If you’re a gamer in your 20s or 30s, or even 40s, then your love affair with games probably started somewhere in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Back then, going to an arcade was all the hype — and playing Pac Man was an all-time obsession. Many of these arcade games exist even today, in one form or another. We play them on mobile devices, and sometimes we install emulators on our computers so we can install them.
Nearly every child in the USA and Europe had to play video games. If not on an every-day basis, then at least during the weekends. During the ‘80s and ‘90s, we got some of the best arcade games ever, and they remain legendary up to this day. Additionally, many game-makers we are well familiar with even today appeared in the last century. Sega, Nintendo, and Konami release games even nowadays — although Sega did go through a bit of a rough patch.
Now, arcade games might be far from today’s superior graphics and plots, but what they lacked in this area, they made up with action and fun. Most importantly, arcade games remind us of simpler times. Of times when the world was much closer to peace, and when your only problem is breaking the piggy bank to spend several hours in the neighborhood arcade.
Without further ado, let’s count down top 12 arcade games of all time.
12. Street Fighter
Capcom released Street Fighter on the market in 1987, and it was the first competitive game to come from this brand. Both Street Fighter and Street Fighter II were an immense success, but the first one introduced us to some conventions that became standard in the gaming industry. It was also one of the first arcade games where you had to fight 1v1 against the computer. You could choose from a handful of characters and watch the hours go by. And getting a good high score was extremely difficult.
Gottlieb produced and released Q*Bert for the North American market in 1982, and it became an immediate success. Obviously, back then one couldn’t possibly produce 3D games, but Q*Bert was able to create fake 3D graphic impressions by using colors. The point of the game was to make sure Q*Bert lands on each cube to change its color. Although it might sound easy, it wasn’t — our little friend faced a lot of dangers and enemies. Many found it frustrating that Q*Bert was so difficult to play, yet they all loved it.
Defender came out all the way back in 1981, and it was released by Williams Electronics. If you compare it to today’s standards, Defender may seem hilarious, but back in the ‘80s, it was revolutionary. The graphics were extremely basic and two-dimensional, and it was a typical shooting game. Your goal was to defend a fictional planet from aliens who were trying to bomb it. The creator is Eugene Jarvis, the same person who invented the first Pinball game.
9. Mario Bros.
Explaining this one is nearly unnecessary because literally everyone is familiar with the legendary Mario Bros. When it comes to video games, all of them are amazing in their own way, but none quite like Mario. The first game was about Mario and his brother Luigi trying to save New York City from monsters coming out of the sewers. The game became so popular that Nintendo keeps making new versions even today.
8. Dig Dug
Dig Dug first appeared in Japan, in 1982. Considering the year it came out in, Dig Dug was ahead of its time. The main goal was to either inflate the opponents with air until they explode, or to make rocks fall on them. It quite resembled Bomberman, a similar game where you had to destroy enemies with bombs.
7. Ms. Pac-Man
Many sources claim that this is the most popular arcade game of all times. Released two years after the original Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man came with a new character, new maze, and new additions. Needless to say that the kids and tweens went crazy when the game was released, and it contained its popularity even throughout the ‘90s.
In case you have an irrational fear of bugs, spiders, or any insect that miraculously begins to fly as you’re screaming, you can blame the Centipede. Atari released the arcade in 1981, and it was a huge commercial success. The point was to destroy all kinds of bugs on the screen, but most importantly, the centipede that would get longer and longer.
Here’s an arcade game that was probably one of the first ones to get released. Atari came out with Asteroids in 1797, and the goal of the game was to navigate a spaceship in a field of asteroids. The player had to shoot asteroids or at least dodge them. The more the game would progress, the more the density of the asteroids would be.
Galaga was released in 1981, and it was somewhat similar to Asteroids. The difference was that the spaceship was at the bottom of the screen. And instead of being hit by asteroids, all kinds of random aliens would show up on the screen and try to collide with the spaceship. At lower levels, they would come one by one, but later on, they’d come in formation.
3. Space Invaders
Produced by Taito, they released this game in 1978. It was the first shooter arcade game to ever appear on the market. The aim was to defeat waves of aliens by shooting at them continually. Nishikado, the creator of the game, drew inspiration from famous movies, such as Star Wars and War of the Worlds.
2. Donkey Kong
Alongside Mario, Donkey Kong became one of Nintendo’s symbols and a mascot. The arcade appeared in 1981, and the player had to fight against Donkey Kong while playing Mario. Donkey Kong would throw barrels at players as they were trying to save a princess in distress. Donkey Kong is probably one of the most essential arcade characters of the Golden Era.
The honorable first place on this top list definitely goes to Pac-Man. This is one of the best arcade games of all times, and rightfully so. Pac-Man saw such an immense mainstream success that they even based movies on the character. There were even animated series with Pac-Man and Ms. Pac-Man that everybody adored. Namco released it back in 1980, and its popularity never dropped nearly 40 years later.