Gadgets

30 Vintage Arcade Games That Still Kick Major Ass

Ah yes, old school arcade games. Classic.

They were great fun but, like women, they were expensive great fun. All those quarters dropped in bars, bowling alleys, and arcades – it was a real relief when home consoles came out. Well, until console prices hit the $600 mark. Now a pocketful of shrapnel sunk into that old Donkey Kong machine at the launderette seems a more reasonable entertainment budget.

If you’ve got a computer and MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator),  you won’t even have to part with your hard-earned coinage, though only a few arcade games are freely available to the public. On the other hand, unlicensed games are a dubious prospect and sites which provide them, like EmuParadise, tread murky waters rife with circling lawyers.

Whatever way you go, get out there, find some of your old favorites, and read on as we cook up some classic arcade games and mainline the pure nostalgia:

spaceinvaders

Space Invaders

An O.G. title from the golden age of arcade games – if not the nugget that started the rush. Of 1978 extraction, this game’s graphics and sound may have lost their luster but its gaming value still shines through. You take control of a mobile laser cannon, Earth’s last hope against the invading alien hordes, and blast those freaky bug-eyed monsters out the sky.

This game was so damn stupid-popular it caused a shortage of 100-yen coins in Japan when it came out. The makers, Taito, have made a cool $500 mil off it since then. Seeing as it’s pretty much the most well-known electronic game ever, the developers certainly hit on a winning formula: making people compete against each other to rack up imaginary points that disappear when the plug gets pulled.

The owner of the system then empties the cache and walks away with all the real points. Sound familiar? Personal indeed, all thanks to the influence of Space Invaders on the mind of a generation!

donkeykong

Donkey Kong

Hell yes, Donkey Kong! This is the game that made an obscure Japanese company called Nintendo a household name (and a fortune in the process) and…it was the genesis of Mario! Imaginatively named “Jumpman” back then (a name chosen for its similarity to Walkman and Pac-Man), Mario leapt across girders and climbed ladders, all the while dodging barrels hurled by Donkey Kong, to rescue his girlfriend. It’s a simple enough idea…

But the game pulled off a series of firsts. For starters, it was the first game to tell its story through cut-scenes. Think about that next time you’re sitting through your Final Fantasy soap operas. Secondly, the game accomplished some truly impressive mistaken translation – see, it was meant to be called Monkey Kong but someone on the other end of a phone got a bit muddled.

Ironically, the gaffe probably saved Nintendo from the lawsuit Universal Studios, makers of King Kong, eventually brought against them. Anyway, it’s still a fun and funny game – and one of the most addictive originals.

pacman

Pac-Man

Speaking of original addictive games…

Otherwise known as Pakkuman in, yes, Japan, this game was so massive it really should be MR. Pac-Man to you. Or Pakkuman-san! Apparently Pac-Man is the most recognized video game character in America, with 94% of consumers familiar with him. Presumably the other 6% know who Picasso was.

Pac-Man is pretty much the 80’s compressed into one single voracious blob. As Pakkuman ate his way through a surreal maze of floating fruit and dots, he exemplified Gordon Gekko’s motto, “Greed is Good!”

And indeed it is, which is probably why Pac-Man is pursued by envious Communists ghosts: Blinky, Pinky, Inky and Clyde. You can tell Clyde was the one who got teased in school. Anyway, no one ever got to find out who really won the Cold War, because Pac-Man crashes at level 256.

outrun

Outrun

Outrun was created by Sega – now there’s a company. Before Sonic the Hedgehog, they had a huge hit with this car game. And it was a good car game, with good graphics and cool music…well, for the time, naturally. Remember, this was 1986, when graphics were cutting edge if they had more than 16 colors and music was, well, Flock of Seagulls.

The best thing about this game was the cabinet, though. For your two or three quarters, you got a steering wheel, brake and gas pedals, and two gears – “Hi” and “Lo.” All this in a bright, cheery plastic box that swayed about when you sat in it. It proved very popular, so the Japanese auto industry has been following the same design ever since.

doubledragon

Double Dragon

This game was badass. Bad. Ass. It starts out with a thug punching a woman in the guts, then slinging her over his shoulder and carrying her off. Very caveman. Or 1940’s. Turns out that the woman was your virtual girlfriend, Marian, so now it’s time to open up a whole oil-drum of whoop-ass. You can bring a bro along too, and fight back to back against a horde of punks, Mr.T’s, biker-bitches and finally, Willy, a guy in golden army gear with a frickin’ machine gun.

Actually, scratch that last part. It’s not final. If you play with a bud and succeed in defeating Willy, you then have to fight each other to decide who takes Marian home. See? Badass.

The graphics were pretty cool, with neat animation and lots of detail in the backgrounds. Sound was decent as well, and the moves were cool. You could pick up baseball bats, whips and knives and really go hog-wild on the scum infesting the streets…and all of this with big, poofy 80’s hair! Ralph Macchio gave it two thumbs up. Ignore the bandannas, this game is major fun.

rtype

R-Type

R-Type was (or is, thanks to the miracle of emulation) a side-scrolling shooter. What sets it apart from all the others is graphical style and quality. Oh, and a heavy dollop of sheer class, assuming sophistication still comes in dollops.

Vaguely following the life-cycle of a sperm, your little spaceship must fight its way through a horde of other little spaceships, through long stretches of odd-looking organic tunnels, until it finally penetrates the defenses of a big, tough end-of-level thing.

Besides the cool enemies and scenery, which look like something H.R. Giger would design if he forgot his meds, what made the game was the great power-up system. Weapon upgrades, of which there were three types, came in the form of a detachable pod which could be affixed to the front or back of your ship, or let loose to wreak havoc on its own. This pod also blocked enemy fire – of which there was plenty. It was a highly innovative system.

bubblebobble

Bubble Bobble

Another home run for Taito, Bubble Bobble is a cute little game about blowing bubbles. See, in this charming platform game, two little dragons called Bub and Bob use their bubble-blowing abilities to travel through the “Cave of Monsters” and rescue their girlfriends. Seeing as there are like 100 levels to fight through, those girlfriends must be pretty good at blowing bubbles themselves. Benefits.

So, bubbles not only trap enemies but can be used to kill them if they burst on dragony horns or spikes with the enemy inside. Bubbles can also be bounced on and… Well that’s it, basically. Bubble Bobble’s virtues lay in its simplicity, novelty and fun two-player mode. Oh, and it’s its catchy music – seriously, the tunes will haunt you for life. Go get some Bubble Bobble, people!

golden-axe

Golden Axe

Golden friggin’ Axe! Sounding like a cheap-ass deodorant for sweaty children, Golden Axe is anything but crap – it’s great! Seriously, if you want to get laid, forget the bug-spray – just tell the ladies you finished Golden Axe with one quarter. Instant attraction. Hell, you can even get them excited over your support for Feminism by mentioning you finished it with the Amazon, rather than the Dwarf Patriarch-Rapist or the Muscleman Phallic-Oppressor.

See, Golden Axe was a fantasy fighting game. What made it extremely awesome were the characters, not only the previously mentioned heroes but the enemies and beasts, too. You fought skeletons, knights, fat hammer-wielding Marios, and could ride fireball or flame-equipped dragons and…and chickenfeet!

Between levels there was a cheesy story about riding on eagle’s backs to defeat the evil in a village built on the back of a giant turtle and so on and so forth. Golden Axe features sweet weapon-fighting moves, plus it’s one of the few games that simulates the experience of hitting hobbits and taking their magic and beef so, you know, that’s cool. This game rocks, and you must play it.

busterbros

Pang aka Buster Bros.

In this cheerful game, you and a friend play international balloon busters, who travel the world busting giant bouncing balloons. Seriously. This is what happens when Japanese boys don’t get breast-fed enough. Anyway, the bros use harpoons, guns, and razor-wired grappling hooks to destroy the bubbles which are, somehow, menacing the world. Hey, it’s a surreal job but someone’s gotta do it.

Bottom line is Pang’s a cool game, with crisp graphics, bouncy tunes, and very, very addictive gameplay. If you’ve ever wanted to go ballistic on balloons without ruining some poor kid’s birthday party, here’s your chance.

contra

Contra

Contra’s probably the best known run and gun game, and for good reason. That reason being: it kicks ass! Another two-player title, the aim in this hybrid platform-shooter is to kill everything. Life should be so simple, huh?

The interesting thing about Contra is that every second level it switches from side-scrolling shooter to into-the-screen shooter. These levels happen within military bases, while the side-on levels are usually set in jungles, forests and so on. This mixing-up adds the spice of variety to an already tasty game.

Contra’s gameplay is famously challenging. With tons of bullets and enemies on-screen at a time, it takes either quick reactions or deep pockets to stay in the game. The bosses are legendary too, many of them full-screen monstrosities which need to be taken apart piece-by-piece. Last but not least, the hero characters are muscular and wear bandanas, so they’re kind of like Rambo. This crucial detail elevates the game to the status of absolute classic.

alteredbeast

Altered Beast

“Rise from your grave!” This was the crackly-voiced command of Zeus to a pair of dead Centurions who, suitably arisen, are then sent off to rescue Zeus’ daughter, Athena, without so much as a cup of coffee. And if you’re wondering “what the Hell do Greek gods have to do with Roman soldiers,” rest assured that it evidently didn’t trouble the minds at Sega.

In Altered Beast, you and a friend control the aforementioned Centurions. The title comes in when you succeed in punching or kicking to death three white, wolfish “bonus dispensers.” These bonuses transform the characters into various beasts: dragons, werewolves, werebears (or is it bearwolves?) and so on.

Shape-shifting grants you special powers very helpful in smacking the armies of evil enemies to death. The chunky, colorful graphics and crackly digitized voices in this side-scrolling fighting game made it pretty rad back in the day, and it’s still good, cheesy fun today.

karnov

Karnov

The stocky, fire-breathing Karnov character was based on medieval folklore; the tale of Karnov the Firespitter. Good ol’ Karnov would drive the gypsy menace from Scottish lands, by breathing flame all over their wagons and eating their babies. It’s unknown whether Karnov would also throw Jews down wells, but hey, at least you wouldn’t have to put up with gypsy curses.

This game was huge in Bulgaria in the 80’s, and not just because it was one of the few decadent Western amusements permitted. Jinborov Karnovski was depicted in the game as a Russian circus performer (the red pants give it away) so this probably explains his popularity in the Soviet bloc nations. Presumably Mario was too capitalist, what with his incessant coin-collecting, though it’s also possible Mario’s moustache was taken as a direct challenge to the memory of Stalin. Ah, but in Karnov, Eastern Europe finally found a real working class hero!

Anyway, the game is a side-scroller, interesting for its collectable power-ups and bizarre enemies. Skeletons riding ostriches? Giant, hopping fish? Djinn torsos floating in flames? Sweet. Karnov was one whacked-out game.

1943

1943 – The Battle of Midway

This vertically-scrolling shoot-‘em-up struck that perfect yet elusive balance between enjoyment and difficulty. One or two players control P-38 Lightning World War II attack planes tasked with destroying the entire Japanese air force and surface fleet. No word on how the plot went down in Japan, but it seems Capcom went to lengths to make an Imperial defeat as challenging as possible: there are 16 really tough bosses in this game!

An unusual feature of this game was that a credit didn’t buy you the standard three lives. Instead it bought you one life and an energy bar. This bar went down slightly when you took fire or used your super-weapons, and went down drastically if you crashed into an enemy plane. This was an ever present danger, as enemy fighters would swarm like flies as you struggled to take out ships and bombers.

To even the odds somewhat, your plane could acquire power-ups, deploy area-of-effect super-weapons, and perform loops-de-loops to avoid enemy fire. You’ll still need great reflexes and a bit of knowledge of enemy attack patterns to finish this game with any jingle left in your trousers.

digdug

Dig Dug

In this old chestnut you play Dig Dug, who could only be one thing with a name like that – a miner! Dig Dug’s goal is to clear each underground level of monsters. To achieve this, he can either undermine rocks to send them plummeting down onto the monster’s heads or…he can get out his extra-length hose, stick it into them and pump them full of air. Over-inflate the baddies sufficiently and they pop, in a shower of gristle and goo thankfully beyond the machine’s capacity to portray graphically.

Similar to Pac-Man, Dig Dug can only pop and squish so many blobby red Pookas and fiery green Fygars before reaching a kill-screen, again at level 256. While developers could get away with that sort of rudeness back in the 80’s, we’d hate to see them try it today. Some Red-Bull-fuelled whiz-kid would make it all the way to level X, then drag them into court for breach of contract.

sfii

Street Fighter 2

Widely regarded as the king of all fighting games, Street Fighter 2 led to something of a revolution in fighting games. This game offered players a choice of eight distinctive characters. In later versions this number increased to 12 with the addition of formerly unplayable boss characters. The game featured six buttons, representing soft, medium and hard punches and kicks, and each character had at least three special moves.

Street Fighter 2 has won three Guinness World Records, one for “First Fighting Game to Use Combos”, another for “Most Cloned Fighting Game”, and, the most impressive of all, “Biggest-Selling Coin-Operated Fighting Game.” That’s right, Street Fighter 2 is officially the most successful fighting video game ever! It was so damned popular it spawned a cartoon series, a million “remixes” and copycat titles, and even a dreadful Van Damme movie. Still, it’s such a good game that we’re even willing to forgive it that last part.

rygar

Rygar

Rygar was quite a hit for Japanese manufacturer Tecmo when they brought it out in ’86. The game had funky music and detailed, colorful graphics. The story had something in common with Altered Beast, in that it revolved around another player character of confused Greco-Roman origin – the so-called Legendary Warrior. What made the game interesting was your weapon, basically a spiked mace on a chain, which you could throw at enemies or swing in a complete circle. You could also stun foes by jumping on their heads. Bonuses improved your fighting abilities, gave you more time, or awarded you points.

The gameplay was fairly simplistic really: make your way across the 26 or so levels, dispatching hordes of foes and taking care not to fall into any lava. To boil that down to its essence: go right and fight. At the end of every level, you’d pick up and rotate a couple of braziers, and pose beneath a statue while your performance was tallied. The game was most notable for its emphasis on endurance, and it took a great deal of bloody-minded concentration to make it through to the end. That may not be what everyone wants in a game but, you know, Rygar built character!

tekken3

Tekken 3

Namco’s Tekken series ranks way up there with its Soul Calibur/Edge series for fighting games. But whereas the Soul series is about weapon-fighting, Tekken is all about unarmed combat. Arguably, no game does it better. Tekken 3 marked for many the tipping-point at which 3D fighting games finally eclipsed 2D fighters, like Streetfighter 2, in terms of graphics and gameplay.

Visually, Tekken 3 was awesome, with complex, detailed characters and a great camera system that always displayed the action to best advantage. As for the gameplay, Tekken 3 didn’t have any of the ludicrous, over-the-top moves so common of the 2D games: no fireballs and no explosions. Instead, it felt more like a simulation of a diversely-mixed martial arts competition. Punches, kicks, grapples and blocks all looked and played out in a fluid, intuitive way which made for some extremely intense head-to-head matches.

The characters were great too, with most traditional fighting styles, from wrestling to kung-fu to karate, well-represented in a large selection of about 15 well-realized characters. Some characters, like the assassin Nina, had such appeal they even went on to be featured in spin-off series. Covering all the angles as only a polished 3D fighter can, Tekken went on to become a highly-acclaimed classic. According to Game Rankings, it’s rated tenth-highest of all games, ever.

opwolf

Operation Wolf

Op Wolf was a single-player, first-person shooting game. The arcade cabinet featured an Uzi submachine gun, which shook satisfyingly with force-feedback when fired. You played a commando dispatched to some tropical hellhole to rescue the hostages held by a military regime – so basically it’s Rambo 2, though with an even higher body-count.

The screen scrolls to reveal tons of enemy soldiers, jeeps, helicopters, tanks and boats – all of which must be destroyed before they fill your damage bar. Incoming rockets, grenades, and knives can be deflected with well-aimed shots, while extra ammo, health, and grenades can be collected by shooting them. Strangely, shooting chickens and pigs will often net you these powerups. About the only thing in this game you mustn’t shoot are the hostages.

The game offers six long stages, which need to be completed in a specific order for the easiest path through the game. The tough, visceral military action of this title made it extremely popular in arcades, so much so that it was converted to about every console and computer around at the time. Some were better than others, but none matched the arcade with its cool gun controller.

cabal

Cabal

Cabal was basically Operation Wolf from the third-person perspective. You (and a possible second player) controlled a soldier who took on a static screen full of enemy troops, vehicles and aircraft. You started with a basic submachine gun, which could be upgraded to a better weapon, and you could also hurl collectable grenades at the enemy.

As you could see and control your player(s), it was possible to dodge or roll away from enemy fire, which made it a lot more “fair” than Op Wolf… Until you go to the hardcore end of level bosses, at any rate.

A cool feature of this game was its destructible terrain. Buildings and structures could be damaged and eventually destroyed with sustained fire or grenade hits, leaving your opponents without any cover. In a feature possibly inspired by Space Invaders, players could themselves take cover behind rocks and sandbags, though these would eventually be destroyed by enemy fire.

The fact that you could only perform one major function at a time – either move your player, or aim and fire your weapon – made it a more complex shooting game than most, forcing you to either hold the button in to keep killing or release it to dodge enemy bullets. This, plus the unique “3D” perspective worked very well in creating an exciting and novel shooter.

ridgeracer

Ridge Racer

This game took arcade racers to a new level. In ’93, Namco brought a level of realism to racing games which hadn’t been seen before. This was not only due to the more complex physics modeled in the steering and collision of cars, but also due to the very detailed 3D graphics.

These graphics did a great job of conveying speed, and drawing the player into the gaming world. And what a world – the cars are lightning fast, touchy, and highly prone to drifting. It takes a lot of concentration and skill just to avoid spinning out!

Players could choose to race against computer opponents or conduct a time trial across several selectable tracks. Taking a nod from Outrun, the music could also be chosen, as could the transmission style. Gameplay is short and intense, with each track lasting only about four minutes – though if checkpoints are reached the time will elapse earlier.

There were even “Full Scale” versions of the game, in which players sat in a Mazda Miata MX-5 converted to an arcade machine and controlled the game with the car’s original gear lever, pedals and ignition switch. Nice.

metalslug

Metal Slug series

Metal Slug: Super Vehicle-001 was something of a throwback when it was released in ’96: it was a straightforward, two-player run and gun game, with absolutely no 3D pretensions. Of course, it wouldn’t be on this list if it didn’t have a few aces up its sleeve.

The first of these were the absolutely brilliant graphics: Metal Slug featured an ultra-detailed cartoon style, making it somewhat like an interactive Asterix comic. Of course, the game isn’t set in ancient Gaul but across a vast series of modern locations, mostly battlefields. Players control soldiers assigned the standard, world-saving mission.

The action is fast, furious and often hilarious: hundreds of neat graphical touches and humorous animations abound. Collecting too many food items turns players into slow-moving chubbies, curses transform them into bandage-wrapped mummies and so on. Enemies are often found reading newspapers, playing Gameboys, or arguing until interrupted by the player.

Even the vehicles the player can periodically enter are delightfully animated. Though it’s a fun shooting game in its own right, half the fun of Metal Slug is in the graphics.

mk

Mortal Kombat series

The last of the big three fighting games, Mortal Kombat is the also the most controversial (or, as the game would have it, kontroversial). Though not of the 3D school, Mortal Kombat was graphically unique for its use of digitized actors. This gave the game a substantially different look to other 2D fighters, which relied heavily on cartoonish animation. The extra level of realism also made the violence a lot more objectionable to fussy busybodies and do-gooders everywhere, who worked themselves into towering fits of self-righteous indignation over all the blood and gore.

And oh, that blood and gore! It was truly splendid, with gushing sprays of blood from every uppercut and weapons landed, to say nothing of the infamous “Fatalities.” These moves were performed as the coup de grace to every match, and the correct input sequence would result in decapitation, immolation, and heart surgery of the crudest kind.

The action was fast and sharp, with very responsive controls. The characters all had the same basic moves and abilities, differing only in the three or four special moves and Fatalities they could perform. With no combos on offer, this meant the gameplay wasn’t quite as deep as other titles but hell, all the parental horror and outrage made up for that and more! Basically, Mortal Kombat was the “Satanic” heavy metal of arcade games!

houseofdead

House of the Dead

More gore! House of the Dead was a light gun horror game for up to two players. The game is rail-shooter, with the players controlling a couple of secret agents sent to foil the plans of sinister mastermind Dr. Curien. Before destroying him, you’ll have to traverse several 3D environments stuffed full of his horrible experiments: zombies and gargoyles are only the beginning. One thing that must be said is that the game had a high shock-factor. Nasties would leap out of nowhere to swipe or hack at the screen, and this was enough to put girls and small children off the game entirely.

The light guns were well-designed in this game, allowing for accurate shooting even using rapid-fire. They had to be “reloaded” after every six shots by firing off-screen however, and this made timing important. The graphics were good and suitably scary, and the boss battles were pretty epic. The game was very popular, spawning three sequels and many conversions to home systems…again though, it a lot better with the light gun.

galspanic

Gal’s Panic series

This puzzle game had an interesting twist to it: naked women. You control a little block thingy and your objective is to “color in” the screen-space…with naked women. You do this by tracing lines inward around the screen, and completed lines are filled with color. Venturing into the blank space is a risky proposition however, as enemies lurk there and collision with them will subtract one of your lives.

While the puzzle element is amusing and fairly addictive, if a little hard to convey in words, what made the game so exciting to youngsters was something they didn’t normally see much of…naked women obviously. After three successful rounds, they’d lose their clothing. The goal became less about high scores than prospect of revealing the young ladies.

Not that they were hardcore, in-your-face, graphic revelations or anything. More like softcore hentai pics with a bit of nipple and thatch (nipple and thatch – would have been a better name for the game, really). Not that exciting? Well remember – this game came out in the days before internet. Pervy filth was a lot harder to find, so Gal’s Panic was a viable alternative to spying on your sister’s friends through the bathroom keyhole.

elevatoraction

Elevator Action

This fun little classic from the arcade golden age had you “assisting” a plucky little spy in his mission to steal secrets from a series of large buildings. Chased by agents, you had to duck in and out of doorways to avoid their fire and, here’s where the title comes in, ride an increasingly complex system of elevators down to the ground floor.

It was a game that did a lot with the limited digital resources of the early 80’s. Considering the simplicity of the graphics and game mechanics, it delivered a surprisingly tense, claustrophobic experience. Working down through the level as you searched every door frantically for the secret documents, all the while avoiding or shooting agents, made for quick moves, strategy, and excitement. You could even occasionally squash them under elevators, which was hilarious. Point is, it all worked astonishingly well in gameplay terms. When you completed a stage, your spy would hop into his red sports car and zoom away, which was a neat touch that left you smiling.

gyruss

Gyruss

A clever twist on the Space Invaders theme, Gyruss saw your ship travelling in a circle around the screen, firing inwards towards the ranks of aliens. This system, similar to Tempest, is one of the few early attempts at 3D presentation. Looping around the screen avoiding dive-bombing (or just plain bombing) enemies made for a pleasurable gaming experience.

The game’s sound also deserves a mention, as it was one of the first arcade machines to utilize stereo speakers. It played a cheesy rendition of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, adding a rather surreal, cerebral element to the proceedings. Still, as this was about the only way kids would listen to classical music, it probably resulted in a lot of change going into the coin slots.

baddudes

Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja

This Data East classic was one of the more popular side-scrolling beat-em-up’s, with a plot so amazingly 80’s it deserves to be recounted verbatim: “President Ronnie has been kidnapped by the ninjas. Are you a bad enough dude to rescue Ronnie?” So that’s it basically, you and an optional buddy have to go around being dudes bad enough to save the President by kicking ninja ass.

The Dudes start off with punches and kicks, and can pick up weapons like sais and nunchucks as they go. They can also charge up power-punches which are released with a thunderous digitized shout-crackle – always good for disturbing passersby. It was all fairly standard gameplay, made awesome by a) having the baby-eating, gypsy-caravan-burning Karnov as an end-of-level boss and b) the way the Dudes would proclaim “I’m bad!” every time you finished a level.

ghostsngoblins

Ghosts and Goblins

No list of classic arcade games would be complete without a mention of Ghosts and Goblins, at once one of the best and most frustrating of arcade games. You control a knight, imaginatively named Arthur, who has to rescue his sweetheart from a demon. As you might expect from a descent into Hell, this is no walk in the park. There are tons of aggressive monsters, deadly pitfalls, and a time limit (plus all sorts of other unfairness) to contend with.

On the plus side, you do get to wear a suit of armor which protects you, but after that goes you’re down to running around in your undercrackers. This platformer game borrowed from many titles that came before it, but it also passed on a lot to games which came after. Try playing Castlevania without noticing how the selectable are all ripped off straight from GnG, for instance. All in all, it’s a tough but very engaging game with that magic addictive element which leaves you wanting “just one more go.”

frogger

Frogger

Frogger is absolutely unforgettable. Simple and addictive. Your aim is to guide a little frog across a busy street, then across a river and back to his home. Or pad… Ahem. The interesting part is that all this mind-blowing action occurs on a single screen – though that may be less a design decision than the fact that arcade game graphics circa 1981 were basically back-lit, stained-glass “stages,” with the moving bits drawn very quickly by gnomes with magic markers.

In the first bit, you have to dodge the frog past cars and trucks. Once you get to the median, you can move about to find the best spot to jump onto the logs and turtles that float down the river. Getting hit by a car will, reasonably enough, kill the frog, but then so will falling into water. Anyway, simple as it is, it’s a friendly little game that was wildly popular that deserves recognition. Admit it – you played it and liked it.

moonpatrol

Moon Patrol

Our final blast from the past, Moon Patrol, is all about being a moon-policeman, having to patrol about in a moon buggy to catch moon criminals. It was notable for being the first game to introduce parallax-scrolling, which means the background and foreground scroll at a different speed. This is clever because it creates the illusion of depth. Which is a good thing, because there wasn’t much depth to bouncing over rocks and pits with your buggy, occasionally shooting at tanks or flying saucers.

Of course, as anyone who’s sat through several hours of dialogue in the last Metal Gear or Final Fantasy game, depth in games in over-rated. Gives us honest, simple jump and shoot action like you get in Moon Patrol, and we’re stoked.

Leave a Comment

  1. ElMazinger says:

    OK while most people keep complaining because their favorite games were not included in this list, I gotta ask: Does anyone remember a very old arcade game where you controlled a hot air ballown while trying to save a girl from what seemed to be pirates or cannibals?
    I remember it only required a joystick and no buttons where needed. You'd fly from world to world evading birds and cannon balls while trying to land on a pirate's ship to rescue the girl. I remember I used to love this game because I had broken my arm and it was the only game that only required one hand to controll it.
    Does anybody know the name of it?

    How about a very old wrestling game where one of the caracters was named "coco savage"?

    Now those are classics.

    • Joel says:

      hey did you ever found out what the name of that balloon arcade game was? I'm trying to remember that one too

  2. Mark says:

    OMG, i got goosebumps when i saw the street fighter, bubble bobble, pac-man and tekken cabinets. those were really the only ones i used to pump cash into on a nightly basis. very nice post and kudos for the pictures!

  3. Chris says:

    What no Galaga??

    What about Defender, Missile Command, Kung Fu Master, Gunsmoke, Bomb Jack, Crystal Castles, Time Pilot, Xevious

  4. ThatWasKlassic says:

    Good list. Some goofy pictures, though. i like the ones lifted from Lyons' Arcade…lol. And that home cabinet of Bubble Bobble looks like azz.

  5. ben stiller says:

    GALAGA???

  6. Fat says:

    Simpsons 4 player Arcarde was one of my all time faves, so ahead of it's time. 😛

    And i wouldn't call Tekken 3 'vintage'.

    Also, wasn't there a 'Gauntlet' arcade?

  7. aldo says:

    Anyone remember The Life Cycle. You sat on a bicycle lke device with a large screen in front of you and you tried to navigate through various courses capturing various items for points while peddaling your helicopter driven bicycle along. I can't find any info on these things at all.

  8. Did you know, that n amateur baseball, both wooden and metal alloy bats are generally permitted. Recently there have been increasing numbers of “wooden bat leagues” and the trend back to wood seems to be accelerating due to safety concerns regarding the speed of a batted ball hit directly toward the pitcher’s head.

  9. Cool list. Believe it or not, my favorite is Golden Axe

  10. Gamerooms says:

    Thats what I am talking about classic games! Baby they are the best oh my I just got the chills looking at the double dragon II whoa what a classic. I love double dragon so many great memories.

  11. Dessie Flum says:

    Sorry, I hate to ask but do you have any advice for spam? My site is getting hammered with spam and I am not quite sure how to stop it!

  12. Alton Winger says:

    Go Saints! Become a fan of facebook page here: Colts Will Lose Super Bowl 2010!

  13. gman says:

    Very nostalgic seeing these old classics, especially Moonpatrol. Remember how the buggy goes red after the first level. Disappointing not to see Galaga here.

  14. MRB says:

    Can anyone remember the name of an 80's arcade video game where a big alien head comes on at the beginning and taunts you, then you play the game, then the Alien comes back on at the end and tells you what kind of opponent you were? He would say things like "you were a an easy opponent" in a snooty voice, or if you were really good, he's say "you were a worhty opponent".

    I can't remember what it was called and it's driving me crazy.

    Anyone?

  15. Marcus says:

    Anyone remember a car racing game where the cars were tiny black and white images that hurtled round a basic track with minimal graphics (you looked down on the whole track as if from a bird's eye view), and some tracks had small islands / bollards to avoid…. ? Ring any bells?

  16. RacerX says:

    Yes. It was called "Sprint". And then "Sprint 2". It had oil slicks on the tracks as well…

  17. Jakob says:

    Does anyone remember the shooter game, much like 1942, just on ground, with motorbikes with sidewagons, w/guns) ??

  18. ketia says:

    hi i am looking for the title a shoot'em up game that you travel in time at the beginning of the game you start around the 1940's and the last stage is around 2024 i played it it around 1985 thanks

  19. erika says:

    Anyone remember a table game (with a joy stick) where you cut out pieces and you have to hurry before somebody hit you, you are safe when you touch the sides. I'm trying to remember the name, I forgot it. Any suggestions even if it's not the right game, would be appreciated!!

  20. Nicole says:

    I have a 1982 TRON arcade game in great condition…email if interested
    njjs3@yahoo.com

  21. allen says:

    Does anyone remember a late 80's arcade game where you had to clear the screen by shooting matching creatures and if you shot two different creature they would exchange halves of their bodies and become mutated. I also remember there were eggs with feet running around that you also had to shoot.

  22. jason says:

    There was a table top race car game built for four players, where you could continue upgrading your car, and adding extras to it. It came out about the time of shinobi, and dragons lair, also gauntlet. Anyone remember it? it was awesome, we would dump $20 into it in 30 minutes.

  23. Thiago says:

    Excelent article!.

  24. jason tyrrell says:

    trying to rememberthe name of a plane arcade game u used to shoot the tops of tanks and boats also u used to have to shoot down large planes to complete missions its not 1942 as ive found that already any ideas?

  25. Gav says:

    There was a game where you are a school kid in a classroom and can kick your classmates out of your seats. If the teacher spots you he can throw his teeth at you. Anyone remember that game … and it's name, please?

  26. George Lewis says:

    Anyone remember a an old arcade car game, where there was a racing car moving throu a maze like screen. It had to eat or seach for some yellow flags, you could get a read flag that gave you fuel.

    This car was chased by other bad racing cars (I think they were red), you could distract these bad cards by letting out some white smoke.
    Additionally you had to be careful of rocks along the way.

    On some stages of the game the red cars didn't move, you just had to be carefull of the rocks.

    The stages were different color as the game

  27. Jim says:

    No one can ever tell me the name of this video game, if you can thank you so much.
    My vision and description might be off, but I hope I jog someone's memory.

    It was probably 1985-1989 Game had # balloons or hot-air balloons with a blue sky background. I believe you had to jump and catch these balloons, I played it for hours then the pizza placed closed down I just can't remember the name.

    All I see is me on this ledge trying to dive for these balloons. Below I see a city (small) just can't remember more.

    email me at paulh1313@hotmail.com