Retro Sci-Fi Games: Asteroids

Posted by Guest Author on Mar 10, 2008 in Videogames |

Retro Sci-Fi Games: Asteroids

It seems almost impossible to fall over in a game store without knocking over a few dozen sci-fi themed games, so we wanted to take a look at the ten best examples of the genre. Our twist? Retro! So here’s one glimpse of the future from the past:


Asteroids, released in 1979, plays upon our fears of doom raining down from the skies. Death from outer space is one of the cornerstones of sci-fi, as is the daring solo hero/star-fighter. Asteroids distills these themes down to the quantum level. It’s simply you versus the rocks. Like the ur sci-fi game Spacewar! (later Computer Space) you have to use your thrust to avoid a deadly collision, but that will also send you careening around the board, possibly making things worse. If all else fails you can jump into hyperspace for a moment, blinking out of existence for a moment, but possibly reappearing back into hostile territory. Even blasting the asteroids into dust can get you into trouble, as they break up into smaller and faster balls of evil.

Added into the mix is the occasional flying saucer, which must have had some sort of special interest in mining the asteroid field. It wants nothing more than to blow you to smithereens.

Backing all of this frantic drama is the musical score, presented in a stunning two note monotone. Simply alternating between the two tones, it gradually builds tension, speeding up as you clear the screen. As a kid I always just assumed the developers really liked the Jaws soundtrack.

While many might immediately cry foul at the exclusion Spacewar! from this main listing, one has to give credit to Asteroids for making the experience available to the average Joe. The fact that there really is only one working version of the game, and its rather exclusive design, make it more of an interesting footnote than a viable candidate. Asteroids brought the vector-based space shooter down to Earth.

Zac Bentz is a regular contributor to the Japanese culture blog Japanator, runs his own Japanese music review blog ZB’s A-Z of J-Music and plays crazy electro-rock in The Surfactants. He lives in Duluth, MN with his wife, pets and a closet full of adventure.

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