Tempest, by Dave Theurer, is one of the first ever ‘tube shooters’. It was released by Atari in 1981.
You control a spider-like yellow craft that walks along the edge of a 3D playfield, often taking the form of a cylindrical tube. You shoot bullets down the tube at enemies that are rising upwards to get you. Thus the name ‘tube shooter’.
Tempest is a fast and distinctive game because it uses coloured vector graphics. Or at least the 1981 arcade original did. Vector graphics were a feasible and economic way of drawing lines on an electromagnetic screen back then. Different to raster graphics and pixels, and generally much faster. Tempest and Star Wars were just two games that pioneered use of vector graphics displays, and both were created by Atari.
What is so good about Tempest is that it is a very easy game to understand and play. The original arcade cabinet used a rotary control, so you should spin it around for instant movement around the ‘tube’. Tempest is also quite weird and ‘alien’-like compared to most of its peers of the time. Even the sound effects are beyond anything that anybody else was doing.
Dave Theurer really pulled something unique and dark out of his imagination when he came up with Tempest, and that continues on to this day. Tempest hands down crushes almost all other shooters into submission, given the opportunity. It’s like the desert centipede of the shooter world.
More: Tempest on Wikipedia