Today, gamers have nearly limitless options at their disposal, and thousands of companies are striving to create new titles that will break the barriers and take players to a whole other level. With high interactivity, hyper-realistic graphics, flawless gameplay, mobile integration, customization options, and massive multiplayer features, it seems that there’s nothing you can’t do in today’s games.
However, millions of nostalgic fans and old-timers claim that the newest games simply can’t hold a candle to the classic vintage arcade games. With the emergence of the 80s inspired TV shows like ‘Stranger Things’ and movies such as ‘Pixels,’ vintage games seem to be making a huge comeback!
Legendary Retro Games
With glitchy 8-bit graphics, adorable characters, legendary plots, and epic music, arcade games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Galaga stood the test of time. These arcade games have proved that they will be remembered and played forever! If you’re a fan of arcade games, you’re in for a treat today as our article will delve into the golden age of arcade video games!
1980s Arcade History: The Golden Era
It’s been nearly half a century since the first gaming console — the Magnavox Odyssey — was released in 1972. With sales estimated around 300,000, the simple game was all the rage back in the 1970s. Less than ten years later, the release of Space Invaders in 1978 by Tomohiro Nishikado and Asteroids in 1979 by Atari pushed the boundaries of what was possible in the developing world of early video games. And, the video game industry experienced an enormous financial boom. Gone were the days of rusty pinball machines and 80s arcade games were the ultimate form of entertainment!
Most claim that the golden age began with the release of the previously mentioned titles. Namely, at the end of the 1970s, memorable games such as Centipede or Defender entered the mainstream and were constantly featured in movies, cartoons, songs, and similar media. A prime example is the movie TRON from 1982.
What we define today as the golden era actually began in this precise moment when arcade games became a part of popular culture. When you think about it, it marked a colossal shift in cultures all over the world, and entire generations were defined by the golden era of arcade games. What’s more, new video arcades were developed and were visited by millions of children, teens, and adults all over the world.
Golden Age Arcade Games List and Timeline
So what are some of the most iconic arcade video games? This quick 70s and 80s arcade games list will show you the most important titles, including their year of release and game developer company.
1970s Arcade Games
- Magnavox Odyssey by Magnavox, 1971
- Pong by Atari, 1972
- Space Race by Atari, 1973
- Gun Fight by Tomohiro Nishikado/Taito//Midway MFG, 1975
- Moto-Cross by Sega, 1976
- Space Wars by Cinematronics, 1977
- Space Invaders by Tomohiro Nishikado/Taito, 1978
- Galaxian released by Namco in 1979
1980s Arcade Games
- Pac-Man by Namco in 1980
- Defender by William Electronics, 1980
- Bosconian by Namco, 1981
- Donkey Kong by Nintendo, 1981
- Scramble by Konami, 1981
- Frogger by Konami, 1981
- Pole Position by Namco, 1981
- Star Wars by Atari, 1983
- Gauntlet by Atari, 1985
- Vs. Super Mario Bros by Nintendo, 1985
- Bubble Bobble by Taito, 1986
- Double Dragon by Technōs Japan, 1987
- Tetris (Arcade Version) by Atari, 1988
Video Arcade Boom
The golden age falls roughly between 1978 and 1986.
It was this period that led to the huge popularity of games, high levels of innovation, and large profits. During the golden age, video arcades became widespread across Europe, Asia, and the USA.
Massive Sales Figures: Arcade Games in Funeral Homes?!
After Space Invaders, arcade games were a common sight in diners, gas stations, supermarkets, restaurants, and other businesses. In fact, they were so popular that the
best 80s arcade games like Pac-Man were even found in funeral homes!
In 1981, North American arcade game sales increased to an incredible $900 million. In 1982, the costs of some arcade game machines were a whopping $3,000 (roughly $8,000 today). In the same year, arcade machine sales exceeded 500,000 units. Additionally, the US recorded over 24,000 arcades and 400,000 arcade locations with over 1.5 million active machines in total.
The Best Arcade Games
We have already mentioned some unforgettable 80s arcade games like Donkey Kong, Space Invaders, and Pac-Man. For the most part, the games appeared incredibly simple with a basic, yet cheery color palette and only a single screen. In order to beat them, the trick was to memorize the pattern since the programming was quite simple. However, that was not an easy task! That’s why they were so highly addictive and infinitely entertaining!
What’s more, there were many themes and categories like racing, space, cowboys, dancing, fighting, shooting games, etc., and a lot of games even had multiplayer capabilities.
While there was a whole slew of awesome arcade games during the golden era, some titles have stood out over others and have achieved legendary status. Their cultural impact, popularity, and sales were higher than even some of the most popular games today. It’s important to note though, that even if the popularity of arcade games faded in the late 1980s, some of the best games were made at the end of the golden age. Even though microcomputers, home video game consoles, and platform game genres took over, arcade classics like Street Fighter II were released way later in the 1990s.
Some of the best games that you will almost always see in top lists are:
- Street Fighter II
- Dragon’s Lair
- Dance Dance Revolution
- Double Dragon
- Smash TV
- Ms Pac-Man
- Space Invaders
- Mortal Kombat II
Can You Play Arcade Games Online?
If the retail prices were thousands of dollars, how much do you think a vintage arcade machine would cost today?
Well, due to the fact that so many were released, the most common games are actually around $1,000 to $5,000 and upwards. If you’re not a serious collector, that’s a lot of money.
But, if you do happen to get bitten by the vintage arcade game bug, you can simply play some online recreations of classic 80s arcade games online. If you’re tired of glossy 4K games, you can quickly look up some arcade games online and play flash-based versions to transport you back to the past (or future)!
And, best of all, you can play the vintage recreations on your desktop or a mobile device for free! Additionally, you can find sites such as Internet Arcade which allow you to download the games for free and play them using emulation software. In fact, the Internet Arcade is a project by the Internet Archive, and it contains over a thousand classic arcade titles for your amusement. What’s more, the games are faithful and identical reproductions of popular 80s arcade games like Defender, Arkanoid, Duck Hunt, Contra, Mega Man, Pong, Pitfall, Donkey Kong, etc.
The golden era of Arcade Video Games was definitely a unique period! From shoot ‘em games to edgy racing games, they provided endless fun for all generations. Many of us have grown up with those games, and we still think of them as the best ever video games on the planet! If you want to wake your inner child up, simply find and play some 80s arcade games like Donkey Kong online!