Good Old ReviewsThe History of Dungeons & Dragons in Video Games, Part OneGood Old Reviews - RSS 2.0
Original Release: 1975, Platform(s): PLATO, Developer: Gary Whisenhunt/Ray Wood, Publisher: N/A
Much like Dungeons & Dragons itself was built on the foundation of the simpler game Chainmail, D&D mad its video game debut with a title that's simple by modern standards but was groundbreaking for its time. Created for the PLATO computer system by Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood, it tasked players with creating their own character and the exploring a multi-floor maze in search of a legendary orb and grail. It was one of the first games to allow players to move back and forth between levels and featured an impressive array of spells, items and weapons for its day.
Image Source: RPGFanatic
Original Release: 1975, Platform(s): PDP-10, Developer: Don Daglow, Publisher: N/A
Made by Don Daglow while he attended Claremont Graduate University, Dungeon was another unofficial D&D adaptation. Giving the player control of a multi-adventurer party working their way through the titular dungeon, it featured combat both melee and ranged, auto-mapping, line of sight and NPCs complete with a dash of genuine AI.
Sadly, no images could be found for Dungeon. I contacted Mr. Daglow and he confirmed that its only being released on the PDP-10 made screenshots difficult. I'll update if anything turns up.
Akalabeth a.k.a. D&D1-28b
Original Release: 1979, Platform(s): Apple II, DOS, Developer: Richard Garriott, Publisher: California Pacific Computer Co.
Richard Garriott is perhaps best known for his work on the classic Ultima games. Before he pioneered that franchised, however, he released Akalabeth. Started as a high school project, Akalabeth was based heavily on Dungeons & Dragons (the initial versions were titled D&D 1 through 28b). In the game, players are tasked with killing a series of successively more difficult monsters living inside a first-person dungeon. Along the way they'll have to deal with enemies and diminishing food supplies on their quest to prove themselves to Lord British. While sales of Akalabeth would be humble by the standards of his later Ultima games, Garriott would later claim that it was one of the most profitable games of his career. He only spent $200 out of pocket to initially self-publish it and would earn more than $150,000 when California Pacific took over its distribution.
Image Source: Giant Bomb
Original Release: 1982, Platform(s): Intellivision, Developer: Mattel Electronics, Publisher: Mattel Electronics
Originally released as just Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, Mattel's Cloudy Mountain was one of the earliest games released as an officially licensed Dungeons & Dragons game. Sending players on a quest to recover the legendary Crown of Kings, the game employed randomly generated mazes filled with monsters to fight, bosses to defeat and items to collect. As far as incorporating actual elements from Dungeons & Dragons, the game didn't actually do much besides use a fantasy setting. That said, the game was still decently regarded and is far from the worst retro game to bear the D&D name.
Image Source: CRPGAddict
Treasure of Tarmin
Original Release: 1983. Platform(s): Intellivision, Developer: APh Technological Consulting. Publisher: Mattel Electronics
Whereas the Intellivision's first foray into recreating the Dungeons & Dragons experience ignored most of the actual RPG elements that make the brand what it is. The console's second foray into the franchise took greater pains to be an actual RPG. A first person dungeon crawl, the player's objective was to retrieve a fabled treasure by killing an evil Minotaur. A version was actually finished for the Atari 2600, but never saw a commercial release.
Image Source: Giant Bomb