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Popular Computer Games of the 80s Left Us for Dead

If the computer games of the 80s were people, they’d be way cooler than you and your friends, but they’d let you hang out with them for a few hours here and there. In fact, that’s exactly what they did way back then, too. So, why don’t we dust off some of those cooler-than-you (and me) games and relive the good old hours? No reason at all. So, let’s dig in …

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

This computer game adaptation of the popular book by the same name by Doug Adams was released in 1984 by Infocom.

The player takes on the role of Arthur Dent, a hapless Earthman who’s just been whisked off the planet by his alien friend Ford Prefect to avoid certain death at the hands of an intergalactic bulldozer called Vogon Constructor Fleet. Together they have to find out what happened to the earth, and to find out they must explore a computer-generated galaxy by interacting with various characters for information.

The game was created in ZIL (Zork Implementation Language) which is Infocom’s own proprietary programming language that has seldom been used since 1985 because of its complexity. It was one of few games made using it so you’re likely never to find another computer game like it.

For a computer game, the graphics are very simple and basic which was common at the time. All of the puzzles were text-based so players had to be literate in order to enjoy this game without frustration (or use one of Infocom’s “feelies” that came with their games).

Zork I

Zork is a text adventure game where the player controls an unnamed adventurer.

The premise of Zork I is that the protagonist arrives at some ruins from which he or she must find several objects and explore various underground areas to collect items necessary for life outside of this dungeon, discover what has happened to the world, and escape.

Game play is seen at a top down perspective from within an underground maze of dungeon rooms with computer terminals that offer advice about puzzles or other games for which they are hints (other Infocom titles).

The Oregon Trail

The Oregon Trail is a computer game in which the player is an emigrant traveling across America from 1848 to 1850, trying to reach Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

The player first selects two characters with different occupations and personalities: trapper, trader, pioneer woman, or farmer. The computer then generates several turns of events on its own before presenting them for the player’s response.

King’s Quest

The computer game King’s Quest was the first of several different games in the King’s Quest series.

King’s Quest I: Quest for the Crown (1984) is a single player adventure game released in 1984 by Sierra On-Line. The player controls Sir Graham, who must defeat an evil wizard and save two kidnapped princesses to restore peace to the land of Serenia.

The King’s Quest saga spanned eight games. The original King’s Quest was followed by a prequel, King’s Quest II: Romancing the Throne (1985), which takes place before Sir Graham became king and tells of his adventures in defending Daventry from an invasion by magic-hating trolls. The rest of the series included:

  • King’s Quest III: To Heir Is Human (1986)
  • King’s Quest IV: The Perils of Rosella (1988)
  • Kings Quest V: Absence Makes the Heart Go Yonder (1990)
  • King’s Quest VI: Heir Today, Gone Tomorrow (1992)
  • King’s Quest VII: The Princeless Bride (1994)
  • King’s Quest VIII: Mask of Eternity (1998)

Several announcements have been made over the years since the release of King’s Quest VIII that there would, in fact, be a King’s Quest IX. As of 2021, however, another full King’s Quest game has never emerged, much to the chagrin of diehard fans the world over.

(Like Computer Games of the 80s? Then you might like our article on 70s Arcade Games, click here. Or how about Popular Handheld Games, click here.)

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