Mass entrance of computers into people's homes began in early Eighties, with era of 8-bit machines – Commodore 64 and ZX Spectrum, above the rest. Of course, soccer games came with them. There were some attempts with this gaming category even before that (by companies Atari, Intellivision, Ramtek and some others), but the real break out in quality of soccer games was made when computers came into hands of "common" people, outside of big companies. Home computers of that time were strong enough to carry relatively complicated tasks, with acceptable graphic and sound capabilities, and yet were so affordable that programming was not reserved for the big guys anymore. Some of those new talent developers immediately started to make a new page in the history of computer games.
Important moment happened in 1983, when a programmer named Andrew Spencer developed International Soccer. With good graphics for that time, improved ball flight model comparing to his predecessors from the 70s, and nine level of computer opponent (early games usually were two players only), this game conquered the market in no time. Actually, there are some opinions, given from the fair historical distance, that this game is the best achievement when speaking of football games on 8-bit machines, and even further.
Maybe that evaluation was nostalgia colored, and maybe it was only the result of weak competition. During the reign of 8-bit machines, there were several dozen of football games produced, but only a few of them could be called – good. Titles worth mentioning were – Match Day from 1985. (and it's sequel form 1988.), Gary Lineker's Superstar Soccer by Gremlin Graphics and 5 A Side by the company called Anirog (later renamed to Anco, the name that was yet to crave its name in the history of football games).
On the other side, market was filled with rubbish titles and it was not clear how did their publishing houses find courage to expose them to the public in the first place (who had a chance to play Super Soccer by Imagine, or Peter Beardsley's International Football by Grand Slam, knows what I'm talking about).
Finally, when it all indicated that 8-bit computers were not able to bring out quality football game, two titles on C64 saved the day. In 1988, Microprose made their Microprose Soccer, and Audiogic published Emlyn Hughes International Soccer. Two brilliant games which approached the football in different ways. Microprose Soccer reinvented the top down view (although graphically very similar to, several years older, arcade game Tehkan world Cup), with fast paced action, colorful graphics and neat options like – replays and different weather during the game. On the other side, Emlyn Hughes International Soccer used practice the same graphics as the old International Soccer, but with full range of new movements and ways to pass and kick the ball. It also involved different characteristics for each player in the team.
Those two games were cornerstones of soccer games on 8-bit machines, but their fame did not last too long. Eighties were coming to an end, and with them vanished the age of simple games. 16-bit machines were coming, and with them came titles as Kick Off and Sensible Soccer. But, those will be the topic of another article.