Arcade games are one of the healthiest and most fun forms of entertainment. The gaming landscape has evolved over the past few decades. Vintage games are increasing in popularity due to their nostalgia as well as being a great gaming experience. From the simple beginnings of Pong, to the explosion of arcades where kids could take hard earned pocket money to play Asteroids and Galaga, to the revival of old favourites on home console, arcade games have been in the public domain since the 1970s.
While any list of the best arcade games is prone to controversy, here is what we consider to be the best, from the classics to more modern creations
A vintage arcade game if ever there was one, Pinball is one of the most iconic games still going today. If you’ve been to a bowling alley, pool hall or pretty much any bar, chances are you’ve seen a pinball machine chilling in the corner.
It’s such an easy game to jump straight into and learn, with enough of a learning curve and skill element to feel like a real achievement to top the high-score table. With any game that encourages repeat playing it’s essential that the reward system is fair, and Pinball is addictive enough to keep giving you more every time you play. For lovers of pinball, a great place to play your favorite games is at the Myrtle Beach Arcades of the Pinball museum in South Carolina.
Moving from vintage to more modern, Tekken 4 was released on arcade in 2001, around six months before it’s PlayStation 2 release. It won the best fighting game of E3 2002 and gave the franchise a much-need shot of adrenaline by incorporating environmental hazards and walls on stages. Namco and the writing team also crafted one of the best stories of the Tekken series, with every character getting a completely different ending.
Fighting games still have a place on arcade platforms today, and some of the advancements made by Tekken 4 put it at the forefront of the 2D fighter, with Mortal Kombat continuously embroiled in controversy and Street Fighter past it’s prime for many come the turn of the millennium.
Another legend that lives on strong today, Pac-Man (& Ms. Pac-Man) revolutionised the gaming genre by giving players the first video game mascot. The fact that Pac-Man has been released on just about every console, from the Atari 2600 to the current-gen Xbox One and PlayStation 4, as well as iOS and Android, just shows the longevity that seems impossible for a 2D maze chase.
As far as brand awareness goes, no video game character has more than Pac-Man in North America. He’s bigger than Sonic, Link, Master Chief and Mario.
Speaking of portly plumbers…
Here we have the game that brought Mario ‘Jumpman’ Mario into the gaming public consciousness. Released one year after Pac-Man in 1981, Donkey Kong retains its place in arcades around the world next to the rest of the names on this list.
Having attempted to play it for the first time myself recently, I can confirm that much of the greatness of this game came in its difficulty. Games really did used to be about the ridiculous challenge, and Donkey Kong was no exception. Whether it was the wave after wave of enemies and barrels, or just the controls failing to register when you try and climb a ladder…