There’s a growing love for all things 80’s these days including a number of fads and trendy ideas being tossed around. One fad that will sadly never see the light of main stream notoriety is that of the coin arcades! Their sole purpose? ‘Entertainment’ you say? Well, obviously, they were entertaining, but the real purpose was to money our parents to death!
Personally, I live about fifteen minutes from downtown Saint Louis, Missouri, and when I was young, we would go to the Saint Louis Galleria. No trip would be complete without a visit to the Arcade! From classic to modern, they seemingly had it all. I had the great fortune (my parents great lack of fortune) to be the first kid to play a little game called ‘Mortal Kombat.’ (In this game, you’re Liu Kang, an American super soldier with a Vibranium Shield, sent to stop Hugo Weaving and recover the mystical Tesseract, but instead are frozen in time and recruited by Samuel Jackson to lead a crack shot government funded super team.) I remember thinking, “This sure can’t be better than ‘Street Fighter 2.” Wow! I was super wrong! We didn’t know it at the time, but it became a super sensation almost immediately! In my first match I fought Scorpion and when he took his ‘mask’ off and spat out a fireball that incinerated me, I was HOOKED!! So without further ado, I present to you the top ten best cabinets ever made and ten that are laughably horrible!!
TOP TEN ARCADE GAMES
10) Donkey Kong
One of the earliest from the platform era and the very first game created by legendary game designer,Shigeru Miyamoto. It was an instant success for Nintendo due to its innovative gameplay! When the game was launched in Japan, the protagonist was a simple carpenter named Jumpman who was on a mission to rescue his girlfriend, Lady, from his escaped pet gorilla, Donkey Kong.When the game was sent stateside, Nintendo US didn’t like the original Japanese versions of the characters and they decided to change Lady to Pauline, and Jumpman was changed to Mario, who apparently gave up the carpentry business and decided to devote his life to plumbing, which in hindsight, was an excellent career move! When it was launched, Donkey Kong was seen by some as a weird ass game considering that space shooters and maze chasers where the most common games in the market at the time.
9) Mortal Kombat
A fighting game, second only to the ‘Street Fighter’ series, when it rolled onto the scene. It featured digitized sprites rather than its traditional counterparts. But the biggest selling point was its fatalities ─the end of a fight finishing move that more often than not ended in a wry bloody and gory fashion; which made our parents and political leaders flip out. Now, it’s one of the reasons we have the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB).
8) Mortal Kombat II
The second installment arrived a year after the first with a huge upgrade to its graphics and sporting five new characters. The gameplay was also significantly updated with an improved combo system, new moves, and a host of fatalities, including non-lethal Friendship and Babalityfinishers. Right around this time, the phenomenon blew up with comic books, movies, trading cards, action figures ─ it was like Hulkamania all over again!
Atari’s Asteroids is a vector graphic classic from way back in ’79. It was inspired by the first fully fledged video game, Space War, which was built using hardware from earlier Atari games, Lunar Lander. Despite its similarities to Space War, Atari’s hot new release was received as a new concept and quite challenging; and people poured money into the damn things.
With a crazy amount of buttons, coupled with enemy ships with behavior patterns that were hailed as extremely sophisticated for the time, Defender was one of the most memorable shooters of the 80’s. This classic was the brain child of two pinball machine designers that previously worked together at Williams, spent months designing a game inspired by elements from Space Invaders and Asteroids and the ending product was excellent! Nothing short of game changing! Defender provided a high energy, relentlessly colorful, loud as balls shoot ‘em up experiencerival by none of it competitors of it day!
5) NBA Jam
Thanks to its official license enabling it to feature real team names and the digital likeness of the team’s superstar, it was a massive success. Featuring gameplay that was larger than life, with few rules, resulting in a fast and furious pace of action that featured spectacular slam dunks and net shots!
4) Ms. Pac-Man
For some reason back in the day, Midway Manufacturing Corporation thought they could make a game that appealed to the ladies. And with that, Ms. Pac-Man was born! Some would say they polished Pac-Man up and put a bow on its head. But they added new maze designs and sometimes the ghosts would move at random to spurn players from learning their patterns to defeat each level like in Pac-Man. Because of that, it was more challenging. The challenge didn’t stop all those disco ducks from feeding it quarters like it was dying of hunger. It didn’t take long for everyone to realize that the game’s 256th level was glitched and unbeatable…. That’s a lot of quarters!!
3) Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition
When this game came out, it blew us all away! With great animations, moves and the characters…oh my Glob! The characters were so great!! With each given their own merits, and flaws. So well done!! There could never be a better arcade fighting game again! Every fighting game since has been a pale attempt to gain from its genius. BUT the one thing I could never understand was this; they came out with the first game, ‘Street Fighter’, then they released ‘Street Fighter 2’, then ‘Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition’, etc. I never understood why they didn’t call it “3”. Then, as I’m sitting here typing this, it me like a ton of bricks…. it was the first DLC ever!!! And we all bought it !!!!! Ha! Ha! Ha!
2) Space Invaders
Space Invader kicked off what is now referred to as the Golden Age of Arcades. Debuting in Japan in 1978, it swiftly became a cultural phenomenon! 100.000 units of the cabinet were distributed throughout Japan and it became so popular with people shoving money into it that it created a shortage of the 100-yen coin! It became a popular export and rejuvenated arcadesworldwide! 1) Pac-Man
The number one quarter eater of all time should be no surprise at all. Pac-Man exploded onto the scene in the early 80’s and became an overnight sensation. At a time when most arcadegames were space themed shooters, Pac-Man’s non-violent, maze chase presented something fresh and unseen before, and it did something that no game did before ─ appeal to women. Pac-Man was gaming’s first mascot, and possibly one of its most enduring characters. The little yellow dot gobbler has had its mug on everything from T-shirt’s to lunchboxes and beyond! If you’re wondering how much this game has grossed, it’s in the multiple billions.
And now for the fun-est part for me, the part where I talk shit on games that were complete trash. I’ve been looking forward to this.
TOP TEN WORST ARCADE GAMES
10) Yo! Noid– A game based on the Domino’s Pizza Mascot. What else is there to say?! I mean next thing you’re gonna tell me is that there was a game based on the 7-Up mascot- (WAIT, WHAT?! There was a game based on the 7-Up spot??? Serious.)
9) Virtua Fighter– The polygon based graphics were arguably bad, and it came out AFTER Mortal Kombat did. Was that company not trying to compete? I can’t talk too much shit on this because I fed this machine like it was my own illegitimate child.
8) War Gods– A game where they heavily relied on 3-D, and it totally didn’t work out for them. It was released about five years after the first Mortal Kombat, and it was like a cheesy rip off with an even worse story and characters.
7) Ataxx– A puzzle game that was based off the board game Othello or Go. It was ok, but the only bad part about the game was that the AI cheated like a mother fucker! I’m talking blatant cheating!!!!
6) Who shot Johnny Rock?– A murder/mystery that nobody cared to solve….
5) Time Traveler– This bomb incorporated hologram technology that was cutting edge at the time. The only problem is that its premise, acting, stunt work and game control were complete trash….
4) Pit-Fighter– This game was dark…too dark! So dark in fact, I don’t know how it was released. Of course don’t mean too violent. (Have you been reading this?) Dark, as in too hard to see.
3) Revolution X– Aerosmith went full Journey and created an arcade abomination of their own.Journey licensed an arcade game in ’83 that everyone says IS THE WORST arcade cabinet of all time. I’ve never played it, so what does that tell you? This game had horrible graphics and a god awful soundtrack. That’s right! I hate Aerosmith because of this game! I fed this machine to beat it and master it. Like all games I’ve played before, but NO! You can’t beat this game unless you know all the secret tricks and cheats…. YOU SUCK STEVEN TYLER!!!!!!!
2) Bloodstorm– This game had too much going on ─ with more secret characters than its playable ones and with more cheat codes than a phone book has numbers. It had a back story of Battlefield Earth proportions, IT. WAS. HORRENDOUS.
1) Quiz & Dragons– This was a fantasy/trivia hybrid where you killed monsters by solving trivia from 1992. . . . What kills a dragon? A +9 Flaming Greatsword of Dragon’s bane? NO! Totally outdated for the time…trivia killing a freaking dragon is bonkers! Not only that but the answers were mangled and were on the same level as shitty polygon graphics, horrible stunts acting, and a cheating AI system.
No dishonorable mentions here, but I’d love to hear your votes for your best or worst arcade cabinets of all time in the comments below!