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Track & Field - The Most Popular Olympic Arcade Game

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Track & Field - The Most Popular Olympic Arcade Game
Image © Konami

In anticipation of the 1984 Summer Olympic games, and to ride on the merchandising success the global competition brings with it, Konami released an innovative button mashing arcade title that was destined to become the most popular Olympic-themed video game of all time at both the video arcade and home.

  • Title: Track & Field
  • Alternate Title: Hyper Olympics (Japan)
  • Publisher: Konami
  • Release Date: 1983
  • Original Platform: Coin-Op Arcade
  • Genre: Sports

The year before the 1984 Summer Olympic Games were to be held in Los Angeles, the world had already caught Olympic gold fever. To fill the need for a solid sports arcade game based on the Olympic track and field events, Japanese publisher and developer Konami designed an innovative take on sports games. Released as Hyper Olympics in Japan, the game's name was changed to Track & Field in the United States to avoid making it sound as though the game was officially sanctioned by the Olympic Games.

In addition to mimicking the real life Olympic competitions by breaking the game down into a series of events, or mini-games, the controls were designed to reward the player who moves and reacts the fastest. To do this the traditional joystick was removed and replaced with three buttons - two for running and one action button.

Controls

The two run buttons controlled the on-screen character leg movements. To make the player-character move, you needed to alternate clicking between the buttons. The faster you click down, the faster your athlete runs. The action button was for key movements such as jumping and throwing.

The control panel had red "run" buttons situated on opposite sides of a white "action" button. Players would often use their pinky and thumb to click back and forth between the run buttons and then hit the action with their middle or index finger. Some players also preferred alternate methods which included using index fingers from both hands to click between buttons, or using one hand for running and another to trigger the action control.

Cabinets and Multiplayer:

Two styles of cabinets were designed, an upright arcade unit and a cocktail table. Both versions included four sets of controls with up to four players, splitting them up into two teams. If there were less than four gamers available to play a virtual player would be assigned to fill the missing slots.

Olympic Events

The game consisted of six events. To progress the player(s) must meet a qualifying time or distance for each event, which include...

  • 100 Meter Dash
  • 110 Meter Hurdles
  • Hammer Throw
  • High Jump
  • Javelin Throw
  • Long Jump

Ports

While the video game industry crashed at the end of 1983, Track & Field was unscathed due to its original gameplay and ties to the extremely popular Olympics of the '80s. It was quickly picked up for home consoles, the first being for the Atari 2600. Unfortunately transitioning the button mashing gameplay to the 2600's joystick didn't fair very well, even with the release of a special button based controller accessory.

The most successful of the home versions was for the Nintendo Entertainment System which still stands as one of the most popular versions, second only to its arcade counterpart.

  • 1983 - Coin-Op Arcade (called Hyper Olympics in Japan)
  • 1984 - Atari 2600
  • 1985 - Nintendo Entertainment System
  • 1987 - Commodore 64
  • 1992 - Game Boy
  • 1992 - Nintendo Entertainment System (Europe only rerelease of the '85 NES version under the title Track & Field in Barcelona)
  • 2004 - Mobile
  • 2007 - Xbox 360 - Xbox Live Arcade Port of the Original Arcade Game
  • 2007 - Nintendo DS - Included as part of the Konami Classics Series: Arcade Hits collection

Sequels

The legacy of Track & Field expanded far beyond the original game, with versions still being released today. Strangely several of the sequels don't use the Track & Field name.

  • 1984 - Hyper Sports - Coin-Op Arcade - A direct sequel using the Japanese "Hyper" header of the original. Outside of North America the game was called Hyper Olympic '84
  • 1988 - Konami '88 - Coin-Op Arcade - Third sequel, also known as Hyper Sports Special and '88 Games
  • 1988 - Track & Field II - Nintendo Entertainment System - Sequel to the popular NES port of the original Track & Field
  • 1996 - Hyper Athlete - Coin-Op Arcade (Japan Only)
  • 1996 - International Track & Field - PlayStation One - Titled Hyper Olympics in Atlanta in Japan
  • 1999 - International Track & Field 2000 - PlayStation One, Nintendo 64 and Game Boy Color

    N64 Version: Compare Prices

  • 2000 - ESPN International Track & Field - SEGA Dreamcast, PlayStation 2, Game Boy Color

    PS2 Version: Compare Prices

    GBC Version:Compare Prices

  • 2008 - New International Track & Field - Nintendo DS

    Compare Prices

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