Gauntlet is an action dungeon crawler designed by Ed Logg and developed by Atari. The arcade version was ported to many consoles, including an NES port by Tengen. Originally the game was released as an official licensed cartridge, but when Tengen had a falling out with Nintendo, they switched to an unlicensed black cartridge version. It is notable as the first class-based multiplayer game. The original arcade version allows for 4 player co-op play.
The game features four playable characters, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. These include Thor, the strong but slow warrior, Merlin, the wizard who can use the strongest magic, Thyra, the valkyrie with the greatest defense, and Questor, the fast elf. Each player uses projectile attacks to fend off swarms of enemies.
The dungeons are top down views of mazes which the players must navigate through in order to find the exit to the next floor. Floors include swarms of monsters, and monster generators which constantly release monsters until they are destroyed. Items include gold, magic pickups, food which restore health, and keys which open gates. Certain walls can also be destroyed and the characters can find warp zones that advance the player several floors of the dungeon.
Monsters include ghosts, grunts, demons, lobbers, sorcerers and thieves, as well as death.
The characters health is constantly decreasing while in the dungeon, and coming into contact with enemies causes the players to lose health at an even faster rate. This forces the player to advance quickly in order to continually find food to keep their health up.
The NES version of the game was very different from the arcade version; aside from the basic gameplay formula of the game and characters, this game features 100 different levels from the arcade and adds a specific quest the players must complete. The quest involves collecting the Sacred Orb located at the bottom floor of the dungeon. The player can only enter the final level by collecting all the letters of the secret password found in hidden rooms throughout the previous floors of the dungeon. The game also included a password system which allows the player to continue close to where they left off.
After the release of Gauntlet, the creator of Dandy/Dandy Dungeon, John Palevich, threatened a lawsuit, asserting that the original concept for the game was similar to his Atari 800 title. The argument was settled outside of court. Ed Logg was removed from the credits of later versions of the NES title and currently claims no involvement in the NES release. The game Dandy Dungeons was also released on the Atari 2600 as Dark Chambers.
After a level design contest in Europe, an expansion was released for certain computer system ports, including Amstrad CPC, MSX, Atari ST, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum. It was entitled Gauntlet: The Deeper Dungeons and was developed by Gremlin Graphics Software Ltd. It adds an additional 512 levels to the original game.
An emulated version of the arcade version of Gauntlet was included in Midway Arcade Treasures for the Nintendo GameCube, PlayStation 2 and Xbox. A Nintendo DS remake was cancelled.
The game is followed up with console versions of Gauntlet 2
for the NES and Gauntlet 4
for the Sega Genesis.