a walk down memory lane, the latest Question of the Week asked of our
audience of game professionals: “Now that the Western market is largely
finished producing video games specifically for arcades, what are your
favorite arcade games of all time, and why?"
respondents waxed nostalgic with anecdotes of their extremely old
school arcade memories from the early '80s, while others reminisced
happily about the technical innovations or experiences of slightly
later-dated games that created experiences you could only enjoy in
arcades. And, from Joust to Street Fighter II, from Afterburner to Bionic Commando, your favorite games are likely mentioned here.
Credited by some for the resurgence of arcade games in the early '90s, a sizable group of respondents chose Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat,
particularly remembering the fierce competition involved, the crowds
that gathered just to watch, and watching the local expert take on a
long line of challengers all on one quarter.
The vast majority of other respondents picked from a gigantic array of favorites, which included such classics as Joust and Defender along with more modern games like Dance Dance Revolution and Time Crisis. Sit back and enjoy the nostalgia.
My first favorite would have to be Defender
- partly for the amazing sound it made when you started each level, but
also because it was so responsive and so addictive. And because of
smart bombs. My only other real contender is Gauntlet, because
of many hours as a university student playing it outside the student
bar - my first experience of multi-player gaming and probably one of
the best, with NO LAG to worry about!
a big fan of the classics and own a couple of machines myself.
Favorites include some of the classic ones with very clean gameplay
mechanics (Marble Madness, Asteroids, Super Sprint, Mario Bros.) and some of those with great co-op or combative multi-player modes (Joust, Gauntlet, Warlords, and of course Space Duel which had both types of play). I love the aesthetics of some of the color Vector games, in particular Major Havoc. Of them all, I think that Centipede and its sequel Millipede
deserve extra credit for being, in my opinion, the best balanced games
ever made. Required play for any aspiring game designer! Every element
in the game has both good and bad elements to it such that play becomes
an exercise of "all things in moderation". Simply a brilliant game.
-Kim Pallister, Microsoft Corp
Bust-A-Move (aka Puzzle Bobble)
is, hands down, my favorite arcade game of all time. Bub and Bob are
cute. The music is great: it's light-hearted and it's easy to listen to
it for long periods of time. The sound effects are also very good. The
graphics are very appealing. It's challenging without being
frustrating. It's a great game to play either single-player, against
the computer, or against friends.
-Cari Begle, Stardock
Games I grew up with and make your heart skip a beat when you see them. Going through my local arcade: Donkey Kong/Donkey Kong Jr., Pac-Man, Galaxian, Galaga, Juno First, Bombjack, Defender, Scramble, Ladybug…
All these games have one thing in common: They're easy to pick up and
play. No manuals, a zillion buttons or death-moves. Just drop in your
quarter and go. Ever wondered why you never felt BAD when you stuck in
a quarter and you died within minutes (seconds?) All of these games
have what today's games lack: gameplay. It's something that draws you
in and wants you to do better!
Gyruss - I really like how they took the tried and true formula of successful shooters like Space Invaders and Galaga
and improved on it with innovative circular movement, great action,
great music, good “story”, and a trek through the solar system enough
to give you a reason to put your next coin.
-Maher Mamhikoff, Clever Entertainment
Joust. I loved the flapping mechanism.
-Jeff Johannigman, Fusion Learning Systems
I was a D&D player at the time and it was the first time that I got
to experience playing in a dungeon with three pals in a videogame. I
sometimes still wake up in the middle of the night in a sweat with the
words "Wizard needs food, badly..." ringing in my ears.
-Alex Amancio, Ubisoft Montreal
by Atari is the reason I am in this industry. Period. Others that
swallowed immense amounts of this young boy's pocket money, while
fuelling his dreams would be: the immaculate Shinobi, Super Hang On, Wonderboy in Monsterland, Bubble Bobble (Taito had some awesome arcade platformers!), Nintendo's Punch Out and the ridiculously hard Ghost 'n Goblins. Oh, the memories.
-Marque Pierre Sondergaard, Powerhouse
Dungeons and Dragons 2: Shadow over Mystara
- There's no credible competition for best side scrolling fighting
game. Highlights include: leveling up your choice of 6 characters
(fighter, dwarf, cleric, elf, mage, thief) - each with a unique
playstyle, swapping equipment and weapons, multiple weapon types (one
handed swords, two handed swords, dual swords, maces, wands), all your
favorite D&D monsters, incredible spell effects, best boss dragon
ever, multiple pathways, traps, secret doors . . . what's not to love?
-Chris Proctor, SSG
blew me away when I first saw it. I had been experimenting with
wireframe 3D graphics as a student at the University of Illinois and
when I saw the smooth, solid-filled 3D, I went crazy. Frankly, I don't
even remember the gameplay... I just remember the fluid 3D control and
being in awe of a game that could produce a 3D environment like that.
-Matthew Harmon, eV Interactive
One arcade game that I still regard as a small milestone in video game development is Strider.
It has tight controls and a very dynamic move-set that provides a fast
and furious ninja-slicing acrobatic experience. The artwork is very
impressive for the time; boasting large character sprites, multi-screen
size bosses, and rich detailed backgrounds. The melodies are very
distinct, coupled with meaty "arcade" sound effects. Two key moments
that sticks with me are the giant multi-screen robot gorilla boss
(Mecha Pon), sweet action, and the segmented Urobolus boss that is made
up from an assembly of Russian Ministers. Truly inspired! I love it so
much I bought a stand up Strider arcade machine for my home.
-Jools Watsham, KingsIsle Entertainment, Inc.
Afterburner, for its fighter jet theme and addictive intense action gameplay.
-Peter MacMurchy, Side Effects Software
My top 3 games were Afterburner, Outrun, and Hang On,
specifically the version that had the full cabinet experience. You
couldn't get the same immersion on a home console with these three
games. I've actually fallen off Hang On once because I tried to
lean farther than the machine would allow. You really felt like you
were in the game because your entire body was part of the experience.
-Carlo Delallana, Ubisoft
Gotta be Dance Dance Revolution - I didn't play it much, but I love to watch players that step on it like crazy on the hardest level. Amazingly entertaining!
-Tuang Dheandhanoo, Giant Mantis Interactive
For me, ExciteBike
epitomized everything that arcade games had to offer: A simple and easy
to learn control set, a memorable character on an impossible mission,
and enough depth to gobble up a simply obscene amount of quarters. Plus
it had those awesome sound effects!
-Coray Seifert, Large Animal Games
Galaga and Donkey Kong
- both because their formulae are simplistic, yet have withstood the
test of time. These two games are also some of the first games I recall
playing as a child; I deem them largely responsible to planting the
gaming passion seed. There aren't many games today (if any at all) that
can appeal to younger children with such simple game mechanics and
- I can remember playing this game for hours as a kid. The arcade was
near a Carl's Jr., and I used pick up a bag o' fries and head over to
the arcade until my mom would come and make me go home.
- a brillant car racing game to go head-to-head against your friends. I
really loved the fast-paced action combined with the skill in mastering
the corners. I can still visualize which gear I should be in for each
part of the track.
I remember Donkey Kong
being the first true arcade game that I ever saw. I couldn't have been
barely more than 3 or 4 at the time, and was just happy putting in a
quarter given to me by my grandfather and watching the big ape throw
barrels at the hapless Mario. Later, when I got older and wiser, I
still fondly remember that game, and have the NES version just in case
I feel the need to get nostalgic again. My other favorite arcade games
were the Konami series of beat 'em up games based off licensed
characters. These included Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, TMNT 2: Turtles in Time, The Simpsons, and The X-Men. Along these lines, I also got a big kick out of Sunset Riders and the little known, but immensely fun Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa. Similar to Sunset Riders,
but with a large collection of interesting bosses, large attention to
level design and artistry, and a great fun factor. (It was always
amusing for your character to turn into a steak after losing a life)
-Stephen Broida, Rochester Institute of Technology
My favorite is still Space Wars. However I still have very fond memories of Gauntlet, and I own Battlezone. Battlezone,
I feel, was on the forefront of first person shooter. The first
first-person view ever done in vector graphics really put people in the
-Kent Simon, Novalogic
It had unique gameplay, a great soundtrack, an incredibly intuitive UI,
and some pretty impressive graphics and physics for its time. I'm
always amazed there were never a steady stream of imitators...
-Ian Schreiber, Cyberlore Studios, Inc.
Frenzy - a little bit cooler than Berserk,
and captured that "one man against the whole world" vibe. Always tense,
but with a steady, deliberate pace. When I used to play Frenzy
in the arcade as a 10-year-old, I didn't realize it would essentially
foretell my life as a game programmer. Enemies on all sides... merciful
death always a minute away... nothing to rely on but your own skill and
wits. Nods should also go to Gauntlet, Asteroids, Millipede, Street Fighter 2, Tron, and Donkey Kong.
-Vince Dickinson, EA-Tiburon
I was a kid, I think I loved all arcade games equally... it didn't
matter, as long as you got three lives for your quarter. But there are
a few that still draw me in to this day, for which I genuflect at the
altar of MAME.
1) Galaga: Easily one of the most
ubiquitous stand-up units ever; you still see Galaga machines in bars,
airports, and the arcades that still remain, and for good reason. Its
superficial formula was a little riff on Galaxian, but the
element of risk in going for the double-ship (and the bonanza of points
made possible in its bonus rounds) got you hooked but good. I still
play Galaga whenever I have the chance, and I'm pretty sure I'm but one of a slew of responders who put this game at the top.
2) Time Pilot:
Who didn't love spraying a stream of bullets around the screen at
enemies from different epochs? The play was very finely tuned, movement
and both the player's vessel and the enemies was smooth and fluid, and
going after the parachutists and squad formations gave the player
interesting ways to choose priorities. The idiosyncracies of each time
period meant that the game never got too repetitive, and the Time Pilot theme music was very catchy. Its sequel-in-name-only, Time Pilot '84, was also a worthy game, one that I feel has been overlooked.
3) 1943: I love shooters like this. 1942
was fun, but this game perfected the action in almost every way. The
power-ups, which had to be chosen very carefully, gave you serious
destructive power; wiping out waves and waves of enemies was pure
delight, and finding the hidden bonuses in the game for points or the
laser power-up made every play special. The boss battles in the form of
battleships, carriers, and giant aeroplanes were outstanding; with so
much happening on the screen at once, playing 1943 was a hypnotic frenzy.
-Edward Swan, ITA, Inc.
- the game that sets the model for learning curves. When you first
play, it you think the starting levels are impossible, but as you
master it the controls - which at first seem confusing – it's like a
part of you. There is no way you could start on a later level and pick
it up. Watching a good Defender player is entertainment. Soon
10K becomes a recurring bonus. There are lots of tricks to master, like
collecting falling men to keep them safe and patrolling the last man to
-Simon Rockman, Motorola
(Williams): This game includes a unique game play mechanism that you
don't even see in today's games. For the setting and theme, it works
perfectly and the collisions and playfield react as expected. With the
subtle changes in playfield, it also has deep stratagies. This is a
play mechanic that once again needs exploring in current console games
due to its unique and intuitive nature.
Other favorite games from the era with an emphasis on solid game play: Assault (Atari/Namco), Gravitar (Atari), Tempest (Atari), Sinistar (Williams), Rampart (Atari).
-Jeff Peters, GearWorks Games
I started arcade gaming back when it started to die off, so my two picks are Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 2 the arcade game and both Jurassic Park games. TMNT2
was a blast, mostly because I was able to angrily yell at my younger
brother to quit messing up and help me win. I'd almost always play the
whole way through every time. But then when it came out on the NES my
arcade days were mostly over. Fast forward a few years later, and I'm
at a Chuck E. Cheese and I see a game based on Jurassic Park. I
couldn't get this experience at home, no matter what, because I didn't
have a giant TV or seats that moved along with the action. Blasting all
those dinosaurs in the frantic action and fighting a T-Rex was insanely
fun. Then later came the sequel to the game which took everything from
the original and blasted it into hyper mode. I have probably literally
spent hundreds of dollars in those two arcade machines.
Zaxxon: One of the great early 3D shooters of the 1980s. I invested many hours and quarters in that game. Bionic Commando: Simply because you can't jump.
-Patrick Lister, Infinity Ward
didn't get in to arcade games until way after I'd begun playing on home
machines, so my favorite arcade title is relatively modern. The owners
of my local Megabowl must have made a killing from the coins my friend
and I stuck into the Virtua Cop machine. I think it was so
popular with me because back then, arcade machines still had a lot to
offer that home-machines couldn't possibly compete with, in this case
it was the traditional arcade high score table, the enormous screen,
the two guns, the smooth graphics and the sheer joy of showing off to
anyone watching. I realize there was a Sega Saturn conversion sometime
later but I certainly couldn't afford the game and two guns. Saying
that, at the arcade I probably paid for the game several times over.
The Time Crisis
series, the 2nd title in particular. The simple addition of a foot
pedal to dodge onscreen hazards increased the game's immersive quality
exponentially, challenged the player to keep up, and provided the
necessary innovation to keep the light-gun genre relevant. Sadly, few
arcade shooters caught on to that spirit of keeping things fresh - with
the exception of Police 911, which stepped interactivity up a notch with a dive-inducing motion sensor attached in the player's pistol.
-Ben Serviss, Creo Ludus Entertainment
I was always a fan of the Time Crisis
series of arcade games. It encapsulated everything a great arcade game
should have: a familiar premise, good replay value, a unique interface,
and great pickup-and-playability. The use of a pedal to duck your
character around a corner was a cool addition to the standard formula
and the gun recoil helped with immersion. Together, it was an addictive
action fix. Another one of my favorites is the Soul Edge/Calibur
series. I never played these much, but watching my fighting game loving
friends become totally overwhelmed by the balance and skill in a
weapons fighter was astounding. It changed 3D fighting as we know it.
My favorite of all time has to be Gunbuster
from Taito. There was a point where I had gotten so good, I would play
for three hours straight without putting in another quarter if there
was a line of people behind me waiting to play. If there weren't many
players, I'd lose on purpose so people wouldn't leave because it was
only fun playing against other people. I believe Gunbuster was
a revolutionary First-Person Shooter game. There was a joystick where
you could move forward/backward/strafe, and a gun where you moved the
aiming reticule and turned. There was the primary machine gun fire and
a secondary special fire (Mines, Laser, Spark, and Fire) which had
different recharge rates and speed of movement. There was also an
invincibility shield on every map which lasts 15 seconds at the 45
second mark always at the same location, but it was never a good idea
to camp and wait for it. Plus, there were walls and glasses that you
could shoot out, and columns to use to dodge in and out of. Gunbuster
was before its time. If an upgraded version was out today, many FPS
enthusiasts would flock to it and tournaments would be held. At least,
that's what I wish would happen.
-Ebon Kim, Volt
Tempest, because the concept is so simple and yet gameplay is so fast and challenging. Discs of Tron, as the first film/game crossover that made sense to me. The vector graphics Star Wars, because the controls were great and shooting down TIE Fighters is always fun.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
- arcades, to me, were all about multiplayer mayhem, and this one
delivered. Up to 4 players at a time, tons of enemies based on the # of
players, fantastic graphics... it was co-op fun at its absolute best.