Carnival

In 1980, the Sega corporation peered into the nation's soul and determined that kids didn't really want to blast aliens, race cars, or chomp power pills. They wanted to take a 25-cent trip through time to a 19th-century shooting gallery. In spite of this insight, Sega went on to be one of the most profitable video-game companies of all time.

Gameplay: There's no involved story about saving the world or rescuing the girl. You're pretty much just trying to shoot all the targets before you run out of ammunition. Clear a level, and you get to take a shot at a big scary bear in the bonus game. There's not much strategy, but hardcore Carnival players know to take out the ducks first, then aim for the boxes that give up additional shots. Careful that you don't unintentionally hit a negative point or ammo marker, and for maximum points, go for those pipes early, before their value drops!

Okay, so it turns out that there is a little strategy after all... but unlike complicated button-fests such as Defender, all this game needed was a single joystick and one button. Ah, simplicity, thy name is Carnival.

Could be mistaken for: A trip to the county fair, or the boardwalk, or maybe even the carnival.

Kids today might not like it because: Except for the duck, which just eats your bullets, none of the targets shoot back, or even try to jump out of your way. They just scroll across the screen, like they're targets or something.

Kids today might like it because: There are a lot of double-entendre possibilities, like "Dude! I just shot the pipe!"

Enduring contribution to gaming history: Carnival was moderately popular in arcades, but hugely successful on ColecoVision. Like Mouse Trap and Donkey Kong, it was one of the first games to translate almost perfectly from the arcade to home systems. —Wil Wheaton

From 1980 to 1982, Wil Wheaton spent 71,000 quarters [adjusted for inflation] trying to beat the bonus level in Carnival. He never did, and he died alone and destitute in 1995.

Images courtesy of the Killer List Of Videogames (klov.com) and The International Arcade Museum.

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