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The Antstream Arcade Years: 1986

With the Antstream Arcade search facility capable of narrowing the selection of retro games by year, there’s a great way to discover all the particular releases from a time you remember especially fondly. In the latest of this series, we take a look back at one such year and the noteworthy games that make it a fantastic time worth travelling back to on Antstream Arcade. This month, we pop into our retro time machine and zip back to 1986, when the arcades were magical places and the 8-bit home computers such as the ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 were beginning to give way to 16-bit machines such as the Commodore Amiga.


We begin our jaunt through 1986 with a trip to the arcades and the Technos/Taito gang beat-‘em-up Renegade. In a frighteningly unoriginal turn of events, a bunch of leather-clad rascals have kidnapped your girlfriend, leaving you no choice but to take to the grim streets and use your feet and fists to get her back. Taking place over a series of urban environments such as a subway station, harbour and alley, there’s a horde of hoodlums between you and your love. Let’s fight!

Bubble Bobble

Staying in the arcade, we wander across the sticky carpet to another classic of 1986, Taito’s bubble-bursting Bubble Bobble. Starring as one of two cute dragons called Bub and Bob, the heroes are once more seeking to rescue their girlfriends, this time from clutches of the wicked Baron Von Blubba. Transformed from human to dragon form, the pair have a newfound ability to belch bubbles at the many henchmen of the Baron, encasing them in the thin and slimy liquid. Pop them by jumping or spiking them with your fin and it’s one step closer to freeing your partners.

Ikari Warriors

Woah. Next to Bubble Bobble is an Ikari Warriors cabinet. Following the worldwide success of Commando, the run ‘n’ gun genre blossomed in 1986, most notably with this SNK game, standing out from the pack with its simultaneous two-player option. The village of Ikari is under enemy control and two commandos have been sent in to eliminate the enemy and capture the area. In addition to a standard machine gun and explosive grenades, the player can also utilise spare tanks and helicopters, each containing their own weapons albeit with a limited supply of fuel.


We’re on the bus home now and looking forward to a post-tea surge on our home computer of choice. Released on the Commodore 64 in 1986 was what many consider programmer Andrew Braybrook’s finest hour, the fast and furious shoot-‘em-up Uridium. The player flies their sleek Manta-class fighter over 15 metallic dreadnoughts, fending off enemies both in the air and on the dreadnoughts themselves. Screamingly quick and incessantly tough, Uridium is one of the C64’s finest games.

The Great Escape

We hop machines to the Commodore 64’s Sinclair rival and another fantastic 1986 game, Ocean’s The Great Escape. The year is 1942 and it’s the height of World War 2. Captured and placed in a high security POW camp, it is your duty to attempt an escape by whatever means possible. But beware, the guards are on the look out for errant prisoners: get caught and it’s a morale-sapping spell in isolation for our brave hero. Better to tread carefully and make full use of those rather convenient tunnels.

BMX Simulator

Continuing our toing and froing between the Commodore 64 and Sinclair Spectrum, we move back to the former now with the first game from the illustrious developer/publisher Codemasters. Coded by founder Richard Darling himself, BMX Simulator pitches two bikes against each other over a series of rough dirt courses. Polished and fun, BMX Simulator set the standard for cheap yet playable games from Codemasters. A ZX Spectrum version appeared a year later.

International Karate

We conclude our journey back to 1986 with another Commodore 64 legend, Archer MacLean’s International Karate. It was always going to be a tough ask following Way Of The Exploding Fist; with its amazing animation, beautiful backdrops and compelling gameplay, this System 3 game succeeded in topping the Melbourne House classic as many people’s favourite beat-‘em-up on the Commodore computer.

And as the final crunching blow of another IK bout lands, the wiggly lines return, dragging us back to the present day. Stay tuned for another Antstream Arcade Year soon!

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