Sea Wolf

Sea Wolf

The hunt was on in 1976’s Sea Wolf, a submarine simulator with realistic sounds (explosions, sonar pings, buzzing motors) and a rotating periscope. Somewhere deep in enemy waters, your sub hunted down freighters, warships and speedy PT boats with deadly precision, dispatching your torpedoes with the touch of a button. These features made Sea Wolf a quarters magnet, sucking them from the depths of our pockets for a few minutes of undersea adventure.

As seen through your periscope viewer, a variety of ships passed by in the waters overhead (made blue by a screen overlay). A targeting crosshair let you get your mark in sight, then a thumb button unleashed propeller-driven death. A successful hit resulted in a display of flashing lights and exploding sound, letting you know the enemy had been sunk.

The only obstacles to your mission (other than a flat-out miss) were the undersea mines, which blocked your torpedoes’ path and caused them to explode harmlessly. Both supplies and time were limited, so you had to be a pretty good shot if you wanted to win an extended play. After every five torpedoes, a red “RELOAD” message flashed in your viewer, and precious seconds were lost.

Aside from the obvious kicks of blowing stuff up, Sea Wolf won players over by completely immersing them in their undersea environment, drowning out the surrounding arcade distractions so one could focus on the enemy. This unique interface made Sea Wolf an instant winner in the hearts of 70s gamers and propelled Midway to launch a sequel in 1978.

Sea Wolf II introduced two new elements to the tried-and-true formula: two-player action and simple color. The new cabinets housed dual periscopes, allowing two commanders to compete against each other for naval supremacy. Both shot at the same enemies, including the ultra-fast new “Super-Sub.” Torpedoes were color-coded so that each player could keep track of their own munitions.

Sure, the graphics on these games are archaic by today’s standards, but to focus only on that would be to miss the point. The original Sea Wolf brought something that few games offer today, a truly immersive experience. When you took hold of that heavy metallic periscope, the sonor ping in your ear, you were a submarine commander, if only for a few brief moments. And a joystick just can’t do that.

If you harbor fond memories of playing a few rounds of Sea Wolf in the arcades of your youth, we welcome all of your memories in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this aquatic adventure game that turned us all into Sub commanders for a few moments of our childhood.

One Response to “Sea Wolf”

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  1. dave says:

    A cult game at bath university – so may pounds spent getting to a good standard. Over 30,000 points in the end – think this was very good – interested in any other comments!

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