For you younger readers, arcades were everywhere back in the day. Shopping malls, bowling alleys, movie theaters, skating rinks and just some stand-alone arcades (for my fellow Iowans, remember Loco Joe’s Nickel Arcade?). You’ll see them in theaters and bowling alleys still, but by and large, arcades are now bars (which is great, go to Up Down in downtown Des Moines, one of the best bars in the city). The time of arcades en masse in America has come and gone and that’s a big bummer.
I frequented many arcades in my childhood (shocker, I know) and decided to put together the games that I either put a lot of time into, or have the fondest memories of.
Honorable Mention goes to Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. I played a good amount of SF in arcades but it just made me want to play the home version and not drain my quarters. Seeing MK in arcades was one of the first “Holy SH!*” moments for me in gaming, of which I’m sure I will get into at some point on this site.
10. Police Trainer
This was one of the games I spent the most time playing while at my local bowling alley as a child. I found this game super neat thanks to the VR presentation and the collection of fun shooting mini games.
8. Rampage: World Tour
The OTHER game that I spent the most time with in the bowling alley. As a young boy, I loved the idea of being a large monster destroying things in my way. This might be why Godzilla 2000 was a huge disappointment for me. At least this game was fun, button mashing destruction at its finest.
7. Super Off-Road
I played a lot of the NES version of this, but still really enjoyed the arcade version. While it does take a second to get used to the way you see the track in relation to how you steer the wheel, once you get the hang of it, it is a lot of fun. Worth noting, this is one of the first games to have “Microtransactions” since you could put in quarters to buy upgrades for your car.
6. Time Crisis
Seeing this probably got you to think “Awww yeah!” Two screens, six players, mindless beat-em-up and the best of its kind. Outstanding graphics, fun controls and a lot of fan service. “Welcome to DIE!”
4. WWF Wrestlefest
Yes, I am a pro wrestling fan, and in my youth I lived and breathed the stuff. While many people will think of Wrestlemania The Arcade Game when they think of WWF arcade games, Wrestlefest was the one that had my heart first. Great 16-bit style graphics, fast action and tons of personality and flavor.
3. Dance Dance Revolution
Oh man, I have so many memories of this when it came out. Also, this thing was EVERYWHERE. I remember trying to figure out dance routines and traveling to other arcades to show off these moves, I also remember getting a pretty good gash on my knee when I missed the arrow and got all of the steel edge, memories! Also it helps that the music in this game, and the series, are super catchy and will live in your brain and never move out. Go listen to “Boom Boom Dollar” and try getting it out of your head.
2. NBA Jam/NFL Blitz
Catchphrases can define a generation; “Where’s the Beef?”, “What you talkin’ bout, Willis?”, and the hugely-popular and quickly-annoying “WAZZZZZUPPPP”. My arcade life was defined by three words: “He’s on fire!”. Watching players fly through the sky and deliver dazzling dunks (alliteration, y’all) was something I couldn’t get enough of and spent a lot of quarters both in my youth and to this day.
The same could be said for NFL Blitz. This is the form of football we all secretly (or not so secretly) want to see; Long bombs, brutal hits, dancing in the end zone and after-whistle violence. I probably played these two games in arcades an equal amount of time and with all the home versions, I can always go back and relive the greatness.
Primarily Tekken 2 and 3, but I know I have played a ton of the series in arcades. Basically, if I was in an arcade, I would look for the Tekken machine, which wasn’t too hard to find usually. Being good at Tekken required fast reflexes and good handling of the combo system, two things I was never great at in my youth, but that didn’t matter to me. I still enjoyed playing it, enjoying the great graphics, fast gameplay and satisfying thuds when punches connected. Tekken was the first fighting game that I WANTED to be good at. I enjoyed playing Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat and truth be told, I like those franchises more overall, but Tekken was the franchise that made me love arcades and made me want to take being competitive at fighting games seriously.