Video games in the ’80s only depicted a certain amount of pixels on the screen. Fortunately, that didn’t hold developers back from pushing the limits of the available hardware to play with our imagination by creating beautiful, handsome characters.
This week — starting off with the ’80s — we’re going to explore the hottest, most attractive video game characters to see how gaming tastes and technology have changed over the years.
It’s not surprising to see the first few instances of popular characters represented in video games as blocky blobs. It may not seem like Smurfette and Snow White are beautiful in these images by today’s standards, but it’s what we had in the ’80s.
Smurf: Rescue in Gargamel’s Castle (1982)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1983)
Nintendo stuck to a formula in their early games: After beating the game, players were rewarded with an ending animation featuring a cute princess or — in Metroid‘s case — a really hot, shocking reveal.
Pauline in Donkey Kong (1981)
Princess Peach in Super Mario Bros. (1985)
Samus Aran in Metroid (1986)
Princess Zelda in The Legend of Zelda (1986)
Things changed a bit by the end of the decade. Because of technical limitations, in most cases instead of named characters we got beautiful intros, endings or title screens. And of course there were exceptions and experiments, like the interactive movie-like Dragon’s Lair released on laserdisc or the prankish, comedic text adventure Leather Goddesses Of Phobos.
Dragon’s Lair (1983)
Leather Goddesses of Phobos (1986)
California Games (1987)
Leisure Suit Larry in the Land of the Lounge Lizards (1987)
The Great Giana Sisters (1987)
Super Robin Hood (1987)
Maniac Mansion (1987)
Sid Meier’s Pirates! (1987)
Snatcher (the PC-8801 version from 1988)
Battle Chess (1988)
Street Rod (1989)
Keef The Thief (1989)
Super Monaco Grand Prix (1989)
Spellcasting 101 (1989)
Prince of Persia (1989)
It didn’t take too long to see adult games pop up and find their audiences. Although we won’t focus on them in the series, we can’t ignore their presence. Japan already had a decent library of adult games by the end of the decade, but the West took their own active part in various so-called Atari porn titles (Custer’s Revenge) and poker games. One of the earliest ones was Artworx’ Strip Poker for the Apple II.
Strip Poker: A Snizzling Game of Chance (1982)
The closest you could get to hot male characters in video games were sword & sorcery type fantasy titles, movie adaptations, run-and-gun action games or a combination of these. Basically: full of testosterone.
James Bond: A View To Kill (1983)
Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985)
Space Quest: The Sarien Encounter (1986)
Barbarian: The Ultimate Warrior (1987)
Super Spike Volleyball (1989)
Tomorrow we step forward to the ’90s to see how tastes evolved in that decade.
Can you recall any other great games from the ’80s that featured beautiful characters? Hit the comments!