Boot Hill, Arcade

Midway‘s 1977 classic, Boot Hill, actually owes it existence to another game – Taito‘s 1975 arcade game Gun Fight (aka Western Gun in Japan). Boot Hill is an authorised remake of Gun Fight.

Gun Fight was two-player only, and Midway thought they could write some rudimentary artificial intelligence routines to create an opponent in a single-player game, which they did, and the result was Boot Hill. A game that became popular in the late 1970s in spite of its almost non-existent gameplay. Actually, that’s not entirely fair – Boot Hill does have a sliver of gameplay…

The aim is to shoot your opponent before he shoots you! The original arcade cabinet had a gun trigger-style joystick for moving the cowboy and a second joystick for aiming the gun. So you could say that this is an early ‘twin stick’ shooter, although the idea of being able to shoot in 360 degrees obviously hadn’t occurred to them yet.

Each combatant starts with six bullets and can fire at will. When the bullets are gone there is no way of replacing them.

The fight takes place over an initially unobstructed street, but as the rounds increase cactus start appearing to block the view, until – in the final round – the wagon at the bottom of the screen starts moving up the screen too.

Playing it now you’d be forgiven for thinking “WTF?!”. Yes: Boot Hill is terrible. But this game was an influential and a very popular video game back in the ’70s. You must remember: video gaming was very new back then, and games like Boot Hill were absolutely cutting edge. I know because I was a kid back then and spent quite a bit of time (and money) playing this very game. It’s crazy, I know, but there you go!

More: Boot Hill on Wikipedia

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