The story behind the sounds of Pong, Pac-Man, and Doom


Originally published at:


Well I was pretty impressed when my 128k Mac could play four voice polyphonic sound. Hell, I can’t even play piano with four fingers.


think of the sympathetic vibrations of Super Mario Bros.—encourage players to continue.

It was just noise to me.


I still like the sound and visual design of Q*bert.


[quote=“pesco, post:1, topic:102600”]while Donkey Kong utilized the limited sounds of a Game Boy to trigger a range of cues and emotions[/quote]whuuuh? I guess the main CPU of the arcade system was a Z80 (according to wiki), but especially considering that it had additional hardware, that’s a colossal stretch to say that it had “the limited sounds of a Game Boy”.

Donkey Kong '94 on the Game Boy, thirteen years later, actually had some kickass music – possibly the best on the system.


yeah, i’m surprised Q*bert wasn’t mentioned (and Robotron and Sinistar!) since they had the attempt at voices down pretty well considering the technology at the time. I actually have an arcade Tempest machine, and i don’t recognize the noise they played.

side note: interesting to see Russell Brower. i’ve been playing Warcraft for about a decade now, and i love, love, love his work.


I thought the sound and speed increase in Space Invaders was a happy accident. That the game could only go so fast with a full armada, but as ships were removed the game sped up as the computer had less to do.


Tapper had really good sound. We took that apart and disassembled the software to figure out how they did it. (The tunes are burned into my brain.)


I don’t got much truck with video game nostalgia, they were mostly abysmal and punishingly hard. We’ve never had it so good with games now, however… there is some music that still sounds glorious.

This could end up being a deep, dark rabbit hole of sound fx imprinted on the brain…


If you chose that particular video on purpose, well played. I watched over 3:00 before I realized something was wrong.


What was wrong?


It’s Q-Bert with the swearing sounds removed.

First I was “I thought the snake made a sound when he fell off…”

Then when Q-Bert finally died I knew something was up.


Doom’s door effects came from a CD of stock sounds. That door sound shows up all over the place.


I’ve read this multiple places as well.


I never noticed until hearing it in isolation there, but the coin pick up sound from super mario brothers is probably the closest thing we’ll get to an aural representation of a checkmark.


The Qbert ‘slap’ sound of that pinball coil hitting the enclosure was one of the best things about the game IMO.



Too bad the Youtube video wasn’t able to capture that.


It is the Nineties and there is time for :

The slow tap increasing to hectic cascade of KLAX

polite applause


Hours and hours of this.


Qix didn’t have great sounds, but the freaky thing is that it had hardware on the board to do stereo. (Probably for that lightsaber Qix sound moving side to side.) For whatever reason, it was never used. The left and right outputs are tied together and the software sends the same sound to both DACs.

There’s also space on the board for a serial chip and RS-232 drivers. I don’t know why that’d be on a production board, but it’s there. (Powered by 2 6809s for game and graphics, and a 6800 for sound.)