A classic Activision franchise created by David Crane. The original Pitfall! was released on the Atari 2600 in 1982 and established the foundations of the multi-screen Platformer genre: running and jumping over obstacles as you travel from left to right. The only real sequel followed in 1984, also for the 2600; Pitfall II: Lost Caverns introduced elements like exploration, true scrolling, and an interactive soundtrack that reflects how well you're doing. It also recieved an arcade adaptation by Sega in 1985, which was a hybrid of the first two games with two completely new areas added.
Super Pitfall occurred in 1987. It was on the NES and terrible. Let us speak no more of it. Besides, The Angry Video Game Nerd has said it all in his video on the game already.
The series was revived on the SNES and Sega Genesis in 1994's Pitfall: The Mayan Adventure, a fun if sloppy platformer in the same vein as Aladdin and Earthworm Jim. Two more revivals came later, this time in 3D: 1998's Pitfall 3D: Beyond the Jungle on the PlayStation, and 2004's Pitfall: The Lost Expedition on the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube (and ported to the Wii in 2008 as Pitfall: The Big Adventure). All of these games include the original Pitfall! as an Easter Egg; Lost Expedition and Big Adventure contain Pitfall II as well.
Pitfall! has also left its mark on television. In its first season, the Ruby-Spears Saturday Supercade cartoon featured segments based on the game, and a 1982 commercial for Pitfall! starred a young Jack Black.
The Pitfall series features examples of:
Action Prologue: The Lost Expedition begins with Pitfall Harry fighting for his life against a demonic fiery jaguar while supercharged with powerful magic. After he exchanges a few blows with the beast, it pins him to the ground, and Harry has a flashback to how he got into this mess in the first place which makes up most of the rest of the game.
Adaptation Expansion: The arcade game, strangely enough produced by Sega, featured enhanced versions of the overworld of the first Pitfall and the underworld of the second, and added Minecart Madness and Temple of Doom stages. The Atari 800 computer version of Pitfall II was also expanded.
Bag of Holding: By the end of The Lost Expedition Harry is carrying around a canteen, sling, raft, torch, shield, gasmask, large book, a pair of pickaxes, unlimited amounts of TNT, various idols and four round artifacts twice the size of his head...in a backpack that's that's smaller than his head.
Balloonacy: Harry uses a balloon to traverse a large open area in Pitfall II.
Big Damn Heroes: Quickclaw fights the fire-jaguar-demon off of Harry at the last second near the end of The Lost Expedition and wins.
Book Ends: The Lost Expedition begins with a Hopeless Boss Fight against the Demon Jaguar, in which Harry is pinned down and about to be killed, then it flashes back to how he got there. Near the end of the game, you fight the Jaguar again, and he pins Harry down like before, but Quickclaw steps in and saves him.
Breaking the Fourth Wall: In The Mayan Adventure, if you make Harry Jr. jump into a quicksand, he waves goodbye at you while being sucked down.
Canon Immigrants: Rhonda (Harry's niece), and the aforementioned Quickclaw were originally created for the aforementioned Saturday Supercade adaptation, but appeared in Pitfall II afterwards.
Classic Cheat Code: On the Sega Genesis version of The Mayan Adventure: the level select cheat was B, Right, A, Down, Right, Up, B, Left, A, Up, Right, A. Which, of course, makes one wonder just who Brad and Laura are...
Corridor Cubbyhole Run: Pitfall II has at least ten "floors" in a row which entirely consisted of walking across the screen as a bat flew towards Harry and having to run Harry under the bat only if the wings were flapping up.
Easter Egg: The Atari 8-bit and 5200 versions of Pitfall II had an entirely new level after you beat the game that was longer than the actual game itself. This may be the largest relative Easter egg in any game.
Embedded Precursor: Ever since the 16-bit days, it's traditional for Pitfall games to include the original 2600 game buried in there somewhere. In The Lost Expedition, you are required to play it to a certain point to get an idol.
Everything Trying to Kill You: Actually sort of averted in the first game - I mean, those crocodiles can hardly be blamed if they open their mouths while you're standing on them. Played straight for the rest of the series, though.
Game Within a Game: The Lost Expedition had both the original Pitfall and Pitfall II as bonuses.
How We Got Here: The Lost Expedition opens up with you fighting against the demon jaguar, the semifinal boss, only to wind up pinned and about to get your head bitten off, which is when the movie pauses. Harry then says "They say that when a giant demon jaguar is about to terminate your existence, your life flashes before your eyes..." The game then flashes back to twenty-four hours previous, and the game up until you reach the demon jaguar is buildup to that point.
I'll Kill You!: One guard in the native village in Lost Expedition is a tad obsessed with killing. Played for Laughs though, as he never does make due on this threat.
Item Get: In The Lost Expedition, each time Harry picks up the artifact in the first three temples, he makes sings his own personal Item Get theme, lifts it above his head... and falls over from the weight.
Madness Mantra: The explorers you rescue whistle, hum, giggle to themselves, and ramble about the guard at the village (see I'll Kill You! above).
Mama Bear: The monkey-mothers in The Lost Expedition really don't like Harry holding their kids. Later, when he swaps places with a monkey baby in the monkey temple, the player has to take advantage of this to beat the challenge.
Precision-Guided Boomerang: Subverted in The Mayan Adventure. Boomerangs are one of three weapons in the game, follow an improbably far-reaching curved path, and float around in the air upon return. They do disappear if you don't grab them again, however... and they don't return if they hit an enemy.
Retraux: In Mayan Adventure, when Harry Jr. finally finds his dad, Harry Sr. looks exactly as he did during the original 8-bit games. As in, literally a few featureless pixels in the rough shape of a man, using only four colors. Strung up on a highly detailed, realistically shaded 16-bit altar. (And remarks "What took you so long?")
Temple of Doom: If you're indoors in a Pitfall game, you're probably inside one of these. The arcade game had one for its final stage.
Theme Music Power-Up: In Pitfall II every time you grab a treasure or rescue someone a galvanizing, heroic, upbeat theme vaguely reminiscent of the Indiana Jones anthem plays. One of the oldest ones in the book, as it was the first console game to feature PSG music, in fact the only 2600 game to have a custom sound chip.
Unusable Enemy Equipment: In The Lost Expedition, enemies constantly assault you by throwing TNT. You pass by crates of the stuff throughout the game but can't use any yourself until a friendly character hands you some in a late-game cutscene.