Track & Field: The Only Arcade Game About the Olympics

olympic arcade games

In 1983, Japanese video game developer Konami released a game into Japanese arcades called Hyper Olympic. The game featured quick, simple gameplay representing six different Olympic-style events, all part of the track and field grouping: 100 meter dash, long jump, javelin throw, 110 meter hurdles, hammer throw, and high jump. Before Hyper Olympic there had been plenty of sports games, but very few that featured Olympic events. Released in the United States as Track & Field, the game did well. Konami was a home game developer as well as an arcade developer, and home versions of this game, most notably for the Japanese Famicom, sold briskly.  The next year Konami developed a sequel as an unofficial tie-in game for the 1984 Olympics. This game, called Hyper Sports in the United States and Hyper Olympic ’84 in Japan, featured seven new events, only two of which were track and field. Instead, the game featured swimming, skeet shooting, gymnastics vault, archery, triple jump, weight lifting, and pole vault. However, possibly due to licensing issues or worries about flooding the market, Konami only released home versions for a number of marginal game machines like the Commodore 64 and the MSX. However, as the Nintendo Entertainment System did not become popular in the US until 1985, by the time Konami released the American home version of the game for the NES they were able to include a total of eight events from both Hyper Olympic games in the US Track & Field release (all the original events minus hammer throw, plus skeet shooting, archery, and triple jump from ’84).

The franchise lay dormant until the next summer Olympics in 1988 when Konami ’88 was released (alternately known as ’88 Games or Hyper Sports Special). This version of the game featured all the events from the NES Track & Field plus a 400 meter relay event. The home version, Track & Field II in the US and Konamik Sports in Seoul in Japan, featured far more depth and included a total of 15 events, plus the ability to choose what country to represent (out of 10, including West Germany). The game was released well after the 1988 Olympics had concluded, however: late September 1988 in Japan and early summer 1989 in the United States.  Konami would skip releasing a new arcade Olympics game in 1992, but did re-release Track & Field in Europe with a Barcelona make-over and ported the game to Game Boy that year as well. Konami would only release one more arcade Olympics games: International Track & Field (released in Japanese arcades as Hyper Athlete) for the 1996 summer games. Featuring most of the same events, it updated the graphics to 3D.

Konami got out of the Olympics-themed games business after the early 2000s but has released ports and updates for these classic arcade Olympics games for modern systems (as download-only games) and mobile devices. Meanwhile, the industry itself has seen a downturn in arcade games in general, especially those outside of a few set genres (fighting, driving, puzzle, and shoot-em-up).

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