Three decades ago, the mighty video game industry crashed in North America, albeit temporarily.
As arcades across the country closed their doors, many believed the hulking decorative cabinets of the video game era would never be relevant again. Nobody would have guessed that the once-dominant quarter eaters of the early 1980s would see so much action in the 21st century.
Over the past several years, gamers have not only picked up on the retro arcade classics again, but several of them have been going so far as to shatter the all-time world record scores set on them in the days of alligator shirts and feathered hair. Asteroids, Pac-Man, Q*bert, Armor Attack, Asteroids Deluxe, Frogger, Moon Patrol, Popeye, Missile Command and Donkey Kong are among the dozens of classic arcade high scores that have suffered in defeat to modern-day hot shots, sparking some conversation as to what, if any, vintage arcade scores have continued to stand the test of time.
Research shows that quite a number of them do. More than 30 arcade high scores still stand today, set in 1982 as famed video game referee Walter Day first started tracking the champions of the video age.
Some of these scores stand due more to the rarity of the titles while the validity of some of the other scores may be called into question by today's video whizzes. Then again, the scores on games such as Missile Command and Mr. Do! were also said to be impossible just a few years ago, only to be utterly crushed in the modern era.
The oldest standing arcade video game record is on Exidy game Star Fire, set by a woman named Laura Curran on January 4, 1982. While this game is not exactly a household name, Star Fire had a few moments of fame in a scene in 1980 Disney film Midnight Madness, being played by Michael J. Fox in his movie debut. Curran's 9,780 points may point toward a score set in a later ROM revision called Star Fire II, but nonetheless is the longest standing record by several months.
The third oldest arcade records also come with interesting notes. On March 10, 1982 a man named Todd Anderson set a 117,300 point record on Nintendo's Radar Scope, the space shooter that flopped in the United States, forcing Nintendo to turn to a new game to convert the unsold Radar Scope machines into. That game was Donkey Kong, which introduced Mario and saved Nintendo of America from bankruptcy.
Other major hits of the first "golden age" of video games that still have standing records set in 1982 include Zaxxon, Amidar, Rally-X, Deluxe Space Invaders, Vanguard and Warlords. Several of these games are available at noted world record setting locations such as Galloping Ghost Arcade and Funspot, where they could be challenged at any time.
The full list of arcade world record scores from 1982 that continue to stand today follows below. Who will be the next arcade expert in the 21st century to topple one of the original world record video game scores?
- January 4, 1982: Star Fire - 9,780 points by Laura Curran
- January 16, 1982: Zarzon - 48,720 points by Steve Weirzbecki
- March 10, 1982: Radar Scope - 117,300 points by Todd Anderson
- March 15, 1982: Zaxxon - 4,680,740 by Vernon Kalanikaus
- April 1, 1982: Space Odyssey - 2,559,000 by Curtis Gaskill
- April 2, 1982: Armor Attack (two player team) 2,257,850 by Paul Hall & Derek Davis
- May 1, 1982: UniWar S - 49,990 by Ed Clifford
- May 19, 1982: Route 16 - 40,200 by Phil Satterla
- June 12, 1982: Polaris - 791,800 by Cyril Herridge
- June 22, 1982: Amidar - 3,208,870 b Scott Karasek
- July 6, 1982: Vanguard - 3,110,100 by Scotty Williams
- July 10, 1982: Qix II - 676,185 by Daniel Chilton
- July 20, 1982: Alien Attackers - 4,930 by Tim McVey
- August 21, 1982: Space Wars - 19 by Michael Mize
- August 24, 1982: Piranha - 654,160 by Sean Lockhart
- August 29, 1982: Warlords - 911,875 by Peter Skahill
- September 16, 1982: Deluxe Space Invaders - 425,230 by Matt Brass
- September 25, 1982: Eliminator - 662,000 by Curt Stilwell
- October 6, 1982: Rip-Off - 92,890 by P. Sweeny & K. Potter
- October 10, 1982: Tail Gunner - 14,200 by Scott Manfils
- October 26, 1982: Space Tactics - 3,285,800 by Don Salinas
- October 31, 1982: Electric Yo-Yo - 1,079,270 by Jim Matson
- November 17, 1982: Cosmic Avenger - 117,290 by Wes Hupp
- November 20, 1982: Astro Blaster - 299,100 by Gus Pappas
- November 23, 1982: Alpine Ski - 500,774 by Eric Olofson
- November 30, 1982: Pot of Gold - 1,113,320 by Eddie Leech
- December 6, 1982: Moon Shuttle - 30,870 by Mike Perez
- December 12, 1982: Megattack - 552,700 by Tim Sobol
- December 18, 1982: NATO Defense - 1,113,000 by Paul Barrette
- December 28, 1982: Rally-X - 167,870 by Chris Ranalla
(Note: World record scores on Monaco GP and Victory were also set in 1982 but are not listed, as they are the "max out" level and cannot be beaten, only tied. The Monaco GP 9,999 record set on March 12, 1982 could someday become the oldest arcade game world record forever, should the scores that date before it fall.)