There are old games, there are classic games, and then there are ancient games. I’m talking about games that are older than the average Internet user and possibly older than most of the general population. These are games that are so old that everyone has seen them and heard of them, and they have been recreated thousands upon thousands of times, as arcades, as video games on console, as in-browser flash games, and as buyable remakes and upgrades on services like Steam. You know that the overall plan of a game got something right when it keeps on being made and remade time and time again. So let’s dive into four of the classic ancient games that you have probably seen and maybe even played, despite not knowing their names!
- Space Invaders. Space Invaders is one of the ur-games, one of the very oldest of the ancient Atari games that your grandfather probably noticed while watching kids play an arcade in a laundromat in the 1970s. Space Invaders is one of those games that everyone has seen, even if they haven’t played it. It also has been used as an intro game for some titles. The original Tekken for the PlayStation back in the 1990s had an opening screen that allowed the player to play a Space Invaders clone called Galaga while the main Tekken game loaded. While Galaga is different from Space Invaders in some ways, with better graphics, it is very clearly modeled on the latter.
- Centipede. Centipede is a game very similar to Space Invaders, with a twist. Instead of being attacked by rows upon rows of space ships, presumably piloted by aliens, you are instead set upon by a giant alien centipede, which appears as a row of small dots. Moving your tiny ship left and right, your job is to shoot beams of light at the centipede until you’ve destroyed it. Segments of its body can be destroyed one at a time. You must destroy the entire centipede to pass the level. People to this day can still be spotted wearing Centipede t shirts, and the game occasionally occurs as an in-browser game, so you know it has staying power.
- Pong. Now I just know that you know this one. Unless you’ve been frozen in some insensate stasis for the past century, like some weird mammoth in ice or something, then you know Pong. Everyone knows pong. Slapping a ball back and forth between two paddles might seem boring, but the sheer novelty of controlling something on a screen using physical knobs and buttons was enough to captivate an audience when Pong was released. More to the point, there are a gajillion different remakes of Pong, so many that you’ve surely seen more than one. There are remakes where the paddles can be upgraded, where you can play against a computer, with multiple balls, with a ball that speeds up when you hit it… All sorts of things!
- Breakout. Breakout is this game where you control a single paddle at the bottom of the screen, and there are lots of bricks. The ball bounces back and forth between the bricks at the top of the screen and your paddle. The goal is to break the bricks with the ball. The real genius of breakout is not so much the original game, as fun as it is, but the concept. Because of its simplicity, the concept can easily be extended. Looking at Breakout, even a person who doesn’t design games easily has a million different ideas about things that could be added to the game. This had lead to the creation of dozens of new spinoffs.