Back in my day, when all phones were connected to a wall and the only way to skip commercials was record an over-the-air broadcast, then fast forward through them all, our game systems were cutting edge. New games weren’t classics yet…they were brand new and arcade ports could make or break a system, the quality of its ports being used to judge any given platform.
Those days are so far gone that they seem like ancient history, but despite technological changes & improvements, some of us out there still like to play these old consoles. I’m sure that would get me labelled as a “boomer” although who decided the arbitrary cut off date of 1980 for GenXers? That’s never made logical sense – what does make sense for defining a generation is being a kid of a previous generation(ie. boomer kids = GenX; GenX kids = Millennials, etc.), not some date that a lazy journalist or group picks out of a hat </rant off>
Anyways, after you accept the True Definition of Generational Definitions(tm), many classic game consoles still have a life, thanks to the “homebrew” game – a new game made for an old system. I like to think of the scene as being the seed that gave us indie gaming, as there were homebrews popping up in teh late 90s & early 2000s before an “indie scene” existed (as we think of it now).
Now you might be thinking “Why would anyone want to play an old system, especially when you can get a lot of the games digitally and why would anyone make new content for no longer supported consoles?” Those are fair questions – it’s certainly not for money, but more for the love of the system or perhaps programming, as John Carmack once stated:
It is a shame that homebrew development can’t be officially sanctioned and supported, because it would be a wonderful platform for a modern generation of programmers to be able to get a real feel for low level design work, to be contrasted with the high level web and application work that so many entry level people start with.
On rare occasion, homebrew content does become a breakout hit, thanks to distribution platforms like Steam and in the arcade space we’ve seen a couple of NES/Famicom homebrews make the jump to coin-op. But this post isn’t here to discuss that – it’s to highlight what arcade games have made the jump back home on old consoles this year.
Apart from my enjoyment of the classics, I find the homebrew scene to be fascinating and fun. Some systems never got a really good shake during their commercial lifetimes, so we never got to see what the platform was capable of; Sometimes, ports then were cheap quickies and not very good(see Pac-Man on the Atari 2600); Or it was believed that something wasn’t possible so it was never tried. Coders have also learned a lot of new tricks and so often it’s just to prove that something could be done. Also, with the deluge of news that hit around IAAPA, things become slow around here for a while, so this should provide some reading.
Now to be frank, I am not big on arcade ports as it’s never been easier to play the originals, be it through emulations or a classic arcade or Arcade1Up. I always try to play things on original hardware if I can but I do understand that sometimes there are rare games that are impossible to find, so that’s where I don’t mind things like Arcade Archives or the Sega releases that M2 did. My strong preference is in seeing brand new ideas landing on retro consoles and pushing their limits – but if an arcade port can do things never thought possible for a system, then I like to see that (I probably just won’t shell out cash for a physical copy). Of course, this is an arcade blog so it wouldn’t make sense for me to cover new homebrews that have nothing to do with coin-op. I’m also just covering those either released this year or where the ROM was finished in 2021 but it received a physical release in 2022.
Apologies if I missed any – let me know in the comments if so. I will group these together by platform, going alphabetically. I did try to look up homebrews for every 80s & 90s platform out there but some did not appear to have any homebrews being made for them…or nothing in the realm of an arcade port. Systems researched that aren’t mentioned below due to no arcade ports that I could find: 3DO; Apple II series; Mattel Intellivision; Magnavox Oyssey2; NEC TurboGrafx-16; Neo Geo AES; Nintendo SNES, N64, Gamecube; Vectrex; Some of these platforms also don’t have a strong homebrew scene in general (Surprisingly the SNES and N64 are two of those – it’s strongest for the NES and Game Boy).
Atari 2600 VCS
The world’s first megahit console has one of the most active homebrew scenes out there, much of it taking place on the website AtariAge. As the console came out in 1977 and was really designed to play nothing but Pong-style games (it only has 128 bytes of RAM!), it’s always been one of the most impressive platforms to see pushed beyond the limits.
Blocks [Port of the puzzle game Bejeweled] – Technically, Bejeweled isn’t an arcade game, at least at first, but if you hop into the Arcade Heroes’ Delorean Time Machine(tm), you’ll recall that Sega did release a Bejeweled arcade machine back in 2011. So in that twisted, straw-grasping sense, it counts 😛
Gorf Arcade – A company by the name of CBS Electronics did their own port of Gorf back in 1982 but of course it had to make various compromises to make it work by how they understood the hardware at the time. This port fixes those problems and greatly enhances the graphics and sound, making for an amazing port. If you have a device called the AtariVox, it will also play the voices! There was an arcade perfect Atari Jaguar port released years ago that is rather valuable today.
Qyx [Port of Taito’s Qix, 1982] – This is one of those ports that was never thought to be possible on the humble 2600, thus it never had come into being (apart from ports to more powerful platforms like the Atari 400/800)…until now.
rubyQ [Port of Gottlieb’s Q*Bert, 1982] – Yes, the Atari 2600 did receive an official port of Q*Bert via Parker Brothers back-in-the-day, but gameplay-wise it was missing some elements that the arcade had. rubyQ set about to fix this, offering a much more faithful rendition of everyone’s favorite cursing orange fuzzball. Except for using the knocker…
Stratovox – Taito made history in 1980 with this game, thanks to the use of digitized voice, but it’s still relatively obscure compared to other titles of the day. It hasn’t appeared on some of Taito’s modern retro compilations either…but now you can play a very good port of it, with voices, on the 2600.
The Atari 5200 was supposed to be the grand sequel to the Atari 2600 but instead it was a grand flop – in part due to timing but also where it lacked backwards compatibility and the analog joysticks, while innovative, were prone to failure. It was basically an Atari 400 in a new shell though, so it made conversions relatively easy (main issue in ports are the sticks, but how I understand it) Eluding those issues are the 400/800 series of computers (often called the Atari 8-bit computers), which used the 2600 joystick, had a keyboard and usually offered more RAM than the 5200 had. Most games made for those computers now are made for the Xl/XE series which either had 64KB or 128KB of RAM.
Bosconian [Just for the Atari XL/XE] – Here’s one Namco shmup that never got much love on the 80s porting circuit, apart from home computers like the IBM-PC, ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64. The Atari PCs never got it, but now there’s this, which has been a WIP over several years, with the final version only being released back on the 9th.
Break It 2022 [Port of Taito’s Arkanoid; Atari XL/XE] – Apart from the NES port, most home computers got an official port of Arkanoid, including the Atari 8-bits, but Arkanoid tends to be a fan & homebrewer favorite out there, so this one calls itself a a “loaded remake” of the game, offering new level layouts and employing some fantastic use of color.
Ice Cream Ike [Sort of a port of KLAX] – I’m almost not sure that this could be included as it seems different enough from KLAX but it’s also similar. Clever idea to do ice cream scoops instead of tiles.
Atari 7800 ProSystem
This is one console that didn’t get a super fair shake, in that it was finished in 1984 but languished until ’86 due to legal disputes, then when it finally did launch, Atari didn’t have the money to really throw at it to compete with the NES and SMS and 3rd parties generally focused on the NES. It got a lot of arcade ports during it’s lifetime though, in part because it’s GPU worked like an arcade machine at the time but also because a bunch of them were made and ready to go in 1984 (since that was the expected launch date, it being disrupted by the purchase of Atari’s home divisions by the Tramiel family). Atari was still a big arcade name too.
1942 – Capcom’s awesome vertical shmup was ported to various home computers BITD but for consoles, only the NES got one. This port for the 7800 easily outshines the NES, putting the 7800’s wider color palette and sprite capabilities to great use. Mentioning this, a few people are working on a port for the 2600, although it seems to be slow progress there.
Animal Keeper [Port of Taito’s Zoo Keeper] – As far as I know, Zoo Keeper never received a port to anything back in the 80s but as this shows, it would have been doable. Maybe it got overlooked as it was a kind of an oddball.
Galaxian – Galaxian was ported to the Atari 2600 & 5200 but the 7800 missed it, instead getting a pretty solid port of Galaga. Now that’s been rectified.
Pengo & Popeye – This dev has been working on two ports of some early 80s arcade titles, both of which I played a bit as a kid on Atari systems (Both games could be found on both the 2600 and 8-bit PC line, although I recall playing Popeye more on the 2600 than I did on my friend’s 800XL). The 7800 is a more powerful machine than the 8-bit PCs though, and as these new ports show, they get really close to the arcade originals. Looks like Pengo isn’t finished yet but Popeye is.
Space Race – Do you know what game Atari released after Pong? Most don’t, because it wasn’t very good but it was Space Race. Because it was ‘meh’ and released in 1973, it never received any kind of port but now, you can play this in B/W glory on the 7800. The same coder has also created a 7800 version of arcade PONG but hasn’t posted progress on a final build in a while.
UniWar S – This Irem game might be the most obscure game mentioned up to this point, but if you’ve never heard of it, it’s basically Galaxian but it did feature some changes to make it more than just a mod or a hack. It’s so close though that the programmer finished this first, then made his Galaxian 7800 port mentioned above.
The powerful Atari Lynx did lose the war to Nintendo’s Game Boy but thanks to all of the power under-the-hood, it’s a very versatile digital cat. That said, it doesn’t receive quite the coding attention that other Atari’s do, even though it has a variation of a 6502 processor and has some crazy good (for 1989) audio and video chips that allowed it to perform effects that some 16-bit computers couldn’t do. It even had a better color palette than the Genesis, although the Game Gear did beat it in that regard.
8-Bit Slicks [Sort of a port of Super Sprint] – It’s kind of surprising that Atari never ported their Sprint games to anything other than the 2600 (and they did so under different names). While this game isn’t technically trying to port Sprint or Super Sprint over, the gameplay is basically the same. This game has also found it’s way to the Commodore 64 although I could be wrong and the Lynx version is a port of the C64 one? Also to note that the same developer has created a Galaga/Space Invaders like game called MicroVaders, but again, it is it’s own thing and not trying to be a faithful port of anything
This was the second major contender to Atari and gave them a good run for the money, particularly causing panic at Atari HQ in regards to the development of the Atari 5200. It used a similar video chip found in the TI 99/4a and MSX. It sold 500k units in just five months but then the Crash of ’83 happened and it was discontinued by 1985. There are still some dedicated fans out there making games for the system though.
Berzerk – Berzerk is one game that despite not receiving any attention in classic compilations or a modern HD remake/reboot, it is beloved among classic gamers and has received quite a few homebrew ports (including an NES port a couple of years back). It was one title that Atari got to boast as a console exclusive in the day thanks to the license, but now CV fans can enjoy it on their platform of choice.
Do! Run Run – I’m not sure how well known the 1984 game is of Universal’s mascot character, but now there’s a port for the CV and it looks spot on gameplay wise. Out of the Mr. Do! games, Castle is my favorite…despite it being tough as nails.
Robotron 2084 – Like the Atari 5200, the controllers for the ColecoVision leave a bit to be desired but when it comes to twin stick games, they work out rather well. Thus fans of Robotron would be happy to learn that it is now available on the CV.
Commodore VIC-20 / C64 / Amiga
No, the C64 and Amiga are not in the same class of computers, but just to save space I’ll lump them together – same with the VIC-20 computer. These computers made their marks on computing and gaming history and still have robust communities finding new ways to push the limits of what was thought possible for the chipsets and there are a few arcade ports for it too. The chiptune/music scene is particularly good here too, since the sound chips that were included in these computers were quite versatile. Note that for the C64, the 64 doesn’t refer to bits (which don’t matter as much for graphics as Sega made everyone think), but that it came with 64KB of RAM, which was big at the time.
Amidar [Amiga; Port of Konami’s Amidar] – Few people seem to remember Amidar, although I only know of its existence thanks to the Atari 2600 port I played on occasion as a kid. This one looks like it’s pretty accurate to the original.
Bagman Strikes Back [C64; Sequel & tribute to Valadon’s Bagman] – The C64 was one of the handful of home computers to receive a port to the arcade original and this one is a sequel of sorts to that, although technically there was Super Bagman in 1984 (which never got ported to anything AFAIK).
Berzerk – Here’s another Berzerk port, although I believe this is the second time this one has been homebrewed for the C64.
Castle Climber & Krazy Klaimber [Ports of Nichibutsu’s Crazy Climber] – Crazy Climber didn’t get a ton of ports back in the day, just a super rare one to the 2600 and a Famicom/NES port. The concept was reused on occasion for games like Spider-man and that’s basically what’s going on here for these C64 ports, Castle Climber being the more interesting of the two, although it doesn’t feel like the knight is climbing (the gameplay could use some more polish).
Crash (VIC-20) – A straightforward port of various car racing games that popped up in the 70s as precursours to Pac-Man
Deep Scan (VIC-20) – This port of Sega’s submarine game looks pretty spot on to the original.
Devil’s Temple – Son of the Kung Fu Master [Amiga; Unofficial Sequel to Kung Fu Master] – Not technically a port, but worth noting this sequel (keep in mind, Vigilante was the “official” KFM sequel, although there was an actual KFM2 in development back-in-the-day; I wonder if anyone would be interested in resurrecting KFM2 on exA-Arcadia or not)
Duck Hunt (C64) – While many might think of Duck Hunt as being an NES original, it was released to arcades first in 1984, both as just Duck Hunt as well as Vs. Duck Hunt. This port on the C64 looks and sounds great, although warning for the loading screen here as it’s a bit of a visual seizure:
Green Beret [Amiga; Port of Konami’s Green Beret] – This one looks like it’s quite faithful to the original
Pieces II [C64; Port of Taito’s Puzznic] – Coders really like porting Taito’s arcade games, it seems. Puzznic-style games have seen ports to different computers through the years, and as you can tell from the name, this one is a sequel. The community contributed to the many puzzles you’ll find here.
POING Ultra [Port of Atari’s Pong] This isn’t the only Pong port I found that has been made for the C64 this year, but it’s certainly the most interesting. Not sure why all the Pong ports here but this one adds some great music and other elements to the gameplay which makes Pong more interesting than usual.
Scramble 500 [Port of Konami’s Scramble] – Same thing as Amidar at the top, just for the Amiga
Snake Break [Port of Atari’s Super Breakout] – Super Breakout with some enhancements, particularly music but also some gameplay changes. Atari released Super Breakout as the pack-in game for the Atari 5200 and that was a bad move…especially where it didn’t improve on the arcade release in any meaningful way.
Venture 64 [Port of Exidy’s Venture] – Venture did find its way to the Atari 2600, Intellivision and ColecoVision but nothing else at the time. That has been rectified over the years for various platforms, with the C64 being the latest to get a pretty faithful port. I wouldn’t mind the music being replaced though as Venture’s original tune wasn’t exactly pleasing to the ears.
Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) & Game Boy
It’s the Famicom if you’re talking Japan but we’ll just call it the NES, Nintendo’s first megahit console that picked up the crown that Atari left on the floor and ran with it going into the ’90s. I’ll also include the Game Boy here since there are similarities in hardware and it’s a challenge to figure out homebrews which have launched this year for Nintendo systems, since many searches end including Nintendo Switch and Nintendo online. If there is an Atari Age-like forum out there for retro Nintendo stuff, I’d love to know about it. Note that there is a very strong scene for making new games on both the NES & Game Boy, they just appear to be less inclined on arcade ports than Atari devs (possibly because the success of Atari banked so heavily on arcade ports, whereas the NES did not and/or legal reasons that sometimes kill projects). As such, there are a lot of new games that you can grab for these platforms.
Irritating Ship [NES; Partial port of Atari’s Gravitar] Gravitar is somewhat obscure due to its insane difficulty curve but this homebrew appears to remove the shooting portions and focuses entirely on the space mazes. This means that you have to hone your precise movement skills to succeed.
Minekart Madness [NES] – I’m stretching here because I can’t find anything else for the NES but it does say it was inspired by games “like Donkey Kong and Pac-Man” – although the aesthetic reminds me a little of Popeye and the obscure Bagman more than Pac-man 😛
Retroid [Sort of a port of Taito’s Arkanoid] – Just as that says, but now for your classic B/W Game Boy. This one has an LE which includes a functional cassette tape with the soundtrack
Pong Boy [A port of Atari’s Pong] – Nothing frilly here but it was the creator’s first effort; Early arcade games often make for good ways for new coders to get their feet wet.
Sega Dreamcast/Genesis/Master System
I original had these consoles separated out but as I researched, I noticed there really isn’t enough in terms of arcade ports (original content there is tons), so I’ll be lumping the mighty Sega into one. Understandably, the Genesis seems to get most of the attention but the SMS isn’t far behind and neither is the Dreamcast. All hail the Dreamcast thumbstick still being more reliable than any Nintendo-made JoyCon out there.
One important thing to note is that several arcade ports are in the works for the Genesis, but as of this writing, they have not been released/finished: Final Fight, King of Fighters ’98 (unclear if this is different from some hack that brought KOF98 to the console several years ago), two versions of Metal Slug, R-Type, SplatterHouse, Street Fighter Zero and The Simpsons.
Andro Dunos II [Dreamcast; Sequel to Visco Games’ Andro Dunos] – I think I’ve played the original once or twice but it’s not anything I remember with precision. If you’re a fan though, now you can enjoy this unofficial sequel, although you can grab it on the Switch and PS4 too
BattleZone – [Master System] Atari themselves attempted to port their legendary first-person tank game to the 5200 but otherwise you’d have to find it on the 2600 and the Lynx. Could the SMS handle it? It looks like it, although I don’t understand why they went with those colors.
Cadillacs & Dinosaurs Demake [Genesis/MD]- I would have expected the “demake” title to be used on a platform that’s significantly weaker than the Genesis but regardless, now you can enjoy Capcom’s dino-themed beat ’em up
without the Sega CD. CORRECTION: The Sega CD game was not a port of the arcade game but this homebrew is, so it marks the first time C&D really gets a Sega port. My apologies on the error. The title screen is in Portuguese but the rest of the game is in English.
Green Beret – It wasn’t just the Commodore Amiga to receive a port of Konami’s Green Beret this year.
Road Riot 4WD [Genesis/MD] – This port is just 30 years late, as Tengen had been working on bringing the wild arcade combat racing game to the Genesis but canned it during development. The prototype was discovered and released back on Jan. 1st but while unfinished, it seems to be mostly complete.
Space Invaders[Genesis/MD]- A faithful port of Taito’s megahit, with the arcade background included for good measure.
Texas Instruments 99/4a
I have a soft spot for the TI 99/4a, as it was really the first game system I had, but it was technically a computer, not a console. Still, all the games I ever played on it were on carts and with single-button joysticks…just occasionally using the keyboard. This was also the first computer to use a 16-bit CPU but it’s video processor was the same one used in the ColecoVision and the MSX.
Spac Man [Port of Pac-Man] – While it’s basically Pac-Man on the TI (something that did exist thanks to Atari back in the day), there are some changes, such as a nod to the first Legend of Zelda and the odd mechanic of firing shoes at ghosts instead of grabbing power pellets
I often see friends on the other side of the pond discussing the ZX Spectrum but I’ve never seen one here and never have tried to emulate it. I always see it with odd (sometimes charming) color limitations so if a game can be particularly colorful, it means the coder is skilled.
Dig Dug Doug [Sort of a port of Dig Dug] – Here’s another game that’s not quite a port of a classic arcade game but it is at the same time (if that makes any sense). Dig through the earth ala Dig Dug but the monsters are different and behave differently, you have to escape out of a pipe:
Donkey Kong 3 – Playing to the system’s monochromatic strengths, this recreates the Game & Watch version of Donkey Kong 3, so maybe it doesn’t count, but still kind of cool
Pac-Hic, Pac-Hic Rehab, & Ms. Nam-Pac -There sure are some Pac-related oddities out there, such as these two games, where you play as an unofficial Pac-man who gets drunk and instead of eating pellets, leaves hearts around the maze while avoiding/chasing ghosts. In rehab, it looks more strategic and puzzle like…I know I’ve seen a game like it before, I just can’t put my finger on what it was. For Ms. Pac-Man,it does seem that the ZX struggles at a smooth rendition of Ms. Pac, although perhaps it’s the best that it can do.
Tournament Arkanoid – This looks like an impressive effort for the lowly ZX to handle, pulling Arkanoid off pretty well. Nice looking title screen too.
Well, that’s all folks! What are your thoughts on homebrews? Are you like me and prefer original content for old systems or do you prefer arcade ports or do you not care about homebrews at all and find it to be a waste of time?