1. Robotron (Arcade)
“You are the last hope of mankind...”
“Due to a genetic engineering error, you possess superhuman powers…”
And it’s true. When you play Robotron those superhuman powers surge through your veins. You are unstoppable. You shrug off the gradual attrition of lives with the “but a scratch” nonchalance of the Monty Python Black Knight. No situation is impossible. No matter what terrifying configuration of Tanks and Enforcers faces you, the thought of failure never flickers across your mind. Where others see panic, you see points. Grasping the twin sticks completes the circuit, wires you in, left stick – positive, right stick – negative. Focussed solely on your player but dimly aware of everything around you. You can sense the game’s pulse, read its mind, always one step ahead of the dizzying conflagration of light and sound. When you spread your wings and really play Robotron you can pull off the impossible, walk on water. It sets your spidey-sense tingling every time.
Robotron is a battle of confidence – the confidence to take them on, on your own, against seemingly impossible odds. There are tactics and there are strategies, but they won’t help you without the belligerence to make them work. There is no such thing as a casual game of Robotron. From the moment your coin slips into that slot, and the game gurgles into life, you’ve bet more than just a credit – it’s your reputation at stake. You could emerge the other side victorious or utterly humiliated, so you’d better knuckle down to the task at hand.
And Robotron will make you work for that glory. It’s a punishing, exhausting game. The only time your hands will leave the controls is when they’re too sweaty to grip them any longer. An hour on Robotron beats the gym any day, and you’ll give as good as you get. It is the only game I have actually broken a joystick on. Twice.
Robotron is an immaculate construction… clearly the work of two self-unaware gamers, high on the success of Defender and Stargate, pushing themselves and the hardware beyond where they should go. You can sense the malevolent glee as they pile more and more objects onscreen, challenging either the game or the player to crack first. The game itself is stripped down, a none-more-basic survival story. It’s fight or flight, but with nowhere to run to.
The genius of Robotron’s design, and a thrilling contrast to Defender, is cramming everything onto a single screen. Your task, as formidable as it may be, is there etched in glowing pixels from the very start of the wave. No tricks, no reinforcements, all challenge. Defender’s split-second humanoid micromanagement is carried through and pared down in the form of the last human family. This time every human loss, every small defeat happens in front of you, on-screen, and it hurts just that bit more. Robotron gets straight to the heart of what makes shooters tick. Unremittingly hostile, it demands that you play it with feeling or not at all.
But none of this alone can explain why Robotron is the greatest shooter ever created. There are plenty of more difficult games, games with bigger guns, greater variety, bigger explosions, more buttons… What Robotron has is perfect balance. The game may be cruel and unforgiving to the last but it is ultimately always fair. The firepower at your command (and admit it, that’s ultimately what every shooter boils down to) is just enough to deal with the unfolding carnage in every wave. Use it skillfully, and Robotron is overwhelmingly empowering, which is what all great shooters should aspire to... and also where we came in.
Saving the Last Human Family since 1982…
Huge Euge. Look! He gives enough of a shit about this to send us a new pic.
“I got to say, I am totally speechless. It really does bring tears to my eyes. That game has really taken on a life of its own. There’s a magic in the cacophony of algorithmic carnage that’s far beyond anything we put into the code… And I have to admit, I’m pissed ‘cos some smart-ass college kid kicked my ass only the other night. If I could’ve just gotten to the next brain-wave…"
“I guess I first have to thank my partner in crime at Vid Kidz – Larry DeMar, our fellow designers, mentors, dementors, my parents, his parents, and everyone else that abused and warped us into the social outcast computer geeks that we were. It never would have happened if we were just regular, well-adjusted guys selling real estate or something."
Larry DeMar. Unsung, but still a major hero.
“And to all the hot girls who said no – thanks for giving us the time to spend 6 months, 24/7, doing the game. And thanks also to Newton, Galileo, Einstein, the guys who invented the transistor, the IC, the microprocessor, yadayadayada down the line. Oh, and God (I hope you’re watching) for making it all possible."
“And a big shout out to all the insane Robotron players out there, keeping the torch burning. You’re the reason we made the game."
“I humbly accept this ‘Golden Rodent’, and oh yes, I’ll give up my Robotron when you pry the joysticks from my cold, dead fingers!”
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That list again, then:
- Space Invaders
- Star Wars
- Missile Command
- Star Force
- Tempest 2000
- Moon Cresta
- Metal Slug
- Geometry Wars
- Jet Pac
- Radiant Silvergun
- Juno First
- Drop Zone
- Side Arms
- Thunderforce IV
- Battle Squadron
- Mad Planets
Honourable mentions: DoDonPachi, Giga Wing, Astro Blaster, Tac/Scan, Space Duel, Time Pilot, Smash TV, Flying Shark, Mars Matrix, Asteroids on the VIC-20 by Simon Munnery and loads more.
And in reverse order...
50 to 40 - Oooh the suspense.
39 to 29 - Wow, if only we had Paul Ross to present.
28 to 18 - Time for a cup of tea in the break?
17 to 6 - Nearly there, so you get just a bit more meat.
5 - Into the legends...
4 - Is this the Bobby Moore to no.1's Paul Gascoigne?
3 - 3-2-1 quipped Ted Rogers. He wasn't wrong.
2 - We argued and agonised for months over this list - we really did.
1 - But of the number one slot, there was never any doubt
Disagree with our selections? - Be wrong in the Forum!