The 2012 Olympic Games are set to kick off with opening ceremonies next week, and fans around the world are ready to see their countries compete in over 40 different events. For video gamers, it's a prime opportunity to join in the fun, thanks to Sega's pretty good recreation of the event through "London 2012: The Olympics Games." But that game release isn't the first time the Olympics have been officially – and unofficially – celebrated in video games. Let's turn back the clock and check out five classic game releases that have celebrated the thrill of competition, and the agony of defeat. (We're more for the thrill side.)
Konami introduced Olympic fever to arcades in 1983 with the release of "Track & Field," a fun two-player game featuring six events – 100 Meter Dash, Long Jump, Javelin Throw, 110 Meter Hurdles, Hammer Throw and High Jump. You had to tap run buttons consecutively to keep up your stride, then hit an action button for jumping. The game was a colossal hit, prompting Konami to release it later for the Nintendo Entertainment System. It's still popular today, thanks to a re-release on Xbox Live Arcade, complete with online play. Not a bad deal for five dollars.
Released back in 1984 for the Commodore 64 (!) and other PC and console platforms (including the Atari 2600 and Sega Master System), Epyx's "Summer Games" was the first home-released compilation to truly recreate the excitement of Olympic sports. Using a great control set-up with keyboard tapping and multiplayer capability for up to eight players (alternating, not all at once), the collection included such events as Sprinting, Gymnastics and Skeet Shooting. Epyx followed it up with a sequel, "Summer Games II," and continued its stride with such sports collections as "Winter Games," "World Games" and the slightly unofficial (but still fun) "California Games." Hopefully these will make a return in this generation sometime.
Also known in Europe as "Caveman Ughlympics," "Caveman Games" came out for the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) in 1988, introducing Olympic-inspired play with a Neanderthal twist. Featuring six events – Saber Race, Matetoss (think hammer throw but with significant others), Firemaking, Clubbing, Dino Race and Dino Vault, the game reintroduced the competitive spirit of actual Olympic events, but with a humorous twist. It can be found for relatively cheap at used game stores.
"DecAthlete" (known as "Athlete Kings" in other regions) came out for the Sega Saturn console in 1996, following its arcade release. It has the same functioning style as Konami's "Track & Field," as you mash buttons and hit select targets through multiple events, including the discus, javelin throw and shot put. However, the appearance is quite different, with the use of 3D character models and environments, along with multiple athletes from various countries, such as the U.S. superstar Rick Blade and Japan's Joe Kudou. The game was a modest hit for Sega, leading them to try again with a Winter Olympic-themed game called "Winter Heat," also released for the Saturn. (The skiing events were especially good.)
Though a new London-themed compilation is available, there's something great about the original "Mario & Sonic At the Olympic Games," which came out in 2007 for the Nintendo Wii and DS. Featuring a number of fun events for all ages — including table tennis, fencing, rowing and aquatics — the game was also noteworthy for combining the universes of former rivals Sonic the Hedgehog and Nintendo's Mario for the first time. It's still a fun multiplayer romp these days, and much cheaper than the new London collection — you can find it for around $20 or less at most game retailers.