Gauntlet (1985 video game)

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Gauntlet game flyer.png
Arcade flyer
Developer(s)Atari Games
Publisher(s)Atari Games
U.S. Gold
Designer(s)Ed Logg
Hal Canon
Earl Vickers
Atari ST
2 Bit Systems Replay
Ben Daglish
Master System
Platform(s)Arcade, Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Apple II, Apple IIGS, Macintosh, Commodore 64, MSX, Master System, NES, Genesis, ZX Spectrum, MS-DOS
November 1985[1][2][3]
Genre(s)Hack and slash, dungeon crawl
Mode(s)Single-player, 4-player multiplayer
CabinetCustom upright
Arcade systemAtari Gauntlet
CPU1 x 68010 @ 7.16 MHz
1 × 6502 @ 1.79 MHz[4]
Sound1 x YM2151 @ 3.58
1 × POKEY @ 1.79 MHz
1 x TMS5220 @ 650 kHz
DisplayRaster 336×240

Gauntlet is a fantasy-themed hack and slash 1985 arcade game by Atari Games.[3] It is noted as being one of the first multi-player dungeon crawl arcade games.[5][6] The core design of Gauntlet comes from Dandy, a 1983 Atari 8-bit family dungeon crawl, which resulted in a threat of legal action.[7]

The arcade version of Gauntlet was released in November 1985 and was initially available only as a dedicated four-player cabinet. A total of 7,848 units were distributed.[8] Atari later released a two-player cabinet variant in June 1986, aimed at operators who could not afford or did not have sufficient space for the four-player version.[2][9]


Arcade version screenshot

The game is set within a series of top-down, third-person perspective mazes where the object is to find and touch the designated exit in every level. An assortment of special items can be located in each level that increase the player's character's health, unlock doors, gain more points, and give magical potions that can destroy all of the enemies on screen.[10]

Each player controls one of four playable fantasy-based characters: Thor, a warrior; Merlin, a wizard; Thyra, a valkyrie; or Questor, an Elf. The characters are named on the cabinet artwork, but in-game they are referred only by the title of their classes. Each character has his or her own unique strengths and weaknesses. For example, the warrior is strongest in hand-to-hand combat, the wizard has the most powerful magic, the valkyrie has the best armor, and the Elf is the fastest in movement.[4] The characters are assigned by control panel in the four-player version, whereas in the two-player version each player selects his or her own character at the start of the game or while joining during the middle of play.

The enemies are an assortment of fantasy-based monsters, including ghosts, grunts, demons, lobbers, sorcerers, and thieves. Each enters the level through specific generators, which can be destroyed. While there are no bosses in the game, the most dangerous enemy is Death, who can only be destroyed by using a magic potion—otherwise Death will vanish automatically after it has drained a certain amount of health from the player.[10]

As the game progresses, higher levels of skill are needed to reach the exit, with success often depending on the willingness of the players to cooperate by sharing food and luring monsters into places where they can be engaged and slaughtered more conveniently.[10] While contact with enemies reduces the player's health, health also slowly drains on its own, thus creating a time limit. When a character's health reaches zero, that character dies. The character can be revived in place with full health by spending a game credit—inserting a coin in the arcade—within a certain short time window after it died. This allows even the least proficient players to keep playing indefinitely, if they are willing to keep inserting coins. However, each player's final score will be divided by the amount of credits they used to play, resulting in an average.

Aside from the ability to have up to four players at once, the game is also noted for the narrator's voice, which is produced by a Texas Instruments TMS5220C speech chip.[6][10] The TMS5220C speech was encoded by Earl Vickers.[6] The narrator (voiced by Ernie Fosselius)[6] frequently makes statements repeating the game's rules, including: "Shots do not hurt other players, yet", "Remember, don't shoot food", "Elf shot the food", and "Warrior needs food, badly". The narrator occasionally comments on the battle by saying, "I've not seen such bravery" or "Let's see you get out of here". When a player's life force points fall below 200, the narrator states, "Your life force is running out", "Elf needs food", or "Valkyrie is about to die".

The control panel for the four-player cabinet is wider than other standard uprights in order to accommodate four people at the same time. Each player has an eight-way joystick and two buttons: one for "fire" (ranged attack) and one for "magic". The "magic" button also starts the game. After Gauntlet's release, other games started using this design, so it was a popular conversion target for newer games after it had its run.


Originally called Dungeons,[6] the game was conceived by Atari game designer Ed Logg. He claimed inspiration from his son's interest in the paper-based game Dungeons & Dragons and from his own interest in the 1984 four-player dungeon crawl for the Atari 8-bit family, Dandy.

The game's development spanned from 1983 to 1985, with a team being led by designers Ed Logg and Roger Zeigler. The working title became legally unavailable in April 1985,[6] so it was renamed Gauntlet in May. Based upon some of the most elaborate hardware design in Atari's history to date, it is the company's first coin-operated game that features a voice synthesizer chip.[11]

Dandy dispute[edit]

Ed Logg, the co-creator of Asteroids and Centipede, is credited with the original game design of Gauntlet in the arcade version, as well as the 1987 NES release. After its release, John Palevich threatened a lawsuit, asserting that the original concept for the game was from Dandy, a game for the Atari 8-bit family written by Palevich and published in 1983. The conflict was settled without any suit being filed, with Atari Games doing business as Tengen allegedly awarding Palevich a Gauntlet game machine.[7] While he is credited with "special thanks" through 1986, Logg is entirely removed from credits on later releases[12] and as of 2007 Logg claims no involvement with the NES game.[13] Dandy was later reworked by Atari Corporation and published for the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, and Atari 8-bit family as Dark Chambers in 1988.[14]


Gauntlet was ported to MS-DOS, Apple II, Macintosh, MSX, NES, Apple IIGS, Master System, Genesis (as Gauntlet 4), Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC, and ZX Spectrum.

The Genesis port, released as Gauntlet 4 (spelled Gauntlet IV on the packaging and manual) outside Japan, adds three modes in addition to the arcade mode: "quest" (an action RPG), "battle" (a deathmatch game), and "record" (a single-player only variant of arcade mode in which progress is kept track via a passcode).[15]

Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons[edit]

Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons is an expansion pack for the original ports of Gauntlet with 512 new levels and requires the original program. It was released in 1987 by the British company U.S. Gold in the UK and Europe, and Mindscape in the United States. It was released for Amstrad CPC, MSX, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and ZX Spectrum.[16] It was developed by Gremlin Graphics.

Many of its levels were entries in a competition throughout Europe in which ten winners were awarded prizes, a Gauntlet T-shirt and a copy of the program for their computers.[17] The contest was announced in the instructions of many of the ported games: "In early 1987, U.S. Gold will release an expansion cassette for Gauntlet containing hundreds of new levels and treasure rooms. You can have the chance to have your own maze included on this tape!"[18] The levels are presented randomly and its artwork is the side panel artwork of the arcade cabinet with only the main characters shown. The enemies were removed from the image and replaced with a pink background.

Reviewers noted that the levels were much harder than those in the original game, although the consensus was that it was not quite as good as the first game or the newly released arcade sequel.[19][20][21][22]


Review scores
CVGCPC464: 36/40[23]
SMS: 92%[24]
Dragon4/5 stars[26]
Sinclair User5/5 stars[27]
Your Sinclair9/10[28]
Amstrad Action93%[30]
Commodore User9/10[31]
Computer Gamer94%[32]
The Games Machine72%[33]
Mean Machines94%[35]
Your Computer5/5 stars[38]
Golden Joystick AwardsGame of the Year[40]
ZX ComputingSmash Hit[41]

The game was highly profitable upon its November 1985 launch, reportedly earning one San Mateo, California, arcade operator USD $15,000 in sixteen weeks and another Canadian operator USD $4,500 in nine days.[11] Atari ultimately sold a total of 7,848 Gauntlet video game arcade cabinets.[8] At the 1986 Golden Joystick Awards in London, Gauntlet won Game of the Year, and was runner-up in the category of Arcade-Style Game of the Year.[40] Entertainment Weekly picked the game as the 14th-greatest game available in 1991, saying: "There have been sequels to this game, but nothing matches the original Gauntlet, an innovative, fast-playing mix of mazes, monsters, and magic spells."[42]

The Macintosh version of the game was reviewed in 1989 in Dragon No. 150 by Hartley, Patricia, and Kirk Lesser in "The Role of Computers" column. The reviewers gave the game four out of five stars.[26] Compute! praised the Macintosh version's sound effects.[43] Computer and Video Games praised the accuracy of the Amstrad version, and said that it had "great graphics, good sounds, and perfect playability." Crash praised the smooth and fast scrolling, and the longevity, with Avenger being listed as the only alternative. In their Master System review, ACE said that people of all ages could quickly master the controls and tasks. The Spectrum version was the biggest-selling game of 1986,[20] and was voted number 38 in the Your Sinclair Readers' Top 100 Games of All Time.[44]

Of the Mega Drive release in 1993, MegaTech said that "the action is flawless" and had stood the test of time well. They continued that it was "a brilliant game, and one that warrants immediate attention". Mega praised the longevity of the game, saying it was "huge fun and a must-buy" and placing the game at No. 19 in their list of the best Mega Drive games of all time.[45]

More than a decade after release, the Official UK PlayStation Magazine noted that they "spent many a night hunched over a fag-stained Gauntlet machine", but said that the limitations had become apparent in the late 1990s.[46] Next Generation, while not including the game in their "Top 100 Games of All Time", noted in the intro that "for the record, Gauntlet was number 101."[47]


The original Gauntlet arcade game is included in Midway Arcade Treasures (2003) for the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2, Xbox, and Microsoft Windows.

An unrelated Atari 8-bit family game was named Gauntlet prior to the release of the arcade game. The author renamed it Gauntletak after consulting with his lawyer.[48]

The world record holder for Gauntlet is Russ Cool with a score of 5.1 million points, set December 6, 2013.[49]

The arcade original was followed by a 1986 sequel, Gauntlet II.


  1. ^ "'Role-playing' Vid". Cash Box. November 2, 1985.
  2. ^ a b "The Adventures Continues With Gauntlet" (PDF). Atari Games Players Journal. Vol. 1 no. 3. August 1986.
  3. ^ a b "Gauntlet". The International Arcade Museum. Retrieved October 5, 2013.
  4. ^ a b "Gauntlet The Arcade Video Game by Atari Games Corp". Arcade History.
  5. ^ "GDC Vault - Classic Game Postmortem: Gauntlet". Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c d e f "Gauntlet Postmortem by Ed Logg" (PDF). Retrieved October 20, 2015.
  7. ^ a b Dark Chambers, ATARI, retrieved September 11, 2007
  8. ^ a b "Atari Production Numbers Memo". Atari Games. January 4, 2010. Archived from the original on January 20, 2013. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  9. ^ "'Gauntlet' For Two". Cash Box. June 21, 1986.
  10. ^ a b c d Gauntlet at MobyGames
  11. ^ a b Scimeca, Dennis (March 8, 2012). "The Making Of Gauntlet -- A Classic Arcade Game That Atari Never Saw Coming". G4TV. Retrieved November 2, 2014.
  12. ^ Gauntlet Credits, Moby Games, retrieved September 11, 2007
  13. ^ tsr. "Tetris Forever". Atari HQ. Retrieved September 11, 2007.
  14. ^ Vendel, Curt. "The Atari 65XEM (AMY Sound Processor)". Archived from the original on September 13, 2011. Retrieved June 5, 2007.
  15. ^ "Corporate Profile". M2. Retrieved September 14, 2019.
  16. ^ Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons at MobyGames
  17. ^ Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons instructions.
  18. ^ Original Gauntlet cassette tape version instructions released by U.S. Gold.
  19. ^ Biggs, Sara (June 1987). "The Deeper Dungeons review". Your Sinclair (18): 58. Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  20. ^ a b "The Deeper Dungeons review". Sinclair User. No. 63. June 1987. p. 49. Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  21. ^ "The Deeper Dungeons review". ZX Computing: 35. June 1986. Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  22. ^ "The Deeper Dungeons review". Computer Gamer (27): 73. Retrieved June 17, 2015.
  23. ^ "Gauntlet Review". C+VG. EMAP (63): 36–37. January 1987.
  24. ^ "Gauntlet By US Gold". C+VG. EMAP (110): 120–121. January 1991.
  25. ^ "Gauntlet Review". Crash!. Newsfield (37): 16–17. February 1987.
  26. ^ a b Lesser, Hartley; Lesser, Patricia; Lesser, Kirk (October 1989), "The Role of Computers", Dragon (150): 68–73, 95.
  27. ^ "Gauntlet Review". Sinclair User. EMAP (59): 40–41. February 1987.
  28. ^ "Running the Gauntlet". Your Sinclair. Future plc (14): 56–57. February 1987. Retrieved November 17, 2014.
  29. ^ "Gauntlet Review". ACE. EMAP (37): 87. October 1990.
  30. ^ "Gauntlet Review". Amstrad Action. Future plc (16): 68–69. January 1987.
  31. ^ "Gauntlet Review". Commodore User. EMAP (40): 18–19. January 1987.
  32. ^ "Gauntlet Review". Computer Gamer. Argus Press (23): 46–47. February 1987.
  33. ^ "Version Update Gauntlet". The Games Machine. Newsfield (11): 56. February 1987.
  34. ^ "Gauntlet Review". Joystick (15): 107. April 1991.
  35. ^ "Gauntlet 4 review". Mean Machines. EMAP (13): 50–53. November 1993.
  36. ^ "Mega review". Mega. Future Publishing (13): 32. October 1993.
  37. ^ "Gauntlet 4 review". MegaTech. EMAP (22): 76. October 1993.
  38. ^ "Gauntlet Review". Your Computer. PC Electrical-Electronic Press (23): 47–48. February 1987.
  39. ^ "Gauntlet Review". Zzap!64. Newsfield (63): 20–22. February 1987.
  40. ^ a b "Golden Joystick Awards". Computer and Video Games. EMAP (66): 101. April 1987.
  41. ^ "Gauntlet Review". ZX Computing. Argus Press: 82–83. March 1987.
  42. ^
  43. ^ Aycock, Heidi E. H. (December 1989). "Compute! Specific: Mac". Compute!. p. 16.
  44. ^ "Top 100 Speccy Games", Your Sinclair, Future plc (72): 27–29, December 1991, archived from the original on January 1, 1999
  45. ^ Mega Top 100 feature, Future Publishing, issue 14, page 87, November 1993
  46. ^ Atari Greatest Hits review, Official PlayStation Magazine, Future Publishing issue 36, page 124, September 1998
  47. ^ "Top 100 Games of All Time". Next Generation. No. 21. Imagine Media. September 1996. p. 37.
  48. ^ "Gauntlet by Donald R. Lebeau" thread at forums
  49. ^ Fleischman, Sarah (December 10, 2013). "Hanover man scores top spot on classic arcade game". The Hanover Evening Sun. Archived from the original on December 14, 2013.

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