Sometimes, there just is not enough time for level ups and hours of grinding. Sometimes, complex stories and character development get in the way of a good sword liberating the blood of countless monsters. Sometimes, there’s only room on the table for fun, and that’s where Gauntlet rides into the room on a gold plated horse leaving a trail of puppies and hoof prints filled with rocky road ice cream, covered in the sequin-infused hopes and dreams of the mid 1980s.
Wait. If you’ve never played Gauntlet and aren’t already fidgeting from a nostalgia attack, stop reading and watch this video. (Sorry. I couldn’t find a video of four people playing at once, but once you see the game, everything will become obvious, including the potential for a nut-bustingly good time with some friends.)
I rarely had the chance to play Gauntlet as a wee lad, but the pictures in old Nintendo Power issues I stole from my brothers moisturized my brain with fanciful dreams of all the fun I was missing out on. A few years later, when cheaply produced discs engorged with arcade classics like Paperboy and Marble Madness were all the rage in software sale bins, I snatched up Gauntlet and never looked back. Hours were spent exploring the depths of those dungeons, with the next virtual quarter just a keystroke away. If you can’t say the same, find a copy. Now. It’s good for your soul.
From a purely gameplay standpoint, nothing in the last twenty-five years can come close to the excitement of crowding around an arcade machine with three of your friends while trying to cut through waves and waves of ghosts and demons. For those of you that somehow managed to miss out on the best thing to ever happen to arcades, kill everything as fast as you can and get to the exit, don’t shoot the food (unless you really want to be a jerk), and for the love of all that is holy, don’t waste your potions when Death is off screen! That’s it. There’s nothing else to get in the way because you don’t *need* anything else.
Ported from the arcade to pretty much everything that could support it, including consoles as recent as the Gamecube, Xbox, and PS3, Gauntlet set the stage for most of the fun gamers have been enjoying ever since. Yes, like most RPGs, Gauntlet’s roots are in the forerunner of most modern day games, Dungeons and Dragons, except Gauntlet brought character classes, cooperative exploration, and the concept of a “dungeon crawl” to video games first. And unlike most games to pioneer such important gaming elements, Gauntlet was more than popular enough on its own for each droplet of awesome to splash damage (in a good way) onto the rest of the arcade and home gaming market.
Golden Axe, Everquest, Zombies Ate My Neighbors, World of Warcraft, Diablo, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, Streets of Rage, Spider-man Maximum Carnage, X-men Legends, Left 4 Dead, Dead Rising, Dungeon Explorer, The Elder Scrolls, and any other game with a “survival mode,” distinct character classes, or that you might call a “beat ’em up” all trace back some core aspect of their gameplay to this arcade classic. What other game can confidently say it influenced such a varied array of amazing titles across so many genres? In fact, what other game can say *anything* as well as Gauntlet?
None, that’s how many. So next time you’re blowing the head off the 500th zombie of the evening or staring at a character creation screen weighing the benefits of higher magic versus better stealth, give a mental nod towards the game that made it all possible for you, mmkay?
Have fond memories of Gauntlet in the arcades or on a home console? Have you downloaded it on Xbox Live or the sequel on PSN? Share in the nerdgasm on the forums!