A Brief History of the Top-Rated Computer Games of the Early Years

The world of video gaming is a strange and wonderful one, filled with bright colors and fantastical creatures that probably don’t belong in the real world. And while there are lots of different games out there, ranging from simple puzzles to quests that take hours upon hours to complete, computer games have been a popular pastime for decades now. In the early 1980s, people began investing in home computers as a way to get more use out of their word processors. At first, many of the home computer games were simple text adventures or educational programs. But by the end of the decade, game makers were creating some rather elaborate titles that didn’t require any specific knowledge or background to understand. With that in mind, here is a brief history of some of the top-rated computer games from the early years:

1980: Adventure Games

Adventure games were one of the earliest computer game genres, with the first games appearing in the late 1970s. These text-based games featured a mix of puzzle-solving and rudimentary story-telling, and they were a very popular genre in the early 1980s. Some of these games were single-player early examples of the now-common “point-and-click” interface where players interact with the world via an on-screen cursor. Meanwhile, others were “multi-player” games that allowed users to communicate with one another as they played the same game–a precursor to modern online gaming. Adventure games were a great introduction to the world of computer gaming, and they were often low-cost or free when downloaded from BBS networks or online services like CompuServe. Some of these early adventures, like Zork and Colossal Caves, are still played by gamers today.

1980: Last

For some, the end of a year is a time of celebration, but for others, it can bring a certain amount of dread. And in the case of a computer game called Last, the dread was very real, as players had to race to be the last person alive on Earth. Last was developed by CMI (Century Marketing, Inc.) and released to the public in 1980. Players would log into the game on a time-sharing server and take control of a human survivor in one of five randomly selected major cities. As the game progressed, a nuclear war would break out, and more and more cities would be destroyed. The goal was to be the last person left alive in any of the five cities, but as the computer kept track of who had been killed and where, it was often a tense situation. The game would end when only one city remained, with players being rewarded with a message that “you survived”.

1982: The Bard’s Tale

The Bard’s Tale was a dungeon crawler from legendary game developer Interplay, one of the first computer games to use early sound effects. The game was given a “compleat” designation, meaning that it was supposed to be played as both a single-player adventure and a multi-player dungeon crawl. Players could either work cooperatively or competitively depending on the situation. The Bard’s Tale was also a rather lengthy title, featuring over 30 hours of game play. And while it was graphically simplistic, it made use of sound effects that were quite advanced for the time, such as the “ping” of hitting an enemy with a sword or the “thump” of falling into a pit.

1982: Dragon Quest

Dragon Quest is one of the most popular Japanese Role Playing Games, or JRPGs, and it has appeared as a series of games starting in the ‘80s. Dragon Quest was created by Yuji Horii, a designer who found inspiration from tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons. Dragon Quest was one of the first computer games to feature a top-down perspective, and it also included a level system and experience points similar to tabletop games. The game was immensely popular in Japan, spawning a franchise that is still going strong to this day. And although it never quite entered pop culture in the West like it did in its home country, Dragon Quest has remained an important franchise for gaming.

1983: Mario Hits the Scene

Super Mario Bros. is one of the most iconic games in the history of video games, and it is also one of the few games that was originally designed for home computers rather than arcade games or consoles. Mario was created by Shigeru Miyamoto, who had been working as a game designer for Nintendo. Mario was designed as a “casual” game that could be enjoyed by anyone, and it featured a simple plot and intuitive controls. Mario was also the first computer game to be bundled with a game system, appearing on the Nintendo Entertainment System with the NES in 1985. And while the NES was one of the first systems to bring games into the home, it was also the first device to bring games to children.

1984: Final Fantasy and Sierra Games

Final Fantasy is one of the most popular JRPGs of all time, and it was designed by a team of developers at Square. Final Fantasy was designed to be more complex than other computer games of the time, and it featured a deep and involved plot as well as strategic battles. Final Fantasy was also one of the first game series to make a considerable amount of money, and it helped to cement the success of Square. Sierra was another important computer game developer that helped to shape the genre. Sierra employed a number of different designers and programmers, and the company was behind a number of games that helped to define the early years of computer gaming. Sierra is most famous for their King’s Quest series. There were seven games in the King’s Quest series, and each one was designed as an adventure game with a different theme and story.

1984: The Rise of RPGs and Simulations

The rise of RPGs and simulations in computer gaming was largely due to the success of Dragon Quest. RPGs, which had previously been more of a niche genre, exploded in popularity thanks to Square’s game. There were a number of different RPGs designed for home computers, many of which are still played today. Many of them featured different types of combat, including turn-based and real-time battles, as well as magic and weapon skills. And while RPGs were certainly one of the more popular computer game genres, simulations were also on the rise. These simulations could be simple games like Oregon Trail or complex programs designed to simulate real-life events such as The Great War. There were even a few simulation games designed to help teach managers how to run a company, like Corporate Command.

1985: Nintendo Entrants the Market with the NES

The Nintendo Entertainment System was the first console to bring gaming into the home, with consoles having previously been limited to home computers. Nintendo was a Japanese company that had been making playing cards for many years. The company went into the business of making playing cards for children and adults alike, introducing the first Nintendo console in the mid-1980s. The Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES, was a popular home computer system that featured a number of different games. There were many different Nintendo games available, allowing the system to stand out from the competition. While many games were designed for more mature audiences, Nintendo also created a few games that were more family-friendly.

1986: Games Come to Consoles

The success of computers in the ‘80s meant that video gaming was on the rise. But there were a few problems with investing in a computer for gaming. For one thing, computers were fairly expensive pieces of technology, and they needed to be kept in good shape. Plus, computers were often large pieces of furniture that took up a good amount of space. This meant that gaming on computers might not have been ideal for every household. Computer games also required a fair bit of skill and knowledge. Sure, kids could play games like Donkey Kong, but many other games required a certain level of vocabulary and hand-eye coordination. And while there were a few computer games designed to be played by younger players, computer games were often more popular with adults who wanted to play more complex games.

In the early years of computer gaming, home consoles were pretty much non-existent. The first home console was the Magnavox Odyssey, which was released in 1972. While the Odyssey was the first home console, it wasn’t until the 1980s that home consoles really took off. The Nintendo Entertainment System was the first successful console to be released after the Odyssey, and it is credited with saving the home gaming industry, but which was almost destroyed when a toy company called Mattel created a competing console. The toy company released the Intellivision console, but it was based on a faulty design, and the company couldn’t keep up with demand. After that, many investors and companies abandoned the idea of creating consoles for the home, but Nintendo managed to release their console and save the day.


With more and more people going online, it’s likely that computer gaming will only become more popular in the future. However, the gaming industry has come a long way since the days of the arcade, and modern games feature a lot more than just shooting aliens and collecting bonus points. Computer games have evolved in terms of graphics, gameplay, and story, and modern games are incredibly impressive. With that in mind, it’s no surprise that computer gaming has become such a popular pastime in recent years.