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Gauntlet is a fantasy-themed hack and slash 1985 arcade game by Atari Games.[1] Released in October 1985, Atari ultimately sold a total of 7,848 Gauntlet video game arcade cabinets.[2]

It is noted as one of the first class-based multiplayer games. Released during the emergence of popularity of other role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, the game was a sensation, being one of the first true dungeon crawl arcade games. It was ported over to the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Apple IIgs, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, Java ME, Macintosh, MSX, NES, SEGA Master System, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the ZX Spectrum.[3] Five sequels, Gauntlet II (1986), Gauntlet III (1991), Gauntlet Legends (1998), Gauntlet Dark Legacy (2000) and Gauntlet Seven Sorrows (2005) were also released.


File:Gauntlet screenshot.png

The players, up to four at once in the arcade version, select among four playable fantasy-based characters; Thor the Warrior, Merlin the Wizard, Thyra the Valkyrie or Questor the Elf.[3] Each character has his or her own unique strength and weaknesses. For example, the Warrior is strongest in hand-to-hand combat, the Wizard has the strongest magic, the Valkyrie has the greatest armour and the Elf is the fastest in movement.[3]

Upon selecting a playable character, the gameplay is set within a series of top-down, third-person perspective mazes[3] where the object is to locate and touch the designated exit in every level.[3] An assortment of special items can be located in each level that increase player's character's health, unlock doors, gain more points and magical potions that can destroy all of the enemies on screen.[3]

The enemies are a vast assortment of fantasy based monsters, including ghosts, grunts, demons, lobbers, sorcerers and thieves. Each enters the level through specific generators, which can be destroyed. While there are no bosses in the game, the most dangerous enemy is "Death", who can not only drain your character's health, but is difficult to destroy.[3]

As the game progresses, higher levels of skill are needed to reach the exit, with success often depending on the willingness of the players to cooperate by sharing food and luring monsters into places where they can be engaged and slaughtered more conveniently.[3] While contact with enemies reduces the player's health, it also slowly drains on its own, thus creating a time limit.

Aside from the ability to have up to four players at once, the game is also noted for the narrator's voice, which was produced by a Texas Instruments TMS5220C speech chip.[3] The narrator would frequently make statements repeating the game's rules, including: "Shots do not hurt other players (yet)," "Remember, don't shoot food!", "Elf — shot the food!", and "Warrior needs food — badly!" Occasionally, the narrator would encourage (or mock) the players in the thick of battle by saying, "I've not seen such bravery!" or "Let's see you get out of here!" A memorable statement of the game occurred when a player's "life force" points fell below 200: "Your life force is running out", "Elf needs food" or " about to die!"

To accommodate up to four players, the cabinet is wider than other standard uprights. Each player had a joystick and two buttons, one for "Fire" (ranged attack) and one for "Magic". The Magic button also started the game. After Gauntlet's release, other games started using this design, so it was a popular conversion target for newer games after it had its run.


File:NES Gauntlet.png
File:Gauntlet Spectrum.png

Due to its phenomenal success in the arcades, Gauntlet was ported to several home systems of the day. These platforms include DOS, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, MSX, NES, Atari Lynx, Apple IIGS, Sega Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis (as Gauntlet 4), Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum, among others. More recently, an emulated version of Gauntlet was included in Midway Arcade Treasures; a compilation of arcade games available for the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles and Windows. For some machines, only Gauntlet II was converted, since it was considered to be more advanced than the first game in series. In 1990, the original Game Boy received a version of Gauntlet II. 16-bit conversions (Atari ST & Mega Drive/Genesis) had similar sound and graphics as the original game, and retained the four-player mode (lesser machines only allowed a maximum of two players).

A cell phone version for Java ME and BREW phones was developed by TKO Software.

Gauntlet was recently released for the Game Boy Advance on one of DSI Games two packs, alongside Rampart. In addition, Gauntlet and Gauntlet II are among the emulated games that can be found in Midway Arcade Treasures 1 and 2, respectively, for various modern console systems. It was also released for GameCube.

Gauntlet is available for download over Microsoft's Xbox Live Arcade service as of the launch of the Xbox 360. It was released at the same time on the original Xbox's Xbox Live Arcade service.

Gauntlet II is available for download over PlayStation 3's PlayStation Store service.

Level 59 (PC Version)

A programming glitch in the original DOS version of the game released in 1988 rendered Level 59 unbeatable because an impassable wall was between the party and the exit to the level. The only way to get off the level and continue playing was to wait for five minutes so that the walls could turn into exits and the player could continue playing until the game ended at Level 118. Level 118 also had a programming glitch that no monsters would spawn out of any of the generators. The game would exit you to DOS once you beat Level 118.


Originally called Dungeons, the game was conceived by Atari game designer Ed Logg. He claimed inspiration from his son's interest in the paper-based game Dungeons & Dragons and from his own interest in 1983's Atari 800 home computer game Dandy. The game's development spanned from 1983 to 1985, with a team being led by designers Ed Logg and Roger Zeigler. The working title became legally unavailable in April 1985, so it was renamed Gauntlet in May. Based upon some of the most elaborate hardware design in Atari's history to date, it is the company's first coin-operated game that features a voice synthesizer chip.[4]

Origin dispute

Controversy came after the release of the game in the arcade and its subsequent port to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Ed Logg, the creator of Asteroids and Centipede, is credited for Original Game Design of Gauntlet in the arcade version, as well as the 1987 NES release version. After its release, John Palevich threatened a lawsuit, asserting that the original concept for the game was from Dandy (later Dandy Dungeon), a game for the Atari 800 computer written by Palevich in 1983. The conflict was settled without any suit being filed, with Atari Games doing business as Tengen allegedly awarding Palevich a Gauntlet game machine.[5] Logg is taken off this credit in versions subsequent to the 1987 NES release. While he is credited as "special thanks" through 1986, his name is entirely removed from credits on later releases.[6] Logg currently claims no involvement in any of the Gauntlet series.[7] The game Dandy which was the basis for the threatened lawsuit was later reworked by Atari and re-published for the Atari 2600, Atari 7800 and Atari XE as Dark Chambers in 1988,[8] subsequent to the release of Gauntlet II in 1987.

Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons

File:Gauntlet The Deeper Dungeons.jpg

Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons is an expansion pack for the original ports of Gauntlet with 512 new levels and required the original program. It was released in 1987 by the British company U.S. Gold in the UK and Europe, and Mindscape in the USA. It was released for Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.[9] It was developed by Gremlin Graphics Software Ltd.

Many of its levels were entries in a competition throughout Europe in which only ten winners were awarded prizes, "A Gauntlet T-Shirt and a copy of the program for their computers."[10] The contest was announced in the instructions of many of the ported games: "In early 1987, U.S. Gold will release an expansion cassette for Gauntlet containing hundreds of new levels and treasure rooms. You can have the chance to have your own maze included on this tape!"[11] The levels are presented randomly and its artwork is the side panel artwork of the arcade cabinet with only the main characters shown. The enemies were removed from the image and replaced with a pink background.

Many reviewers noted that the levels were much harder than those in the original game, although the consensus was that it was not quite as good as the first game or the (then) newly released arcade sequel.[12][13][14][15]

Gauntlet re-releases

NES and Mega Drive/Genesis

The NES version was a departure from the arcade version, keeping only the basic game formula and cast of characters. A hundred entirely new levels were constructed for this version, which added a definite quest; the goal was to retrieve the "Sacred Orb" located in the 100th level, which could only be accessed by collecting portions of a password hidden in certain "clue rooms" scattered throughout the first 99 levels. Power-up attributes that granted extra shot power and faster speed could be carried over from level to level, and a password system allowed the player to save their character's progress. The NES Gauntlet was one of only three Tengen cartridges to be released as officially-licensed Nintendo cartridges (the others being Pac-Man and RBI Baseball); it was later re-released as an unlicensed game following Tengen's split from Nintendo.

The Mega Drive/Genesis version, which was titled Gauntlet in Japan and released in North America and Europe as Gauntlet IV, features a totally original soundtrack and three new game modes in addition to an Arcade Mode which is a port of the original game:

  • Quest Mode - A story mode where the player must defeat the four towers and solve the mystery of the ancient castle; weapons can be bought with collected gold from merchants in the main hub area, where one can also choose which tower to take on next. The player can gain experience points to increase their character's stats and passwords can be used to continue.
  • Battle Mode - Where multiple players fight against each other to the death. Maps can include teleporters/monsters/items etc. Players who go into exits are eliminated from the round.
  • Record Mode - A single-player variation of the Arcade Mode with some variations such as using passwords to continue. The player's character cannot die in this mode, although points will be subtracted for every 500 health points lost.

Nintendo DS

A Nintendo DS version of the original Gauntlet is being developed by Backbone Entertainment. This version of the game will feature an entirely new 3D graphical engine, online four-player mode, and voice chat capabilities.[16]

In popular culture

Gauntlet also has a place in pop culture (specifically '80s video gaming culture). The line "Red warrior needs food badly!" was named the third best game line ever in the January 2002 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly.

In 2003 the third-wave ska band Five Iron Frenzy released a song called "Wizard Needs Food, Badly" on their album "The End Is Near". Here they use both quotes "The wizard needs food badly" and "The Wizard is about to die".[17]

mc chris based the background for "The Tussin" on the intro music to Gauntlet II

In the DotA stand-alone game, Heroes of Newerth, the hero Gauntlet is announced with the opening music to the dungeon levels.


Aggregate scores
Aggregator Score
GameRankings 82.6% (Mobile)[18]
64.29% (XBLA)[19]
Sega Retro 82% (SMS)[20]
Review scores
Publication Score
Computer and Video Games 36/40 (CPC, C64, Atari, Amiga, IBM, MSX)[21]
CRASH 92% (ZX)[22]
Dragon Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar empty.svg (Mac)
Sinclair User Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg (ZX)[23]
Your Sinclair 9/10 (ZX)[24]
Computer Gamer 94% (ZX)[25]
Your Computer Star fullStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svgStar full.svg (Various)[26]
Mega 90% (Mega Drive)[27]
MegaTech 94% (Mega Drive)[28]
Commodore User 9/10 (C64)[29]
Joystick 79% (Master System)[30]
ACE 859/1000 (Master System)[31]
Entity Award
Golden Joystick Awards Game of the Year[32]
ZX Computing Smash Hit[33]

The game was highly profitable upon its October 1985 launch, reportedly earning one San Mateo, California arcade operator Template:USD in sixteen weeks and another Canadian operator $4,500 in nine days.[4] Atari ultimately sold a total of 7,848 Gauntlet video game arcade cabinets.[2]

The Macintosh version of the game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon #150 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game 4 out of 5 stars.[34] Computer and Video Games praised the accuracy of the Amstrad version, and said that it had "great graphics, good sounds, and perfect playability." Crash praised the smooth and fast scrolling, and the longevity, with Avenger being listed as the only alternative. In their Master System review, ACE said that people of all ages could quickly master the controls and tasks. The Spectrum version was the biggest selling game of 1986,[13] and was voted number 39 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time.[35]

At the Golden Joystick Awards in London, Gauntlet won Game of the Year, and was runner-up in the category of Arcade-Style Game of the Year.

Of the Mega Drive release in 1993, MegaTech said that "the action is flawless" and had stood the test of time well. They continued that it was "a brilliant game, and one that warrants immediate attention". Mega praised the longevity of the game, saying it was "huge fun and a must-buy". They placed the game at #19 in their list of the best Mega Drive games of all time.[36]

More than a decade after release, the Official UK PlayStation Magazine noted that they "spent many a night hunched over a fag-stained Gauntlet machine", but said that the limitations had become apparent in the late 1990s.[37]

See also


  1. Gauntlet. The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved on October 5, 2013.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Atari Production Numbers Memo. Atari Games (January 4, 2010). Retrieved on March 18, 2012.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 'Gauntlet' at MobyGames
  4. 4.0 4.1 Scimeca, Dennis (March 8, 2012). The Making Of Gauntlet -- A Classic Arcade Game That Atari Never Saw Coming. G4TV. Retrieved on November 2, 2014.
  5. Dark Chambers, ATARI,, retrieved 2007-09-11 
  6. Gauntlet Credits, Moby Games,, retrieved 2007-09-11 
  7. Tetris Forever, Atari HQ,, retrieved 2007-09-11 
  8. Vendel, Curt. The Atari 65XEM (AMY Sound Processor). Retrieved on 2007-06-05.
  9. 'Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons' at MobyGames
  10. Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons instructions.
  11. Original Gauntlet cassette tape version instructions released by U.S. Gold.
  12. Biggs, Sara (June 1987). "The Deeper Dungeons review". Your Sinclair (18). Retrieved November 16, 2014. 
  13. 13.0 13.1 "The Deeper Dungeons review". Sinclair User (63). June 1987. Retrieved November 16, 2014. 
  14. "The Deeper Dungeons review". ZX Computing (8706). Retrieved November 16, 2014. 
  15. "The Deeper Dungeons review". Computer Gamer (27). Retrieved November 16, 2014. 
  16. IGN: Gauntlet for DS
  21. World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer. Retrieved on November 17, 2014.
  22. World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer. Retrieved on November 17, 2014.
  23. World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer. Retrieved on November 17, 2014.
  24. Gauntlet. Retrieved on November 17, 2014.
  25. World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer. Retrieved on November 17, 2014.
  26. World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer. Retrieved on November 17, 2014.
  27. Mega review, Future Publishing, issue 13, page 32, October 1993
  28. Gauntlet 4 review, MegaTech, issue 22, page 76, October 1993
  29. Commodore User review, January 1987
  30. Joystick 15, April 1991
  31. ACE issue 37, October 1990
  32. World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer. Retrieved on November 17, 2014.
  33. World of Spectrum - Archive - Magazine viewer. Retrieved on November 17, 2014.
  34. Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (October 1989), "The Role of Computers", Dragon (150): 68–73, 95. 
  35. "Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time". Your Sinclair. September 1993. 
  36. Mega Top 100 feature, Future Publishing, issue 14, page 87, November 1993
  37. Atari Greatest Hits review, Official PlayStation Magazine, Future Publishing issue 36, page 124, September 1998

External links


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