The Best Video Games in the 1980s That Changed Game Art and Design

Everyone was obsessively playing and talking about video games in the early 1980s. You'd likely hear the hit song "Pac-Man Fever" if you turned on the radio that year. Even Hollywood movies introduced video games as the ultimate teenage hangout. Children pleaded with their parents to get them a video game console for Christmas.

Without a doubt, the '80s is the golden age of gaming. Innovation, collaboration, and excitement stirred in the industry like a tropical storm, and this hasn't stopped.

We've listed some of the best games of the 1980s that reshaped how game art and design were viewed for years to come.


When Pac-Man debuted 43 years ago in Tokyo, no one could have expected or imagined it'd become one of the most iconic arcade games of all time. Game designer Toru Iwatani wanted to create something out of the ordinary.

Iwatani said in an interview that the arcades before were filled with shooting or violent games. Only boys were able to connect with these games. So, he thought of designing a game that women and couples may enjoy.

The game designer's whole concept revolves around the act of eating. While conjuring ideas, Iwatani was eating a slice of pizza and eureka! The remaining slices of pizza formed Pac-Man's shape, and the rest was history.

Pac-Man became an instant hit, with at least 300,000 units sold from 1981 to 1987. The game introduced plenty of innovations in game design and gameplay. It featured the first cut scenes and power-ups. Also, Pac-Man was one of the first maze-genre games.

Moreover, for the first time in the gaming industry, there was a game not about violence or aggression. It radically changed the kind of games that creators and developers thought they could create.

Furthermore, the game's appeal lies in its simplicity, like FanDuel's jackpot games. Pac-Man only requires the players to use and control a single joystick, but that doesn't necessarily mean it's an easy game. In fact, it took about twenty years for anyone to complete the game with no lives lost and earn the maximum points from each level.

Super Mario Bros.

Super Mario Bros. became a huge success worldwide. The main character, Mario, first made an appearance in the game "Donkey Kong" in 1981. He was only known as Mr. Video or Jumpman, who, in 1985, finally starred in a game named Super Mario Bros.

Mario raced over numerous obstacles to save and free Princess Peach from the bad guy named Browser. One may ask, "Why is this game such a hit?" According to game experts, Mario games are notable for their colorful graphics, simple controls, and accessibility. Plus, the games offer a depth of complexity and gameplay that keeps players wanting more.

Moreover, Mario games pioneered groundbreaking gameplay mechanics that have become customary in the industry. For instance, power-ups have become standard in many other games.

Additionally, the games introduced responsive and intuitive controls that became precedents of contemporary video games.

Since its inception, Super Mario Bros. has become the highest-grossing video game franchise worldwide. It's a testament to the game's enduring appeal, innovation, and creativity.


The creation of the game Tetris was entirely unintentional. In 1984, software engineer Alexey Pajitnov was tasked to test the Electronika 60. He wrote a game based on his favorite childhood puzzle to assess how robust the new type of computer was.

Pajitnov called the game Tetris. It combines the number four Greek numeral "tetra" and his favorite sport, tennis.

Entirely unaware, the resulting puzzle game would become one of the most successful and addictive games ever. Geometric shapes would fall onto the base, and the player must organize them to construct gapless lines.

However, it's not easy because the blocks tend to aggravate chaotically. The game ends when the blocks reach the peak. Tetris is the perfect example of easy to learn but as hard as iron to master.

Additionally, its minimalist design is unparalleled. Tetris wasn't recreating action films or sci-fi movies. Instead, it maximized the limitations of the computers of the time. Everything has its place. There are no dust bunnies.

Three years after Tetris was created, a computer version was released and instantly converted to other systems. The game's debut in 1989 on the Nintendo Game Boy popularized handheld gaming devices.

Tetris helped develop the "home-brew" or "do-it-yourself" philosophy of video games, where ordinary people can make games that everyone can enjoy.

Furthermore, Tetris doesn't need a significant graphical upgrade to feel and look modern. Generally, puzzles developed around mathematics, specifically geometry, are universal. Simply put, the original design will never cease because it's timeless.

Final Takeaway

Pac-Man, Super Mario Bros., and Tetris are the three best video games of the 1980s that completely transformed the gaming industry. And we owe them mainly to their creators. Decades may have passed, but these games remain relevant today.

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