Childhood Video Games: Part 1

Inspired by KateKintail‘s recent posts about favorite childhood video games (here and here), I decided it was high time I blathered on about mine for a little while.

I’m going to split this into three posts. A lot of the games in this first post will probably seem almost-but-not-quite familiar to you, because our main gaming console was a TI-99 computer, and thus most of our favorite games were blatant Atari rip-offs. We never owned an Atari or Nintendo, so this is all we knew (though I remember watching friends play Q*Bert, Legend of Zelda, and Duck Hunt). And I say “we” because it was usually a group of us huddled around the computer, watching someone else play and not-so-patiently awaiting our turn.

TI Invaders

It was only several years after playing this game that I was even made aware of the existence of Space Invaders. I did pretty well, even getting to levels where new aliens were added, but of course it’s not a game you ever actually beat.

TI Invaders game play video

Tunnels of Doom

My first real RPG, and we just loved it. Watching actual gameplay on YouTube is excruciating, though – I’d completely forgotten how you had to wait a few seconds for the screen to reload every. single. time. you took a step. This is one I don’t recall ever winning, but I do know we often played as a group, each claiming a character and telling whoever had the controller what they wanted to do next.

Tunnels of Doom game play video


Another one that’s super annoying to watch now, as the music restarts every single time there is another sound. Which was a lot, since this entire game is about tanks blowing things up.

Blasto game play video


TI’s answer to Pac-Man, only instead of eating dots you leave a chain in your wake, and the monsters change every level.

Munch Man game play video


You play a tiny mouse trying to get through a maze without getting eaten by a gigantic cat. (Seriously, the mouse was about the same size as the cat’s eye.) I got pretty good at it, but I preferred to make the cat dumb. I was kind of a wimp. (Still am.)

A-MAZE-ING game play video


“You forgot to duck!” The theme music to this game was Anitra’s Dance from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg, and you can imagine my excitement when I later played it on the piano. What was most memorable about this game was the reasonably sophisticated (if maddening) voice synthesizer. We often would protest, “But I can’t duck!”

Alpiner game play video


A side-scroller with a ship blasting its way through the cosmos while trying not to crash into rocks. That’s…pretty much it, actually.

Parsec game play video

Car Wars

Cars making horrendous noises as they race around a squarish track until they smash into each other. We had simple pleasures back then.

Car Wars game play video


Pretty sure this game is a rip-off but I don’t know the name of the real one. It’s the game where you’re a snake and every move you get longer and the idea is to last longer than your opponent without running into them or yourself.

Return to Pirates Isle

I only mention this one because we played it – or at least tried to. We never could figure out the proper commands to input in order to actually accomplish anything beyond finding the glasses.

What did you play in the 1980s? Did you have a TI-99, or was it an Atari or Nintendo or something else? What were your favorite games?

  1. I’ll have to leave more reply tomorrow, but have you seen this?
    I tried it out tonight and oh man is it fun. Updated from the original but not terribly different. Totally my speed even though I lost my first game for being too slow.

  2. Okay, I’m back. Man, I loved Parsec. So much. And had forgotten that fact until I watched the gameplay video (Matt and I watched all of them yesterday afternoon). And I’d forgotten a lot of the details of Tunnels of Doom. I posted the link to the Tunnels of Doom Reboot last night and then proceeded to clear the dungeon despite having already lost (the included module is Quest for the King or something like that and since I was slow the king was executed before I found him). One thing I really like about the reboot is that most of the characters look female up close. Thought that was a nice touch.

    I was going to list one or two other particular favorites but the list kept growing. I loved trying to get a big chain reaction in Blasto. Hustle was cool and unusual. A-Maze-Ing and Munchman were fun (I was remembering how we called the level 3 Munchman baddies Saltines). TI Invaders began my love for all things Space Invaders, and I remember how exciting it was to get to the levels where the aliens changed. Of course, Alpiner was a perennial – though it seems to me the mountains took longer to climb when we were kids. :-) I was disappointed that I couldn’t find a video that included “You forgot to duck” in it.

    So the exceptions are the ones I didn’t much care for: Car Wars and Return to Pirates Isle (though I liked the idea of that one). Thanks for digging up all those pictures and videos!

    • The research for this one was a lot of fun. And you’re not the only one who went specifically looking for a “you forgot to duck” video. :)

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