From Centipede to Zelda, these are the 20 best (and most influential) videos games of the '80s


Source: Moby Games (Image credit: Source: Moby Games)


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Developer: Infocom

Platforms: PDP-10, Commodore 64, Apple II, Amiga, Macintosh, PlayStation, Sega Saturn, MSX, NEC PC 9801, Atari 8-bit and Atari ST, and MS-DOS

Release Date: December 1980

Why this game mattered: If you ever played interactive fiction, you have Zork to thank. This is one of the genre's earliest examples, and it's lasted in terms of relevance into the new century thanks in part to its timelessness. You play as an adventurer who's exploring a dangerous land, but to return from your quest you must travel throughout the dungeon and collect items. It's a simple fantasy concept, but what took it to another level was how it incorporated complex text-based commands. You weren't limited to "walk east;" instead, commands like "give car to demon" would also work. Prepositions! What a concept!

Fun fact: Technically this is a '70s game. The first version of Zork became available in 1977, but it wasn't available to the public until 1980.

Future games influenced by this title: What game hasn't been influenced by Zork? There were many sequels and spinoffs, including some that weren't text-based (can you believe there was a Zork game in 2009?), but any number of text-based adventure games have Zork to thank. It was also influential beyond just games. People who work with AI chatbots have said Zork helped them by creating a model for how people can interact with text.

Where you can play it today: You can experience the original Zork Anthology on Steam.

WC Staff