The year: 1987. The place: a local bowling alley's arcade room. The target: an oddly shaped cabinet in the far corner of the smoky, strobing game area, where three surly teenagers were hunched over the control panel, forearms twitching as they blasted their way through room after room of slimy aliens. I nervously waited my turn to play what might be the greatest arcade game of all time — Xenophobe.This classic arcade game by Bally Midway was essentially Aliens: The Video Game, except they never bothered to buy the license. The players represented space explorers who were sent to clear various space colonies from alien infestation. The premise by itself is awesome, but Xenophobe did more with it than any other game of the era. For one thing, you could play cooperatively with up to three players, each with his or her own section of screen. You could wander the levels indepedently, but also team up. Xenophobe had a bunch of elements that are familiar in modern console games, but were revolutionary at the time. You could choose from among nine different characters. A bunch of different weapons were available, from laser rifles to flame throwers. There were even useful objects that could be used to accomplish side quests, like repairing the grenade dispenser or using the teleporter. The aliens themselves (Xenos) started as eggs, hatched into face-huggers, and eventually grew into warriors. There were alien queens to battle, too (no mechanical exo-skeleton, though). Each level of the game was a persistent world — if you dropped a weapon and left the room, it would still be there when you came back. And if one of your buddies got killed by an alien acid-spitter, a dismayed looking skeleton would sit there for the rest of the game. Xenophobe was ported to several home console systems, but back then, home consoles paled in comparison to the arcade version. No one's Atari or NES could match the hi-res graphics or three-player cooperative gameplay of a true Xenophobe cabinet. Ironically, as you sit back in the comfort of your home playing Gears of War 2 or Fallout 3, it's Xenophobe you can thank.
Thanks, Xenophobe! Images by: Killer List of Video Games.