The top 5 retro games you can play right now thanks to the Internet Archive

October 28, 2013

Last week the Internet Archive debuted a new collection of historical software. Using in-browser emulation, you can even try them out online. The archive currently has 29 selections available, but we've helpfully highlighted our favorite five (plus one dubious honorable mention) below.

Pitfall! (Activision, 1982)


This probably won't end well. (Activision)

You probably remember this one. In this classic action adventure, you guide hapless Pitfall Harry through the jungle to collect vast riches -- swinging on vines, taking tunnels, and avoiding scorpions.

Pacman (Atari, 1982) 


Oh no! Ghosts! (Atari)

Okay, so it's not the original arcade version. But they do have the Atari 2600 release -- which despite being widely criticized for not delivering the same exact audio-visual experience does deliver very similar game play.

Choplifter (Brøderbund, 1982)

The friendly base. Doesn't that flag look familiar? (Brøderbund,)
The friendly base. Doesn't that flag look familiar? (Brøderbund,)

In this Apple II game developed by Fan Gorlin and published by Brøderbund, you control a helicopter attempting to save hostages by picking them up from POW camps and returning to a friendly base. Which would be simple, except for the need to fend off  hostile tanks and jet planes.

Karateka (Brøderbund,1984)

Look at those mad karate skills. (Brøderbund)
Look at those mad karate skills. (Brøderbund)

This beat'em up mixes side-scrolling platformer and fighting gameplay to follow the story of a nameless hero who has to save the "lovely captive" Princess Mariko by infiltrating a mountain fortress with his karate skills. It was originally programmed for the Apple II by Jordan Mechner, then a student at Yale University, and later ported to other home computers and consoles.

The Hobbit v1.0 (Melbourne House, 1982)


I did not survive The Hobbit very long. (Melbourne House)

This is basically an illustrated text-based adventure developed for the home computers of the time. There are two particularly interesting aspects of gameplay: The first is the complexity of the parser that interpreted inputs, which recognizes longer sentences and can handle a complex series of tasking. The second is how the non-player characters have a life of their own. They will literally carry on in the game independent of how the user interacts with the world, so there are many ways for the game to move forward depending on how the user and the non-player characters behave.

Honorable mention: E.T. (Atari, 1982)


Obviously, you extend your neck to escape holes. (Atari)

This notorious flop is the only "staff pick" of the original 29 uploads. We recommend you do not play this game, unless you enjoy frustration -- in which case, have at it.

Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.
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Brian Fung · October 28, 2013