After a few years of ever-increasing success, 1983 saw the “video game crash” hit in the US, which rippled around the world. Console sales plummeted, arcade revenues were way down, and an air of doom pervaded the industry. But there was still a lot to be excited by…
In 1983 the next big thing was laserdiscs. LP-sized shiny discs that could house full motion video, SEGA were the first to couple the technology with traditional sprite graphics for their Astron Belt arcade game. A fairly standard shooter, it was beaten to the western market by Dragon’s Lair, which with its Don Bluth animated characters was much prettier, even if it was less playable. While later games left lasting marks – like full-on cutscenes – laserdisc games were a quickly passing fad.
As Atari’s fortunes plummeted, Nintendo of Japan had a third-generation console up their corporate sleeves, the Family Computer – or Famicom. Released on July 15 – the same day as SEGA’s ultimately less successful SG-1000 – it instantly boasted arcade-close conversions of Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr. and Popeye, and, of course, would go on to help the industry climb out of that big old crash mire when facelifted and launched internationally as the Nintendo Entertainment System.
While demand may have waned, 1983 still saw the release of some truly classic arcade games – and the introduction of a legend, as two-player platformer Mario Bros. marked the debut appearance of Mario’s sibling Luigi. Meanwhile, Konami’s Gyruss banged Tempest and Galaga together (and introduced many to the music of Bach), while Atari’s vector-based Star Wars, Namco’s Xevious and Bally Midway’s Spy Hunter all hit.