Popeye (video game)

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U.S. Popeye arcade flyer.
Smashing Into Video!
North American arcade flyer of Nintendo's Popeye arcade game.
Developer(s)Nintendo R&D1
Parker Brothers
Designer(s)Genyo Takeda[1]
Shigeru Miyamoto[1]
Platform(s)Arcade (original)
C64, NES, Magnavox Odyssey², ColecoVision, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, Atari 8-bit
Genre(s)Platform game
Mode(s)Single player, 2 players alternating
CabinetStandard, cocktail
CPUZ80 (@ 4 MHz)
SoundAY8910 (@ 2 MHz)
DisplayRaster, 512 x 448 pixels (Horizontal), 288 colors

Popeye (ポパイ, Popai) is a 1983 arcade platform game developed and released by Nintendo based on the Popeye characters licensed from King Features Syndicate strips and animated shorts. Unlike most platform games, the player cannot jump; the only button is "punch." The game was licensed by Atari, Inc. for exclusive release in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and featured in an Atari designed and manufactured cabinet. Some sources[2][3][4] claim that Ikegami Tsushinki also did design work on Popeye.

The Popeye characters were originally going to be used in the game that later became Donkey Kong.[5] However at that time on the development of the game, Nintendo could not get the licenses to use the characters.

Ben Falls holds the world record score of 3,023,060 earned on December 20, 2011, according to Twin Galaxies International Scoreboard.[6]


Screenshots of Popeye (Arcade version)

The object of the game is for Popeye to collect a certain number of items dropped by Olive Oyl, depending on the level — 24 hearts, 16 musical notes, or 24 letters in the word HELP — while avoiding the Sea Hag, Brutus and other dangers. The player can make Popeye walk back and forth and up and down stairs and ladders with a 4-way joystick. There is a punch button, but unlike similar games of the period, no jump button. Conversely, Brutus can jump down a level, or merely stoop and reach down into the level below, and he can also jump up to hit Popeye if he is directly above.

Despite the feature of a punch button, Popeye cannot attack Brutus directly. Instead, the button is used for the following:

  • Punching destroys items that could hurt Popeye such as bottles, vultures and skulls.
  • Each level has a can of spinach; punching these cans will give Popeye invincibility and he can knock out Brutus just by running into him, although after a few seconds Brutus will swim back out and be ready for action again.
  • In Round 1 (the dock scene) of each three-round cycle, as well as the first round and third rounds of each four-round cycle, is a punching bag, which Popeye can use to knock loose a nearby barrel from its position near the top of the playing field. If the barrel falls onto Brutus' head, the player earns bonus points (based on where Brutus was attacked) and renders Brutus harmless for several seconds.

Other licensed Popeye characters in the game are Olive Oyl, Swee'Pea, and Wimpy, though they are mostly decorative and do not add heavily to the gameplay. Wimpy appears in Round 2 (the street scene) on one end of the seesaw in the lower left corner of the field, to act as a counterweight. Swee'Pea floats high above, with bonus points to be earned if Popeye can spring off the see-saw and touch him.

Popeye loses a life if he is hit by Brutus or any thrown/flying object, or if he fails to collect a dropped item within a certain amount of time after it reaches the bottom of the screen.


The game was ported to the TRS-80 Color Computer 2, Commodore 64, Texas Instruments TI-99/4A, Atari 8-bit, Intellivision, Atari 2600, Atari 5200, and ColecoVision, and one of the few games ported to the Odyssey². A board game based on the video game was released by Parker Brothers in 1983. There was also a Popeye tabletop video game with a color LCD, but it was not based on the arcade game.[7]

On July 15, 1983, Popeye was one of the three launch games for the Family Computer, along with Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr.[8] Most ports were handled by Parker Brothers, except for the NES version, which was ported by Nintendo itself.[citation needed]


Electronic Games wrote in 1983 that the arcade version of Popeye at first appeared to be "yet another variation of a theme that's become all too familiar since Donkey Kong". "But there are some nuances", it added, "not the least of which are the graphics and sound effects, that tend to allow the game the benefit of the doubt in execution". The magazine concluded that "Popeye does offer some interesting play that is more than complimented by the cosmetics."[9]

The Arcade Express newsletter scored it 7 out of 10 in January 1983, calling it "the closest thing to a videogame cartoon seen yet in an arcade," but also that "game play, unfortunately, doesn't come up to visual standards."[10] Michael Pugliese writing for The Coin Slot described Popeye as "a visually stimulating and exciting game that will go well in any location," and noted that "it contains all the challenges and character appeal to make it a solid earner for a long time."[11]


The Family Computer (Famicom) saw an educational sequel on November 22, 1983: Popeye no Eigo Asobi, an English teaching game akin to the later Donkey Kong Jr. Math.

In 2008, Namco Networks released an enhanced remake for mobile phones. The game plays largely the same, and features an enhanced mode in addition to the arcade original, which includes a bonus stage and an extra level paying homage to the short A Dream Walking where Popeye must save a sleepwalking Olive, as well as some trivia segments. In the game it is possible to earn tokens, which can be used to buy some of the old comic strips.[12]


  1. ^ a b "Iwata Asks: Punch-Out!! - Investigating a Glove Interface". Nintendo. 2009-08-07. Retrieved 2009-08-11.
  2. ^ "Company:Ikegami Tsushinki - GDRI :: Game Developer Research Institute". gdri.smspower.org.
  3. ^ ドンキーコング裁判についてちょこっと考えてみる Archived 2010-03-12 at the Wayback Machine. Thinking a bit about Donkey Kong, accessed 2009-02-01
  4. ^ It started from Pong (それは『ポン』から始まった : アーケードTVゲームの成り立ち, sore wa pon kara hajimatta: ākēdo terebi gēmu no naritachi), Masumi Akagi (赤木真澄, Akagi Masumi), Amusement Tsūshinsha (アミューズメント通信社, Amyūzumento Tsūshinsha), 2005, ISBN 4-9902512-0-2.
  5. ^ East, Tom (25 November 2009). "Donkey Kong Was Originally A Popeye Game". Official Nintendo Magazine. Archived from the original on November 10, 2014. Miyamoto says Nintendo's main monkey might not have existed.
  6. ^ Totilo, Stephen (20 December 2011). "The new Popeye World Record is 3,023,060". Kotaku. Archived from the original on November 12, 2014.
  7. ^ "Donkey Kong Jr". Electronic Gaming Monthly. No. 91. Ziff Davis. February 1997. p. 100.
  8. ^ Marley, Scott (December 2016). "SG-1000". Retro Gamer. No. 163. Future Publishing. pp. 56–61.
  9. ^ Sharpe, Roger C. (June 1983). "Insert Coin Here". Electronic Games. p. 92. Retrieved 6 January 2015.
  10. ^ "The Hotseat: Popeye" (PDF). The Arcade Express. 1 (11). January 2, 1983.
  11. ^ Pugliese, Michael (April 1983). "Games in Review: The Arcade Parade". The Coin Slot. p. 14. Retrieved 17 October 2017.
  12. ^ Popeye at IGN

External links[edit]

Media related to Popeye (video game) at Wikimedia Commons