Snake Retro Games - The Nostalgic Origins of Snake

Played 1079 times.

- % (0/0)

The game of Snake has slithered its way into classic video game status thanks to iconic retro editions like those found on 1970s arcades, 80s home computers, and 90s cell phones. These primitive Snake games laid the groundwork for today's hugely popular incarnations like Let's explore the origins and evolution of retro Snake games that made the serpentine genre iconic.

Snake Gameplay Basics

Snake's gameplay formula has remained consistent since its creation in the late 1970s. Players control a snake which moves around the screen eating food items like dots, squares or fruit. Each item the snake eats makes it grow longer.

The goal is to grow your snake as large as possible without crashing into walls or your own ever-lengthening tail. This creates escalating difficulty and tension as steering the snake gets trickier.

Variations of Snake often include obstacles like walls, barriers or enemy insects. Some versions have powerups that can briefly reverse Snake's controls or make its body faster. But the core premise has stayed the same: grow your snake big by collecting food without dying.

It's an incredibly simple yet compelling gameplay loop of risk vs reward. Navigating tight spaces induces excitement and then starting over small builds anticipation. The result is an addictive score chasing experience.

Snake Origins - Blockade & Nibbles

Snake traces its roots back to Blockade, an arcade game released in 1976 by Gremlin Industries. Using a black and white monitor, players maneuvered a snake-like avatar to block off sections of a maze.

In 1977, Blockade was ported to the Atari 2600 home console as the game Surround. This introduced Snake's familiar eating and growing mechanic as the snake closed off sections of the screen.

The first true iteration of Snake arrived in 1978 for Milton Bradley's Microvision portable console. Titled Snake and later ported as Nibbler, it featured familiar Snake gameplay with a snake eating dots to grow larger.

This pioneering title established the blueprint for all future Snake games. In 1979, Nibbler was included in arcade cabinets, marking Snake's official arcade debut. Console and computer ports like Night Snake for the TI 99/4A followed in the early 80s.

Snake Goes Mainstream - Nokia 6110

Despite its origins in the 70s, Snake didn't become a true gaming phenomenon until its inclusion on Nokia mobile phones in the late 90s.

In 1997, Nokia launched the 6110 mobile phone. It featured an addictive time-waster game simply titled Snake. The objective was to control a snake avatar using the phone's number pad to collectpixels which made the snake grow.

Avoiding collisions with walls or your ever-elongating tail created a simple but nerve-wracking gameplay loop. Snake's pickup-and-play simplicity made it the perfect mobile phone game.

The Nokia 6110 became massively successful, selling millions of units worldwide. For an entire generation, Snake became synonymous with Nokia's brand of cell phones. Its iconic status grew further when newer Nokia models like the 3310 also included Snake pre-installed.

Snake cemented its legendary reputation during the mobile phone craze of the 90s and early 2000s. Even without color graphics or advanced functions, its compelling gameplay made Snake a cultural icon.

Classic Snake Games

In addition to pioneering titles like Blockade and Nibbler, several retro Snake games helped define and popularize the genre:

SnakeByte (1981) - Influential Snake game for the ZX81 home computer. Featured smooth turning controls.

Cube (1982) - 3D Snake game for Unix systems with cube shaped levels and obstacles.

Rattle Snake (1982) - Popular Snake title for the Atari 800 with multiplayer modes.

Worm War I (1982) - Battle two player Worm game for the Commodore 64.

Snake (1997) - Nokia's massively successful version of Snake on mobile phones like the 6110.

Snaaake (2000) - Built-in Snake variant for the Nokia 5510 phone with colorful graphics.

These classics represent some of the key retro Snake games that shaped and advanced the genre from arcades to computers to phones.

Retro Snake Gameplay Elements

Part of Snake's appeal is its straightforward rules that make it easily enjoyable by all ages. Here are some of the recurring gameplay elements across classic Snake titles:

Pixel Graphics - Primitive pixel art lent retro Snake games a distinct style. Snake avatars were simple pixel outlines.

Grid Movement - Snakes move in set block increments, often shaped around grids for easier control.

Collect Dots - The default goal is eating dots, pellets, or pixels to increase snake length.

Avoid Death - Crashing the snake results in game over, compelling carefully movement.

High Scores - Beating your high score and others' drives motivation for fast reflexes.

Power-Ups - Some games had items like speed boosts and reverse controls to mix up gameplay.

Multiplayer - Competing in same maze or head-to-head represented early multiplayer.

The straightforward premise, score chasing, and avoidance of death formed a deliciously simple formula for engrossing arcade action.

Why Retro Snake Games Were So Addictive

Old school Snake games like those found on Nokia phones and 80s consoles earned their iconic status thanks to one key factor: addictive gameplay. What made these retro Snake titles so habit forming?

Quick Restarts- Dying and restarting happened often. This made starting over dopamine-inducing as you chased bigger high scores.

Increasing Difficulty- Growing the snake made navigating harder and harder, creating tense risk/reward choices.

Time Appeal- Short play sessions meant Snake was playable anytime, perfect for quick entertainment.

Portability- Snake shined on handhelds you could play on-the-go. Made waiting or boredom disappear.

Rewarding Progression- High scores and leaderboards allowed tracking progression and skill growth.

The more you failed, the more you wanted to retry for that elusive new high score. This gameplay loop paired with Snake's handheld convenience resulted in a dangerously addictive formula.

Snake on Retro Gaming Systems

Beyond arcades and Nokia phones, retro Snake games appeared across nearly every significant home console and computer of the 70s, 80s and 90s:

Atari 2600- Surround (1977) brought Snake to Atari's pioneering console.

Intellivision- Several Snake variants including Snafu, Tangle, and Snafoo.

Commodore 64- Worm War I (1982) was an early hit Snake title.

ZX Spectrum- Snake awaited eager gamers upon the Spectrum's launch in 1982.

NES- Ark Area's Snake Rattle 'n' Roll brought Snake to Nintendo's console in 1990.

Game Boy- Early black and white port Snake included with the brick-like original DMG Game Boy.

PC- Nibbles featured in early MS-DOS releases. Later Worms reinforced Snake's PC popularity.

Windows Mobile- Snakebox and Snako helped drive Snake's mobile phone obsession.

Snake proved ubiquitous thanks to its simple concept fitting nicely across all types of gaming hardware.

Impact on Modern Gaming

The retro Snake formula established in the 70s and 80s went on to heavily influence modern games across multiple genres:

Mobile Games- Snake clones remain plentiful on phones and app stores today.

Browser Games- The hit took Snake multiplayer online in 2016.

Battle Royales- Fortnite's battle buses and safe zones generate Snake-like shrinkage.

Auto Runners- Snake's constantly moving forward and obstacle dodging defined endless runners.

Collectathons- Gathering objects for powerups and combos originated with Snake.

Speed Runners- Achieving high scores against the clock drives speed run competition today.

Snake's DNA lives on not just in direct successors but across many genres of games it inspired with its simple but compelling game loop focusing on quick restarts, high scores, and skill progression.

Snake Nostalgia & Collectability

The retro pixel Snake games of yesteryear evoke heavy nostalgia today. Seeking to relive childhood memories has made classic Snake titles collector's items.

Original Nokia phones with the pre-installed Snake game now fetch premium prices among phone collectors. Rare editions like the Nokia 3310 can sell for $100 or more in boxed condition simply for their ability to play that original mobile Snake.

Likewise, retro systems and games featuring Snake are sought after. Snake rarities like the Microvision console or Atari's Surround for 2600 trade for top dollar on eBay. Re-released retro compilations containing Snake classics also attract collectors.

For gamers who obsessed over Snake in the 80s, 90s or 2000s, acquiring physical copies represents a tangible connection to those nostalgic memories. Snake's role in mobile phone history additionally boosts collectability.

Snake Remakes & Reboots

Seeing potential to capitalize on fond memories of pixel Snake titles, developers have produced numerous remakes and reboots. These modern Snake titles aim to recapture the original games' glory.

Direct ports of Nokia's Snake have been created for modern smartphones. Entire retro anthologies were bundled just to include emulated Snake variants.

More advanced reimaginings like Snake Rewind for Switch add 3D graphics and puzzles while retaining the classic Snake framework.

The hugely popular browser game represented Snake's most successful modern reboot, generating over 500 million players by bringing addictive Snake multiplayer mayhem into the online arena.

While newer in visuals and features, these remakes strive to keep Snake's traditional rules and feel intact. For retro fans, they provide welcome bites of Snake nostalgia.

Tribute Games

In addition to official remakes, indie developers have created many so-called tribute games celebrating classic Snake. These implement the Snake formula as a love letter to its legacy rather than commercial revival.

Snake resemblance games like Nibblers for PC and Snake a Legend for iOS feature original retro-style graphics and Snake rulesets. However, they use unique branding to avoid legal issues.

Creating these unofficial tributes allows small devs to explore Snake mechanics without licensing the intellectual property. It also provides them creative freedom to experiment with modes like Snake puzzles.

Tribute titles provide a legal means for indie devs and fans to cherish Snake's gaming impact. The classic Snake formula essentially exists in the public domain if not labeled as such.

The Future of Snake

Snake has come a long way since its arcade origins over 40 years ago, cementing itself as one of gaming's most legendary genres. What does the future hold for the continued evolution of Snake?

Increased Nostalgia - As 90s kids enter parenthood, sharing retro Snake with their own kids could spread its appeal multigenerationally.

Battle Royale Innovation - The auto-shrinking fields in games like Fortnite owe credit to Snake's constantly enclosing gameplay.

Virtual Reality - VR Snake experiments have already happened but the formula could be even more intense in an immersive 3D headset.

Competitive Tournaments - The snackable skill-based game lends itself well to competitive league play between top Snake masters.

New Platforms - Snake formulas will follow emerging platforms like smart watches, in-car entertainment, or even directly into smart appliances.

Indie Homages - Fan tribute games will introduce Snake to new players while also modernizing elements like graphics and powerups.

Snake's straightforward but engaging mechanics seem poised to slither their way into future gaming trends and technology. Just like in the 1970s, the appeal of guiding a perpetually moving avatar to devour objectives while dodging death is eternally compelling. Snake'sDNA will wind its way through many generations yet to come.

The Timeless Appeal of Retro Snake Games

In an industry constantly chasing cutting edge technology and complexity, Snake stands out for its stark simplicity. Yet, it's this stripped down purity that has enabled Snake's gameplay to stand the test of time over more than four decades.

On screens measured in mere pixels, Snake reduced gaming to its most basic addictive traits: challenge, progression, reflexivity, and instant restarts. Like classic board games, it leverages minimal components to maximize engagement.

This simplicity emanates a timeless quality. The same Snake games enrapturing arcade patrons in the 1970s still entrance mobile users today. Snake aged gracefully where other retro titles feel archaic.

While graphics and interfaces modernize, Snake's core loop persists thanks to its zen-like design. New games pay homage by incorporating its essence into innovative new packages.

For old school fans, Snake represents childhood nostalgia. For younger gamers, its purity provides a gateway into retro appeal. Snake's fusion of novelty and familiarity won't be slithering away any time soon.


Starting from arcade beginnings in the 1970s, the Snake formula has cemented itself as one of gaming's most endearing genres. It rose to prominence in the mobile phone era with Nokia's classic edition freezing Snake as a cultural icon.

With a timeless gameplay appeal focused on hand-eye coordination, quick restarts, and escalating challenge, Snake continues slithering into new generations of fans. Indie tributes, reboots, and an unending sense of nostalgia keep Snake's legacy alive more than 40 years later.

While graphics and platforms change, Snake preserves players' desire for simple, entrancing mechanics fused into an addictive journey where survival means growth and risk begets reward. Snake has and will always be a straightforward yet endlessly appealing recipe for retro arcade fun.

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some common questions about the history and appeal of retro Snake games:

When was the first Snake game created?

The earliest Snake game was Blockade, released in arcades in 1976. Snake gameplay arrived on home consoles with titles like Nibbler in 1978.

Which console popularized Snake games?

The Nokia 6110 phone popularized Snake in the late 90s, exposing it to millions through iconic mobile editions.

What are some key Snake games before mobiles?

Notable retro Snake titles include Blockade, Surround, Nibbler, SnakeByte, Worm War I, Rattle Snake, and Snaaake.

How do you control retro Snake games?

Most use simple directional inputs via joystick, d-pad, or number pad to maneuver the snake avatar.

What's the objective in classic Snake games?

The main goal is to grow your snake as large as possible by collecting dots/fruit without crashing into walls or yourself.

Why did Snake become so popular and addictive?

Easy to learn design, quick restarts, and score chasing created an addictive gameplay loop perfect for killing short amounts of time.

What systems can I play classic Snake on today?

You can find retro Snake game compilations on modern consoles. Many classic Snake versions also get ported to mobile.

Where did the Snake name originate?

The original concept focused on fencing off space like a snake coiling around its prey, hence the Snake moniker.

Are old Nokia phones with Snake expensive?

Yes, classic Snake phones like the Nokia 3310 command premium prices among collectors, often over $100 boxed.

What's a good modern Snake remake?

Snake Rewind (2022) for Nintendo Switch adds 3D graphics and puzzles to the classic Snake formula. (2016) brought Snake online.



Snake Games