The period from the appearance of Space Invaders in 1978 through The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 is often known as the Golden Age of Arcade Games, note when 8-bit Arcade Video Games emerged to rule popular culture, coin-operated Video Arcades appeared in every shopping mall, and soon the Atari 2600 and its competitors popularized home video gaming by capitalizing on arcade ports.
Back then, the titans of the arcade were longtime Pinball manufacturing veterans such as Bally, Williams Electronics, and Gottlieb; Sega was known for making Arcade Games (including Vector Games) rather than consoles; and Nintendo‘s Mario had never stomped on a Goomba. Creativity reigned, and a single visionary designer could still see an entire game through from concept to finished product, unlike the enormous Hollywood-style teams needed for today’s high-end game franchises.note Shoot Em Ups were especially popular, as outer space and stylized spacecraft were easy to render on the crude hardware of the day.
Your mileage may vary about considering this era as a true “golden age”, considering the fondness for games from later periods. Still, it was the first time video games hit the big time, and in terms of industry revenues, this period was one of the highest peaks the North American video game industry has ever reached to this day (and the highest overall when adjusted for inflation), so it qualifies to some extent. However, while the 1980s was the golden age for arcade games, some consider the 1990s to be the Golden Age for home video games (i.e. consoles and computers).
Games from the period included:
There were even some early licensed games, many of which actually didn’t suck: