Before today’s digital role-playing games that endorse graphic violence, we enjoyed amusement arcade games, a notable success in the 1970s and 1980s popular culture. These games are the pioneers in the gaming industry we now know today. We appreciated their simplicity in the midst of a hustling global economy. Yet, the novelty of arcade games began to wear off in the late 1980s, as a result of technological advancement that shifted production and consumer demand to video game consoles. Nonetheless, the nostalgia attached to these arcade games is hard to erase — especially if they were the peak of your childhood. Thankfully, these arcade games are still very much alive today, particularly in our showroom! So, be it purchasing an arcade machine for yourself, renting one for an event, or simply just dropping by our showroom to have a go at it, do visit our site for more information.
Here are our personal favourites, and let us know if you agree!
Table of Contents
Released in 1985 by Atari, designed by Ed Logg
A fantasy-themed hack and slash arcade game, it brought the dungeon-crawling action of pen and paper role-playing games like Dungeons & Dragons to the arcade environment. A party of 1 to 4 players fight their way through endless dungeons, both cooperating to kill enemies and competing to collect gold and upgrades. You can choose among 4 characters (Thor the Warrior, Thyra the Valkyrie, Merlin the Wizard or Questor the Elf) with varying powers. Interestingly, the game employed the voice of an unseen narrator who alternately helps the players by giving tips or mocks them when they destroy food, are nearing death, or begin a difficult level.
Cabinets sold: 7,848
Released in 1981 by Namco
You were a warrior and now you’re in control of a spaceship. This game requires you to destroy insect-like enemy aliens while avoiding them and their bullets or you’ll lose a life. Reach a score of 20,000 and then 70,000 and you’ll be awarded an extra life respectively. But beware! A “Boss Galaga” will attempt to capture your ship using a tractor beam (as shown in 2:30 of the video). If captured, the ship joins the alien and you must free it.
You have a few pathways now: 1. If you’re successful, you are able to control two ships simultaneously. 2. If you shoot the ship instead, it is destroyed and does not return. The game ends when your last ship is destroyed or captured.
8. Pole Position
Released in 1982 by Namco/Atari, designed by Toru Iwatani
A straightforward racing game, Pole Position will test your skills in avoiding enemy cars and road signs. You can control the speed of your car with the gas pedal and brake. The race is completed when your car drives under a large Pole Position sign to the finish line.
Cabinets sold: 24,550 Revenue by 1988: $60.9m
Released in 1980 by Namco, designed by Toru Iwatani and programmed by Shigeo Funaki
Now, this is a game that people of all generations should know. What many might not know though, is that each ghost (enemy) is designed with its own distinct personality in the original game. The red guy, Blinky, is known as the chaser. The pink guy whose name you might not have guessed, Pinky, is the ambusher where they will aim for a position in front of Pac-Man’s mouth. On the other hand, the blue guy, Inky, is programmed to be fickle-minded and they head towards Pac-Man on some occasions and on others, away. Finally, the orange guy, Clyde, feigns ignorance and behaves randomly. Though Pac-Man was designed to have no ending, as always, all good things must come to an end — a bug corrupts the entire right half of the maze at level 256. This makes it the de facto ultimate level, or “the split-screen”. Nonetheless, you can achieve a perfect score of 3,333,360 by eating every edible item and ghost on the first 255 levels and using all extra lives to score as many points as possible on level 256.
Cabinets sold: 400,000 Revenue by 1985: $3.5bn
Released in 1979 by Atari, designed by Lyle Rains, Ed Logg and Dominic Walsh
In this space-themed game, your objective is to destroy asteroids and saucers using a triangular ship. Though the rules are simple, the difficulty lies in the lack of break time. Real-world physics were introduced in video games for the first time in history as Logg programmed this vector game and made it such that the graphics are composed of lines drawn on a vector (XY) monitor.
Cabinets sold: 100,000 Revenue by 1991: $800m
Released in 1981 by Williams Electronics, developed by Eugene Jarvis, Larry DeMar, Sam Dicker and Paul Dussault
This game is one of the enduring icons of the Golden Age of Arcades in the 1980s and features an intimidating number of buttons. The joystick controls the ship’s elevation while the five buttons control its horizontal direction and weapons. Defender’s groundbreaking design paved the way for a whole era of horizontal shooting games and made a significant contribution to the video game industry. As Jarvis’ first video game project, it drew inspiration from our other top-listers, Space Invaders and Asteroids.
Cabinets sold: 60,000 Revenue by 1993: $1bn
Released in 1984, designed and programmed by Alexey Pajitnov
A game featuring tetrominoes popularised not by arcades or home computer platforms but by the Game Boy, Tetris was established as the Greatest Game of All Time in Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 100th issue. Historically, various companies fought for rights to this game such as Atari and Nintendo and eventually, The Tetris Company was founded in 1996 in the US. We have good news for those who still play this game — psychologically, results from social experiments suggest that playing Tetris enhances cognitive abilities, reduces the effects of trauma, kicks addiction and treats amblyopia. A phenomenon familiar with gamers where they devote so much time and attention to an activity that it begins to pattern their thoughts, mental images and dreams is also named after this very game, the Tetris effect.
3. Space Invaders
Released in 1978 by Taito, designed by Tomohiro Nishikado
The oldest game on our list, Space Invaders is widely considered to be the game that revolutionalised the video game industry. Its success led to the expansion of the industry from a novelty into a global industry. The video is self-explanatory — you control a laser cannon by moving it horizontally and firing at descending aliens. Defeat all aliens and you will move on to the next level. Let the aliens reach the bottom or have your cannons destroyed and you lose.
Cabinets sold: 360,000 Revenue by 1982: $2.7bn
2. Donkey Kong
Released in 1981 by Nintendo, created by Shigeru Miyamoto
This game primarily features the widely popular character all should know, Mario who was once known as Jumpman (Mario still jumps though), a damsel-in-distress Lady/Pauline, and the gigantic pet gorilla Donkey Kong. Donkey Kong will surely test your virtual agility and in actuality, your dexterity, as you navigate your character past barrels.
Cabinets sold: 132,000 Revenue by 1982: $280m
1. Street Fighter II
Released in 1991 by Capcom
And now we have come to the number 1 in our list, Street Fighter II. Despite the decline in the late 1980s, arcades experienced a major resurgence thanks to the release of this fighting game in 1991. Street Fighter II took the original elements a quantum leap forward and set a benchmark for the fighting genre. The gameplay features an 8-directional joystick and 6 attack buttons which allow you to perform special moves by inputting a combination of directional and button-based commands. By 1994, Street Fighter II had already been played by over 25 million people in America and all versions are estimated to have exceeded $10bn in gross revenue, making it one of the highest-grossing video games and biggest successes of arcade games of all time.
Cabinets sold: 200,000 Revenue by 1995: $2.31bn