mustache, glasses, and always wore a red T-shirt.

A bartender has several lives, but losing a life in this game is as easy as taking a sip of a cold beer on a hot June day. The first way is to not have time to serve a customer. If he gets to the edge and is left without a beer, things are bad. The second way is not to catch an empty mug. The price of one broken mug is your life. And the third way is to let an extra mug of beer down the counter. It, too, will break.

The game has four levels. On the first we serve cowboys in the saloon, on the second working place moves to a sports bar. The third level is rockers, and the fourth is aliens. The speed of the game is constantly increasing, and so is the number of visitors. Button "space" (it sends beer mugs) is working at full stretch, because you need time to all pour and collect empty mugs. This becomes difficult in the second level, not to mention the next! I'll tell you straight up - not many people who made it to the end of the game. But maybe you can?

What happened next: in addition to PC, the game was released on a variety of platforms in different versions. One popular title is Root Beer Tapper, whose last release happened in 2007. Looking at Tapper from the XXI century, it is easy to see that it was the ancestor of the whole genre. It is commonly referred to as time management. In these arcades we have a constant shortage of time, which should be distributed between a bunch of small tasks. Now these games have grown into dozens and even hundreds of megabytes, rich graphics and great sound, but it all started with 42 kilobytes on Chicago Avenue. At the firm founded by the famous game designer Marvin.

Lode Runner

  • Genre: arcade
  • Developer: Douglas E. Smith
  • Publisher: Brøderbund Software, Inc.

It is said that all great companies are born in an old garage, and genius inventions are made on the spot with a stub of pencil and a piece of paper. Lode Runner, one of the best arcade games of the 1980s, is no exception. So how did it all begin? Let's try to imagine...

Seattle, Washington, thirty-nine years ago. The university computer with the serious name VAX-1, which brings back memories of Arthur C. Clarke and his "Odyssey", and Douglas Smith, an ordinary student. It is difficult to say what triggered the creation of the game, either banal boredom or an unquenchable passion for games and creativity, but this way or that, the computing power of Washington University was not used at all for its intended purpose. The first version of the game was written in Fortran, and was disguised as a math program. Once you entered the password, you could play. Later Assembler and the Apple II+ personal computer stepped in. Things were moving forward, the number of levels grew, and the main character has turned from a symbol of $ in the present man with arms and legs!

Lode Runner Screenshot

But let's leave Douglas, Seattle and the first half of the 80's for a while and take a look at the game itself. At first it seems simple - our task is to collect all the boxes, not to get into the hands of enemies and move on to the next level. Our character is armed with a laser that can burn holes in the ground, where the enemies will fall through. After that we can skip over their heads and run further. There are 150 levels in Lode Runner, and the further into the "forest", the more carefully you must plan every step. There are more and more stairs, more and more enemies. If you get stuck, you're surrounded. Treasure is often buried in the thickness of the stone, and to get to them you need to be careful - because inadvertently you can bury yourself. But if you've mastered all the difficulties - "Ta-ra-ra-ra-ra, ra-ra-ra!", the sweet sound of moving to a new level, so nostalgic and so desirable! Another one of the game's advantages is the level editor. Seemingly trivial? But for 1983 it was almost a unique feature.

A year after the start of the project, the young developer offered the game to four publishers - Brøderbund, Syrius Software, Epyx and Electronic Arts. One of the firms immediately offered him $100,000, and Brøderbund offered only $10,000, but 23% of sales. Douglas opted for the long term and he was right! The game sold millions of copies and was released not only on personal computers, but also on a variety of platforms. Smith made about two million dollars, bought a house, a Porsche Carrera, and got married. Unfortunately, his further traces in the gaming industry were lost, but Lode Runner stayed with us forever.

What happened next: after the success of the first part, there were such games as Championship Lode Runner (a collection of the most difficult levels), Battle Lode Runner which could be played by five people at a time, Lode Runner Online (with the game via modem) Lode Runner 2 (3D version) and a lot of other versions. Some modern games are also painfully reminiscent of Douglas Smith's creation.

While we were playing Pac-Man, Tapper and Lode Runner...

  • Ronald Reagan announced the beginning of the development of the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative).
  • The Pioneer 10 drone was the first man-made object to leave the solar system.
  • The GNU project was launched under the leadership of Richard Stallman.


  • Genre: arcade
  • Developer: Windmill Software
  • Publisher: Windmill Software

Who hasn't played Digger? No, really? This game seems familiar to everyone. Don't you remember the funny car, driving around the levels in search of emeralds? Or how you got away from your enemies by throwing rocks at them? It's a goddamn classic! Where did this little masterpiece come from? Digger was created by the Canadian company Windmill Software, which, surprisingly, is still afloat. Only it had to change its role and become a software company. But in the eighties, everything was different: their project for IBM PC enjoyed unprecedented popularity and was installed on almost every computer.

Digger Screenshot

Digger is a direct descendant of the games Dig Dug and Mr. Do! What is its point? A miner explores dungeons, longing to find untold riches (emeralds and moneybags). You dig tunnels, driving from side to side, and run from enemies, of which there are two types. Naturally, fleeing is not the only option. You can dig a tunnel under the bag and gracefully drop it on your pursuer. Or you can just shoot him. The disadvantage of the latter is that the weapon takes too long to reload, and at high levels this does not bode well.

The enemies usually appear in the upper right corner of the screen. They're obviously related to the Lernaean Hydra - each time you kill one, you get a new fiend. Their number depends on the level, and once everyone is out of the burrow, a cherry pops in its place. After swallowing it, the miner turns from a victim into a hunter - now he can eat his enemies. The feast of life lasts only fifteen seconds, but it's more than enough time to show who's boss.

What came next: the most famous of Diggers followers are Diggers (1994), Digger Remastered (1999), Millennium Digger (2000), Aqua Digger 3D (2002), Bomberman vs. Diggerman (2003), I-Digger (2007).

Ultima III: Exodus

  • Genre: RPG
  • Developer: Origin Systems
  • Publisher: Origin Systems

This is the ancestor of RPGs, on a par with the Wizardry series. But Ultima was ahead of it - the first part of the series was released in 1980, while Wizardry - in 1981. To think that almost thirty years ago we were given an opportunity to create a character, choose one of four classes (paladin, thief, mage and cleric), his race (human, dwarf, elf and bobbit - being similar to a hobbit, but not burdened by copyright) and go on a fascinating journey through dangerous worlds. Completing various quests, improving the characteristics of the heroes, battles, managing the economy - truly a huge opportunity at the time.

Ultima III: Exodus Screenshot

It's interesting: for the development of the Ultima series was none other than Richard Garriot, known to many as Lord British. This nickname he received at sixteen years old from the teenagers vacationing with him in the same camp. Well, who would have thought that later the boy would become a cult figure, and his nickname will be on the lips of an army of millions of fans?

What's so special about the third act? Ultima consisted of several chapters: The Age of Darkness, The Age of Enlightenment, and The Age of Armageddon. Ultima III: Exodus is both an epilogue to the first chapter and a prologue to the second. It absorbed the best from the previous games and made some changes that greatly influenced the development of the genre.

The plot revolves around the creation of the two progenitors of Frankenstein - the defeated enemies from the first and second parts. They created a monster named Exodus, "neither man nor machine." Angered at the human race, it attacked the lands of the Ultima world. Naturally, it's up to the protagonist to clean up the mess - he must stop the monster at all costs.

The game has eleven character classes and five races (and this is 1983!). It was almost the first time the team system was used here - the main character was accompanied by three companions. Well, the victory over the villain - not the banal "shred him to death," but a chain of tasks, only on completion of which is possible to meet face to face with the “boss”. There are merchants, and magic, and armor and weapons, and a choice of characteristics for different classes - so, it turns out, where are the extremities of modern role-playing games!

Fascinated by Fallout, Baldur's Gate, Icewind Dale, Planescape: Torment and many other RPG masterpieces, we've almost forgotten about the origins. But playing Ultima III: Exodus is interesting to this day.

What happened next: at the end of the series, Richard Garriot created Ultima Online - a world that is still inhabited by thousands of players. Well, the selection of the team became a "chip" of most RPGs - Wizardry, Baldur's Gate, Temple of the Elemental Evil, Neverwinter Nights and others.

While we were playing Digger and Ultima III...

  • Star Wars Episode 6 "Return of the Jedi", "Risky Business" with Tom Cruise, Clint Eastwood's "Sudden Impact" and the monumental "Scarface" with Al Pacino came out in movie theaters.
  • Such popular bands as the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Halloween, A-Ha were born.
  • U.S. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed 1983 the "Year of the Bible."
  • IBM released the IBM PC/XT computer.

The Hobbit

  • Genre: quest
  • Developer: Beam Software
  • Publisher: Melbourne House.

This is one of the oldest quests, based on the great work of an equally great writer. In 1983 The Hobbit revolutionized the genre. Now it no longer seems so essential, but then. This is a text-based quest. It looks as follows: a picture appears on the screen (color or monochrome), under it - the caption, explaining where we are and how we got here. Then a blue screen with text lights up: it gives a detailed introduction, describes the environment, the characters, and provides some options. Having decided what we want to do, we type a command, and if the computer understands it, it immediately executes it (for example: "go east"). It seems simple and uncomplicated, and the idea was already actively used.

The Hobbit Screenshot

This is where The Hobbit excelled. Quest "did not understand" adjectives, adverbs and various turns, limited to the meager "go", "take", "run" and the like. But Beam Software's creation does a marvelous job. For example, when you get to the edge with trolls, you can write "violently attack the hated troll" or "run away very fast". Both will be understood and accomplished.

Another plus to The Hobbit - the game has physics. Not the same, of course, as in modern action movies, but each object has a certain shape, weight and size. And Bilbo (the main character) is one of them. Characters don't stand around like statues and wait for you to finish your session with the space - they hustle, they can leave, and enemies can attack. In case of danger, it's important to write a command quickly, or the adventure will end on a sad note. Despite its age, The Hobbit leaves a very satisfying impression. A beloved classic story and great features (especially by the standards of the early eighties).

What happened next: in the eighties, the "brightly colored text" technology (it was called Inglish) was used in several other Melbourne House games. As for The Hobbit, there was a reincarnation in 2003. The second life was in the form of a children's adventure with a third-person view and pretty decorations. Well, the legacy of Professor Tolkien is being exploited today, mostly in the multiplayer arena.


  • Genre: action
  • Developer: Atari Games
  • Publisher: Atari Games

Battlezone is interesting not so much for its fascinating gameplay (perhaps someday, but clearly not now) as for its contribution to the development of the first-person action game. This particular game claims to be the first of its kind - a kind of foundation for the skyscraper of evolution.

The plot is simple as hell: the Earth is attacked by aliens, and our task is to send them away. As an "argument", we control a tank and drive around the levels, destroying enemy tracked vehicles, cannons, and flying saucers. The latter appear suddenly and do not attack, but they get the most points-5,000. Enemy tanks get 1000 (normal) and 3000 (supertank) points, and cannons get 2000 points each. Each enemy can be swatted down with one accurate shot, and there can be no more than one enemy on the screen. The exception is the appearance of a UFO, but it can also be inadvertently knocked down by enemy fire.

Battlezone Screenshot

One of the advantages of Battlezone is three-dimensionality. Of course, for modern gamers it seems like a throwback to the Stone Age, but you had to start somewhere. Besides, in 1983 it was a real breakthrough. The picture used four colors, the environment consisted of mountains, mounds and other terrain "riot", but it was possible to hide from enemies. This, too, was no small contribution to the story. For convenience, at the top of the screen is a radar that indicates where to go and where the enemy lurks. I wonder how we would do without it now? Thanks to the innovations Battlezone quickly became a favorite of players. Many clones have come out over the decades, most recently on the Playstation VR in 2016. But it's not so much the fate of the project itself that counts, as its contribution to the development of the gaming industry. And it is truly great.

What happened next: Battlezone forced many developers to make arcades and first-person action games to be able to compete. Radar caught on, and now almost no game is without it. The ability to hide behind cover is still evolving. One of the vivid examples is Gears of War, where it is used to the full extent. In the beginning it all started with four colors and a tank on half of the screen...

While we were playing The Hobbit and Battlezone...

  • The first Disneyland outside the U.S. was opened in Tokyo.
  • There was an explosion at the U.S. Embassy in Beirut. The tragedy took 241 lives.
  • The much adored French comedian Louis de Funes died.

The excursion to 1983 came to an end. Ahead of 1984 and the difficult choice between the hits that came out then. King Quest, Sokoban, Archon, Castle Wolfenstein, Alley the Cat... And it doesn't end there. Just as our journey through time does not end. See you soon, and don't forget to taste what we've told you about. And may Dos-Box help you!