Video game technology has come a long way since the days of trying to rescue Princess Zelda from the fear-inducing world of Ganondorf or running through a series of pipes and jumping on the head of every fiend who gets in your way. These days, blisteringly real three-dimensional graphics and high-definition sound rule the video game landscape. Even the traditional controller isn’t safe as Nintendo’s Wii system innovates motion sensitive controls that replace both the buttons and the wires of yesteryear.
Yet the gamers of today haven’t forgotten the classic video games of the past and many are looking back with nostalgia upon the old sound effects and boxy graphics from the years of Atari and Nintendo NES. Though the old commercials from this era of video gaming are filled with cheesy lines, dated graphics and old fashion styles, they’ll undoubtedly make you at least a bit nostalgic for the days of blowing into your game cartridge to make it work.
Iron Sword was an action/adventure game for the Nintendo NES. Players played as Kuros, a mighty warrior who must defend the world against the evil wizard Malkil, laying waste to random cronies and dangerous creatures along the way to success. The commercial above is extremely underwhelming, as the actual game looks so much less exciting than what is apparently going on outside the poor kid’s bedroom door.
Released for the Atari in 1982, Pole Position was an early attempt at a somewhat 3D formula one racing game. This game is often credited for pioneering the use of the rear view camera position, a format that’s still in use for racing video games today. However, the advertising was pretty over the top—their most memorable spot featured a giant hand blowing up a family car and forcing a nerd to aggressively race his wife and children.
Warning: Playing Asteroids will turn you and your entire family into a gang of couch surfing martians, or so this ’80s commercial would have you believe. Asteroids began as an arcade-only smash hit, but was reworked and renamed Asteroids Deluxe for the Atari home gaming system in 1980. The game remains one of the most classic video games of all time, and has inspired more spin-offs than perhaps any other game of its kind.
Narrated by what appears to be the guy from the Foster’s commercial (“It’s Australian for Beer!”), this Pac-Man TV spot featured the catchy tune “Pac-Man Fever,” which was guaranteed to replay in your head all day long, whether or not you owned the game itself. But an addictive theme song is appropriate for Pac-Man, which remains one of the most easily addictive games to this day—despite its simplicity and lack of 3D graphic power.
Imagine this same scenario playing out in modern day times—you challenge your grandma to a death-match in Rainbow 6 Vegas, and she ends up kicking your butt. Essentially, this is the message of the commercial for Berzerk—anyone, even grandma, can play it from home and have an amazing time doing so. Atari’s genius lay in making the familiar arcade experience possible for everyone in the comfort of home, including entertainment-starved elders and bored children. Just remember to look out for Evil Otto—his smiling face is nothing more than a fiendish trap.
This classic commercial marks the very beginning of the most legendary character in all of video games: Mario. The Mario saga began with a simple yet timeless video game that has been loved by generations since, and this commercial was the first to attempt to sell it. Since his first airing in the early 1980s, Mario has appeared in over 200 video games, many of which have absolutely nothing to do with his original story line.
Star Wars: Return Of The Jedi was a must-have for all 1980s Lucas fans who simply couldn’t get enough of the epic trilogy that they had just witnessed on the silver screen. With the ability to play the scenes and characters from the movie itself, adults and kids alike could hardly resist piloting the Millennium Falcon and doing battle against the dark side. Watch as the boy in this commercial literally lives the dream of countless youths of his time—the Star Wars fantasy world magically coming to life outside his window, with him at the center of it all.
Though it’s for the Atari system in general rather than for a specific video game, nothing can be more campy and stereotypically ’80s than this specific TV commercial. From the outrageous hairstyles to the sunglasses and enormous boom-box, this commercial sums up the trends and styles of the entire era too well to be ignored. Watching the ad feels slightly like watching a scene from an old episode of Saved By The Bell, especially when the guys chase after the girls, flex their muscles and beg for their attention. Ironically, the commercial is filmed on a beach and focuses largely on active and in-shape youths, which is the polar opposite of where someone actually playing the Atari would be. But nobody ever said that reality sells, did they?
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