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The Classic Video Game BurgerTime is the Real Hell’s Kitchen [Kicking Back with Jersey Joe]

You take an arcade game, add a hamburger-making chef in a kitchen gone wild, and you’ve got yourself hours of guaranteed fun!  BurgerTime, the 80s arcade classic still entertains in the 21st century and has players lining up for seconds!

BurgerTime, created by Data East, was released in 1982 to arcades and the home video game market.  The original overseas title was Hamburger, but was changed shortly before release.

The game play is simple.  You are chef Peter Pepper and your job is to assemble 4 hamburgers per level in a kitchen made of ladders and vertical platforms.  To do this, you must walk the length of the ingredient (2 buns, lettuce, and meat) that are positioned on each platform.  Walking across an ingredient will cause it to fall to the level below causing a chain reaction that will knock the ingredients to a waiting plate below.  Additional levels also add a layer of cheese and tomato.

Assembling four burgers clears the level and the game moves on to the next scene.

burgertime2Sounds easy?  Not so fast!  Peter is being chased through each round by a team of enemy ingredients who want to smash him into hamburger!

• Mr. Dog – a giant hot dog wiener

• Mr. Egg – a giant sunny side up egg

• Mr. Pickle – a giant pickle slice that appears starting with round 2


Touching an enemy in any way costs Peter a life.  The game begins with 5 lives.

The enemies can be outrun, smashed by dropping an ingredient from a level above, or temporarily stunned by Peter spraying them with a pepper shot.  Peter begins the game with 5 pepper shots and can earn more by collecting bonus foods such as a cup of coffee, an ice cream cone, or fries that appear at random intervals at the center of the screen.

If an enemy is on one of the burger ingredients after Peter has crossed it to fall to the lower level, the enemy will fall as well, causing all of the ingredients of the burger to fall at once to complete the burger.  This difficult move also scores a massive amount of bonus points and temporarily removes an enemy from play.

There are six different scenes for Peter to clear and each round quickly increases in difficulty.  Some feature dead corners were he can become easily trapped.  Other requires extra burgers to be assembled.  After clearing all six screens, the game switches back to the first to start the cycle again at a greatly increased difficulty.


Player enjoys a round on a BurgerTime machine at an arcade in Montana.

I first played the game at the Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle in the early 80s.  The now closed arcade chain, where I had many birthday parties, was a spin-off of the Bally’s Casino corporation from Las Vegas.

The game cost a quarter and my family got to experience the great joy (yeah, right) of standing around, watching me toss quarter after quarter into this game.  While some kids went straight for the Skee-Ball machine – I went for BurgerTime.  To me, Skee-Ball is number two. (Though, I still get in a game here and there for the record.)

That Christmas, to my great glee, Santa brought me a new Atari 2600 and inside was a cartridge for BurgerTime!  I couldn’t believe it!  I must have been such a good boy for Santa to bring my favorite game!

Years later, I would find out my mother put it on lay-away at the local Hills department store because she had no desire to stand in a noisy arcade with me any longer.  So, I guess this was kind of a win-win.

The fast rise of the mall arcade lasted about a decade, but faced a steady decline as more gamers purchased their own home video game systems.  BurgerTime’s popularity led to its release on multiple home video game systems, each with an improvement in graphics.

Two limited arcade only spin-offs were also released.  Peter Pepper’s Ice Cream Madness and Super BurgerTimeSuper BurgerTime allows two players to play at once.  A third sequel, PizzaTime was in development, but was abandoned due to the decline in the popularity of video games.

Intellivision, released another spin-off for home play called Diner.

After the arcades closed, I was still playing my Atari version until my game system finally died for good due to a problem with the power cable inside the machine.  I was out of luck, but still hungry for more.

Then in 2007, the first mobile edition was released to cash in on the nostalgia of classic games that require little memory to play on hand held smart phones.  The game cost 99 cents to download, and once again I was assembling burgers on my subway ride to and from work.

BurgerTime World Tour , a new 3D version was released in 2011 for the Xbox 360.

A BurgerTime machine can be seen on the left inside Barcade, Jersey City, New Jersey.

A BurgerTime machine can be seen to the left inside Barcade, Jersey City, New Jersey.

To me though, the old fashioned 25 cent arcade is still the best and can still be found around.  Barcade in Jersey City, New Jersey has a restored standing cabinet machine that still costs a quarter.  Barcade is a bar / arcade for adults that specializes in restoring vintage video games and presenting them for adults only in their gaming lounges.  The chain has three locations including one in Brooklyn and Philadelphia.

Some local taverns also still carry the game in multi-use arcade machines that allow the player to select from a number of classic games on the same machine.

A word of caution – this thing QUICKLY becomes addicting!  The simple concept sounds easy, but the enemies get smarter and the levels become more and more challenging until they are almost impossible.  The fun is seeing how far you can go and then how far your friends can go!  You know you want to still type in your initials in the arcade for all to see!

The highest recorded score was Bryan L. Wagner at an arcade in Wyomissing, Pennsylvania in 2009, earning 11,512,500 points.

And for all the grammar teachers out there… BurgerTime is one big word.  That’s not a typo – that’s a copyright!

BurgerTime at an arcade in New Hampshire.

BurgerTime at an arcade in New Hampshire.

THE 411

Name: BurgerTime

What: arcade/video game

Released in United States: 1982



If you’ve never played this classic – you must!  Or if you have, give it another try!   I found a FREE version you can play online.  Sadly, it has no sound, but will quickly give you a taste for what you are in for.

Take a break and give it a try here:

See you in the kitchen!

PS – If you’re looking to purchase an old video game cartridge version, they are still for sale on eBay and Amazon.

Image credits – Thadkrgr, kbirkenbachDarin House, goodrob13, Rob Boudon