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Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming on the iPhone: The Early 70′s

Every week for the next couple of months, No D-pad will spotlight key games from the last 40 years of gaming.  Not only will this retrospective give readers a brief history of the industry, we will also point out notable classics and clones from that bygone era that are now available in the app store.  We hope you enjoy.

Background

The impetus for video games began in late 1940’s when the earliest of computer engineers began testing war game simulations on mainframe computers.  To run these games, mammoth machines size of home trailers were housed in academic and military institutions.  These machines looked impressive, but their computing power was less than infantile compared to what we have today.  There’s nothing currently available for the iPhone that mirrors these early experiences, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  Most people today wouldn’t even recognize these early programs as “video games.”  The idea of using computing power for entertainment purposes grew in the 1960’s, but this wasn’t till the 1970s that things began to change.

The Early 70′s

The early 70’s laid the groundwork for what is now the world’s most profitable and fastest growing entertainment medium.  Not only did refrigerator-sized gaming machines show up in local bars and restaurants around the United States, they also found their way into homes.  The earliest home video game game system was 1972’s Odyssey system by Magnavox; the system included a handful of single screen games like Roulette and Simon Says.

Note: There are many fun Simon Says and Roulette games available for the iPhone, but none of them truly emulate the early Odyssey experience.

1973- The first blockbuster video game stepped on to the world stage in 1973.  Atari’s Pong- a simple block-style table tennis game- became a huge hit in the U.S.  With this success came another video game tradition: unabashed cloning.  After Atari made a home version of the game for Sears, other developers (Coleco, Magnavox, and even Nintendo) began making there own versions, too.  The closest iPhone game to original Pong is yet another a clone named Pang: Pocket Pong.  For a more modern experience, check out World Cup Table Tennis.

pong comparison

Left: the original Pong Right: the iPhone's clone

Following up on the success of Pong, Atari released the arcade game Gotcha.  A simple, top-down maze game with a hilariously sexy ad campaign, the game didn’t quite latch onto gamers like Pong, but the iPhone does have a decent retro-re-creation in iMazePro.

gotcha comparison

Left: 1973 ad for Gotcha!   Middle: screenshot from Gotcha! Right: iPhone’s clone iMazePro

1974- The maze game expanded in 1974 when a NASA engineer came up with a 3-D maze game called Maze War.  Not only was this title one of the first 3-D games, many credit it as the earliest first-person shooter.  It also was a pioneer in competitive play; multiple players could shoot at each other while wandering through the same sketch-like maze.  For the iPhone, there is no exact clone, but there is Simple Maze 3-D, a line art game that recreates the look of this old trend setter.  If you’re looking for a modern spin on the maze game, check out the GPS-driven i-Gotcha.

Left: classic Maze War    Right: iPhone’s clone

Check back with us every week or so for more gaming history with our continuing series Classics and Clones: Retro-gaming for the iPhone.



  1. Daniel on Monday 4, 2010

    Wow, very interesting write-up indeed! Great job, can’t wait to read the next one!

  2. flashgames on Monday 4, 2010

    Its inevitable the clones come about for the iphone
    lets just hope they’re fun!

  3. Chris on Monday 4, 2010

    I think most of the games mentioned in this particular roundup are more nostalgic than fun. As we progress into some more classic games, we’ll mention a few great clones and updates I’m sure you’ll enjoy.

  4. [...] enjoy. 1975- While home gaming was growing in popularity due to the now infamous device known as Pong, a new type of game was entering the scene for computer gamers who wanted a more cerebral [...]