The Game: Think of it as Pong to the death. Two to four players hurl a fireball (multiple fireballs as the game progresses) around the playing field, smashing the walls to each other’s castles and – hopefully – hitting the other players’ kings and putting them out of commission. Your launcher doubles as a mobile barrier around your castle which bounces the fireball right back at your curiously Vader-esque opponents. (Atari, 1980)
Memories: Far more famous at home on the Atari VCS than it was in the arcades, Warlords was a really fun game with the right group of friends (or friendly enemies). I’ve only ever seen one machine, and it was a cocktail table (or, to use less industry-specific jargon, a “sit-down”) version – and now that I think about it, it seems like Warlords would have been a bit difficult to pull off as an upright cabinet, but uprights did exist – with B&W monitors only.
On their own, the graphics of Warlords are simple (and they don’t really need to be elaborate to get the visual information necessary to the game across), but combined with the nifty 3-D effect of its cleverly lit-and-mirrored backdrop, those graphics work wonders – it really does look like a three-dimensional environment.
On the VCS, Warlords was interpreted as a kind of four-player Breakout death match, ditching the vaguely more medieval graphics of the coin-op – but for the audiovisual tradeoffs, Warlords on the VCS gained the distinction of being one of Atari’s all-time greatest party games.