No, it’s not that I can’t spell — I recently dug up a stack of old board games based on videogames (see what I did there?), and well, what else am I gonna do but write a blog post about ’em?
Back in the early 1980s, when videogames were a true worldwide mania, we were up to our eyebrows in merch and spinoff products. Lunchboxes, pillowcases, record albums, et cetera, ad nauseum. And one of those categories, naturally, was board games.
I’ve always thought board games were cool, admittedly less for the playing experience than for the designs of the boards, maps, pieces, and iconography. So to see the way board games translated videogame rules into an analog format was pretty fascinating: some worked well, others, not so much.
In my collecting adventures, I’ve acquired six videogame-based boardgames: Donkey Kong (which I got when I was a kid and it was new), Pac-Man, Q*bert, Zaxxon, Super Mario Bros., and Street Fighter II. There were a lot more than that back in the day, however: Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger, Centipede, Defender, Dragon’s Lair, Zelda, and more all had their own tabletop games. Milton-Bradley made the majority of them, with varying levels of quality. There are sophisticated new games still being made, like the fairly recent Mega Man boardgame. And I won’t even get into the Japanese scene, but I’ve heard the stories about the Japanese Zelda boardgame that’s apparently super rad and is now highly collectible.
Anyway, since I actually have no idea how to play most of these things, this post is mostly going to be a visual…some photos and a video I put together. Ready? Then get on board! (HA! I did it again! I am clever and funny.)
Let’s start with Q*bert! Seems like a natural fit for a boardgame. It would be even cooler if the pyramid was 3-dimensional though, woudn’t it?
Donkey Kong is one of the coolest, with really terrific artwork and a cool Donkey Kong prop that actually dispenses barrels! (See it in action in the video!)
Up next is Zaxxon, which wins for the best 3D molded pieces. It’s like the actual ships, enemies, and obstacles from the videogame sprang to life, including Zaxxon itself!
Then there’s Pac-Man. A cool idea in theory, with Pac-Man pieces that actually “eat” marbles…or at least, they’re supposed to. Check out the video to see how well they work…
The Super Mario Bros. boardgame was released in 1988, quite a few years after the “golden age” arcade games. As such, I found that the pieces are much cheaper, being cardboard chits rather than plastic pawns.
The Street Fighter II boardgame brings us into the ’90s. This thing is quite large, with lots of pieces and what appear to be fairly complex rules.
And finally, I’ll leave you with a video tour of these six games in action!