Arcades catering to video games began to gain momentum in the late 1970s with games such as Space Invaders (1978), Asteroids (1979), and Galaxian (1979), and became widespread in 1980 with Pac-Man, Missile Command, Berzerk, Defender, and others. The central processing unit in these games allowed for more complexity than earlier discrete circuitry games such as Atari's Pong (1972). The arcade boom that began in the late 1970s is credited with establishing the basic techniques of interactive entertainment and for driving down hardware prices to the extent of allowing the PC to become a technological and economic reality.
While color monitors had been used by several racing video games before (such as Indy 800 and Speed Race Twin), it was during this period that RGB color graphics became widespread, following the release of Galaxian in 1979. Namco's Rally-X in 1980 featured multi-directional scrolling, and introduced a radar tracking the player position. Sega's Space Tactics that year was a space combat game allowing multi-directional scrolling from a first-person perspective. The following year, Namco's Bosconian allowed the player's ship to freely move across open space that scrolls in all directions. By the early 1980s, scrolling had become popular among arcade video games and would make its way to third-generation consoles, where it would prove nearly as pivotal as the move to 3D graphics on later fifth-generation consoles.
The Golden Age also saw developers experimenting with vector displays, which produced crisp lines that couldn't be duplicated by raster displays. A few of these vector games became great hits, such as 1979's Asteroids, 1980's Battlezone and Tempest and 1983's Star Wars from Atari, as well as 1982's Star Trek from Sega. However, vector technology fell out of favor with arcade game companies due to the high cost of repairing vector displays.
Several developers at the time were also experimenting with pseudo-3D and stereoscopic 3D using 2D sprites on raster displays. In 1979, Nintendo's Radar Scope introduced a three-dimensional third-person perspective to the shoot 'em up genre, later imitated by shooters such as Konami's Juno First and Activision's Beamrider in 1983. In 1981, Sega's Turbo was the first racing game to feature a third-person rear view format, and use sprite scaling with full-colour graphics. Namco's Pole Position featured an improved rear-view racer format in 1982 that would remain the standard for the genre; the game provided a perspective view of the track, with its vanishing point swaying side to side as the player approaches corners, accurately simulating forward movement into the distance. That same year, Sega released Zaxxon, which introduced the use of isometric graphics and shadows; and SubRoc-3D, which introduced the use of stereoscopic 3D through a special eyepiece;
This period also saw significant advances in digital audio technology. Space Invaders in 1978 was the first game to use a continuous background soundtrack, with four simple chromatic descending bass notes repeating in a loop, though it was dynamic and changed pace during stages. Rally-X in 1980 was the first game to feature continuous background music, which was generated using a dedicated sound chip, a Namco 3-channel PSG. That same year saw the introduction of speech synthesis, which was first used in Stratovox, released by Sun Electronics in 1980, followed soon after by Namco's King & Balloon, which was an early example of multiple CPUs, using two Z80 microprocessors, the second to drive a DAC for speech. Multi-CPUs were used by several arcade games the following year, including Frogger, which used two Z80 microprocessors and an AY-3-8910 PSG sound chip, and Scramble, which used two Z80 microprocessors and two AY-3-8910 sound chips. In 1983, Gyruss, known for its stereo sound and musical score, utilized multi CPUs, which included two Z80 microprocessors, one 6809 microprocessor, and one 8039 microprocessor, along with five AY-3-8910 sound chips and a DAC for the sound. That same year, the Namco Pole Position system used two Z8002 microprocessors and one Z80 microprocessor, along with a Namco 6-channel stereo PSG sound chip for the sound.
Developers also experimented with laserdisc players for delivering full motion video based games with movie-quality animation. The first laserdisc video game to exploit this technology was 1983's Astron Belt from Sega, soon followed by Dragon's Lair from Cinematronics; the latter was a sensation when it was released (and, in fact, the laserdisc players in many machines broke due to overuse). While laserdisc games were usually either shooter games with full-motion video backdrops like Astron Belt or interactive movies like Dragon's Lair, Data East's 1983 game Bega's Battle introduced a new form of video game storytelling: using brief full-motion video cutscenes to develop a story between the game's shooting stages, which would years later become the standard approach to video game storytelling. By the mid-1980s, the genre dwindled in popularity, as laserdiscs were losing out to the VHS format and the laserdisc games themselves were losing their novelty, due to their linearity and, in many cases, depending less on reflexes than on memorizing sequences of moves.