Inspired By Atari: Microsoft Arcade

msarcade-introIn 1993 Microsoft released Arcade for Windows 3.1, as part of their Microsoft Home product line. Inspired by Atari, it was a small collection of games that had been played in the heyday of coin-operated arcade machines over a decade prior. The following year, it also was made available on the Macintosh. Dima Pavlovsky had been the sole developer.

Fitting onto a single floppy disk, Arcade was typically sold in its own retail package. However on occasion the disk was tossed in with some models of Microsoft Mouse, as had been the case with my copy.

Here’s a rundown of the included titles – Asteroids, Battlezone, Centipede, Missile Command, and Tempest which actually contains a little secret.


asteroids-icon Atari released this space-themed shooter in November 1979, the oldest in the group. Controlling a spaceship, your aim is to dodge and shoot your way around through an asteroid belt. Shooting larger asteroids will split them up creating more obstacles, and it’s only when they have become small enough they can be disintegrated. From time to time, flying saucers will show up, attempting to shoot you down.


One tip is that you earn more points shooting down the flying saucers.


battlezone-iconA year later from Asteriods, Battlezone was released, rated only behind Pac-Man as the best arcade game in 1982 (Third Annual Arkie Awards). The US Army even received a modified version known as The Bradley Trainer. A vector based 3D combat game, the aim is to defend your tank against enemy tanks, missiles, and flying saucers. The cube and pyramid objects can be used for brief protection.


Flying saucers won’t attack your tank, but will be a cause of distraction.


centipede-iconIn 1981, it was Centipede. Set in a garden patch of mushrooms, the use of your bug zapper is to fight against the tide of centipedes, spiders, fleas, and scorpions. Ultimately to complete a round the centipede needs to be eliminated in full.

msarcade-3The spiders have a rather unpredictable behaviour making them more difficult to aim. They can either jump long or several short jumps at once.

Missile Command

missilecommand-iconAlongside Battlezone came Missile Command in 1980. The game is set with having six cities, and three missile launch bases. Each base has 10 defensive missiles in order to protect the cities. The cities were originally named from locations around California where Atari had offices but were removed during development. Considering its time, the Cold War and Soviet Union were deeply entrenched in people’s minds potentially giving influence to the game.


Well placed shots can destroy multiple missiles amongst the explosion cloud.


tempest-iconThe final game, Tempest, dates back to 1981. “Tempest transports you into an out-of-control region of space where deadly aliens from a parallel universe are attempting to pour through a series of cosmic tubes.” This is how the game is described in the help file, although to me you’re playing on a 3D surface of different shapes, and zapping anything that moves before it can reach the end. The help file description sounds more exciting.


One tip is to avoid firing at missiles, as they are dangerous and won’t provide additional points shooting them down.

Generally most people who played Tempest were provided with the following level selection upon starting a new game.


Original levels.

Double-clicking the Tempest icon from Windows 3.1’s Program Manager, holding down both T and D keys at the same time gave access to secret levels.


Secret levels.

Another tip that applies to all games. Microsoft claimed that if you’re playing in “less than perfect surrounds” such as at work or in school, hit the Escape key during game play to instantly pause and minimise to the desktop. When no one is looking over your shoulder, use the Alt+Tab combination to get back into it!

asteroids-icon Download Microsoft Arcade

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