Forget Call of Duty, Real Men Need the Retro Love: Gauntlet

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chris-littlechild - January 15, 2014

In the mid-eighties, a time when cell phones and hairstyles alike were craptacularly huge, there was Gauntlet. Few games had the balls of steel needed to allow four simultaneous players on one big ol' chunky arcade cabinet, but this mofo did.

It was still five years before both the foundation of the Internet and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, so we needed something to entertain our asses. A little fantasy beast-slaying fit the bill nicely. Let's take a look.

This was one chunky ol' machine, right here.

Gauntlet was brought to us by Atari Games in 1985. It is credited as one of the first dungeon crawlers, the video game equivalent of nerdly Dungeons and Dragons sessions (y'know, without the thick spectacles, 85-sided dice and general cloying stench of virginity). Shit-stained labyrinths will be traversed, treasure will be looted and dragons will be stabbed in the gonads by a +6 Sword of Ball-Stabby Vengeance. That's just how these things go down.

In the arcade game, you choose from four horribly cliched fantasy fighters. There's an Elf, a Wizard, a Valkyrie and a Warrior. They have similarly tedious names, such as Merlin and Thor, and are each suited to a particular style of play. The Wizard is your man for long range ass-whuppings, for instance, while the Warrior wants to get in there hand-to-hand and duke it out like real manly men should.

You gather around the chunky game cabinet, earn a reproving glare from the miserable old bastard who owns the arcade (who is, once again, pissed that goddamn 'customers' have dared to enter his gameatorium), and descend into the dungeon. The first thing you notice? It's all looking utterly piss-poor and eighties-flavored. There's a reason for that, can you spot it?

But the second thing? It's all going to be a little more taxing than your average brain-not-required arcade shooter. Gauntlet, and the genre it largely inspired, can be quite a bitch. Skeletons, ghosts and other horrors from the depths of the devil's ass oppose you. They may know only the ‘swarm the player en masse and claw at his/her eyeballs' combat tactic, but there are many of the buggers. Many many-s of the many.

"Where the HELL did all these EFFING GHOSTS come from?" Just when Warrior thought Monday mornings couldn't suck any less.

Other concerns include food, and sharing supplies of same. After all, failing to do so will result in the narrator's famous DON'T SHOOT THE FOOD and RED WARRIOR NEEDS FOOD BADLY and other such comments. Which, in 2014, the Internet has seen damn well enough of. You can get this crap on a t-shirt.

Gauntlet is fondly remembered for a few things other than its ball-achingly bad Stephen Hawking-esque narrator though. Its primitive combat and maze design, inspired by 1980's Rogue, had a similarly seminal impact in turn. The likes of Diablo and such are still going strong, so there's still a nerdy little place in many players' hearts for this sort of thing.

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