From Pac-Man To WOW: The Evolution of Video Games

Simple video games have been around since 1947, but it was in the 1980s that video games truly arrived on the market. When you think of 80s arcade video games, Pac-Man is probably the first game that comes to mind. Pac-Man fever swept the nation, partially because it was a video game that girls loved to play too. Pac-Man may have been one of the first video games to capture a female market, but it would not be the last. Like so many aspects of the 80s, video games would quickly become something we could indulge in and even do it in our own space whether that was on a PC, a game console or hand-held devices. This was only the beginning of the game evolution, however. Check out how we got from Pac-Man to WOW.

The Evolution of Video Games

Video games continue to evolve, but there is no doubt that 80s had a tremendous influence on the games we play today. Tonight marks the end of the three-night event, The 80s: The Decade That Made Us.. so we’d be remiss not to keep the nostalgia pumping with one more nod to the decade that made us. Did you have a favorite video game in the 80s?  Here are three you are sure to remember.

Three 80s Video Games You Should Still Be Playing


“Centipede” was introduced to arcades in 1981. The goal was to shoot a centipede as it winds its way down the screen and to also destroy the occasional spider. Centipede was another game that had a female fan base and this might be because it was the first video game designed by a woman. Donna Bailey was the only female programmer at Atari at the time and definitely brought a different style and flair to its design. Centipede is an Atari classic and is still worth your quarters!

Super Mario Bros

Mario Bros began as an arcade game, but in 1985, Super Mario Bros, a “prequel” to the arcade game was bundled with the Nintendo Entertainment System. Super Mario Bros was not only the one of the most popular games in the 80s, but it is the bestselling video game of all time. It continues to be popular and even spawned a franchise with a movie and cartoons based on the characters and storyline. Today many gamers still enjoy racing through the Mushroom Kingdom, avoiding Bowser′s forces and saving Princess Toadstool. Unless, of course, the princess is in another castle…


Did you love Dungeons and Dragons? Are you a fan of World of Warcraft now? Chances are you would be playing Gauntlet in the 80s. This arcade game was introduced in 1985 and was one of the first “dungeon crawl” multi-player arcade games. Up to four players could play together and each had the choice of playing Thor the Warrior, Merlin the Wizard, Questor the elf or Thyra the Valkyrie. All of these characters had individual weaknesses and strengths. One of the most memorable features of the game was the narrator, a deep-voiced dungeon master who would chide characters at times “Remember, don’t shoot food” and report when a character was about to die. “Green Valkyrie needs food badly.”

Gauntlet still holds a place in the heart of 1980s gamers and gaming history and was without a doubt  the beginning of the evolution to multi-player online games like World of Warcraft. Gauntlet doesn’t quite compare, but everything has its beginnings, right?!

If it wasn’t for the 80s, we wouldn’t have the video games we play today. Tune in to The 80s: The Decade that Made us on Monday April 15th and Tuesday April 16th at 9PM et/pt and discover even more reasons you can celebrate and still love the 80s!


  1. Darren
    April 16, 2013, 12:33 pm

    And for those of you who haven’t played a video game since the 80s and are wondering what the whole deal is with World of Warcraft:

  2. video game console repair
    April 16, 2013, 2:14 pm

    There are many games from PacMan to Mario, Tetris to Snood, arcade-style video games are probably the most widely known exemplars of video games.

  3. […] Source National Geographic […]

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  5. Diggories
    April 16, 2013, 5:23 pm

    We found this article while we were doing research for the latest news on video gaming for our readers and thought it was something they would enjoy, so we have placed a quote on our website and a small comment with a link to this page.
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  6. […] graphic by National Geographic takes a look at the history of videos games. “From PAC-MAN to WoW” takes us back 50 […]

  7. […] this in infographic, National Geographic takes a look at the progression of video games, from military simulators, through the age of the […]

  8. […] Everything has a history and a story behind it, including video games.  The first interactive video game was produced in 1947, a solid thirty years before Pac-Man, one of the most influential video games of all time.  If you’d like to learn more about the history and evolution of video games, check out this awesome infographic from National Geographic. […]

  9. […] Want to learn more about the evolution of video games? Check out the infographic below presented by National Geographic. […]

  10. Superlicious | Superlevel
    April 19, 2013, 10:49 am

    […] From Pac-Man To WOW: The Evolution of Video Games games history "Simple video games have been around since 1947, but it was in the 1980s that video games truly arrived on the market. When you think of 80s arcade video games, Pac-Man is probably the first game that comes to mind." […]

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  12. justin
    United States
    April 23, 2013, 6:12 pm

    This is cool, but it’s missing the video game crash of 1983

  13. Kevin Bauer
    April 23, 2013, 6:40 pm

    Hmmm, without the Atari 2600 being so cheap and accessible for so long by so many, the game development industry we have today would be ten years less developed. I think that’s a glaring omission, more so than the Nintendo 8 bit would have been.

  14. […] a link to to the original, it’s pretty […]

  15. […] and how Angry Birds has dominated recent video game conversations, check out the infographic by National Geographic! What’s your favorite video game of all time? Please share in the […]

  16. Simon
    April 24, 2013, 12:32 pm

    Should the line not be “but everything has ITS beginnings”?

  17. Rebecca O'Connor
    April 24, 2013, 8:07 pm

    Oh Grammar Police. You find me wherever I go…

    Thank you. IT’S fixed now!! 😉

  18. U mad?????
    u mad???
    April 22, 2014, 10:03 am

    u mad????????????????????????????????????????????

  19. Darkhail
    LR, AR
    April 22, 2015, 11:32 am

    I was wondering where you got your statistics for game sales? I ask because I am finding different numbers.