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The Top 10 Arcade Games With the Most Profits

Arcade games and pinball machines have captivated audiences for decades, offering a unique combination of entertainment and challenge. Back when people regularly went to arcades and gaming centers for their usual entertainment fix, these games have been the solid gold mine for businesses. With the rise of video games, virtual reality and other forms of entertainment, however, arcades have been losing some of their appeal — but that doesn’t mean they’re dead yet. In fact, certain types of arcade and console games still make quite a bit of money for those lucky enough to own them.

So, you might be asking, what are the most profitable arcade games? In this article, let’s examine revenue figures and cabinets sales of ten of the highest-grossing arcade games that you didn’t realize made the most money in the worldwide market across the arcade machines industry.

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Top Arcade Games with Highest Revenue Figures

10. Tempest

1981 – Atari

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 29,000
Total Revenue: 62,000 (1.2M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 2

 

Starting off the list strong is a classic game that you may not have heard of, Tempest. Developed by Atari in 1981, it has been one of the most successful arcade video games ever made. It was so popular that it spawned several sequels and spin-off titles over the years. As far as raw figures go, it sold an impressive approximation of about 29,000 units and a revenue that would cost 1.2 million today.

Its play dynamic is simple but very engaging; you are meant to play a spaceship navigating through an ever-increasing number of obstacles on a series of tubes. The video game was critically acclaimed and got perfect scores from all the major video game publications at the time.

It was also the first of its kind that introduced the “choose your starting level” feature among games. Most importantly, its three-dimensional video perspective in a fixed view made it a unique shooter game that players of all ages soon grew to love.

9. Mortal Kombat II

1993 – Midway

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 27,000
Total Revenue: 10,000 (1.8M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 2

 

Next on the list is Mortal Kombat II, the second installation of the famous martial arts arcade game of the same name.

Developed and released by Midway in 1993, the game was a massive hit with arcade-goers. Its two-dimensional fighting mechanics combined with an abundant amount of characters to choose from made it one of the most popular games in its genre. The over-the-top violence and gore were also major factors that attracted arcade players to its realm.

It was then ready to become a cultural phenomenon with its number of home and compilation releases . Last but not least, its massive success led to the creation of several movie adaptations and a long list of spin-off titles.

Additionally, it had secret stages and bonus specials, including a hidden game of Pong, within its arcade game version.

8. Centipede

1980 – Atari

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 55,988
Total Revenue: 80,000 (2.3M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 2 (not including re-releases)

 

Centipede, one of the highest listed iconic video games ever made, was released by Atari in 1980. It was created by Dona Bailey and Ed Logg, both of whom had previously worked on the classic game Asteroids.

This time around, their project was a vibrant shooter game featuring different kinds of bugs and spiders that you must shoot to survive. Its simple playing mechanics combined with a unique and amusing visual style was praised by critics and players alike.

The game featured the titular arthropods as villains, including numerous other creepy crawlers, like spiders and scorpions. All of these the player must avoid or shoot to continue on to the next game.

Asteroids Logo

7. Asteroids

1979 – Atari

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 100,000
Total Revenue: 115,000 (2.6M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 3 (not including re-releases)

 

The shooter game, Asteroids, makes it to the high-ranking bestselling games at the number seven spot.

Developed by Atari in 1979, Asteroids was a revolutionary game for its time. It featured a dual joystick setup that actually encouraged the player to rotate their ship and shoot asteroids instead of simply trying to survive. This gave a more dynamic feel than the classic shooter arcade game machines of the era. The video game also allowed for two players to play at once, further adding to its appeal.

Its challenging gameplay was one of the reasons why players strived to win at this game.

This game was also the source of inspiration for many arcade games, including Defender and Gravitar.

6. Defender

1981 – Williams

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 60,000
Total Revenue: 1M (2.7M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 5

 

Coming at top six is the enigmatic game, Defender. Though not as hyped and popular today as household arcade names like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong, this game was still one of the most successful arcade games during its time, amassing at least 60,000 cabinets sold.

Developed by Williams in 1981, Defender is a fixed shooter game where the aim is to protect your planet and its inhabitants from being abducted by aliens. Its unique control scheme for its machines, which used two joysticks instead of the traditional buttons, gave it a fresh look that attracted many players. More importantly, the game made use of a variety of buttons to help the player achieve their goal of defending the planet in the game.

The game itself was also quite challenging, with its enemies able to shoot back and abduct your people if not taken care of. It also had multiple levels and bosses that kept players hooked for longer.

Finally, Defender has inspired several other games, including Stargate and Star Castle, further proving its success in the arcade industry.

5. NBA Jam

1993 – Midway

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 20,000
Total Revenue: 2M (3M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 15

 

The longest-running basketball arcade video game NBA Jam is a certified hit among basketball players and the gaming audience as a whole. Developed by Midway in 1993, NBA Jam was a two-on-two basketball arcade game featuring real National Basketball Association players at the time.

It popularized this genre of sports games and was credited for revolutionizing its industry. The game featured larger than life characters, as well as an over-the-top energy meter that allowed players to perform insane dunks and shots.

The game was loved most especially as a basketball simulator that had no boundaries. Its success continued in the home console market with its various re-releases and sequels throughout the years. Now, you can even play this beloved game across many devices, but the fun it evoked continued to be one of its special features.

Donkey Kong Gameplay

4. Donkey Kong

1981 – Nintendo

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 152,000
Total Revenue: 4.4M (6.9M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 19

 

A video game classic, the Nintendo-developed game Donkey Kong is a fixed magnet for players all around the world. It was released in 1981, and its fame didn’t take long to reach a global scale.

Donkey Kong is an arcade game where the protagonist Mario has to climb ladders, jump over barrels and fires, and avoid other obstacles to save the kidnapped Pauline from Donkey Kong’s clutches. The game had simple yet addicting mechanics that made it one of the most popular arcade games in its era.

The game was so successful that it led to the development of several spin-offs, such as Donkey Kong Jr. and Mario Bros., as well as the widely acclaimed Super Mario franchise.

In its initial release, the audience had a mixed reaction to its unique and never-before-seen playing mechanics of climbing ladders and overcoming obstacles. But now, old and new players may find this game nostalgic and engaging in equal measure. This makes Donkey Kong a memorable title with an unsurpassable legacy.

3. Street Fighter II

1991 – Capcom

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 320,000
Total Revenue: 8.5M (16.9M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 8

 

At number three, Street Fighter II is the direct sequel to the game of the same name. Created and developed by Capcom in 1991, and it was a worldwide success during its early release until the years to come.

In this video game, two players can compete against each other in hand-to-hand combat with an array of characters from around the world. Its unique fighting system made use of a six-button control scheme that was revolutionary for its time, making it possible to perform combos and unique moves that can be used to defeat opponents.

The game also introduced the use of special moves and finishing techniques like “combos”, which are very popular in fighting games today. Furthermore, it was ported on numerous consoles like the Super Nintendo Entertainment System and Sega Genesis.

It has spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and ports that kept the series alive up until today.

2. Space Invaders

1978 – Taito

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 750,000
Total Revenue: 7.6M (21.5M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 21

 

The 1978 classic, Space Invaders invades the number two spot with a whooping 750,000 sales for arcade machine sets.

Developed by Taito, Space Invaders is a fixed shooter game that became an instant hit among arcade gamers in the late 70s. It was one of the first video games to feature computer graphics, breaking away from the traditional 8-bit vector graphics used by its predecessors. The game essentially involves maneuvering a ship at the bottom of the screen and shooting aliens at the top.

Space Invaders was also one of the earliest examples of a score-based multi-level game. It inspired many other classic space shooter games and has been remade several times with added features and graphics to its games. As such, it is widely considered to be a milestone in gaming history.

Pac Man

1. Pac-Man

1980 – Namco

Sales in Figures:

Units/Cabinets Sold: 700,000
Total Revenue: 10M (21.8M with inflation)
Number of Related and Spin-Off Games: 41 (not including mobile)

 

If you’re an avid fan of arcade games, it’s impossible that you don’t know Pac-Man. This iconic game is the most successful of all arcade games, having over the biggest game franchise and selling more than 700,000 units.

Pac-Man was developed by Namco in 1980 and became an instant favorite among arcade gamers. Pac-Man’s playing mechanics involves maneuvering a yellow character around a maze while eating power pellets to eliminate ghosts. There were four ghosts in total, each with a different color.

The characters in Pac-Man are instantly recognizable even today, as they’ve become an integral part of popular culture. It has spawned numerous spin-offs and ports, with mobile versions being the most recent addition and a skyrocket in profits. Most importantly, this game offers a variety of cognitive and mental health benefits for kids and adults alike.

Its high popularity and incredible net worth make it so that you cannot imagine arcade classics without Pac-Man in it.

Time to Round Up the Video Game Classics

To summarize, here’s the complete list of arcade games ranked according to sales statistics and revenue:

10. Tempest
9. Mortal Kombat II
8. Centipede
7. Asteroids
6. Defender
5. NBA Jam
4. Donkey Kong
3. Street Fighter II
2. Space Invaders
1. Pac-Man

With the rise of more video games in handheld consoles and mobile as opposed to machine arcade versions, we might get to see a different set of game classics in the years to come. But as of now, here are the arcade games that made the most income since its release.

We’ve also prepared another article to help you explore the popularity of arcade machines and how much they’ve evolved over the years.

Arcade for Blog

Conclusion

The arcade industry has seen an incredible evolution over the past four decades. From classic games like Pac-Man and Space Invaders to modern titles like Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat II, there are a thousand games that have been instrumental in shaping the gaming industry.

Alongside the sales figures mentioned above, the success of these games alludes itself to the continuous support of the billion of gaming fans over the years. It’s safe to say that these games will remain in our hearts for many more years to come.

Among the list of the highest grossing arcade games above, which is your favorite?

 

Feeling inspired? Be sure to take a look at our range of Retro and Arcade Games to help you with that dash of nostalgia.

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