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The 10 Most Important Games of the 1980s

What makes the 1980s the Golden Age of video games is the transition from arcade play to home consoles and handhelds. But that revolution would never have succeeded without these legendary and epic games!

10. Street Fighter

Street Fighter 1
Capcom | Oldgames

Released for arcades in 1987, Street Fighter is a legendary competitive fighting game that became a huge success and launched the series of the same name. It influenced the genre by introducing conventions used in later fighting games. Most notably, special attacks, six-button controls, and command-based special moves.

9. Final Fantasy

Final Fantasy 1 for NES

The fantasy role-playing game Final Fantasy was first released for NES in 1987. Although not the first and a late entry into the RPG genre, some would argue it’s the most important. Why? It’s gameplay and graphics for one. But it’s mostly renowned for popularizing the RPG genre outside of Japan, most notably in North America. It also led to a successful franchise.

8. SimCity 


SimCity (a.k.a. Micropolis or SimCity Classic) was released for several platforms in 1989. This city-building simulation game was an unlikely smash success. At a time when most people were into fighting games or RPGs, no one expected millions of gamers would go gaga about city building. But they did. That success led to The Sims, one of the best-selling game franchises of all time.

7. Prince of Persia 

Prince of Persia

First developed in 1989 for the Apple II, advancements in video graphics helped boost the success of Prince of Persia. It’s regarded as the first cinematic platform game. The use of rotoscoping helped the game achieve fluid and realistic animation. Later ported to a range of other platforms, the game found success, spawned a franchise, and inspired many others in this subgenre.

6. Duck Hunt

Duck Hunt

Pristine, realistic graphics aren’t a must-have for success, as 1984’s Duck Hunt proves. You don’t need rich detailed or complicated gameplay either. What Duck Hunt has buckets of is pure fun. The game is legendary for making shooter games popular at home. Duck Hunt became a launch game for the NES in 1985 with the inclusion of the NES Zapper, an electronic light gun accessory.

5. Donkey Kong

Donkey Kong

In addition to pioneering the platform game genre in 1981, Donkey Kong was the first to prioritize story as an important element of video games. It opens with a quick cinematic to reveal a giant gorilla has kidnapped the hero’s girl and the player must rescue her. The game also introduced the character Mario, which would spawn a mega-franchise.

4. The Legend of Zelda

The Legend of Zelda title screen

The Legend of Zelda is legendary for cementing the concept of open-world, immersive play that would become the norm for action-adventure RPGs from then on. Even more important, the game’s gold cartridge featured RAM powered by an internal battery that made it possible for players to save their progress for the first time on the NES.

3. Tetris 


Created by a Soviet software engineer in 1985, the highly replayable puzzle game called Tetris became one of the greatest and best-selling video games of all time. Its release and packaging alongside Nintendo’s Game Boy contributed to the portable player’s success. Tetris’s influence extends to popular culture in architecture, music, and more.

Read More: The 10 Best-Selling Nintendo Games Ever

2. Pac-Man


Released in 1980, the arcade maze action game Pac-Man became a cultural phenomenon. Pac-Man’s image is instantly recognizable. Insanely popular, Pac-Man inspired sequels, merchandise, two television series, and a #9 hit single “Pac-Man Fever” in 1982. Considered one of the greatest video games of all time, it’s also one of the best-selling and highest-grossing games ever.

Read More: The Most Iconic Video Game Characters That Even Non-Gamers

1. Super Mario Bros. (1985)

Super Mario Bros.

A sequel to 1983’s arcade game Mario Bros., Super Mario Bros. was a launch title for the NES in 1985. It’s considered one of the greatest video games of all time. Super Mario Bros. is legendary for popularizing the side-scrolling platform game genre. But more than that, the game helped save the industry by proving there was a market for consoles and excellent titles.

Read More: The 10 Best-Selling Mario Games Ever