Last year I ran a little article about some major classics that were having an anniversary. 1983 was a tumultuous time in video games as the home market bubble burst and the fallout from that damaged arcades too. 1984 had some continuation of that as things recovered and contrary to some amateur “historians”, there were various important games that were released that year, which kept interest in video games alive (I’m referring to the false claim that E.T. killed the industry and Super Mario Bros. single-handedly revived gaming in 1985, at least in the United States).
So let me help you feel old by sorting out some arcade games which turn 30 and 20 years old this year. Use the tabs below to sort between the two periods; I am not sharing every game that was released during these years, trying to focus on those which are well-known/easily recognizable. I make an exception here and there, otherwise a majority of these games should be instantly recognizable to gamers who frequented an arcade in the 80s or 90s.
NOTE: This post is image heavy so depending upon your connection it may take a little time to load.
NOTE: A couple of the video links have been updated (4/12/16)
10-yard Fight – Taito
Football games from the days where a license wasn’t needed to make a game that people would pay attention to.
1942 – Capcom
It wasn’t the first scrolling shooter but this certainly influence a plethora of scrolling shooter games that would be released later in the decade.
Bomb Jack – Tehkan
No, it’s not Bomberman, it’s Bomb Jack. Grab the bombs to stop places like the pyramids from being all blown up.
Boulder Dash – Exidy
Ok so, no one thinks of arcades when they think of Boulder Dash, a game which was better known on home PC systems at the time. But Exidy’s Atari 800 based hardware called the Max-A-Flex made it easy to convert games for the platform into arcade titles so Boulder Dash made the cut. Kit games were also a big deal in ’84 since they showed an easy way to improve earnings in a cabinet that was past its prime.
Cheyenne – Exidy
With a face that perhaps only his mother could love, Buster Badshot is the object of your protection in Exidy’s Cheyenne, a game with a similar design to Exidy’s popular Crossbow but now with a Western theme.
Circus Charlie – Konami/Centuri
Taking a page from a multi-event game like Track & Field, Konami created Circus Charlie to offer something in that genre for circus events.
Cube Quest – Simutrek
Laser-disc based game that played kind of like what Nintendo’s Star Fox would years later, you guide a 3D spacecraft on a treasure hunt through a mysterious cube in space. Developed by a former Atari exec, this was the only title the company produced; probably most famous from the episode where it is played on the 80s game show Starcade.
Duck Hunt – Nintendo
Originally released in Japan in 1984, in the US the following year for the NES-powered arcade VS. hardware. Nintendo would not become known for their innovative flyers.
Hat Trick – Bally Sente
Somewhat simple 1-on-1 ice hockey game. Got some home ports but not sure if there is anything particularly groundbreaking to come from the game.
Karate Champ – Data East –
It’s easy to forget now but when this and Kung Fu Master came out in ’84, it was a big deal. Culturally you had popular movies like The Karate Kid driving interest in the genre and Karate Champ let you participate in karate virtually, which was a novel concept at the time.
Kung Fu Master – Irem/Data East –
Along the lines of Karate Champ but it was you against a miniature army instead. This also was among the first of many mid-80s games that had you fighting incredible odds to rescue the girl.
Lode Runner – Digital Controls
Like Boulder Dash, most people probably would not associate the very popular 80s computer classic Lode Runner with arcades but in 1984 the game got an arcade release. It was available on pretty much every gaming platform under the sun anyways so why not? A few variations were created in ’85 and ’86 and in 2000 Psikyo released Lode Runner: The Dig Fight to arcades.
Marble Madness – Atari Games –
Atari had plenty of troubles to sort out this year when the parent company Warner Communications sold the home division to Jack Tramiel. Many of the employees on the arcade side weren’t particularly fond of the home division but now free of that, Atari Games could focus on what they wanted to do. Unique games like Marble Madness would come along during the corporate tumult, with plenty of quirk to interest players.
Pac-Land – Namco/Midway
A weirder entry to the Pac-Man series that tried to make the game a side-scroller. I guess that’s not far off from the different 3D platformer games they’ve tried to put the character into in more recent memory.
Paperboy – Atari Games –
Having delivered papers when I was a teenager myself, its amazing how arcades can turn a mundane task into a very entertaining one.
Punch-Out – Nintendo –
It doesn’t seem like boxing is in the news often anymore, I couldn’t tell you who the world champion was without doing an internet search. But when I was a kid, everyone knew names like Mike Tyson or Evander Holyfield. I think in part kids at school knew that because those names would also show up in video games. Before they did though, it was games like Punch-Out that showed a terrific formula on how to do a boxing title. I think what made this memorable was in part the over-the-top characters you would play against.
Return Of The Jedi – Atari Games –
Not every movie game has to suck and Return of the Jedi took an approach similar to Sega’s Zaxxon but instead put you into the Millennium Falcon or on a speeder. As such this was a break from the previous Star Wars arcade game which used color vector graphics and was done in a first-person perspective. This also was the first game to use the anti-aliasing graphical technique.
Road Fighter – Konami
Konami’s foray into the driving game didn’t spawn a sequel until a few years ago.
Snake Pit – Bally Sente
Ah the days when a single popular movie could inspire game makers to create dozens of original games from it. Of course I mean Indiana Jones in this case, which is the very obvious inspiration for Snake Pit, as well as some others around the same time. Of course these days we also don’t see that effect because what is popular in cinema doesn’t innovate either, being nothing more than lazy sequels and remakes.
Space Ace – Magicom/Cinematronics
Now offering diagonal control to feel like slightly less of a memorization exercise.
Tower of Druaga – Namco
This mixed a little bit of Venture with a little bit of Pac-Man.
TX-1 – Namco/Atari
Single screen games? Lame. Triple screen monstrosities? Aw yeah. This was essentially Pole Position 3 but is not as well known now since finding one of these cabinets will be down to luck.
VS. Ice Climber – Nintendo
Never stops earning eh? Maybe a part of Nintendo’s restructuring should be to bring back the Playchoice but WiiU based (or just some other arcade focus, I bet they would handle that better than jumping into the smartphone market that “experts” are pushing them to do).
Wild Gunman – Nintendo
Also remembered for its minor role in Back To The Future Part II.
Alien Vs Predator – Capcom –
There were two AvP games released in 1994, a survival/horror FPS for the Atari Jaguar and this very different arcade game which was a beat ’em up.
BattleToads – Rare/EA
Often the focus on this game is just on the difficultly but aside from that it blended beat’em up and platformer in a way that was unusual to find in games those days.
Crusin’ USA – Nintendo/Midway
While Daytona USA usually gets the glory about how much money the game made, Crusin’ wasn’t lacking in that regard either, it’s popularity re-enforced by numerous sequels and the style of racing (branch style Point A/B/C instead of closed circuits) is still used in popular racers now such as Fast and Furious Super Cars.
Dark Stalkers: The Night Warriors – Capcom –
While one of many fighting games this did spawn some sequels over the next few years.
Daytona USA – Sega
Great game that is one of the best earning arcade games ever. That of course meant some sequels although aside from Sega Racing Classic it doesn’t appear it will be coming back anytime soon.
Desert Tank – Sega
Not just any polygons, but polyGons! This 3D tank battle simulator by Sega served as a good show-off game for their Model 2 hardware.
Elevator Action Returns – Taito
Also known as Elevator Action II, this added more elements of a platformer to the concept. It almost was like Metal Slug meets Elevator Action, although this preceded MS by a couple of years.
Gunforce 2 – Irem
Speaking of Metal Slug, it’s spiritual predecessor hit the arcades in ’94, Gunforce II. As the video above shows, the art, sound and play design were all pointing to what the game developers would create in 1996
Jurassic Park – Sega –
I’ve never come across one of these in the ‘wild’, instead I’ve seen the sequel, The Lost World, just about everywhere. This was a re-use of the Rail Chase cabinet and was a good license choice too.
Killer Instinct – Rareware/Nintendo/Midway
Killer Instinct has been in the news recently, being pretty much one of the few games to talk about for the Xbox One game console. I don’t think any single game makes any console worth $500 but that’s me. As an arcade this earned a lot of praise and also turned heads since it was supposed to offer people the first look at Nintendo’s 64-bit system that would not come out for another two years.
Point Blank – Namco
In 1994, light-gun games hadn’t become so ubiquitous in the industry making it a little easier to stand out. Shooting gallery style games don’t always get the blood running, depending upon how they were designed but Point Blank had enough variety to build some replay value.
Primal Rage – Atari Games –
Like plenty of fighting games, this is one that hasn’t aged entirely well but it did give an attempt at trying to be different in a crowded field. It also took advantage of the dinosaur fad at the time that Jurassic Park was driving, without the JP name. It spawned some various console ports and almost spawned an arcade sequel.
Puzzle Bobble – Taito –
Proof that puzzle games didn’t have to be all about blocks, they could be about cute dinosaurs and bubbles too.
Revolution X – Midway –
Now it’s up to you….TO ROCK! Or roll. Or whatever. Ok well rock is all but dead now but back when it wasn’t, bands like Aerosmith could star in a video game as a way to maybe boost sales.
Super Street Fighter II Turbo – Capcom
Sure it felt like Capcom made several hundred versions of Street Fighter II to milk it for all it was worth, but with this game it was officially up to only a half-a-dozen. As SF2 updates went however, this was quite good and cabinets still fetch a high price from what I have seen.
T-MEK – Atari Games
Take control of a “Mek” – a hovercraft tank – in an arena based battle game of intergalactic proportions. If anything could be faulted on the game was the use of scaling sprites instead of pushing the 3D envelope but at the time it still worked, making up for it with an incredible sound system.
Tekken – Namco
I am always amused by fighting game stories, which stretch for reasons as to why tournaments are happening and that they are seriously important. It’s a part of the charm to such games I suppose and arcade games have never been known for being the best storytellers. Anyways, Tekken came along in ’94 to prove that Namco had the chops to handle a 3D fighter. It was an answer to Sega’s Virtua Fighter which had been released the year previous.
The King Of Fighters ’94 – SNK
The future was also packed with annual KOF releases after 94 debuted. This series did extremely well in Latin America but never caught on huge in the States, being shunned at some major fighting competitions for many years. Aside from the 3 team play this also has become known for the huge character rosters.
The Outfoxies – Namco
I’m going to go with a video on this one instead as you don’t often hear about this arcade exclusive 2D assassin arena game. In some ways this is a predecessor to games like Nintendo’s Smash Bros.
Virtua Cop – Sega
Become a cop as you take on EVL Co. as either Rage or Smarty in Sega’s Virtua Cop. I’m not making that up, its right there in the flyer. The Virtua series of 3D games gave some good mileage to Sega
Virtua Striker – Sega
All the excitement of soccer sans the career ending injuries. The 3D looks crude now and overall doesn’t exactly age well but it was cutting edge stuff in ’94.