10 80s Video Games To Play If You Like Stranger Things

stranger things proudly wears his love for the 1980s on his sleeve in more ways than one chronologically. The show’s creators take in excruciating detail to remind viewers what era they’re in, and they certainly don’t jump on neon, spandex, or outrageous hairstyles.

One of the most saturated locations in all of Hawkins is the Palace Arcade seen in the show’s second season, and it’s outfitted with all the 8-bit splendor an ’80s kid could want. For fans looking to enjoy a round of arcade action or just a hobby shared by their favorite characters, the 80s are still alive and well in retro gaming.

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Final Fantasy


Final Fantasy on NES

Dungeons and Dragons has a prominent influence on all of the ongoing seasons of the series, with the town of Hawkins dealing with monsters nicknamed after famous creatures from the Forgotten Realms such as Demogorgon, Mindflayer, and Vecna. But the acclaimed tabletop game has also played an important role in the creation of iconic retro RPGs.

Although Final Fantasy wasn’t the first RPG available on home consoles and computers, it was the first to fully realize the visuals of a typical fantasy adventure. At a time when most RPGs were text-based, the game allowed players to create their own party of adventurers, embark on an epic quest, and watch 8-bit battles unfold before them. There’s no doubt that Will, Mike, Dustin and Lucas would love this title.


Dragon Quest games


Dragon Warrior NES Dragon Quest

dragon quest took the framework established by the previously mentioned title and vigorously improved it. Not only were the environments and monsters more fleshed out, but the party of adventurers the player controlled had decidedly more personality with each new installment. As Season 4 takes place, there are currently three games in the main series.

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Having similar mechanics to Final Fantasy while providing a richer story experience with better visuals to back it up, the series has everything a bunch of kids obsessed with J&D would appreciate. It’s a shame Toriyama didn’t design a more cuddly version of the Demogorgon.


Castlevania


Original Castlevania NES

After watching a series about people killing vicious monsters, it’s enough to make a viewer want to try the activity themselves. If 80s kids wanted to kick their monster hunting itch, probably the best cartridge to pick up and play was Castlevania.

Before the invention of Castlevania Netflix series, the Belmont Clan faced off against the forces of Dracula in full 8-bit glory on the original NES. While players won’t find Demogorgons, Mindflayers, or other Upside Down creatures, they will have their hands full of werewolves, zombies, and other classic cinematic creatures.


Centipede


Screenshot of the classic Atari game Centipede.

The Palace Arcade is home to several different classic cabinets seen across the country in other gaming arcades and pizzerias. Before Nintendo became king, arguably the biggest name in the gaming industry was Atari. Few arcades would be complete without the inclusion of this bug-busting title.

Close to Pong, centipede is probably the most recognizable game from the original Atari library. Its simple yet addictive formula is easy to understand but difficult to master, especially with the titular bug that gets longer and faster with each ascending level. Serious button mashing is definitely required to conquer this game.


Storm


Screenshot of the Atari Tempest arcade game.

Another game featured in the Palace is Storm. At the time, Storm was the stepping stone intended to launch Atari into the next generation of gamers, focusing on a three-dimensional playing field instead of vertical or horizontal terrain. While ultimately a final hurrah, there’s no denying that it’s not a nice, psychedelic title.

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Described by some as a stand Space Invaders, Storm had players blasting geometric enemies down tunnels of various shapes. A basic descriptor, but it created addictive and challenging gameplay that rocked many arcades for years.

Asteroids


Screenshot of classic arcade video game Asteroids

This somewhat basic title is one of the cornerstones on which arcade games are built. One of the first iconic space shooters, the game is the living definition of “simple yet effective.” Everything the player needs to do to survive a round of Asteroids is to blast the space rocks that are rushing towards them without getting crushed.

Although it lacks the aliens, incoming projectiles, and other toppings and traps the genre would later be known for, the game has a certain timeless quality to it. In short, sometimes the best approach is indeed the simplest and least complicated.

Galaga


Galaga arcade game

If there’s one space shooter that almost everyone and their brother has played, it would probably be Galaga. To put it briefly, Namco basically took all the elements from the games like space invaders brought to the table and greatly improved them. The result was an instant classic that devoured tokens faster than a Demogorgon on a re-kill.

Unlike most games in the genre where players simply blast any monster that comes into their line of sight, Galaga had at least some form of strategy to clear every screen. Add the feature to earn an extra spaceship to help fend off 8-bit creatures, and the result is an arcade hit.

dig dug


While it might take a few turns to get as good as Mad Max, players don’t need to live in Hawkins to play this quirky little adventure. Game creators like Galaga and Pac-Man, dig dug has players clearing the screen of monsters and dangers deep under the ground.

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It’s not the hardest game in the arcade, but it’s definitely one of the most fun and easy to handle. There is a certain feeling that the player has a slight advantage over stupid mobs that get in their way. Even so, fire-breathing dragons pose a particular problem.

Pac man


A shot of Pac-Man

No arcade would be complete without at least one Pac man machine, or at least one variant. For years, Pac-Man has been the face of the arcade industry, crushing more quarters than points on a good day. So it makes perfect sense that Hawkins’ arcade has both Pac man and Mrs. Pac-Man ready to play for any gang of geeks on a Saturday night.

It seems there is still no cure for Pac-Man fever. Next to a game like Tetris, Pacman is perhaps one of the most accessible arcade games players can put on. Available on a variety of consoles, and even winning a recent full compilation, there are plenty of ways to pick up and play this game.

dragon’s lair


dragon's lair

Perhaps the most visually memorable title among Palace Arcade’s collection of games is The dragon’s lair. At the time, the game was one of the most ambitious projects the industry had seen. With branching lanes, a familiar fantasy narrative, and animation from the legendary Don Bluth, it was quite simply a masterpiece of 80s gaming.

Essentially a playable animated movie, the game was of course an incredible feat for its time. With its fantasy elements and addictive nature, it makes sense that players like Lucas, Dustin, Mike, and Will would jump at the chance to play it, if only to eventually reach the endgame.

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About the Author

John C. Dent