|Publisher(s)||Atari Games, U.S. Gold|
|Genre(s)||Hack and slash|
|Mode(s)||Up to four players simultaneously|
|Input methods||Joystick, two buttons|
Gauntlet is the name of a fantasy-themed hack and slash 1985 arcade game by Atari Games. Released during the emergence of popularity of other role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, the game was a sensation, being one of the first true dungeon crawl arcade games. It was ported over to the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Apple IIgs, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, J2ME, Macintosh, MSX, NES, SEGA Master System, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the ZX Spectrum. Three sequels, Gauntlet II (1986), Gauntlet Legends (1998) and Gauntlet Dark Legacy (2000) were also released.
The players, up to four at once in the arcade version, select among four playable fantasy-based charaters; Thor the Warrior, Merlin the Wizard, Thyra the Valkyrie or Questor the Elf. Each character has his or her own unique strength and weaknesses. For example, the Warrior is strongest in hand-to-hand combat, the Wizard has the strongest magic, the Valkyrie has the greatest armour and the Elf is the fastest in movement.
Upon selecting a playable character, the gameplay is set within a series of top-down, third-person perspective mazes where the object is to locate and touch the designated exit in every level. An assortment of special items can be located in each level that increase player's character's health, unlock doors, gain more points and magical potions that can destroy all of the enemies on screen.
The enemies are an vast 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 not only drain your character's health, but is difficult to destroy.
As the game progresses, higher levels of skill are needed to reach the exit, with success often depending on the willingess of the players to cooperate by sharing food and luring monsters into places where they can be engaged and slaughtered more conveniently. While contact with enemies reduces the player's health, it also slowly drains on its own, thus creating a time limit.
Aside from the ability to have up to four players at once, the game is also noted for the narrator's voice, which was produced by a Texas Instruments TMS5220C speech chip. The narrator would frequently make 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!" Occasionally, the narrator would encourage (or mock) the players in the thick of battle by saying, "I've never seen such bravery!" or "Let's see you get out of here!" A memorable statement of the game occurred when a player's "life force" points fell below 200: "Your life force is running out" or "Valkyrie...is about to die!" Some of the game's statements are humorously ambiguous due to limited memory, such as "You are full of bombs and/or keys."
This last point was a reference to the fact that each player can only carry a limited number of magical potions and keys.
To accommodate up to four players, the cabinet is wider than other standard uprights. Each player had a joystick and two buttons, one for "Fire" (to attack) and one for "Magic". The Magic button also started 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.
Due to its phenomenal success in the arcades, Gauntlet was ported to several home systems of the day. These platforms include DOS, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, MSX, NES, Atari Lynx, Apple IIGS, Sega Master System, Mega Drive/Genesis (as Gauntlet 4), Atari ST, Amiga, Commodore 64, Amstrad CPC and ZX Spectrum, among others. More recently, an emulated version of Gauntlet was included in Midway Arcade Treasures; a compilation of arcade games available for the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox consoles and Windows. For some machines, only Gauntlet II was converted, since it was considered to be more advanced than the first game in series. In 1990, the original Game Boy received a version of Gauntlet II. 16-bit conversions (Amiga, Atari ST & Mega Drive/Genesis) had similar sound and graphics as the original game, and retained the four-player mode (lesser machines only allowed a maximum of two players).
Gauntlet was recently released for the Game Boy Advance on one of DSI Games two packs, alongside Rampart. In addition, Gauntlet and Gauntlet II are among the emulated games that can be found in Midway Arcade Treasures 1 and 2, respectively, for various modern console systems. It was also released for GameCube.
A programming glitch in the original DOS version of the game released in 1988 rendered Level 59 unbeatable because an impassable wall was between the party and the exit to the level. The only way to get off the level and continue playing was to wait for five minutes so that the walls could turn into exits and the player could continue playing until the game ended at Level 118. Level 118 also had a programming glitch that no monsters would spawn out of any of the generators. The game would exit you to DOS once you beat Level 118.
Controversy came after the release of the game in the arcade and its subsequent port to the Nintendo Entertainment System. Ed Logg, the creator of Asteroids and Centipede, is credited for Original Game Design of Gauntlet in the arcade version, as well as the 1987 NES release version. After its release, John Palevich threatened a lawsuit, asserting that the original concept for the game was from Dandy (later Dandy Dungeon), a game for the Atari 800 computer written by Palevich 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. Logg is taken off this credit in versions subsequent to the 1987 NES release. While he is credited as "special thanks" through 1986, his name is entirely removed from credits on later releases. Logg currently claims no involvement in any of the Gauntlet series. The game Dandy which was the basis for the threatened lawsuit was later reworked by Atari and re-published for the Atari 2600, Atari 7800 and Atari XE as Dark Chambers in 1988, subsequent to the release of Gauntlet II in 1987.
Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons is an expansion pack for the original ports of Gauntlet with 512 new levels and required the original program. It was released in 1987 by the British company U.S. Gold in the UK and Europe, and Mindscape in the USA. It was released for Amstrad CPC, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum.  It was developed by Gremlin Graphics Software Ltd.
Many of its levels were entries in a competition throughout Europe in which only ten winners were awarded prizes, "A Gauntlet T-Shirt and a copy of the program for their computers." 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!" 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.
The NES version was a departure from the arcade version, keeping only the basic game formula and cast of characters. A hundred entirely new levels were constructed for this version, which added a definite quest; the goal was to retrieve the "Sacred Orb" located in the 100th level, which could only be accessed by collecting portions of a password hidden in certain "clue rooms" scattered throughout the first 99 levels. Power-up attributes that granted extra shot power and faster speed could be carried over from level to level, and a password system allowed the player to save their character's progress. The NES Gauntlet was one of only three Tengen cartridges to be released as officially-licensed Nintendo cartridges (the others being Pac-Man and RBI Baseball); it was later re-released as an unlicensed game following Tengen's split from Nintendo.
The Mega Drive/Genesis version, which was titled Gauntlet in Japan and released in North America and Europe as Gauntlet IV, features a totally original soundtrack and three new game modes in addition to an Arcade Mode which is a port of the original game:
A Nintendo DS version of the original Gauntlet is being developed by Backbone Entertainment. This version of the game will feature an entirely new 3D graphical engine, online four-player mode, and voice chat capabilities.
Gauntlet also has a place in pop culture (specifically '80s video gaming culture). The line "Red warrior needs food badly!" was named the third best game line ever in the January 2002 issue of Electronic Gaming Monthly.
In 2003 the third-wave ska band Five Iron Frenzy released a song called "Wizard needs food badly" on their album "The end is near". Here they use both quotes "The wizard needs food badly" and "The Wizard is about to die".
mc chris based the background for "The Tussin" on Gauntlet's intro music.