The Internet Archive hosts an Historical Software Collection, letting you play classic games online. It's a great way to show your kids what games were like in the good old days, 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)
The story surrounding E.T. for the Atari 2600 is so legendary I'll just send you over here to read about it. But you can also play it online and decide whether the game is good, bad, or ugly. Warning:
if when you fall in a pit, it's really hard to get out.
2. Pac-Man (1982)
While the Atari
2600 400/800 version of Pac-Man 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)
For my money, Pitfall! was the most exciting Atari 2600 game. It featured running, jumping, and even crocodiles. Timing the jumps is the main skill here. It's a bummer that sound doesn't work yet—but I can hear the bleeps and bloops in my head while playing. Try not to fall into the pits!
4. Word Munchers (1985)
Did you spend time in a school computer lab in the '80s? If so, you were likely exposed to Word Munchers, the amazing grammar/pronunciation game. Play it to see how it compares with your memory! ("Get ready to munch words!")
5. Number Munchers (1986)
6. Karateka (1984)
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. While I never owned Akalabeth when it came out, now I can play it.
8. The Hobbit (1982)
The Hobbit was an illustrated text adventure. 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 Yars' Revenge, trying to make your way through a barrier so you can fire a cannon as 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)
Choplifter 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.