back to article Running the Gauntlet: Atari's classic ... now and then

Rumours of a new version of the Atari classic Gauntlet at E3 took me straight back to the arcade circa 1985. I remember being dwarfed as a preteen by the fearsome presence of Gauntlet’s massive cabinet. It dominated the arcade and the rest of the machines in the room with its huge screen and impressive multicoloured keypad. …

  1. Dicko99

    "Green elf shot the food"...

    1. Gordon 10 Silver badge

      aarg beaten to it. My favourite was always

      "Wizard is about to die"

      1. Frank_M

        "Pick up your skirt and run old man"

    2. Peter G Green

      Followed quickly by "FFS [insert name of stupid friend here], stop shooting the F**KING food !!!".

    3. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

      For me, the game changed when someone said ...

      "Wizard now has ... extra fart power!"

      1. Tom 38

        Re: For me, the game changed when someone said ...

        I've not seen such bravery?

    4. Jim 59


      I always wanted to play the Valkyrie

      Lol you big girl.

      1. IsJustabloke

        Re: Valkyrie - Lol you big girl.

        Yes I suspect "LUCY" is a girl. *rolleyes*

        1. Jim 59

          Re: Valkyrie - Lol you big girl.

          Yes I suspect "LUCY" is a girl. *rolleyes*

          Yes. I know. That was the joke.

  2. Peter Galbavy

    Ah, fond memories, wasted youth.

    1. Peter G Green

      Not wasted. Better than going out, getting drunk and fighting. We had many a very sociable day playing Gauntlet, Stunt Car Racer, Midi Maze etc. And it all ended without a trip to A&E. Well, usually :-)

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Yes wasted

        Not better than going out, getting drunk and getting laid.

        1. graeme leggett

          Re: Yes wasted

          Wasted alright, Played enough Guantlet while at University that it put a severe dent in my lab work. Enough in fact that I had to come back and put in an extra couple of days after the end of term to pass the unit.

          I won't say its the reason I failed to work enough to actually achieve a degree. It was a symptom rather than cause.

          1. Jim 59

            Re: Yes wasted

            @graeme Legget we are contemporaries. A fond memory from the student common room at Sunderland Polytechnic. IIRC it was quite a good spectator sport too. I spent at least as long watching others as actually playing. Cool.

            1. Sir Runcible Spoon

              Re: Yes wasted

              "Not better than going out, getting drunk and getting laid."

              But a lot better than getting into a drunken fight, catching herpes and having an unintended offspring with a beer-goggled beauty.

      2. Fogcat

        Midi Maze! My first ever networked game, we had fun with that one

  3. James 51

    MSX version for me. Killed the fan on it so could only play for a few hours before it shut down. *sigh*

  4. Mike Tyler

    My memory

    "I have never seen such bravery" just before you die.

  5. shinanygnz

    Great fun, and Gauntlet 2 was just as good. It was such sweet revenge after "so and so is eating all the food/stealing all the treasure" to wait for a shots stun other players level, stun the smegger and shove them into the room with level 3 ghost generators.

    Fingers crossed this lives up to the legacy.

    1. Argh

      Yes, I liked Gauntlet, but Gauntlet 2 made it so much more fun with a much wider variety of features ("Blue valkyrie is it", "Green elf now haaas... reflective shot"), although the option to have all 4 players with the same class (e.g. "Red elf", "Green elf", etc) took something away.

  6. o_0

    I have owned 5 Gauntlet arcade cabinets over the years. I had a Gauntlet and Gauntlet II which I had kept over the years but I finally sold them a friend a couple of years ago. Really want them back right now after reading this :(

  7. EddieD

    Atari ST with printer expansion port

    3 friends, several beers, and long afternoons.

    Ah, nostalgia, it ain't what it used to be....

  8. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    I had the Amstrad CPC464 version. Which I think must have been simplified. I don't remember being able to block with the shield, for example, although it was a long time ago. I don't think you could play more than 2-player either. Still, I loved it, as I don't recall seeing it in an arcade until much later. We didn't have a local one, so I didn't go to them often.

    My record was to waste a whole Saturday afternoon playing a game. Play a couple of levels, load more from tape, repeat. Every so often there'd be a treasure room. I got to level 87 when it happened. I had a decent number of lives left, only a hundred levels on the tape, lots of treasure rooms done, so all stacked up with nice potions for dealing with deaths Tape error. Aaaaaarrrgggghhhh!!

    I don't think I ever got much past level 30 again. I wonder if the machine overheated, it was randomness, or there just weren't 100 levels on the tape?

    I want to play it again. I'm amazed no-one's released it for iOS / Android, or just as a Flash game online.

    Boo, no happy wallowing in nostalgia icon. Say eating Spangles and/or Wham bars, while wearing mismatched flourescent socks and listening to rubbish music...

    1. Tom 38

      On the spectrum, Gauntlet came on 2 tapes, once you finished tape 1 side a, tape 1 side b, tape 2 side a, tape 2 side b it would instruct you to insert tape 1 side a, and you start again from the beginning, but with a few more beasties!

      Infinite play :)

      1. Jim 59

        Home computers

        Home computer versions of Gauntlet were quite good because it didn't require massive animation or BLIT operations like, say, Afterburner. There was also no scrolling on the home versions IIRC.

        1. Matt Piechota

          Re: Home computers

          Real computers (like the Amiga) scrolled :)

          1. xslogic

            Re: Home computers

            The C64 version also scrolled:


    2. No, I will not fix your computer

      @I ain't Spartacus

      >>I want to play it again. I'm amazed no-one's released it for iOS / Android, or just as a Flash game online.

      One word.... MAME

      1. JEDIDIAH

        Re: @I ain't Spartacus

        You wouldn't want the "re-release" for Android anyways. They would find some way to muck it up and ruin it by trying to "update" it.

        Emulation is really the best way to go here. You get the unadulterated original. Warts and all you end up with the thing that inspires all of our fond memories rather than a cheap imitation.

        ...and Han shot first.

      2. Spotfist

        Re: @I ain't Spartacus

        Plus with emulation through MAME you get infinite credits AND save states!

        Downloading now...

    3. Jim 59


      I had Gauntlet on the CPC464 at the same time as playing it in the arcade. The Amstrad version was well done and very close to the original. It was just a bit less smooth and powerful due to the hardware.

    4. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      I seem to remember turning the tape over somewhere around level 50, and then getting to level 100 only to be told to turn the tape back over again. Can't remember how far I got before the dreaded read error happened, I think it was somewhere around 120. Amazing to think that this was on a computer with 48k of usable memory (the other 16k was taken up by the graphics memory) and a processor clocked at 2 MHz!

      I remember playing Gauntlet II on the old CPC464 too, the do'h! moment of stunning yourself with a reflecting shot...

    5. Steve Todd

      Go look for

      "Midway Arcade" in the Apple App Store, it includes Gauntlet and Gauntlet II

  9. John Riddoch

    Ah, fun...

    Mine was the speccy version, with about 4 levels loaded before you had to load more from tape... Favourite for me was the wizard; top notch ranged combat, top notch magic and survivable if you played it smart and didn't let the bad guys get near.

    Gauntlet Dark Legacy was also fun on the PS2 - played it a lot while laid up with a broken ankle :)

    1. Lamont Cranston

      Re: Ah, fun...

      A friend and I slogged it out on the Speccy version, making it all the way to the end of Side 2 of the tape, expecting some sort of epic reward for our efforts. Being told to turn the tape over, and having nothing happen (as the first part of Side 1 isn't level data) was crushing...

    2. sorry, what?

      N64 variant of "Gauntlet Legends"

      This was actually a pretty good 3D game in the series, available at the arcade (never saw it) and on home machines like the Nintendo. I wasted plenty of Sunday afternoons with friends and family playing this and building up my character's experience.

      Only mention it because no one else seems to have.

      1. h3

        Re: N64 variant of "Gauntlet Legends"

        The Dreamcast version of that is the good one.

  10. Lee D

    Recently booted up the classic for a four-player fest with some (non-gamer) friends at a party.

    The comments on Facebook the next day revolved around "Yellow Wizard, keep the hell up and stop shooting the potions!" (NB: I was red warrior, not yellow wizard").

    Great fun and one of those few games that is truly endless without getting boring quickly.

    The remake (which is on Steam, by the way) better live up to the original. So tired of junk remakes at the moment (Syndicate, etc.).

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      The remake looks suspiciously like a Diablo III clone... Not that that's a bad game, after the rebalancing and DLC, but why make the same game?

  11. Cookieninja

    Did this game have an end ??

    Did the game have an end, or was it a money maker for Atari by generating new levels infinitely to encourage you to pop in more and more cash for energy ??

    I got disillusioned when I discovered that the press of one key on the keyboard allowed you to walk through walls in the Spectrum version. Found out by accident, and got through lots and lots of levels until I got bored.

    1. graeme leggett

      Re: Did this game have an end ??

      I think you could go round the clock - as it were - on the levels. But although you could just keep shoving 10p pieces in, the levels got harder and harder and it would be more fun to stop, die, and then start again. Though perhaps taking the shortcut to level 10.

      At University there was a charity challenge where a few people played it non-stop for 24 hours.

      1. cray74

        Re: Did this game have an end ??

        "At University there was a charity challenge where a few people played it non-stop for 24 hours."

        I didn't need a charity challenge to play it 24 hours, I just needed the shopkeeper to stop chasing me out of his store because it was closing time. And for my parents to stop being stingy with advances on my allowance after the game ate my savings. Not that I had much saved when I was 11, but there was a stern talking to about fiscal responsibility that really delayed my return to Gauntlet the next morning.

    2. evs

      Re: Did this game have an end ??

      IIRC, the first 8 levels came in a preset order after that (predefined) levels would be selected randomly forever. I knew a few very good players that told me that, once they got past level 8, they could go forever without adding more coins.

      Of course I also remember "Elf has been eating all the food lately."

  12. ukgnome


    This cabinet game was a proper bonding game, so many randoms met as a kid down cleethorpes.

  13. AaronG

    Wall Exits

    Ever got stuck? Stand still for 5 minutes and all the walls turned to exits.

    You just had to keep feeding in those 10p pieces as your health was forever running down.

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      Re: Wall Exits

      IIRC, it was five minutes and all the doors opened (not necessarily a good thing if you'd run out of keys and there's a generator on the other side, or worse, deaths trapped behind doors), and then another five minutes and all the walls turned to exits.

  14. oblivion

    "That was a heroic effort!"

    Gauntlet's technology was a big deal in 1985. My nerdy friends and I had never seen the likes of it and spent hundreds of dollars plodding through the levels. At one point a friend had a small arcade in his shop with a leased Gauntlet and a couple of other games. One night after hours we picked the locks on it--not to steal the money, but being the geeks we were, we wanted to have a look at the silicon to see how much hardware was crammed into the cabinet to provide this level of gameplay. As I recall, we might have adjusted the skill level a bit to give ourselves a better chance. It was easy when coin-ops of the 80s usually came with technical manuals and operator instructions lying at the bottom of the cabinet. :)

    Gauntlet IV on Sega Genesis was a pretty good clone, and "Dark Legacy" on PS2 was enjoyable. But I still like firing up MAME/MESS and taking a run through Gauntlet I and II when the mood hits me.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    "Gauntlet deserves a reboot"

    It's had HUNDREDS of them.

    It's just they were done by different people with different names.

    And given the history of Atari... These are different people too.

    1. Jim 59


      Played it on MAME. Now that's a real reboot.

  16. c3r3al_kill3r

    "Red Warrior all your powers will be lost!"

    I discovered a "cheat" on the Atari ST version whereby if you pulled the disk out while it was loading and then put it back in straight away it would corrupt the room layout and you'd end up with a completely random room, blocks all over the place, sometimes rooms full of potions and food, other times rooms full of deaths. Very rarely was there an exit, at which point you would have to reboot and start again, but it was worth the agro if you got a mega room.

    Nostalgia. Can't wait to have a go on this reboot!

  17. Nick Woodruffe

    about time it was revived

    I still play both Gauntlet and Gauntlet II on MAME with my daughters and even the neighbours when they pop round for a cuppa.

    The game still has legs and having no ending means you just keep going until bored or passed out.

    Gauntlet Legends in the arcade didn't seem to catch on and my Mame box doesn't have the horsepower to simulate it properly at the moment. Really looking forward to this new version for the PC.

    Who remembers the space themed game that was also similar as a 4 player with health requiring constant 10p input? I forget it's name but in Swindon the local arcade had this and Gauntlet.

    1. Jim 59

      Re: about time it was revived

      Who remembers the space themed game that was also similar as a 4 player with health requiring constant 10p input? I forget it's name but in Swindon the local arcade had this and Gauntlet.

      Sounds awfully like Quartet, a game I am often banging on about in here. Out at the same time as Gauntlet, was a 4 player sideways scroller with a space/monster theme. Boss at the end of every level. 4 players with different weapons. Also top fun on MAME.

  18. Duffy Moon

    It always amazed me how people had enough money to play these things for hours - especially children. I had a job and couldn't afford to play for long!

    1. Sir Runcible Spoon

      "especially children"

      Paper rounds, pocket money and the occasional car washing for Dad, plus not having a mortgage and bills to pay helped too I guess.

  19. RealBigAl

    "Team work is essential.

    Each character has their own health meter but must use gold from a central pot to restore it. Come over all n000b and your mates are going to have to pay up, so snarf as much loot as possible so you can pay your way."

    Well that sucks. One of the fun things about the original (after a while) was stunning your allies an leaving them to fight the on rushing hordes. "You don't have to be faster than the evil dudes, just faster than the slowest member of the party."

  20. 1Rafayal

    Gauntlet 4 on the megadrive will always be my favourite

  21. rich_r

    I once found a mint condition half crown (~25p) in the coin reject slot of Gauntlet in the arcade at a local fair in the late 1980s. I guess someone was so desperate to keep going that they started desperately pumping in pre-decimal currency.

  22. Corborg

    Wizard needs food

    Why would you compare Gauntlet (1985) to Streets of Rage (1991)?

    Anyhow, Gauntlet was great, I built my own mini version a few years back:

  23. Bottle_Cap

    One of the few later day arcase ports for the Atari 800XL - played it to death! Graphics were a bit arse but still...

  24. LucreLout

    Loved the original arcade version

    I first discovered Gauntlet in an amusement arcade when I was about 6 or 7 - Spirit in the sky was riding high in the charts.

    My brother & I must have spent half the family holiday chucking 10p pieces into that thing. No game has come close to capturing that multi-player fun factor for me, with the sole exception of Double Dragon, which we discovered on a subsequent family holiday.

    I'll be buying this, even though I have little time for games these days (family holidays are with a child of my own now), purely for nostalgia value. For full marks, they should bundle it with a port of the original arcade game.

    1. Lord Lien

      Re: Loved the original arcade version

      Double Dragon was one of the few games I could do on one credit! That & Golden Axe, both easy games to clock. :)

  25. Douglas Crockford


    Gauntlet was inspired by Dandy, an Atari 800 game by Jack Palevich.

  26. Jim Keir

    Warrior needs Valkyrie.... badly.

  27. Jagged

    Used to play this in Chistlehurst Caves dressed in Furs wielding rubber swords ;)

  28. Mark Pitchless

    Elf needs health!

  29. Zot

    I could play Gauntlet for 3 hours...

    ...on ONE ten pence piece.

    And I don't feel sad about it at all.

  30. AndrueC Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    I played it on the CPC I think. Have to admit it was great fun although there could be arguments if the players tried to explore too far on their own. Eventually someone had to agree to turn round and go back.

    1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Oh yes. I'd forgotten that! Running quickly down another passage, after your brother had gone through a door into a room full of nasties. If you did it fast enough, he could no longer retreat through the door and snipe at them as they came through, he ended up in the melee. Ooops.

  31. Will Godfrey Silver badge

    Apart from bug blatting space invaders I was never into these 'killer' games but preferred slower puzzle based ones. The only thing that I ever really obsessed over was much later - Sim City {quiver}

    1. AndrueC Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      I loved the original. I think 2000 was okay but the more recent ones introduced micro-management and got rid of water and/or power management (I forget which). SC was always an excellent time-sink. Hours could fly by without you realising.

  32. AshRid

    Red Wizard has tripped over his skirt!

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    For anyone interested, there's also a game on STEAM called Hammerwatch, which is pretty much a "spiritual successor" (by which there are bonus levels which are extremely similar (nudge nudge) to Gauntlet levels) and it's pretty much the same deal - choose a class, kill massive swarms of enemies, collect loot and find the secrets. I've already put 50 hours on it on steam, and it's an absolute blast when you get a few friends together.

  34. GoatHerder

    Some things never change

    Gauntlet was the only arcade game I ever "mastered". There was a machine at the store I worked at in high school, so I spent way too much playing during and after work. I got to the point that I could play for hours on one quarter. I would only die when some dumb kid would jump into my game and screw things up. Kinda defeated the whole "social" aspect of the game. Actually, I play SWTOR now, and again, it's dumb kids screwing up my game!

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    I loved this game...

    I used to love this in the arcades. The fact that, quite often, random strangers would play on the available joysticks just made it even better.

    I had this on the Atari ST too and it was a pretty good conversion. Would love to have a cabinet and try this out again.

  36. Alistair Dabbs Silver badge

    My flatmate used to play this...

    ... when we were Uni students in the mid-1980s. I never understood the bloody thing but I guess he had more patience. He's now a financial director somewhere earning shitloads. So at least I got the last laugh... no, hang on, that's not right, is it?

  37. Carney3

    Pentagram on splash screen

    The new version's splash screen features four icons under the Gauntlet logo, each clearly meant to correspond to one of the four characters. One of them is a pentagram, apparently meant as the logo for the wizard (still called Merlin?) What an unwise choice. The pentagram is widely viewed as a pagan or even Satanic symbol, not only by many Christians but also by many self-proclaimed pagans and "Satanists". Unnecessarily provocative and controversial, even offensive. Why do something so off-putting and sour the debut of the latest installment of a popular and fondly viewed franchise?


    1. Chris Hunt

      Re: Pentagram on splash screen

      Christians shouldn't be playing the Wizard character anyway:

      Regard not them that have familiar spirits, neither seek after wizards - Leviticus 19:31

      So the pentagram acts as a handy reminder.

      Unless it's just a game, of course

  38. This post has been deleted by its author

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    3D aspect kills the remake. there's no real need for it.

  40. Børge Nøst

    Gauntlet and Marble Madness: Proof positive that lightning can strike twice at the same place.

    Atari Games (and their earlier incarnation) were just mindbogglingly good.

  41. This post has been deleted by its author

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