Come the mid-1980s, game design was continuing to go great guns creatively. While coin-op machines such as Commando, Ghosts ’n Goblins, Gradius and Gauntlet provided templates for many games to come, some arcade manufacturers decided to go big – really big…
In 1985, SEGA released their first “taikan” arcade cabinet, for their simulated 3D motorcycle GP racer Hang-On. While the standard arcade machine with handlebars bolted on was cool, this took things to a whole new level, with a big model bike to straddle and play as if you were riding the real thing. Using the same game engine, shooter Space Harrier followed later the same year, offering another wild ride for those who were game enough to get onboard.
While Nintendo’s Famicom console was going well in Japan, it didn’t have a “killer app” – until a plumber came along to help out in the now legendary Super Mario Bros. Its arrival in 1985 was timely, with it becoming the pack-in game with the later western release of the renamed and redesigned Nintendo Entertainment System (or NES to save syllables). While earlier games played with the platformer format, SMB laid down the rules for pretty much every one that would ever follow.
With the Commodore 64 selling in Australia faster than the company could make them, it became the dominant games platform locally. Melbourne-based Beam Software, having already done some C64 ports, set about developing their own game, a fighter loosely based on arcade brawler Karate Champ. The Way of the Exploding Fist is still regarded as a classic, winning rave reviews, several awards, selling like mad and prompting ports to other formats such as Spectrum and Amstrad.