Marble Madness

By Xah Lee. Date: . Last updated: .

Marble Madness, from Atari, 1984 , is one of the best arcade of 1980s.

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Marble Madness
Marble Madness arcade cabinet DSC 0899
Marble Madness arcade cabinet. [image by Altan from]
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Marble Madness screenshot.

Game Play

Marble Madness

Level Maps

Ingenious design. It has spun off many versions since. It's one of the rare video game that uses trackball for control.

Marble Madness levels map
Marble Madness levels map. [image by André Majorel from]
Marble Madness design diagrams
Scanned image of design diagrams by Mark Cerny of the arcade game Marble Madness. [image source 2016-05-18 ]

Scanned image of design diagrams by Mark Cerny of the arcade game Marble Madness. The “Traverse” and “Gravitational funnel” concepts were included in the game, while the “Ice block” and “Teeter totter” ones were excluded.

Text in the image:

Top left- “Traverse: A section of playfield at a tilt with a cliff beneath it. It is accessible from above and has an exit to the left (or right). The player must traverse it by always pushing the MTB up and to the left to counter gravity. The marble behind can bump the one in front off the cliff at the bottom or bump him down the traverse at high speed.”

Top right- “Ice block: This is a section of differently colored playfield that acts as if it were a block of unsteady ice floating in water. If one player attempts to cross it the block will tilt and cast him off unless crosses it at its exact center (tilt is restricted to one direction) . If two players cross on opposing edges they can do so at any desired speed.”

Bottom left- “Gravitational funnel: This is a depression in the playfield that resembles the gravitational well created by a black hole. Two paths close together are wildly divergent after they pass by, as the hole can swing a marble around 90 degrees quite readily.”

Bottom right- “Teeter totter: A teeter-totter is placed as the only convenient means of exit from a plateau. When a marble rolls onto it the end sinks down to the lower level, trapping the following marble on the plateau. The teeter-totter then slowly returns to its initial state, having caused considerable delay.”

Source: Retro Gamer Issue 53, page 82.


And, using trackball is the point. If you use a joystick, all the joy's lost.

Marble Madness control panel 76702
Marble Madness control panel

if you want to get a trackball to play, you want a trackball that can spin.

see Trackballs That Can Spin

Marble Madness screen Nintendo cover art
Marble Madness Nintendo version, cover art
Marble Madness arcade flyer back
Marble Madness arcade flyer back
Marble Madness arcade flyer front
Marble Madness arcade flyer front