Videogames have undergone the most drastic change of any entertainment medium in the last 30 years, going from crudely pixilated characters with only the barest passing resemblance to human beings, to an HD wonderland with stories written by the highest-level Hollywood screenwriters and voiced by world-class actors. Despite the paradigm-shifting transformation in gaming technology, games harking back to the Cold War are still going strong on today’s iPhone. 4 retro games still downloaded today are:
This tile-matching puzzle game has been played on every popular gadget the world has seen since its creation in 1984, and it shows no signs of stopping. Developed by a computer engineer from the Soviet Union and made internationally famous with the rise of Nintendo’s Game Boy, it gave Americans an excuse to take our fingers off our missile silo controls and push a different set of buttons, one with less of a chance of nuclear winter.
All the major devices used in the 21st century—computers, smartphones, standard cell phones, tablets, even an insulin checker—support this game. It probably didn’t end the Cold War, but it was a better Russian import than Red Dawn villains.
Considered by many to be the most successful video game of all time, Pac-Man chewed its way onto the scene in 1980 and in a little over a decade had taken in over $2 billion in quarters. Based on the concept of eating (the character itself resembles a pizza with a slice missing), it’s no wonder that it found a warm reception in America.
One of the most recognizable icons in marketing history, Pac-Man has been referenced in every kind of merchandise imaginable, and even has a business tactic named after it—the Pac-Man defense—regarding a hostile takeover. It’s also on display at the Smithsonian in Washington D.C., one of only three video games to ever have the distinction.
The genesis of this particular game began in the early 20th century, when an American named Elizabeth J. Maggie Phillips attempted to create a didactic game that would showcase the moral and economic failings of capitalism. Ironically, the very system she abhorred took her concept, perfected it, and by 1934, the Parker Brothers company rechristened it Monopoly, which went on to gain widespread popularity on the free market.
After decades of board-game success, Monopoly continued its conquest into the video and computer game world, spawning a variety of incarnations, including the frequently downloaded Monopoly app on the iPhone—another product that benefited from demand-driven economics and private ownership. Elizabeth probably wouldn’t have approved of Apple’s little miracle, but that’s ok: the concept of communal living doesn’t work well when you have a dozen people leaving their sweat, ear wax, and finger smudges on your iPhone screen.
The Oregon Trail
This is a personal favorite of mine, and I’m glad to see it continue into the 21st century as a lovingly polished app for the iPhone. I spent countless hours as a young lad in the early 90’s guiding my videogame family into the Wild West, leaving the occasional loved one in a shallow, watery grave when I attempted to save a couple bucks and ford the river myself, rather than pay for the ferry. Sure, it would have kept my children alive, but the new life was about independence, and living by your own hands, and if I had to sacrifice a daughter or two instead of paying a modest fee, then it was well worth it.
Developed way back in the forgotten wasteland of the late 1970’s, The Oregon Trail originated as a way to teach children about the realities of 19th century pioneer living, making it one of the few computer games in history to be both educational and entertaining. Later additions included the famous hunting feature where, after dropping dozens of colorful animals with your rifle, you learned you could only carry 100 pounds of meat back to your wagon. But that didn’t stop us from leaving a slew of corpses in our wake, the green and purple bison falling by the hundreds to the unerring accuracy of our giant square bullets. The annihilation of the buffalo by the white man was probably more realistic than the game creators intended, but history has a way of teaching itself.
All 4 of these games are available and cheap for the iPhone, so get them, play them, and love them.
John is a technology and gadget enthusiast who writes as a freelancer for companies such as leading iphone 5 insurance brand Protect Your Bubble.