What was it Like Playing Video Games in the 70s?

Hop into the time machine and journey back to a simpler time of gaming.

Millions of players missed the 70s, a time when video gaming was just getting its start, with the introduction of such hits as Pong, Asteroids and Space Invaders. It was indeed a glorious period, and with this article, we’re celebrating the greatest things about gaming during the decade.

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That said, grab your Kenner Millennium Falcon replica, some pet rocks and hang on as we jump back to the 70s!

While you’re time traveling, make sure to check out our 34 Awesome Things We Loved About Gaming In the 80s!

Proving Your Worth in Pong


These days, there are a number of competitive games, ranging from sports to fighting. Back in the 70s, however, there was one way to settle the score – with Atari’s Pong. Even though it consists of two paddles and a ball, it made for some serious competitions that increased its popularity. After its arcade debut, the game continued to thrive with a number of home releases, including consoles devoted entirely to Pong!

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Pinball Meant Something


These days, pinball games aren’t nearly as popular as they used to be, despite new efforts from Jersey Jack and Stern Pinball making their way to barcades. However, back in the 70s, you couldn’t go anywhere without running into classic machines like Flash and Kiss. They would light up an arcade and really make you feel like you belonged there. So long, quarters.

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Behold the Odyssey

Home video game systems didn’t get their start with the Atari 2600, but rather the Magnavox Odyssey, which came out in 1972. Featuring only a handful of games like Tennis and Roulette (with second-rate screen inserts), the system is primitive compared to today’s machines, but back then, having one in your living room was a sign of coolness.

Beware the Space Invaders 

Long before creating classics like Arkanoid and Elevator Action, Taito got its start with the epic Space Invaders, a skillful shooter where you try to take down an army of aliens with a solo gunship. Addictive in every sense of the word, Space Invaders became an iconic game for years – and still lives on today. Good luck hitting the top-level UFO!

Coleco’s “Everything But the Kitchen Sink” System… Behold the Telstar


Coleco was no stranger to the game market when the Colecovision rolled around in the 80s. Prior to that, it released various models of its Telstar game system, including an over packed model called the Telstar Arcade that came with a steering wheel, light gun and no shortage of knobs. It was a little too much for its own good, but some players couldn’t get enough of it.

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Mattel’s Foray into Handheld Gaming

In the 70s, Mattel decided to tackle the handheld gaming market with a variety of simple yet entertaining all-in-one electronic games. Games like Mattel Football, Mattel Auto Race and Mattel Basketball became big hits back in the day, and also inspired the late Gunpei Yokoi to work with Nintendo on similar Game and Watch games in the 80s. That led lead to the arrival of the Game Boy in 1989, and the rest is history.

Landing a Spaceship Isn’t Easy

Back in the late 70s, Atari left its mark in the arcade by introducing Lunar Lander, a game that made fine use of revolutionary (at the time) vector graphics. For good measure, it also introduced a challenging new gameplay system, where you had to use thrusters in order to safely land on a planet surface. We crashed many times in this game, but always came back for more.

Space Invaders, Meet Galaxian

Not to be outdone by Taito’s massively popular Space Invaders, Namco produced its own take on the alien shooter with Galaxian, which arrived in 1979. Featuring full-color graphics (compared to Space Invaders’ black-and-white set-up) and more formidable alien formations (they attack in groups and offer big points to bring down), the game went on to become a huge success, leading to the arrival of the sequel, Galaga, just a few years later.

Putt-Putt = The Ultimate Place for a Gaming Birthday Party


Nowadays, there are so many choices to hold birthday parties, including, dare we say it, Chuck E. Cheese. In the 70s, though, there was only one place to go – Putt-Putt! These miniature golf courses had it all – 18 holes of blissful fun, and for good measure, an arcade packing the likes of Galaxian, Space Invaders and many pinball machines. It felt like home!

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Asteroids – Why Blast Rocks With a Joystick?

Even though Lunar Lander is great, Atari left its mark in the late 70s with the arrival of Asteroids, a fun game where you blast rocks and UFOs while avoiding fatal collisions. The catch – you can’t do it with a traditional controller. Instead, you had to use a series of buttons to turn, shoot, thrust and even hyperspace. The only downside? Using hyperspace to avoid one rock, then appearing right in front of another. Ouch!

Bowling with a Controllable Ball

Bowling for the Atari 2600 may not have been the most elaborately designed game in existence, but it did come with a neat option. One of the game modes allows you to control the ball all the way down to the pins, making it relatively easy to score a strike every time. For cheaters, this was the ultimate way to rack up points – and it certainly proved less frustrating for Grandma.

Superman Ushers in Comic Book-Based Games

Following the release of Richard Donner’s cinematic take on the legendary DC Comics hero, Atari pounced on the chance to produce a Superman game for the Atari 2600. Although hardly as in-depth as efforts like today’s Batman: Arkham Knight and Injustice: Gods Among Us, back then, it was a delight flying around Metropolis with the Man of Steel – and it set a precursor for superhero-based games for years to come. Well, maybe not Superman 64…

Nintendo Actually Started in the 70s

Some of you may think that Nintendo burst onto the scene in the 1980s with the arrival of the Nintendo Entertainment System. The truth is, the company attempted to enter the market in the 70s with the Nintendo Color TV Game line. First released in 1977, the original model came with six selectable games. The publisher went on to release other models, including a TV-Game Racing 112 model in 1978 before eventually stepping away from the market, until a few years later, when it truly made a name for itself.

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Outlaw – The First Competitive Shooter

Sure, you may kick butt and take names in games like Titanfall, but in the 70s, if you wanted to play a competitive shooter, you turned to Outlaw. This enjoyable two-player romp featured cowboys flinging bullets at one another while occasionally dealing with objects like stagecoaches and cacti. If you were lucky, you could even get a headshot – though let’s be honest, these cowboys have really big heads, thanks to their 10-gallon hats.

Space Wars was Epic

Before Asteroids became the stuff of arcade legend, Larry Rosenthal’s Space Wars got its chance to shine. This two-player game (you couldn’t play solo – a first for a game like this) featured a number of conditions as players competed against one another, such as taking glancing hits without dying (but taking damage as a result) or turning and accelerating slower with a different ship. There’s a certain strategic element to the game, and it inspired other developers to include similar developments with future releases.

Combat – The Best Way to Kill Your Friends

You think Pong was competitive? Atari took its game up a notch in 1977 with the release of Combat, a captivating multiplayer game where you shoot foes using a variety of vehicles, including tanks and airplanes. There was no better way to blow off steam with your friends and family on a Saturday night than loading up a game of Combat and letting them have it with well-timed shots.

Atari Makes History with the 2600 Console

Last but certainly not least, the launch of the Atari 2600 console changed games forever. Sure, the Coleco Telstar Arcade and other units were cool, but there was genuine excitement behind the 2600 and the games that it offered, including several mentioned on this list. Atari faded into obscurity – that video game crash of 1983 didn’t do it any favors – but the joy of playing new game consoles still lives on today, behind such systems as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Still feeling nostalgic? Keep time-tripping with our 38 Awesome Things About Playing Video Games In the 90s!

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Prima Games Staff
The staff at Prima Games.