Space hero, cowboy, mythic warrior…all pale in comparison to Paperboy, the arcade game that allowed the player to work his own virtual paper route. It’s a game that might very well have been boring if it wasn’t for the fact that the main character wielded newspapers like lethal weapons, just perfect for launching through a glass window.
Released by Atari in 1984, the game consisted of players earning points by being a good paperboy and delivering the papers safely and on target, right in front of each subscriber’s house. But not everyone was a paying customer and those houses were designated by muted colors, making them fair game for the paperboy and his deadly morning edition.
The game actually awarded bonus points to the player for wreaking as much havoc as possible to non-subscriber homes: you could bust out windows, chip the paint on the front door, knock over the gravestones in the front yard (gravestones being standard lawn decorations in suburbia) and scare the living daylights out of the residents.
Sometimes battered non-subscribers signed up for service and their homes became off limits to the paperboy. If you were to make a mistake and knock over a customer’s azaleas, you lost points and risked getting fired. Other than the large stationary targets, the player could take aim at cars, trash cans, innocent kids and adults unlucky enough to populate that particular paper route.
At the end of the street, the paperboy could prove his bike skills by riding a BMX dirt track and hitting bullseyes with newspapers. All points were tabulated at the end of the game and Paperboy returned the next day to try and beat his score.
A popular staple in most arcades of the era, Paperboy utilized some rather unique controls to help aid in the immersion. A set of realistic handlebars adorned the front of the cabinet that controlled steering, speed (pushing the bars forward) and braking (pulling back). Any Nervous Nellies who tried to go too slow got chased down by a swarm of angry bees.
All was just a days work in the adventurous life of a paperboy. The game lives on, thanks to multiple console versions released over the years, including the Playstation 2 and the Xbox, ensuring that future paperboys can still get plenty of virtual practice. If you honed your own newspaper delivery (or vandalism) skills on this popular 80s arcade game, we’d love to hear from you in our comments section.