10 Oldest Video Games in the World

The video game industry has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry and shows no signs of slowing down. According to one source, the industry as a whole is expected to be worth over $230 billion by 2022. It may be hard to believe, but the video game industry is only about 50 years old. Video games trace their history to the 1950s, but their mainstream popularity and industry did not emerge until the 1970s. Since then, the interest in video games has grown exponentially and playing video games is now one of the most popular pastimes around the world.

10. Gun Fight (Western Gun)

Release Date: 1975
Creator(s):  Tomohiro Nishikado of Taito
Country of Origin:  Japan
Genre(s):  Multidirectional shooter
Mode(s):  Two-player

Gun Fightphoto source: Wikipedia

Gun Fight, which was called Western Gun in Japan and Europe, was one of the first widely successful arcade games released by Japanese video game company, Taito. The game was one of the first to depict human-to-human combat. Western Gun was designed by Tomohiro Nishikado, who created several games while working for Taito, most notably Space Invaders.

Taito licensed Western Gun to Midway for release in North America. Midway changed the game’s name to Gun Fight, which made more sense to American audiences. The Midway version of the game was the first video game to use a microprocessor.


9. Tank

Release Date: November 5, 1974
Creator(s):  Kee Games, a subsidiary of Atari
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Maze
Mode(s):  Multiplayer

Tankphoto source: Wikipedia

Tank was the only original title released by Kee Games, which was a subsidiary of Atari. Kee Games was created to sell clones of Atari titles to distributors as a fake competitor. Tank was completely original and was designed by Steve Bristow and developed by Lyle Rains. The game was created because Bristow wanted to move Kee Games away from only producing copies of Atari’s games into also developing original titles.

One month after Tank was released, Atari announced a merger with Kee, which came at perfect time for Atari as the company was facing financial troubles. Atari was helped by Tank’s commercial success,  which sold over 10,000 units. This success led four Tank sequels over the next few years.


8. Gran Trak 10

Release Date: May 1974
Creator(s):  Atari
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Racing
Mode(s):  Multiplayer

Gran Trak 10photo source: Wikipedia

After Space Race was unsuccessful, Atari made a second attempt at releasing a racing game with Gran Trak 10. Although Space Race was also a racing game, Gran Trak 10 is considered to be the first arcade car racing game. The game was controlled by an actual steering wheel, accelerator and brake pedals, and a gear stick – this setup would later be used in nearly all arcade racing games.

Gran Trak 10 was initially designed by Larry Emmons of Cyan, with the mechanical design handled by Eigen Systems. Allan Alcorn, who developed Pong, overhauled Gran Trak 10 and made it ready for a wide release in May 1974. Although Atari underestimated the manufacturing costs of Gran Trak 10 – which led to Atari losing $500,000 for that fiscal year – the game was successful.


7. Space Race

Release Date: July 16, 1973
Creator(s):  Atari
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Racing
Mode(s):  Multiplayer

Space Racephoto source: Wikipedia  

Space Race was the second game released by Atari after the success of Pong. Development of Space Race began in the summer of 1972 and was initially called Asteroid. It was based on ideas from Atari co-founders Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushnell.

The game was a commercial failure and was only created to fulfill an earlier contract that Atari had made with Bally Midway. Despite its lack of success, Space Race inspired Japanese video game developer Taito to make a clone game called Astro Race. Additionally, Space Race is notable for being the first racing arcade video game.


6. Pong

Release Date: November 29, 1972
Creator(s):  Allan Alcorn while working for Atari
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Sports
Mode(s):  Single player and multiplayer

Pongphoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although all of the games on this list influenced the video game industry in some way, Pong‘s success made the video game industry a viable business. Pong was created by Allan Alcorn as a training exercise assigned to him by Nolan Bushnell, the co-founder of the newly renamed video game company Atari (it was previously called Syzygy Engineering). Bushnell and Atari co-founder Ted Dabney liked Alcorn’s work and decided to manufacture the game.

Pong was an immediate hit and it is considered the first commercially successful video game. Due to Pong’s success, several companies began producing games similar to Pong. Atari released numerous sequels to Pong and released a home version of the game during the 1975 Christmas season. Pong has has been a part of popular culture since its release.


5. Magnavox Odyssey Games

Release Date: September 1972
Creator(s):  Small team led by Ralph H. Baer at Sanders Associates for Magnavox
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Various
Mode(s):  Single player and multiplayer

Magnavox Odyssey Gamesphoto source: Wikimedia Commons via Evan-Amos

The Magnavox Odyssey was the first home video game console ever released. The idea for a video game console was developed by Ralph H. Baer and he spent several years developing a prototype with Bill Harrison and Bill Rusch. They showed their prototype to several manufacturers before Magnavox agreed to produce the console in 1971.

The Odyssey debuted in the Fall of 1972 and the U.S. version came with 12 games. Additional games were sold separately later in the year and in 1973. The games included with the Odyssey were: Table Tennis, Ski, Simon Says, Analogic, Hockey, Football, Cat and Mouse, Haunted House, Submarine, Roulette, and States. In addition to the separate game cards, Magnavox sold the first video game light gun as a peripheral controller.


4. Galaxy Game

Release Date: November 1971
Creator(s):  Bill Pitts and Hugh Tuck
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Space combat simulation
Mode(s):  Multiplayer

Galaxy Gamephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Galaxy Game is the lesser-known of the first two arcade games ever released, which were both based on the earlier computer game Spacewar! The game was developed by Bill Pitts and Hugh Tuck, at the student union building of Stanford University, around the same time that Syzygy Engineering (which would later become Atari) released its Spacewar!-based arcade game, Computer Space.

Pitts and Tuck spent $65,000 building two prototype consoles for Galaxy Game and installed them in the student union. The console charged players 10 cents per game or 25 cents for three and was popular among the university’s students. Unfortunately, Pitts and Tuck were unable to turn Galaxy Game into a commercial success because they chose to focus on the game’s engineering rather than the business side of their idea. The second console is still operational and is currently a playable exhibit at the Computer History Museum.


3. Computer Space

Release Date: 1971
Creator(s):  Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in partnership as Syzygy Engineering
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Space combat simulation
Mode(s):  Single player and multiplayer

Computer Spacephoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Computer Space was the first arcade video game as well as the first commercially available video game. It was one of a few video games directly based on the popular 1962 computer game Spacewar! Computer Space was designed by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney in 1970 – 1971  and was intended to be a coin-operated version of Spacewar!

Bushnell and Dabney formed Syzygy Engineering to work on Computer Space. They partnered with Nutting Associates to build a prototype game cabinet for Computer Space. After the initial tests were successful, Nutting ordered 1,500 units of the game and Syzygy eventually sold all 1,500 games. Although Computer Space was not the runaway hit that Syzygy hoped it would be, it marked the official beginning of the video game industry.


2. Spacewar!

Release Date: 1962
Creator(s):  Steve Russell in collaboration with Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Space Combat
Mode(s):  Multiplayer

Spacewar!photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Of all the early games on this list, Spacewar! is probably one of the most influential. The game was highly popular among the small programming community of the 1960s and inspired the first commercial arcade games. Spacewar! is so important to video game history that it was the first entry of the game canon at the U.S. Library of Congress.

Spacewar! was developed by Steve Russell with help from Martin Graetz and Wayne Wiitanen. Russell also had help with the game’s programming from Bob Saunders and Steve Piner. The game was created for the newly installed DEC PDP-1 computer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After the game was released, other students and employees from the universities in the area added on to the game, developing it further.


1. Tennis for Two

Release Date: October 18, 1958
Creator(s):  William Higinbotham
Country of Origin:  USA
Genre(s):  Sports
Mode(s):  Multiplayer

Tennis for Twophoto source: Wikimedia Commons

Although the answer defers depending on who you ask, Tennis for Two is widely considered the oldest video game in the world. It was the very first computer game created solely for entertainment rather than for academic research. Tennis for Two was developed by American physicist William Higinbotham who worked in the Brookhaven National Laboratory as the head of the instrumentation division.

Higingbotham got the idea for Tennis for Two after reading the instruction manual for the Donner Model 30 analog computer. He discovered that the computer could calculate ballistic missile trajectories or a bouncing ball with wind resistance and Higingbotham used an oscilloscope to display the game.

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