With a new year having come upon us, it means it is time to look back at some games that are enjoying an anniversary in 2015. For the same thing we did last year, click here. Use the tabs below to browse the titles, where I am just looking to highlight games that people likely know about as opposed to the most obscure stuff.
Waaaay Back in 1975:
I haven’t included the 70s in other anniversary retrospectives since selection was pretty light and while ’75 didn’t have tons of games, it did have quite a few that were trying to be different, thus laying the groundwork for other video games that people would soon enjoy.
Anti-Aircraft II (Atari) – Shoot down the enemy aircraft, pretty straightforward.
Bullet Mark (Sega) – Huge cabinet setup that used some nice looking gun props. It was a pretty simple target shooting game at its heart.
Crash N’ Score (Atari) – A Demolition Derby style game where you are supposed to run into the numbered flags. With Sega releasing Showdown this month, it seems we have come full circle on this type of game.
Gun Fight (Midway) – This head-to-head Western shoot-out game featured a very important technological leap under the hood – it was the first arcade game to use a CPU.
Indy 800 (Atari) – 2 and 4 player games were nice but nothing is quite like an 8 player arcade experience. Combine that with everybody’s favorite arcade genre the racer and you have a winner.
Maneater (Project Support Engineering) & Shark JAWS (Atari) – Thanks to movies like JAWS, we got video games like Maneater & Shark JAWS. Both games were simple “avoid being eaten by the shark” type games made to capitalize on the hype of the movie. Atari did that moreso, given that the game was not licensed but they got away with it at the time; Maneater just has a really cool looking cabinet but very odd joysticks.
Ski (Allied Leisure Technologies) – Despite the super generic name, this was notable for being the first video arcade game to attempt to do a simulation of skiing using the swivel foot controller.
Steeplechase (Atari) – Multiplayer was the hot idea of the day once again where this 1-6 player game was concerned. I came across a working one once, I wish I could have bought it. The only control was a large colored button for each player, which you used to jump the scrolling gates. First player to reach the right side of the screen was the winner.
For 1985 and 1995, scroll back up and click on the tabs!
Remember back in 1985, when pastel colors were cool…
Depending upon who you ask, or which narrative you decide to follow, 1985 was the year the industry “came back” from the crash it experienced starting in 1983. That is more true for the home console side of things, not so much for the arcade industry as 1984 had many releases which were popular. Karate games like Karate Champ and Kung Fu Master went a long way towards getting people into the arcade, among other great titles. No matter what your opinion about the crash, 1985 marked the time when Japanese development houses like Sega, Konami, Capcom and Nintendo would take a greater lead in developments then they had before, raising their profile among gamers worldwide.
While not a full list of ’85 releases (that would reach almost 200 games), here are some of the highlights that came along 30 years ago. A few of which were mentioned by AH readers on our social media channels:
Choplifter (Sega) – Suggested by reader Steffen. Choplifter was a very popular home computer game, showing up on pretty much everything with a 6502 processor and then some (I personally own carts of it on the Atari 800 and 7800). Much like Pitfall II, Sega licensed it and showed off what the arcade could do – cramming more enemies, colors, animations and completely new levels into the game making it unique from what home players were familiar with.
Commando (Capcom) – It’s kind of like Taito’s Frontline but with better graphics.
Gauntlet (Atari Games) – Take out an army of creatures level by level with some friends. Easy enough, right?
Ghosts ‘n Goblins (Capcom) – Known mostly for the tough-as-nails approach to the difficulty and a guest appearance by Satan.
Gradius/Nemesis (Konami) – scrolling shooters were not new in 1985 but it was titles like Gradius which established ideas that would be emulated by other titles in the genre. Gradius also spawned various sequels and even parody games.
Gun Smoke (Capcom) – The 80s were more about sci-fi than Westerns, which had enjoyed huge popularity on TV and movies in decades prior but that didn’t stop Capcom from creating this game, which shares some traits with Commando.
Hang On (Sega) – Racing games were not new to the industry by 1985 but the idea of centering the play around motorbike racing was fresh to most people, since most other games focused on Formula 1. (Sega did create a motorbike game in 1976 called Fonz which would lay the groundwork for games like Hang-On). One version of Hang-On featured the innovation of a full motorbike controller, which is now standard for games of this nature.
Indiana Jones And The Temple of Doom (Atari Games) – Based upon the movie of the same name, the game offers sound advice while you are whipping your way around some caverns – “Stay away from instant death!”
Mat Mania (Technos/Taito) – All the fun wrestling offers, minus the monologues and debates over whether this one is real or not.
Peter Pack Rat (Atari) – “Mascots” are a dime a dozen, which means not all are well-remembered, such as Atari’s Peter Pack Rat.
Pitfall II – The Lost Caverns (Sega) – People know the Pitfall series primarily from its appearances on the Atari 2600 home console but the games went to other home platforms. Pitfall II is a very impressive game for the 2600 but when it made the jump to the arcade it became very different, blending elements from the first two games while adding some touches of its own. It also uses an odd oversized joystick.
Ring King (Data East) – Punch-Out wasn’t the only way you could pull off a boxing game as Ring King showed.
Road Runner (Atari) – This game is based upon the famous WB cartoon characters and it was stuck in “development hell” for a time, initially using a laserdisc system before scrapping that and going with the ROM version.
Rush ‘N Attack (Konami) – Also known as Green Beret, this side scrolling game should have won an award of some kind for the flyer here below. 80s Cheese Activate!
Sarge (Midway) – There aren’t a lot of Midway games on the list from this year – Midway was still making games but they weren’t grabbing as much attention as in previous years. One exception was Sarge, a single screen tank game.
Space Harriers (Sega) – Among responses of what were people’s favorites from 1985, this one came up the most. The surrealistic art direction and concept for a shooting game combined with catchy tunes and the motion version of the cabinet was proof that arcades still had what it took to provide top tier entertainment.
Spelunker (Irem) – Released on a variety of home platforms, this cave exploration platformer still enjoys popularity in Japan
Super Mario Bros. (Nintendo) – Among the many game releases this year, none would have the name recognition that this one achieved. While it was found in many homes thanks to being a pack-in title with the NES home console, the game landed in arcades as a part of Nintendo’s PlayChoice cabinets. Those cabinets helped promote NES releases in arcades while the Nintendo Vs. cabinets provided slightly modified versions of NES games to enjoy.
The Legend of Kage (Taito) – As mentioned, 1984 was a time when karate games were popular and that set the stage for the next big craze that would take place over the next few years, ninjas. Taito was ahead of the curve on that with The Legend of Kage, where you play as a bonafide ninja on a quest to rescue the Princess Kiri.
Yie Ar Kung Fu (Konami) – Did I mention the popularity of martial arts in video games already? If not, then our last example from 1985 will re-enforce that point once again, in this title which was one of many games to lay the foundation for even more popular titles like Street Fighter II.
Scroll back up to the top and use the tabs to browse games from either 1975 or 1995!
That was like, you know, 20 years ago…
1995 was a time when 3D was really starting to gain steam so you can expect to find a blend of 2D & 3D games on the roster. Light-gun games were not new but they gained a new level of prominence this year with some of the releases and fighters continued to enjoy support.
Alpine Racer (Namco) – 20 years after the no-name company of Allied came up with Ski, Namco gave us Alpine Racer, replete with a swivel foot controller and 3D graphics. 2014 saw a return to the series with Super Alpine Racer.
Area 51 (Atari Games) – This game became a standard fixture in American arcades and ripe for conversions to other pistol-style light gun games later on. They later released another digitized graphics light-gun game called Maximum Force and with that you also could find Area 51/Maximum Force Duo cabinets on location in the late 90s.
Crypt Killer (Konami)- Continuing with the focus that light-gun games would receive this year was Konami’s 3D horror title, Crypt Killer. It would also provide 3 player support along with that mixture of low rez 2D and 3D graphics.
Cyber Troopers: Virtual On (Sega) – this game demonstrated the benefits of 3D graphics, networking and mech gaming in an arcade environment. This is the US flyer which is some nice 90s cheese for us to enjoy.
Dangerous Curves (Taito) – While not a huge success, what made this game notable was the attempt to blend two different vehicle types into one game, with one side of the cabinet featuring a typical sit-down driver controller and the other side used a swivel motorbike controller.
DonPachi (Atlus/Cave) – If you’ve anyone talk about Cave’s STG games then most likely you have heard about the DonPachi series, which started with this release in 1995. It’s kind of a more intense Raiden with pink bullets.
Double Dragon NeoGeo (Technos) – I remember buying Double Dragon V for my Atari Jaguar and being extremely disappointed that it was a very poor wannabe of Street Fighter II as opposed to the beat ’em up I knew of (DDV also was released on the SNES and Genesis and was in the running to out-suck Rise of the Robots). Instead of the crap that it was, they should have done this version instead, which re-interpreted the lousy 1994 movie using the power of the Super High Tech NeoGeoMVS.
Jackie Chan In Fists of Fire (Kaneko) – Speaking of disappointments, Jackie Chan’s attempt to be a Mortal Kombat game likewise caused fits of nausea and migraines 20 years ago.
Manx TT (Sega) – All the thrills of racing a superbike on the Isle of Man without the G-forces or the road rash. Every big arcade I came across in the late 90s had one of these twin units.
Marvel Super Heroes (Capcom) – Using a franchise with recognizable characters doesn’t automatically equal a sure-fire hit, so Capcom made sure to pull out the stops with fast play, excellent animation, power gems, combos and more.
Mega Man: The Power Battle (Capcom) – Mega Man appeared in his own arcade titles a few times, including this outing where the focus was entirely on boss battles as opposed to the platforming portions the series was also known for. Also known as Rockman The Power Battle in certain regions.
Mortal Kombat 3 / Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (Midway) – Building upon the wild success of their Mortal Kombat series, Midway gave players a 3rd installment of the game in 1995, with the ‘Ultimate’ upgrade coming along later in the year. Some of the changes made to the first build caused some uproar with fans at the time, so Ultimate addressed those. When I hear people asking for an MK game at my arcade, they usually ask for UMK3.
Sega Rally Championship (Sega) – the mileage Sega got out of Daytona USA the year prior was significant, so they applied a similar formula to rally car racing. The result won over a lot of fans; when we had a “hands-on” article about Sega Rally 3 several years ago it remains to this day, our most viewed story ever.
Space Invaders ’95 (Taito) – Taito tried several times to recreate the success that Space Invaders gave them in the 70s; this version attempted to go the cute route which ultimately didn’t reproduce that success either. I do wonder if Taito has plans to give the SI franchise another go in arcades as we approach the 40th anniversary of the game (they did do Return of the Invaders in ’85 and in 2003 there was a special multi-SI cabinet released which included some cool variations)
Street Fighter Alpha (Capcom) – For a time it felt like Street Fighter would never move past the ‘II’ but in 1995, that happened with Street Fighter – The Movie and Street Fighter Alpha. We’ll forget about The Movie and focus on Alpha instead. The extremely detailed flyer here certainly helped promote the differences! /sarc
Strikers 1945 (Psikyo) – Fly through this alternate history of post-World War II, with 194X-style play, several aircraft to choose from and excellent graphics to accompany the flight. This game spawned several sequels.
Tekken 2 (Namco) – Sequel to Namco’s popular 3D fighting game, with new characters, backgrounds and a time release feature that was designed to keep “interest in the game for months”.
Time Crisis (Namco) – Foot pedals and light-gun games had worked together before(see Space Gun) but the way it was used in Time Crisis as a part of the duck and cover mechanic was unique. While this was a single player game, it set the stage for both sequels and spin-offs, including Time Crisis 5 which is coming to arcades later this year.
Virtua Cop 2 (Sega) – The EVL Crime Empire couldn’t rest and now with the graphics running at 60FPS this time, it was easier than ever to clean up the streets of Virtua City.
Virtua Fighter 2 (Sega) – For the 2nd installment of Virtua Fighter, the expected improvement in graphics, new characters and more moves were all included with the package. Here’s a comparison of the Arcade version (Model 2 as labeled) and the Sega Saturn version:
WWF WrestleMania (Midway) – Given the announcement of WrestleMania Pinball by Stern, it is worth mentioning this effort by Midway in ’95 which employed the use of digitized graphics; this was developed by the same team that created NBA Jam.
Zombie Raid (American Sammy) – For our last game of the article, a game that didn’t feature the best graphics or most original idea but it does server as an example of the love for the light-gun game that was in full force this year.
Thanks for reading and if you find one of these games at a local arcade, give them a spin!