The Intellivision Edition of the Totes Mathematical Top Ten Game List for Every Console Ever!

This entry is part 15 of 19 in the series Console Lists

The seventies were a fascinating time for several reasons, but what I find the most interesting was the home computer and electronics market being born. Microchips were getting cheaper, and companies knew that there was a lot of profit to be made if they could somehow monetize these amazing little circuits. Humans were able to land people on the damned moon with these things. Surely we could take them and do…well, they didn’t know what exactly, but people were certainly interested in experimenting.

Mattel was such a company. They’d been making toys for thirty years and decided to try their hand at slapping a few chips together in a box and making themselves something new. In 1977 they got to work on what that would be, and in two short years, had themselves a product.

They dubbed their masterpiece the Intellivision and with it, they started the very first console war.

Released: 1980
Generation of Home Consoles: Second
Graphics: Crazy enough, technically 16 bit.
Rating: There’s a reason this thing started the first console war.

The Closest Thing to the Real Thing.

The Atari 2600 was the first true rock star in video games. Invented by (and you’ll forgive me Mr. Nolan) a bunch of stoners who liked math, hot tubs, and carnivals. It’s really no wonder that it destroyed what little competition existed. As has been discussed, Warner Brothers bought the company after a spell. The WB thought that bringing a solid corporate structure to a super profitable company would make a ton of profit. They really did seem to try, and they made plenty of money, but Warner just didn’t understand exactly what they had bought and importantly, what made games good.

Mattel on the other hand was extremely well versed in what made toys good. They also had a ton of capital, plenty of name recognition, in roads with toy distributors, and were savvy enough to get in on a good thing when they saw it. The biggest problems with the 2600, as far as they could tell, were the extreme limitations on what one could do with the graphics and sound. Mattel opted to design their system more like a computer with the ability to add on and upgrade certain components. They also had a better chip set which could process way more graphics way more quickly than the 2600. When compared side to side, anyone could see that the Intellivision was a superior system.

After a brief trial run in 1979 which went well, Mattel had a full release in 1980 and the Intellivision quickly became a big hit. It didn’t take long for sales to actually begin cutting into Atari’s profits, and a slick ad campaign showed the large leap in graphics and sound over their competitor. Seriously. Look at this comparison.

Primitive sure, but I can clearly see that this is a baseball game.

Meanwhile at Atari…Cricket? Maybe? The box said Baseball.

Mattel ended up selling a few million units in the first couple years and the sky seemed to be the limit.

However, Mattel would soon learned that timing is everything in the video game business and things were about to spiral downward. In 1983 the video game market crashed and more or less took out everyone in the market. Mattel was no exception.

It would take some sort of Mario-esque character to get people back into home consoles, and Mattel didn’t have a Shigero Miyamoto to come in and transform the industry.

Oh! I almost forgot. They also had one of the worst video game controllers to have ever existed. Really…Just look at the things.

Awful. It looks like something someone would invent to purposefully make a game harder in order to get views on Youtube. Have you heard of those people who taught themselves to play Battletoads on a Dance Dance Revolution pad? Those people are crazy, but at least they did it to themselves. With Intellivision, you had no choice but to play with these abominations…but I digress.

Controllers aside, the Intellivision remains a good product and a happy memory in the hearts and minds of millions of people.

Though what is a game console without games? It’s nothing but an expensive paperweight. That’s what. So, without further adieu, in conjunction with my video game rating algorithm, I proudly present to you the top ten games for Intellivision!

10. Beauty and the Beast. 1982. (Imagic)
Poor old Imagic. An early pioneer in the “third party” video game developer game, Imagic was a fast growing company that made pretty good looking games, but was utterly destroyed by the video game crash of ’83. Beauty and the Beast was one of many games they released for Intellivision in 1982. Having nothing to do with the classic French story of the same name, you play as Bashful Buford and your girlfriend Tiny Mabel has been whisked away by a brute named Horrible Hank. He takes her up the side of a building, and you try to climb up after her, avoiding various birds and the occasional Hank thrown rock. It was definitely of its time, but there seems to be a soft spot for Buford with Intellivision fans.

9. Astrosmash. 1981. (Mattel)
Coming in the number nine spot we have a fun little game which is a bit of a mix between an Asteroids clone and a Space Invaders clone. That’s a lot of clones! You control a little laser and various asteroids and bombs and such fall down towards you. Shoot them first and you get points! The game was simple but the controls were very smooth and particularly well suited to the Intellivision controls. To progress through the game, you need to earn a certain amount of points, at which point everything gets faster and more hectic. Intellivision wanted a classic arcade style game and they delivered in spades here.

8. Bump N Jump. 1983. (Data East)
A port of the classic arcade game, and a pretty good one considering when it came out, is Bump ‘n’ Jump. This was a top down view racing game with no real plot, other than to wing your way down the street. Your car was fitted with a big jump feature, so in addition to the other race cars which could be bumped out of the way, there were street wide obstacles. No worries though, because if you were fast enough, you could simply take to the air and jump over the offending obstruction. Bumping and Jumping are both fun activities and together they made for a neat game.

7. Advanced Dungeons and Dragons: Treasure of Tarmin. 1983. (APh Technological Consulting)
You know what’s great? Treasure! You know what sucks, though? Minotaurs. Unfortunately if you want the treasure of Tarmin, you’re going to have to slay the mighty minotaur and his army of skeletons, giants, ghouls, wraiths, and dragons. Treasure of Tarmin had a turn based battle system, however, it was presented in a first person view, sort of 3D environment. It was an extremely ambitious game, which laid a lot of groundwork for many RPGs to come. Scattered throughout the various dungeon mazes were weapons, armor, magical items, and of course treasure. It looks dated now, but it was pretty mind blowing at the time.

6. B-17 Bomber. 1982. (Mattel)
Intellivoice! One of the components available for the Intellivision was a voice synthesizer and B-17 Bomber did its best to incorporate it into a game which was well ahead of its time. You pilot a B-17 from your base in England to a number of targets in continental Europe. Along the way, you’ll encounter enemy planes which you shoot down in a FPS style, and upon reaching your target, you can switch to a top down view of the area and destroy as many Nazi buildings as you can. There was also a map screen which showed the whole of Europe and a fourth screen indicating how much fuel and bombs you had left. All the while, a voice would be giving you situational updates. This was game was truly pioneering.

5. Shark! Shark!. 1982. (Mattel)
This was a fun little game which was an unexpected hit for Mattel. You start as a small fish that needs to swim around and eat smaller fish while avoiding various bigger sea creatures. The more you eat, the bigger you get, which is good, but you also get slower, which is bad. Mattel thought it might be a minor hit for young children, and as such did not make many cartridges initially. Much to their surprise, demand went through the roof, forcing Mattel to ramp up production. The concept has been copied a number of times in Flash, and the original game has seen releases on the 360 and PS3 virtual consoles.

4. Diner. 1987. (Realtime Associates, Inc.)
Diner is a sort of sequel to BurgerTime, though only in branding. The game was originally designed as a sequel to Masters of the Universe, however the first Masters game didn’t do well, so they slapped the BurgerTime characters in there1. In any case, you run around an Escher-esque diner trying to kick food balls down to a plate at the bottom of the screen while avoiding food monsters. It was released fairly late in the life of the Intellivision, and so wasn’t a huge hit, although with the advent of classic gaming enthusiasm, it’s come back in a big way as a fan favorite.

3. Lock ‘n’ Chase. 1982. (Data East)
Released in the arcades in 1981 and ported to both the Atari 2600 and Intellivision, was Lock ‘n’ Chase. It’s your standard maze-chase fare. Run around a single screen maze, eat pellets, and avoid bad guys. Fun times for all! Except for Atari, of course. They had their hands full when side by side screens of the two ports were shown together. Intellivision wasn’t arcade quality or anything, but as stated earlier, it really was leaps and bounds ahead of the 2600 in both graphics and sound. Every single port of an arcade game, if it was released on both systems, had to be a blow to Atari’s morale when showed side by side. This was no exception.

2. Demon Attack. 1982. (Imagic)
Coming in the runner up spot, we have Imagic’s most popular game. (Things seemed to be going so well for them! Shame about the ‘83 Crash.) Demons are attacking the ice planet Krybor. And you are the sole person who can fend off the demon hordes. This was a top down view shooter which switched between you being on the planet while the hordes rained fire upon you and then you’d jump to a boss screen and do your best to kill off a huge demon ship. These games were wildly popular at the time and this was one of the most popular of the genre.

But it wasn’t the cream of the crop. What was the apple of the Intelivison fans eyes, you ask? What were they truly hungry for? It’s the one…the only…


1. BurgerTime. 1983. (Data East)

It’s the most popular game of the system, and a big hit almost everywhere it was released. BurgerTime! Chef Peter Pepper needs to make hamburgers. Big ones! But a gang of hot dogs, pickles, and eggs will do anything they can to stop him. Ridiculous premise aside, it was a very fun and original game which was a big hit for Data East in both the arcades and on the console and home computer market.

To make the burgers you walked along the pieces which were on platforms, reachable by ladders, and sort of mushed them down to the bottom of the screen. The game hit just before the video game crash, unfortunately, so while it was fun and everyone liked it, it sort of got lumped into the Donkey Kong, Pacman, Q-Bert group, and in short order, people were expecting a LOT more out of their gaming experience. As such, the nostalgia for this game is low for a lot of people. But for those happy few that love the Intellivision? It’s the very best and a whole heap of fun!

And that’s it for the Intellivision! Did your favorite game not make the top ten? Hit me up in the comments or tweet me @whentheicebreak to let me know about it. Until the next time, I’m Philippe L., reminding you that the outside world is scary, but it’s safe and warm inside, so avoid the world as much as possible and play some classic games!

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1 It’s interesting how many games have made their way into the world this way! I’d write up an article about it, but there’s already like twenty articles about the concept. C’est la vie!.

About Philippe L.

When not out exploring the stars with his good friend Hotblack Desiato, he makes his living here on Earth keeping other people's money safe from the hands of thieves and spinning the occasional yarn. He enjoys beer and coffee very much, but unfortunately he can't eat shellfish or tomatoes.

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