Classic arcade game deaths

A compilation of classic arcade deaths, arranged to an 8-bit cover of "Mad World" by Rob Beschizza.

By Rob Beschizza

A compilation of classic arcade deaths, arranged to an 8-bit-style cover of "Mad World".

The music is a cover of Mad World, by Tears for Fears. You can buy the original here. Here's an MP3 of the remix used in the video]

Published 7:00 am Fri, Mar 25, 2011

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About the Author

Rob Beschizza is the Managing Editor of Boing Boing. He's @beschizza on Twitter and can be found on Facebook too. Try your luck at  

136 Responses to “Classic arcade game deaths”

  1. Anonymous says:

    What an awesome way to start my Friday! Loved the chip tunes version of Mad World.

  2. Rob Beschizza says:

    Many thanks for Heather for helping out with the intro.

    • philippemorin123 says:

      You, mister, are my idol, for life!

      Seriously, this is a great way to reuse images of the past! I love VJing philosophy, so I love this (even if it is not live video editing… :P).

    • Xeni Jardin says:

      fucking genius, rob.

  3. searconflex says:

    Awesome work Rob!

  4. Hamish Grant says:

    Nice use of “Mad World” as the backing music, too!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Hypnotic and charming. Great music too.

  6. Nash Rambler says:

    Wow. That brought back a lot of frustrating childhood memories, but a few pleasant ones as well. I loved getting killed in “Paperboy,” for some sick reason, and can still feel the jerking of the stick in the arcade version of “Afterburner.” Nothing like plowing a fiery trail into the ocean after being shot down.

  7. Todd Sandercock says:

    That soundtrack is rad

  8. Anonymous says:

    It wasn’t till I got to the part where it says “And the dreams where I’ve been dying are the best I’ve ever had” that I realised why you chose this…

  9. franko says:

    brings a tear of joy to an old gamer’s eye. pitfall harry getting eaten by an alligator would’ve been a nice addition, but i’m so thrilled to see my other favorite games in attendance… this is just wonderful. wonderful.

  10. yezzer says:

    Love the Mad World remix. Is it available anywhere?

  11. Bender says:

    So many memories. thanks for this.

  12. halle says:

    Nice! The graveyard game @ 1:09 – used to love it but am totally blanking on the name. Help?!

    The sequel needs Pitfall Harry and Frogger.

  13. LakesideOrion says:

    Agree, tip o’ the hat on the soundtrack. Nice.

  14. Anonymous says:

    Brilliant! Brought back that childlike joy into my heart-& gary jules, wow!

  15. alex4point0 says:

    Graveyard game? Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins.'n'+goblins

    Atomic Robo Kid had an exquisite death sequence. Very samurai film … for a shooter …

  16. htafari says:

    My life flashes before my eyes….

  17. Anonymous says:

    Someone has MAME I think! Like it but wish you didn’t have the cutaways in it though I suspect you were trying to build a sense of period for the vid. Also wish you had the names of the games at the bottom to help those of us with shaky memories.

  18. idontwant2liveinoprahsworld says:

    This is too funny as I just recently started to use M.A.M.E.
    I always liked Phoenix when you were hit and the word explosion was part of the graphic.
    My own favorite that I would request is Robotron. That had a nice sunburst of an explosion.

  19. Anonymous says:

    I hoped to see at least one of the death scenes from “Dragon’s Lair” in here somewhere; that game had dozens of awesome ways to die.

  20. Anonymous says:

    Awesome video, loved the MIDI remix of Mad World.

  21. Anonymous says:

    I think it was the haunting 8-bit rendition of “Mad World” combined with all that video game death that made me think of this classic Onion article:

    Video-Game Character Wondering Why Heartless God Always Chooses ‘Continue’,274/

  22. Anonymous says:

    Nice, although it would have been nice to see somebody falling to their death in Warrior. But as a vector game those must be hard to find.

  23. Trent Hawkins says:

    wait, Ryu doesn’t get murdered when he loses.

  24. nixiebunny says:

    I must be old, as the only ones I recognized were in the first half-minute. Once games achieved 3D graphics and complex storylines, they lost me.

    But I still play Tetris. Go figure.

  25. Anonymous says:

    I had the sound turned down to watch this at work, and only heard a few of the bleeps and blips. Hearing the whole song makes this much better.

  26. basiclaw says:

    List of the games in order of appearance?

    This is great, btw

  27. phazeaction says:


  28. nehpetsE says:

    Beautiful! this is art. What is the music from?

  29. Anonymous says:

    While the Gary Jules version of the song may be more widely known due to it’s inclusion in the “Donnie Darko” soundtrack the song was originally written by Tears for Fears #corrections
    It’s an amazing video and a beautiful song….

  30. nemofazer says:

    Ah Missile Command in Woolwich Arsenal station in the early 80s while skipping lectures at Woolwich polytechnic.

    Miserable days. Really unhappy memories trying to escape a very dark bit of my life spending money I couldn’t afford on a machine.

    Possibly a bit dark for this thread.


  31. Anonymous says:

    I feel truly moved by this, which must mean its been a long week, and I’ve downed a drink or 3.
    Gonna watch it again.

  32. Damien says:

    Woot! “Gauntlet”!

  33. IRC says:

    The games in which I’m dying are the best I’ve ever had…


    Awesome video.

  34. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely one of the most creative mashups I’ve seen in 2011. Fantastic work–thanks for that.

  35. mack says:

    Les petits morts des jeux videos. And yes, I know what petits morts means.

    The soundtrack had the ring of countless thousands of quarters flowing out of my pockets over a decade or so of obsession.

    Thanks for this. It’s beautiful.

  36. Anonymous says:

    What is the name of the game at 1:22, with the guy in blue armor/shield fighting the girl in red armor/shield?

    I played that game when I was a kid, but haven’t remembered it for decades.

  37. bobkat says:

    Loved it. Beautiful version of the song; it made the whole thing very poignant. I too wished to see Robotron, though! My favorite arcade game of all time.

  38. darren says:

    Love it!

  39. Juan Esperanza says:

    If you have a list of all the games in this video, I would love to see it. I recognize many of them, but can not remember the names.

    I did notice Black Tiger, though. My all time favorite; I used to complete it on one quarter when I was a poor, high school student. Ah, the memories.

  40. MostlyMinutiae says:

    Took me a minute, but I found a link to the song with download. Enjoy!

  41. thatmikeykid says:


  42. Laslo Paniflex says:

    Can anyone tell me the game at 1:18?

  43. Anonymous says:

    Did I miss Donkey Kong’s Mario death, or was it just not there?

  44. Anonymous says:

    how about 1:52 as well ?????? i used to play that but im at a loss

  45. DungeonMaster says:

    The game at 1:18am is Golden Axe (don’t know which version).

    I want to know the game at 1:22, with the man in blue fighting the woman in red. I played that a lot as a youth, but haven’t thought it in probably 15 years. Anyone know?

  46. Baron Karza says:

    Spy Hunter!

  47. Anonymous says:

    Empire City: 1931! Yay! I mastered that one in MAME. Remember playing the original eons ago in some dingy arcade in NYC. Great video.

  48. DungeonMaster says:

    1:52, if you’re talking about the blue guy getting hit with some kind of energy ball, that’s Magician Lord. I remember seeing it in Babbages, it was a launch title for the 3DO, which was $600 bucks retail.

  49. Rob Beschizza says:

    The gladiator game is actually called Gladiator (also Great Gurianos). It had a great fighting system, very simple and elegant

  50. Muse says:

    Perfect! I was surprised how many games I recognized. The chip tunes Mad World gets extra credit.

  51. RedMonkey says:

    Yeah, that’s pretty much the life that’s going to flash before my eyes when I die.

  52. zachstronaut says:

    High quality Friday content, Rob! Thanks =)

  53. God45 says:

    I recognized a lot of games. The memories of gaming feel more real to me than some of my other memories.

  54. Kyle H says:

    I imagine even making a video explicitly about video game death scenes it was hard to make yourself just sit there and let the little rocket / ninja / goblin / fireball do its dirty work.

    I know when I was watching my inner child was going, “NO TO THE LEFT TO THE LEFT GET OUT OF THE WAY GOGOGOGOGO”

  55. parttimejohnny says:

    I would also love to know the name of the game at 1:22, I’ve actually been passively searching for it (for years!), played it for a month straight when I was a kid. You kinda whack your opponents armor off until you can stab their exposed parts. Genius! Kudos to whoever comes up with the name.

  56. halle says:

    Yes! Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins!
    Thanks, gang!

  57. dagfooyo says:

    What’s the one at 1:56 with the character in the red shirt getting killed by guys in hoods? Looks so familiar I’m sure I played it but can’t remember the name.

  58. MooseDesign says:

    Holy shit that was awesome! Also, dost mine eyes perceive Rush N’ Attack in there?! Freakin’ awesome.

  59. MooseDesign says:

    Also, don’t make me WireTap this audio… I would gladly pay for it.

  60. zachstronaut says:

    Don’t think I spotted one of my favorites in the video. Zelda 2’s death sequence:

  61. zachstronaut says:

    sorry… just realize that isn’t an arcade game at all. my bad. got a little too excited and jumped the gun.

  62. Jeff Vader says:

    mmmmhhh, retro gaming…

    *wipes drool*

    I recognized more games than I thought, highlights include Barbarian, Arkanoid/Break Out, Moto GP (I think), the car racing thing, missile attack and many more…

    This isn’t strictly OnT, but since boing boing hooked me on nethack, which in turn led me to more retro gaming and I don’t have anyone else to share this with… I got my hands on WinUAE, a free Amiga Emulator and a few program disks from the old times. I’ve been reliving my youth since and discovered that many games hold up *very* well! I finally finished Rings of Medusa, replayed Nuclear War and started dabbling in Deuteros again.

    For those interested here is a link to one of my youtube-playlists. Its filled with amiga longplays (video captures of play-throughs) in varying length of 10min to 4h (!). Highlights include Speedball 2, North and South, Defender of the crown, lemmings, international Karate + and more. For the record, this is a personal collection playlist, none of the videos in it are mine. hope you enjoy a trip to the past :-)

  63. Jeff Vader says:

    I know, 2nd comment and all, but does anyone else remember the booth version of afterburner? I remember being a young kid on family holiday in Spain and spending most of my allowance on Afterburner in a conveniently placed arcade near the beach. It was the coolest thing – you sat in a cockpit thingy, complete with button loaded joystick and rocking cabin. the movement angle couldnt have been that impressive really at the time, but in my mind I remember being viciously rocked around. Best time ever.

    • MooseDesign says:

      Oh hell yeah! If memory serves me there was the upright version with the shaking joystick, the booth version that would rock you around a bit, and then there was the full on simulator version on stilts that you had to climb into. My memory fails me, but I seem to recall playing the latter edition on a family trip that took us through this little Appalachian tourist town in a pass (Virginia, I think?) and one of the arcades there had it. Or I was having a cotton candy and taffy induced hallucination.

  64. Juan Esperanza says:

    1:04 is Black Tiger, or Black Dragon in Japan. the Japanese version was harder because of some little tweaks that made the boss on level seven almost impossible to kill unless you were full armored.

    Nostalgia is getting the better of me. I may have said too much…

  65. andigopow says:

    The only thing that really wows me about the video is the quality of so much of the footage. Crystal Castles clear!

  66. politeruin says:

    Really quite nice that. Weirdly moving too, there’s a sort of melancholy about all that pixel death.

  67. jonstovall says:

    love this — so many memories. i need this song in my itunes asap.

  68. sigismund says:

    it gets so higher with a Nine inch nails soundtrack…

  69. planchette says:

    8 bit death to TFF now playing on your flight to 1985.

    So awesome.

  70. optuser says:


  71. Anonymous says:

    Can we get a games list? I want to mame some of these bad boys up.

  72. Anonymous says:

    Do vector drawn games really give off that psychedelic halo effect or is that an artifact? I’ve never seen one up close.

  73. Anonymous says:

    Can someone please tell me the game that appears at the 1:15 mark? It’s driving me crazy!!

  74. Lelielle says:

    Awesome, love the chiptune ‘Mad World”. If anyone here recognized most of these, felt some nostalgia fueled warm fuzzies, and don’t yet have MAME….*gives withering stare*

  75. mathn1nja says:

    Please, Please, Please!!!
    Someone Dubstep this!!

  76. JetForMe says:

    Is it possible to get your version of the song? I bought the other one, not realizing it was the original and not yours.

  77. siradambeck says:

    This makes my heart ache with nostalgia.

  78. Anonymous says:

    Similar project from school

  79. Anonymous says:

    What a nice metaphor, so soothingly presented, for the upsetting truth that eventually, you and everything you care about will go down the toilet.

  80. JhmL says:

    Tip o’ the hat Rob, that was excellent. :)

  81. l'elk! says:

    found this a while back. felt appropriate to post on this thread:

  82. Anonymous says:

    What was up with the NARC footage (at 1:20)? The player character didn’t die.

    • FoxSparrow says:

      Glad I’m not the only one who noticed the Narc video 1:20 is not the player dying.

      Also, Narc had some the best ultra-violence pre-MK days. Launch a rocket into a crowd of enemies and there’s nothing but burning limbs flying everywhere.

  83. Anonymous says:

    does anyone remember the game at 1:28 in the video? it reminds me of soemthing and i have to check it out!

  84. Anonymous says:

    Narc, the game at 1:20, shows an enemy get killed, not the player. The 2nd level has crazy junkies that throw loaded heroin needles at you. 1988 quarter killer.

  85. mlauzon says:

    I recognise some of those games from having played them back in the ’80s & ’90s, but there are others I just don’t recognise, is there a list somewhere?

  86. Mr. Winka says:

    Oh, the simulated humanity!!

  87. Anonymous says:

    whats tha name of the game at 1:14? the sniper one.
    I used to play it a lot as a kid at the arcade.
    I’ve been searching that game for years with no success.

    Thanks a lot!!

  88. Anonymous says:


  89. Anonymous says:

    Very cool vid! Was hoping for a megaman death for the end ;)

  90. Anonymous says:


  91. jadeus says:

    Okay, what is the name of the game at 1:56? The one with the secret agent and the guys in hoods? I used to love that game. Haven’t thought about it in years…

  92. Anonymous says:

    The greatest death was from Chris Crawford’s Diplomacy (Chris was the founder of CGDC)- which was: Congratulations you have destroyed the Earth.

    Nothing like a little guilt to end your game.

  93. Anonymous says:

    can anyone tell me what is at 2:16? the list of games here: says only “Jeux Sans Frontieres (Games Without Frontiers, Peter Gabriel)” but of course, i don’t recall peter gabriel ever entering into the arcade game programming profession, so that seems an obvious inaccuracy.

    • Anonymous says:

      (list maintainer here) I didn’t recognize it either, so I just picked it up from youtube comments.

      Thanks for correction, it is now marked as uncertain in the list.

  94. Anonymous says:

    How about the game at 1:49 with the spaceship? Loved it as a kid, but can’t remember the name.

  95. Anonymous says:

    Who would waste their time dying purposely in that many video games to create the video?

  96. Anonymous says:

    Hypnotic video. Technically, in terms of music, and in terms of what it made me think about (death in a gaming context). Reminded me of this talk by Rick Roderick. Someone put a youtube doubler link up, so I made one of my own.

  97. Anonymous says:

    the one at 1:11 (right after ghost and goblins) that has the arial view w/ ghosts, anyone know the name?

  98. Anonymous says:

    I need the name of the game at 1:30, but in fact I’m also interested in the list of all games showed in this vid. :)

  99. kpkpkp says:

    This is where BoingBoing shines

  100. Anonymous says:

    Yeah, nice… Flashback had several worthy 16-bit deaths, from a simple and understated fall from height to full-motion-video evaporation in plasma! Also check out Jurassic Park on Genesis, you could be devoured by T-Rex.

  101. washizu says:

    Watching this made me realize how many video games I’ve completely forgotten about playing.

  102. BinaryGodMonkey says:

    I signed up for an account here just because of this video. I was blown away by the concept, presentation, and music. This is an awesome piece of art. I love the original version of Mad World, but the classic 8-bit sound is unexpected and amazing.

  103. mogul says:

    The Star Wars arcade one isn’t a death, it’s a win of the level by blowing up the Death Star!

  104. Anonymous says:

    Here’s a list of most games in this video:

    Most data is collected from YouTube comments, so there might be inaccuracies – though I tried to check the submissions and edit them if necessary.

  105. Anonymous says:

    The game @ 0:52 is wrong on the list, it’s clearly not Raiden II or Xevious. I remember playing this game at the arcades back when I was little but since I was very young I can’t remember for anything what game it was.

    Can anyone help?

  106. Rob Beschizza says:

    Player deaths are not always the tragedy!

  107. evilpyrate says:

    This is awesome. From Pong on through the years, this is my childhood as seen through the lens of wasted quarters…

  108. Bilgez says:

    awesome, awesome, awesome! I had to watch it back to back twice, just to double check the games and the lush track.
    Brought a wave of nostalgia that I rarely experience! What was the footage used from 00.36 in for about 2-3 secs..
    Wracking my brains and if anyone can help, please do!

  109. Anonymous says:

    this is like a “bail out” skate video, where you think someone’s juust about to land the trick instead smashing their nose against steel railing. Fascinating and painful

  110. alex4point0 says:

    …no, there’s no 720º footage :c\

  111. Nawel says:

    You brought a small tear to my eyes.
    Thank you.

  112. Anonymous says:

    Excelent – thanx for warm feeling I got when seeing this !!!
    Damn when did we get so old ? ;)

  113. Anonymous says:

    what is the name of the game in 1:45 until 1:49?? with that gladiator and that monster?? it looks familiar…

  114. Anonymous says:



    I did that :)

  115. skeletoncityrepeater says:

    No one will see this comment, but I gotta point out that the music here is not a remix, not at all. It’s an electronic cover of the song. A remix uses actual samples or tracks from the original song, usually the vocals.

  116. techguru66 says:

    What’s the video game 0:23?

  117. bmcmolo says:

    Still loving this, months on – must have watched it a hundred times by now. Very Koyanisqaatsi-esque. Well done!