Gauntlet is the name of a fantasy-themed hack and slash 1985 arcade game by Atari Games. It is noted as the first class-based multiplayer game. Released during the emergence of popularity of other role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons, the game was a sensation, being one of the first true dungeon crawl arcade games. It was ported over to the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Apple IIgs, Atari 8-bit, Atari ST, Commodore 64, DOS, Java ME, Macintosh, MSX, NES, SEGA Master System, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and the ZX Spectrum. Five sequels, Gauntlet II (1986), Gauntlet III (1991), Gauntlet Legends (1998), Gauntlet Dark Legacy (2000) and Gauntlet Seven Sorrows (2005) were also released.
The players, up to four at once in the arcade version, select among four playable fantasy-based characters; Thor the Warrior, Merlin the Wizard, Thyra the Valkyrie or Questor the Elf. Each character has his or her own unique strength and weaknesses. For example, the Warrior is strongest in hand-to-hand combat, the Wizard has the strongest magic, the Valkyrie has the greatest armour and the Elf is the fastest in movement.
Upon selecting a playable character, the gameplay is set within a series of top-down, third-person perspective mazes where the object is to locate and touch the designated exit in every level. An assortment of special items can be located in each level that increase player's character's health, unlock doors, gain more points and magical potions that can destroy all of the enemies on screen.
The enemies are a vast assortment of fantasy based monsters, including ghosts, grunts, demons, lobbers, sorcerers and thieves. Each enters the level through specific generators, which can be destroyed. While there are no bosses in the game, the most dangerous enemy is "Death", who can not only drain your character's health, but is difficult to destroy.
As the game progresses, higher levels of skill are needed to reach the exit, with success often depending on the willingness of the players to cooperate by sharing food and luring monsters into places where they can be engaged and slaughtered more conveniently. While contact with enemies reduces the player's health, it also slowly drains on its own, thus creating a time limit.
Aside from the ability to have up to four players at once, the game is also noted for the narrator's voice, which was produced by a Texas Instruments TMS5220C speech chip. The narrator would frequently make statements repeating the game's rules, including: "Shots do not hurt other players (yet)," "Remember, don't shoot food!", "Elf — shot the food!", and "Warrior needs food — badly!" Occasionally, the narrator would encourage (or mock) the players in the thick of battle by saying, "I've not seen such bravery!" or "Let's see you get out of here!" A memorable statement of the game occurred when a player's "life force" points fell below 200: "Your life force is running out", "Elf needs food" or "Valkyrie...is about to die!"
To accommodate up to four players, the cabinet is wider than other standard uprights. Each player had a joystick and two buttons, one for "Fire" (to attack) and one for "Magic". The Magic button also started the game. After Gauntlet's release, other games started using this design, so it was a popular conversion target for newer games after it had its run.