Hit by Nostalgia: Best Arcade Games of the 90s

Times were simpler back in the 1990s, especially for video games. No, graphics weren’t that spectacular, and no, there were no mind-blowing plots, but things were straightforward and simple. Moreover, once the arcade games appeared, everyone was extremely hyped and into it. Even thinking of how I begged my mum and dad to give me some coins just to play Mortal Combat in the local arcade with my friends makes me smile.

Most importantly, there were no videos that you couldn’t skip like nowadays. This all only added up to the experience, and most of the kids celebrated their birthdays at an arcade. If you’ve ever seen Stranger Things (and if you haven’t, why not?), then you know exactly how growing up in the ’90s looks like. Your life would revolve around arcades, and how much of your jar-savings you could spend in the course of 5 hours (8 for the wild ones among us).

So yes, the arcade games were simple, and more often than not, quite similar as well. Nevertheless, playing them was the best experience a child back then could have. Most of them came from Nintendo, Konami or Sega, and kids would often compete which game-maker had better games. Sometimes, these arcades would be based on TV shows, such as The Simpsons, and sometimes on real-life celebrities, such as Mike Tyson. Either way, here is a list of top 10 best games of the ’90s.

10. Arkanoid

Arkanoid is probably one of the most popular games of all time, and although it appeared in the ’70s, its popularity stretched to the ’90s. Playing Arkanoid is fairly simple — there is a ball, a paddle which you need to move for the ball not to fall, and space bricks. It was somewhat like Tetris, at least that’s what our parents would say. Atari created the game, and it stuck around in the industry for decades. They kept updating the game with new colors and shapes to keep the interest rising.

9. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The legendary Konami released his game back in 1989, but its popularity really skyrocketed in the ’90s. It started with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles craze, and the arcade was an immense success. You could play as one of the 4 Ninja Turtles, and your mission was to save April O’Neil and their master Splinter from Shredder. The reason why the game gained so much popularity is because it was one of the first ones to feature the multiplayer option. You and three of your friends could all join in and have the time of your childish lives.

Arcade Game TMNT

8. Time Crisis

Time Crisis was one of the most beloved arcades, especially among younger generations that grew up in the ’90s. Kids would play these at a quite young age, and it was basically the beginning of every hardcore gamer that you know today. The point was to save the president’s daughter and shoot the opposing forces. You had to act really quickly though. Otherwise, they could easily kill you. Additionally, there was a two player mode which many adored.

7. Virtua Fighter

You could play this one either in an arcade or at a home console. In the end, it didn’t really matter because you probably loved it. And admit it, you also called it “Virtual Fighter,” just like 90% of us did. But no harm in it, I’m sure that Sega was glad to hear their product was such a success in the West. Virtua Fighter emerged in 1993, and the only thing you had to do to play was hit, guard, and kick. Winning was never so easy.

6. Jurassic Park

This was when Sega really stepped their game up and decided to beat the competition to the punch. They produced the Jurassic Park arcade that you could play sitting in the so-called “Magical Bench Seat Air Drive System.” They caused quite a craze with it because no other game-maker had done such a thing. It made the overall game experience feel much more realistic, although it was based on the 16-bit graphics.

Arcade Game Jurassic Park

5. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior

If you were a big fan of arcades than you probably know that this Street Fighter sequel probably didn’t achieve the success its predecessor did. Nevertheless, it was still amazing, and it convinced Jean-Claude Van Damme to take on the leading role in the 1994 Street Fighter movie. You loved it, and you owe it to Street Fighter II the arcade.

4. WWF WrestleMania

Before there was the World Wildlife Foundation, there was the World Wrestling Federation. The WWF games were all about wrestling, insane maneuvers, and bloodshed. Just all the things a 10-year-old in the middle of the ’90s needed in their life. The characters were created after the most famous wrestlers of the time: Razor Ramon, The Undertaker, Lex Luger, etc.

3. The Simpsons

The Simpsons is a TV show that absolutely everyone knows — unless you’re living under a rock. Once they released their own game, the whole world went mad for it — and naturally, children the most. It was a game where you could play as any of the Simpsons characters in order to save Maggie. Although, there were a couple of odd things, such as Marge having bunny ears for some reason. It still didn’t take away from the whole experience, and I personally loved playing this arcade. It was very famous in America and the rest of the Western countries.

2. Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out

What’s the only thing better than Mike Tyson fighting in his own game against himself? Mike Tyson losing in his game against himself, of course. The game was such a massive success that nearly every arcade needed to have it if it wanted any customers. The controller was shaped like a glove, and quite tricky to use, now that I remember it. Either way, every ’90s gamer kid loved this game.

Arcade Game Mike Tysons Punchout

1. Mortal Kombat

And the absolute winner of this list, and of all the ’90s kids’ hearts, and the best arcade game out there, Mortal Kombat. Forget about Tekken and fighting aliens (although those games were epic as well), Mortal Kombat had it all. A vast selection of different characters, different skill combos, and insane visuals — there was nothing like Mortal Kombat. At first, you could only choose characters such as Liu Kang, Johnny Cage, Sonya Blade, Sub-Zero, and others. At one point, if you played long enough, you could even unlock Reptile — the bonus character. It was exciting achieving it, but it would kind of bring you down once you’d realize it’s just a green Sub-Zero.

All of these games were special in one way or another, and if I could, I would create a top 100 list. Maybe I will someday. Either way, the ’90s were amazing, and everyone who was born or raised during the decade can consider themselves lucky.

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