The next generation of consoles aren’t too far away, but there was a time that arcade games were king. Here’s a look at the giants of yesteryear, some of which you might still be playing today.
Classic Arcade Games
Street Fighter II is amongst the most influential and best-known arcade games on the list. It was originally released in 1991, although there were multiple subsequent versions. A slew of famous characters were created, not least Ken and Ryu, or the villainous M Bison (brought to life with a brilliantly melodramatic performance by Raul Julia in the film). Even better, each character expressed their own personality through a unique set of moves and martial arts styles. Players fought against one another in martial arts duels, with the best 2 out of 3 winning. Characters can jump and crouch, with combinations offering proficient players a way to quickly pummel newcomers into submission.
Going back to 1981 we have an arcade classic responsible for the introduction of not one but two industry icons. Plus three geek points to anyone who knew it was Donkey Kong, which saw us introduced not only to the eponymous villain, but the player-character of Mario. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the mustachioed one is trying to save a damsel in distress from a brutish and over-sized ruffian. Donkey Kong was a platformer that involved a number of different stages, with jumping a critical mechanic for crossing gaps and leaping over obstacles. It also helped cement Nintendo’s position as an industry leader for decades to come.
Frogger was released way back in 1981, but the mechanics behind it are still being used in mini-games to this day. Developed by Konami and published by Sega, the game used staggeringly simple mechanics yet became a classic. All you have to do is move the famous frog from one side of the screen to the other, avoiding obstacles along the way and hopping on handy logs for a lift. But the threats and aids all move at varying speeds and the surprising challenge made it an instant hit.
Retro Themed Slot Machines
As we’re in the process of going down memory lane, those who are looking for even more nostalgia should look toward retro slot machines. Many of the top software developers understand that sometimes, things were just better ‘way back when’. Below are a few titles any gamer will appreciate that are available at the top casinos. Using the link above, players will also find bonuses to play for free or to push their bankroll further.
- Neon Staxx Slot: This is an 80’s themed slot from NetEnt that really harks back to the days of clubs with neon signs – when people wore outrageous colors and hairdos.
- Hotline Slot: Another 80’s title from NetEnt, this one is reminiscent of Miami Vice and Beverly Hills Cop with a cops and robbers narrative.
- Reel Groovy Slot: Designed by a new up and coming developer called PariPlay, this slot goes back even before the Atari was being sold. Enjoy a groovy 60’s theme full of vinyl, roller skates and lava lamps.
- Forest Gump Slot: Many of us loved the Saturday or Sunday feeling of looking around Blockbuster for a movie to rent. One favorite at the time was Forest Gump, which has been brought back to life with this awesome slot from Amaya.
- Classic Slots: If you truly want to feel like you’re back in the 80’s or 90’s, this classic slot from Blazesoft is a must-play. It’s a strong reminder of the one-armed-bandits of old with the forever trendy bars and 7’s.
More Great Games
In 1991 the Turtles were a massive hit, and so arcades saw the release of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time. This arcade game was co-operative, allowing for either pairs of players or four of them to work together. Each of the Turtles came with their own particular pros and cons, with controls being a joystick plus jump and attack buttons. The Turtles are sent back in time by Shredder, and have to fight their way through his henchmen before taking down the glorified kitchen utensil himself.
Daytona USA is a racing game that was released into arcades in 1994. Created by Sega, it saw players become stockcar drivers competing for glory against rivals (and the clock) on multiple tracks. The game was heavily influenced by NASCAR, and came equipped with multiple camera perspectives and 60 frames per second. This was perhaps the most prominent driving game in any arcade during the mid to late 90’s.
NBA Jam was a basketball arcade game that hit the world in 1993. Published and released by Midway, it was a great and accessible NBA game for everyone from hardcore basketball fans to kids who’d never even watched a game. The overblown gameplay featured improbably impressive jumps and a minimal number of fouls. And who doesn’t like hearing the commentator exclaim “Boom-shaka-laka!” after a dunk?
Although released on a plethora of platforms, Mortal Kombat II was originally a 1993 arcade game. With more of the infamous fatalities than its predecessor, MKII introduced new characters, including the villainous Shao Kahn. Players could enjoy more moves, and easier combos, than in the original game. The fights are best 2 out of 3, with a selection of 12 playable characters. The level of violence, especially with the finishing moves if you knew the ‘cheats’ and ‘tricks’, are nothing short of legendary.
The Simpsons Arcade Game was an old-fashioned beat ’em up released by Konami in 1991. Maggie’s been kidnapped and it’s up to the player (or up to four players) to rescue her. Homer, Marge, Bart, and Lisa can all be picked to fight for the youngest Simpson’s freedom across a range of areas familiar from the cartoon.
Dance Dance Revolution came to Japanese arcades in 1998, and elsewhere in the world a year later. Unlike many of the other nostalgic mentions on this list, DDR machines remain commonplace in arcades today. Unusually, the game revolves around dancing and this led to a unique means of playing it. Either solo or versus another player, the player tries to move their feet on a pad in time to the music and in accordance with on-screen instructions. While this sounds simple, it is actually a compelling challenge.
Star Wars Trilogy Arcade came out in 1998, a year after the re-release of the original trilogy and a year before The Phantom Menace came out. The arcade game was a 3D shooter, using a joystick to move the crosshair. Each of the three missions occurs within one of the original trilogy settings, flying X-Wings, battling AT-ATs, and so on. Players could also duel the masked villains Darth Vader and Boba Fett.
NFL Blitz came out as an arcade game in 1997 (later to be released on the N64) and is a throwback to a bygone, and more carefree era of both sports games and PR. With combat mechanics akin to a pro-wrestling game, it’s aged over the years but the overblown ridicule also lends it a sort of yesteryear charm. It’s not a game about realism, but spectacle and fun. And maybe we could use a bit more of that today.
Time Crisis II was the follow-up to Namco’s original lightgun game, and came out in arcades in 1997 (with a PS2 release following some years later). Not only could players gun down foes with the aforementioned lightgun, foot pedals enabled hiding for tactical reloading, so you didn’t just stand there like a bullet sponge. Lives could be lost due to damage or failing to complete a level within the time limit. Unlike the first game, Time Crisis II also allowed for co-operative multiplayer. Because nothing says friendship like uniting to make a legion of bad guys eat lead.
Playing Online, for Free
If you’ve enjoyed this list of some classic arcade machines from the 1980s and 1990s then there are options to play them today. Some are still available in ye olde arcades, and for those that aren’t you might well be able to find them online and play them for free.