The early consoles are a study in experimentation and insane concepts. What a time to be alive.
Released by Mattel Electronics in 1979, the Intellivision is that company’s answer to the explosive popularity of Atari’s console and represents an interesting, if brief, foray by the toy manufacturer into video games.
Development on the system started in 1977, with the concept of producing an “intelligent television” that was part toy, part home computer. Producing games from its release until 1990, the Intellivision is one of those legendary consoles that most of us have never heard of before. Nonetheless, it has a special place in the hearts of many gamers.
Mattel’s only attempt at making such a device until a failed 2006 effort called the HyperScan, the Intellivision sold over three million consoles during the video game heyday between 1980 and 1983. Of course, those of us that know our video game history are aware of what happened in 1983: the video game market crashed.
The fact that the Intellivision survived beyond this point and on into 1990 is somewhat of a testament to its strength as a machine. Even so, by the time the Sega Genesis rolled around and the Super Nintendo was just on the horizon, time had run out for the Intellivision.
Here are my top five best Intellivision games as well as an honorable mention that I think you should know about. As always, I would love to hear about your own favorite games, as well as your favorite memories of the Intellivision, if you have them.
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5. Stadium Mud Buggies (developed by Realtime Associates, published by INTV 1988)
The title of this game pretty much says it all but, just in case you are not clear, I am happy to explain it to you, because this game is so charming and bonkers fun to play you cannot help but be impressed.
First off, you can play alone, against the computer, or against a friend. You can do single lap events of up to 9 laps per event, as well as five different difficulty settings to choose from, to keep you challenged.
You drive a buggy around a dirt track in one of nine different events, including, Hill Climb, Drag Race, Bog, Tug-O-War, Car Crush, Donuts, Drawbridge, Combo Course, as well as the Monster Rally.
4. Beauty and the Beast (developed and published by Imagic 1982)
The title might make you think of the Disney film, but this is actually a Donkey Kong rip-off, but a good one. You star as Bashful Buford who has to rescue Tiny Mabel from Horrible Hank, who has placed her atop a skyscraper a la King Kong.
There are a lot of different influences going on here, but the concept is stellar and the game is compellingly fun. Even as a clone, Imagic’s game stands on its own merits and is more than worth a try.
3. Diner (developed by Realtime Associates, published by INTV 1987)
A pseudo sequel to another game on this list, BurgerTime, Diner is all about Peter Pepper getting the food back on the plate after the baddies from BurgerTime scattered it all over the restaurant. You do this by kicking balls of food down ramps and throughways until it lands on the plate below.
Once you have assembled the main plate, you can then move on to other things like side orders. It is kind of an insane concept when you consider it, but such was common in the early days of video games.
2. BurgerTime (developed and published by Data East 1982, ported to the Intellivision by Mattel Electronics in 1983)
A true arcade classic, this game involves assembling burgers while avoiding malevolent ingredients such as Hot Dogs, Cherries, Bananas, and Mugsy, and the glass of root beer. It combines platforming and puzzle elements, because you have to both avoid enemies while also strategizing about how you are going to stack the burgers properly.
Again, I know it sounds weird, but it works in action. Huge, bright graphics and detailed sprites, BurgerTime is iconic in its design along the lines of Pac-Man and Space Invaders.
Thin Ice (developed by Quicksilva Limited, published by Mattel Electronics 1983)
This game has an astonishingly simple conceit that is a combination of Mario Kart’s battle mode and Marble Madness. You are a penguin and you enjoy skating around on thin ice. The only problem is that your friends do, too, and you have to skate circles around them to cause them to fall into the cold waters below.
How fun is that? You can make yourself go faster by eating shrimp cocktails and, as the levels advance, more and more obstacles are added to the rink for you to avoid. Super charming, tons of fun, and easy to play, Thin Ice is a concept that needs to be revisited.
Time to announce the winner now: the number one on my list is…
1. Bump ’n’ Jump (developed and published by Data East 1982, ported to the Intellivision by Mattel Electronics in 1983)
A racing game, sure, but a competitive and aggressive one at that. You have to make it from the starting line to the finish but you better not hit any obstacles or fall into any bodies of water in between those two points or it is game over.
Oh, and you need to knock the other cars into obstacles or bodies of water. That means you have to balance racing and getting rid of competitors which can lead to some accidentally hairy and hilarious situations. Originally published by Data East for the arcades, Bump ‘n’ Jump ported most of that magic over to the Intellivision and left little behind.
And that’s my list. Certainly not comprehensive, but definitely some of my favorites. One thing that is surprising about the Intellivision is just how many good games are out there for the system, and most gamers will have their own list of favorites. If you do not know anything about the Intellivision, however, this can hopefully get you started.
What about you, retro folks? Do you have any favorites from the Intellivision era that you think should be on this list? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.