A World of Games: War of the Worlds

You wouldn’t know it if you passed by it, but War of the Worlds the arcade game was never officially released. The game is fully functioning, has a dedicated cabinet, and a bright marquee to draw you in, just like any other arcade game would. To me, I associated its plain aesthetic and simple charms as being an older game, and like some titles from the 70s and 80s it just didn’t have a lot of details to show.

But then I realized I’ve only ever actually seen this game at conventions like California Extreme. And that I’ve never heard about the game in pop culture seemingly at all. Also, the game was not mentioned in other outlets when talking about movie tie-in games. A little bit of online research later, and I found the truth stating the game never saw official release. That didn’t stop it from being sold to personal investors and collectors though, and thus we have a hard to find arcade game!

The gameplay in War of the Worlds is like a cross between the older Missile Command and Space Invaders games: you control a movable tank at the bottom of the screen, shooting shells at oncoming martian walkers in an effort to destroy them before they make it to the foreground and destroy your tank. It’s simple overall, but some challenge does present itself in later stages are more enemies, and faster enemies, make an appearance.

I was initially turned on to the game as I was walking by and saw it had lovely vector graphics, which moved surprisingly fast. Playing the game, it started to feel a bit rudimentary, with very basic controls, enemy patterns, and overall strategy. Still, that didn’t stop the game from being fun for a few minutes. Also worth noting, this particular version I played was in color, while the original was a black & white version, making this variant even more unique!

There are certainly better games out there than War of the Worlds. But there aren’t many games that have a history like War of the Worlds. Chance are if you find the game somewhere, you’re likely in a place that you specifically went to in order to play arcade games, so I say go for it and give it a try. If you happen to walk past it in your day to day, not thinking of arcade games at all, and see this cabinet… I would suggest taking note of where you saw it, as the person or place that has it is likely worth looking into for more interesting arcade history!

Played at California Extreme 2023 in Santa Clara, CA

DownStab has been a personal endeavor of mine for many years. Please enjoy the content and let me know if you have questions, comments, or just want to connect. And as always, game on.

– Jason J

Original blue and red Nintendo Switch controllers
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