Heavy Barrel

One of the best arcade games that I’ve ever played has got to be this classic from 1987, Heavy Barrel. Why they haven’t turned this one into a big budget action movie is anybody’s guess. All the elements are there. Interesting characters, a compelling story line, intense music, and a villain so vile that your hate for him seems to consume every fiber of your being.

The photo above is the game itself. It looks innocent enough, just sitting there, but once you step up to it and drop your money in, the evil starts to permeate the very air itself!

Above is the first thing you see after you hit the start button. Your two players, Mike and Steve are dropped onto the island complex of the evil madman. Your only option is to take out the complex and assassinate the madman, but to do this you’ll need to gather the six parts that make up the ultimate weapon: the Heavy Barrel.



The screen cap above is a pretty typical scenario for Heavy Barrel. You’re walking along looking for Barrel pieces and suddenly you’re standing in front of a firing squad. An interesting side note is that when you’re playing the two player game, invariably at LEAST one of the controllers won’t be working in any sort of satisfactory way. As a result, one player will constantly fall under a barrage of bullets and grenades as the robotic voice taunts you with cries of “You Die! You Die!” over and over again and you do, in reality, die.


This is true. 8-Ball and I used to go and play Heavy Barrel A LOT. Usually it was his controller that was pretty much completely inoperable. At certain points in the game, his guy would just freeze on the screen, caught in this never-ending ballet of death where his man would have death convulsions repeatedly as the sadistic bastard enemy shouted into his face, “YOU DIE!” This is definitely not a game for the weak.


And then you get on the elevators. On the left you see the solid line of flunkies firing at you. These guys are pretty easy to dodge and kill if your controller is in proper working order. If not, you’re pretty much doomed.

On the right is the dreaded CLAW. Between the claw and the flyin’ guys, you’re pretty much guaranteed to be digging in your pockets for more quarters at least once during the fight. The claw was murder, but nothing compared to when there were two claws after you at the same time.

As I mentioned, 8-Ball and I used to play this game constantly. We started out dumping loads and loads of money into it, but we got real good real fast. My proudest achievement in life to date is the fabled “No Quarter” game. I walked up to the machine with 8-Ball. 8-Ball put in his quarter. I didn’t. We both hit start. I played the entire game from nerve-shattering start to gut-churning finish without spending anything.

Barrel was a pretty popular game in its day. Nintendo came out with a version for the NES in 1990. It was surprisingly faithful to the arcade version, but just a tad easier. Tiger came out with a handheld version sometime around then too, but it was more of a straight forward shoot-em-up than a Heavy Barrel entry.


At numerous times over the years 8-Ball, Sparks, and I have conducted searches for Barrel. I’ve been all over the country and have yet to find an arcade that stocks this classic game. I’ve only recently tracked one down to buy and they’re asking $600. Given the game’s tendency to break down, freeze up, and become inoperable if you so much as look at it weird, we’ve passed, but I’m not sure how long I can keep going through these withdrawals. For now I’m satisfied with the occasional game on the NES, but you know how these things are. Is it wrong for a grown man to love a machine? Of course not.

I leave you with the immortal words of Data East:




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