For those who didn’t necessarily want to wage their arcade battles in the far reaches of space, there was once a game called Frogger, which allowed us to help a member of the animal kingdom traverse obstacles both natural and man-made, and find his way safely to his preferred habitat. This journey, both daunting and surprisingly addictive, made Konami’s Frogger an instant hit among the masses, and one of the most beloved video games to emerge from the 80s.
The object was (not so) simply to try and get the frog across the road, across the river and into its home. That was all a player had to do within the alloted time and if he managed to safely guide five frogs back home, the game reset at a higher level of difficulty. The challenge lay in avoiding all the obstacles out for froggy’s blood.
Starting from the bottom of the screen, the frog had to cross a busy road on his way to the river. The road featured cars and trucks zipping back and forth and if you guided the frog across the five lanes safely, he could take a breather on a dirt median before attempting to leap across the river. Frog control was via a 4-way joystick that allowed simple up, down, left and right movement.
The river was another thing altogether; it was as busy as the road, with floating logs, turtles and alligators flowing in both directions. The frog had to hop from object to object in order to reach one of the five lilly pad spaces at the top of the screen, his home. Zig-zagging from logs to turtles wasn’t without its dangers as rows of turtles would disappear every now and again, dropping the frog into the water and “killing” him (it’s a frog, it lives in the water!). Logs were safer but you had to be careful not to stay on them too long as the current would carry them off screen and that would put an end to the frog as well. Alligators floated by and the frog could hitch a ride on their back, as long as he avoided their gaping jaws which would spell, again, dun dun dun…death.
The levels became progressively harder, introducing more cars that went faster, racecars that zoomed by with VROOOM! noises, snakes that patrolled the median, alligators that looked like logs until the last horrible minute and alligators that lay in wait for poor froggy inside his own lilly pad. Dawdling and taking a circuitous route didn’t help either, because if a player took too long getting the frog where he needed to be, the game added more cars and other obstacles to gently nudge you along. On the other hand, extra points could be earned by finding a lady frog sunning herself on a log and carrying her home with you or by snapping up tasty bugs that appear in random places.
Frogger achieved enormous popularity in the early 80s, both in America and abroad, and has since become an iconic representation of the era. Next to Pac-Man, it is perhaps the most recognizable game of that period. And, while it didn’t spawn any sequels in the arcade, many versions of Frogger have been released for home gaming platforms over the years, keeping this addictive amphibian adventure alive for future generations.
If you spend many a maddening hour trying to help that poor frog get home safely, we welcome your memories in our comments section as we tip our hats to a true arcade legend.