Retro Coin Op Synopsis

Most video games offer an escape from reality: Be a space commander, a Medieval knight, a karate champ! So what was the deal with Paperboy? What kid wants to spend a hard-earned quarter to do what he or she got paid to do every morning (usually hating every minute of it)? Ah, but this was no ordinary paper route, and this was no ordinary paperboy…

In one sense, this game may as well have been called Paperboy’s Revenge. Rolled-up newspapers made handy projectile weapons, and Paperboy actually rewarded you for misusing them. As our heroic paperboy rode down the street on his finely-tuned bike, he passed the houses of newspaper subscribers and non-subscribers alike. If he wanted to keep his job, he made sure to toss papers safely onto the doormats or into the mailboxes of subscribers, but everything and everyone else was fair game.

The biggest targets were non-subscriber homes, which were conveniently painted in drab grays and blacks. The game awarded bonus points for breaking windows in these homes, as well as knocking over their front yard tombstones (don’t ask). Sometimes, the non-subscribers would even sign up for future service (possibly just to keep that little punk from breaking all their stuff). But you had to pick your targets carefully… If you knocked out a window in a subscriber’s home, they’d cancel delivery, and soon our little paperboy would be out of a job.

There were plenty of other people and objects to throw at as well—cars, kids on bikes and Big Wheels, brawling men, trash cans, even the Grim Reaper himself—but many of these struck back. The paperboy’s route also took him across a busy intersection, where danger traveled well above the residential speed limit. Newspaper supplies were also limited, so Paperboy had to keep an eye out for extra bundles sitting at the side of the road.

At the end of the street was a fancy BMX dirt track, where the paperboy could hone his skills by throwing at bull’s eye targets while catching air on handy ramps. The day ended with a tally of Paperboy’s score, based on his successful deliveries and breakage bonuses. Paperboy even got his name in the morning paper, but the lad remained a humble hero, starting the next day the same as any other—delivering papers. Of course, in the early days of the game it was also possible to take advantage of a programming glitch that allowed Paperboy to veer off at the end of the dirt track and continue riding through a bizzaro version of the town. If you made it through the town unscathed, you were given an endless number of extra lives. In later years, the glitch was fixed.

Paperboy’s clever concept and eye-catching graphics were enough to keep players coming back for more, but the game’s unique controls were usually what got them to try it out in the first place. Players gripped actual handlebars to control the bike, pushing forward to accelerate and pulling back to brake. If they tried to go too slowly, however, a swarm of bees chased them down (Atari used a similar gimmick in their 1986 skateboarding game, 720º. Somebody at the company must have had a very bad experience with bees as a child).

Paperboy was like a juvenile delinquent’s dream come true. Vandalism was rewarded, and best of all, there were no consequences. That, plus a selectable level system of three separate courses—Easy Street, Middle Road and Hard Way—helped make Paperboy a favorite game of many, and a welcome escape for real-life paperboys and papergirls everywhere.

Arcade Machine Release History

1985 - Paperboy

Arcade Game Sub Categories


Machine Manufacturer


Other Arcade Game Links