The Most Popular Games of the 1980s

Every decade of the last century brought some changes in people’s lives, and of course, the 1980s are no exception. During this period, the planet witnessed some new trends that were unknown until then.

For example, in this decade, the boom of popular culture reached its peak. Young (and not so young) people were amazed at the new concept in music videos. Of course, you probably also remember some of the blockbuster movies from that period. Even if you have forgotten, Hollywood will remind you through remakes released almost every month. Something similar can be said about unique fashion trends.

However, the development of video games as part of pop culture is even more interesting. Interest in this type of entertainment was so great that different kinds of games began to appear. Stay with our article to learn more about the most popular games of the 1980s.

Arcade Games

We won’t exaggerate if we say that arcade gaming is a cultural phenomenon for this period. People-oriented towards business trends opened arcades everywhere – from local malls and regional amusement parks to gaming centers.

One of the most important things that gave arcade games a special flavor was their look and sound. This is the time when those epic synthesizer sounds spread. In addition, quality graphics in different colors emerged. We all remember Pac-Man, released in 1980 which still appears in various forms on the gaming scene.

Some other exciting titles from that period that fall into this category are Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, Centipede, and Galaga. Unlike today, in that period, arcade cabinets often featured unique controls and mechanics that couldn’t be replicated at home.

That’s why the places where these games were offered became hubs for bringing young people together and making friends.

Slot Machines

Although they don’t entirely fall into the category of video games, slot machines are worth mentioning because they reached an exceptional level of popularity in the 1980s. This is especially true for casinos and other gambling establishments where such machines can be found.

These electromechanical or mechanical devices that include reels with symbols are the forerunners of modern online slots. In the retro version, it was common to find a wild symbol that replaced regular symbols. There were also Scatter symbols that pay regardless of their position. In some cases, there were also progressive jackpots.

Today’s slots that you can find in any leading online casino for real money feature the same special symbols but offer far more bonus features, such as free spins, re-spins, and multipliers. Of course, you can also find progressive online slots, which accumulate sizeable jackpot prizes that grow continuously with every wager placed.

In any case, the slots of the 1980s took full advantage of the development of technology by introducing electronic displays and unique sound effects. This was also the period when video slots with digital displays appeared.


When we talk about the types of games of the 1980s, we cannot fail to mention the platform games. These platformers became one of the dominant trends at the time, and they can thank one specific title.

Namely, in 1985, the first installment of the Super Mario Bros. series was released. After the release and success of this game from Nintendo, other video games began to be released in which players controlled a character who had to fight against enemies, overcome obstacles, and move through interestingly designed platforms. In most cases, this is how players progress and reach new levels.

The goal was to get to the end of the level or to defeat the boss at the end of the stage. Via Super Mario Bros. introduced some basic elements of what later became platformers. These elements include power-ups/bonuses, scrolling levels, and hidden areas.

Of course, other platformers achieved considerable success after that, some of the most famous being Metroid, Mega Man, Castlevania, and Sonic the Hedgehog. Each level introduced novelties that led to original gameplays.

Beat ’em Ups

Finally, we have a type of game that became popular in the late 1980s. Some know them as brawlers, but most recognize them as beat ’em ups. No matter what you call them, these games promise multiplayer action and thrilling hand-to-hand combat.

In all games of this type, players are characters who must fight a single enemy or a whole wave of enemies to move forward in the story. The things available to you for combat depend on the specific title. Still, in most cases, you can use kicks, punches, and special moves.

Typical of beat ’em ups is side-scrolling gameplay that allows you to move from left to right through different levels filled with obstacles and enemies.

Some of the most famous games in this category include titles like Final Fight (1989) and Double Dragon (1987). They became hits thanks to the fun characters and modern graphics.

Author: Pia Sooney

Just a little obsessed with all things 80s, Pia still has her Swatch, her cassette tape collection, and her Converse Chucks. When not making friendship pins or listening to Depeche Mode, she runs a web design business.

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