The Internet Archive hosts a Historical Software Collection, letting you play classic games online for free. It's a great way to show your kids what games were like in the good ol' days (just ignore their eye-rolling), without having to lug the old Apple or Atari out of the garage. Now let's fire up 11 classics and have some fun.
1. E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
We're using the word classic pretty loosely here, since, at the very least, E.T. for the Atari 2600 is certainly memorable. In short, the game was such a notorious dud when it was released in 1982 that it helped nearly destroy the nascent video game industry as a whole. For as reviled as it may be, it's still a part of the industry's history, and now you can play it online and decide for yourself whether the game is good, bad, or ugly.
2. Pac-Man (1982)
While the Atari 400/800 version of wasn't as pretty as the arcade version, it was surprisingly solid. When you play this one online, keep in mind that F1 is the "start" key and the number pad on the keyboard is used for movement (there's a guide in the reviews here).
3. Pitfall! (1982)
was one of the most successful Atari 2600 games, selling more than 4 million copies during its lifetime. Timing the jumps is the main skill here, as you'll need to get it just right to grab onto ropes, hop over crocodiles, and avoid those maddening rolling logs. It may be going on 40 years old at this point, but you can still lose an hour or so with ease once you boot it up.
4. Word Munchers (1985)
Did you spend time in a school computer lab in the '80s? If so, you were likely exposed to , the amazing grammar/pronunciation game. Play it to see how it compares with your memories of those old computer games from decades back.
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5. Number Munchers (1986)
The hit sequel to Word Munchers, was the same idea, but for math (it's far more charming than it sounds). Find it here.
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6. Karateka (1984)
I first played on an Apple IIe, and it blew my mind. The gameplay was shockingly fluid, and the cutscenes looked like a movie. Always remember to punch the hawk.
7. Akalabeth (1980)
Akalabeth: World of Doom is one of the earliest role-playing video games and was designed by a teenaged Richard Garriott, who went on to design the hit Ultima series. It's obviously primitive by today's standards, but if you're a video game history buff, it's an important milestone for the RPG genre.
8. The Hobbit (1982)
is an illustrated text adventure from the early '80s, based on the classic J.R.R. Tolkien novel. This one is really hard to play due to the weird layout of the Sinclair ZX Spectrum keyboard. Fortunately, a map of that keyboard is provided below the game, so you can try to figure it out.
9. Yars' Revenge (1982)
You play as a Yar in the oddly punctuated . In it, you have to make your way through a barrier so you can fire a cannon at the evil Qotile. Or at least, that's what I remember. In any case, give it a shot. If you spot multiple Yars, give me a call.
10. Castle Wolfenstein (1981)
While I'm more of a fan of the much later Wolfenstein 3D, Castle Wolfenstein is a classic, introducing concepts later used more effectively in first-person shooters. Play it to see "the grandfather of the FPS." (And consult the reviews here for controls; otherwise it's utterly baffling.)
11. Choplifter (1982)
is the rare game that started on personal computers and later made the leap to arcades. I played it on an Apple IIe at school, where I guess the educational value was rescuing tiny hostages. Note that for this one you need to use the number pad to move (ALT fires), and the number 0 turns the copter around.
(BONUS!) The Print Shop
Okay, The Print Shop isn't a game, but I treated it as one. My favorite activity was making gigantic banners and watching the computer "think" as it prepared to print. While you can't print from this online version, it's insanely nostalgic to fire it up and make a folded card, banner, or sign.