Arcade Zen, 1983: Dragon’s Lair

Arcade 1983

Press photo from September 13, 1983. Caption reads:

Morro Bay High School Student William Krause at the controls of Dragon’s Lair game in the Morro Bay Arcade. Krause is the current champion, and has his name posted on the machine.

Dragon’s Lair always, always had a crowd (you can see a couple of quarters on the marquee in the photo). One, it was super hard and turns were short—I was lucky if I got past the first fire ropes. Two, the Don Bluth animation, surely influenced by Dungeons & Dragons, is a sight to behold. It still ranks as some of the finest ever done. The clunky game play, in retrospect, is actually a huge drag on the overall aesthetic. You can watch the whole thing—less than 13 minutes!—here. My favorite parts are the rapids and the giant marbles.

(Image via San Luis Obispo Tribune)

3 Responses to “Arcade Zen, 1983: <em>Dragon’s Lair</em>”


  1. 1 WEBmikey June 18, 2015 at 11:07 pm

    I was always stunned by Dragon’s Lair. My first experience was at Bally’s Le Mans at Crossroads Mall, Oklahoma City. They had a second monitor on top of the game so people could watch when it was too crowded around the player!

  2. 2 narvo November 16, 2015 at 9:18 pm

    lol. I know that smug look anywhere. That’s when you know you’re a bad-ass ‘coz you’re able to enter your 3-letter name in the #1 spot. The few and the proud, man.

    I remember when they first installed Dragon’s Lair at the Eldorado Bowl in Westchester (CA), my hometown. That was the first game to charge $.50—double the amount of the regular arcade games. It was a landmark moment for sure. Truthfully, for a few weeks nobody even wanted to take a chance on it, because 1) it was expensive and 2) the ultra-sleek animation and game design was downright intimidating for us 11-12 year olds.

    It was funny to see it just standing there, brand new but with nobody playing it. We would all just gather around and watch the intro scenes, etc., and wait to see who had the balls to drop 2 of their hard-earned quarters into the machine just to die in a few seconds. For the rest of us it was worth it just to see the attempts.

    In awhile, though, some of the kids got the hang of it, and realized (after spending a lot of dough, I’m sure) that it was all in the timing. There were patterns for each of the sequences, and as long as you nailed the timing, you were home free.

    In the beginning, the bigshots who nailed it and finished the game were awe-inspiring…but their fame was short-lived when we figured out that timing really was the only challenge to that game. Eventually, Dragon’s Lair ended up abandoned when we all knew how the game went. It’s weird how that all played out, but still a very important stage in the history of video arcades.


  1. 1 Dragon’s Lair Coloring Book: ‘Dirk the Daring Battles the Giddy Goons’ (Marvel Books, 1984) | 2 Warps to Neptune Trackback on November 16, 2015 at 6:52 pm

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