Each year marks some kind of anniversary, although we tend to only pay attention to those ending in a 0 or a 5. This year saw Atari celebrating 50 years, and where I got the Atari 50th Anniversary Collection for Christmas yesterday, I do have to say that it’s very much worth it (I may review it on the YT channel as it has plenty to do with arcades). For other date-based stories you might find worth a read, here’s a look at new arcade ports to old consoles; Super Mario’s Arcade Origins and History; and the Arcade Anniversaries of 2022. I’m taking it a little easier on this year’s anniversary post as these types of posts are super time consuming when you decide to cover each notable game in detail, while it doesn’t seem to garner that much reading interest to make it worth the trouble.
If you are interested in more recent arcade games, check out our Arcade Releases for 2022 page; Also note that on January 1st, I’ll be launching the 2023 releases page.
As for 2023:
- Taito will celebrate 70 years in existence. They have a special site for it and will be releasing new stuff throughout the year to celebrate. Space Invaders will certainly play a role but I imagine some other series like Darius might as well, and they have ZUNTATA to help highlight both their game and musical history. Speaking of Taito, we’ve written about some of their important anniversaries before including Space Invaders or when the company turned 60 a decade ago. What’s your favorite Taito game or series?
- 2023 marks 50 years since several companies would jump onto the video arcade hype train and begin producing content, although at first a lot of the video games were just clones of whatever Atari put out. This includes Taito with Elepong; Sega with Pong-Tron; Williams with Paddle Ball & Pro Tennis; Midway with Winner II; Allied Leisure with Paddle Battle. Atari did release Pong Doubles, the first 4-player video game in response but that would get copies too; Atari also launched the first maze & chase game in ’73 with Gotcha, which also had a color version (it being the first color video game as well). Interestingly enough, Konami just launched their own maze chasing arcade game in Japan called Chase Chase Jokers.
- It marks 40 years since the “Great Game Crash of 1983” took place(technically that started in December 1982 but it would be well into ’83 where the effects of the poor video game Christmas shopping season and other bad industry decisions from ’82 would become apparent), which changed the course of gaming history and things shifted from American-centric to Japanese-centric. It’s not as centralized now but the effects of that shaped how the industry became.
What caused the crash? The lazy and incomplete answer is E.T., the real answer is much more complex than that. 1982 was a rough year economically. During 2022, we’ve heard “worst inflation in 40 years” or breaking records set 40 years ago. That was 1982. An economy is a complicated thing since circumstances, culture and numbers have their explanations and nuances – I won’t get into all that but note that it wasn’t a great year to be expanding business and companies involved with videos games (arcade or home) were expanding like crazy. This created a very artificial bubble that was burst, in part due to bone headed decisions like paying $20 million for the E.T. license and expecting an Asteroids-type hit out of it but there was more – there was also an incredible amount of internal strife between management and workers at places like Atari, which created additional issues. The marketing dept., made up of toy people, not gamers, had immense control over development decisions. There was strife between guys who made Atari 2600 games and arcade games, as 2600 guys got $1 million bonuses for porting something like Pac-Man when arcade guys didn’t see anything like that. This is important as it caused something of an exodus in 1983 where many employees had had it; A lot of great talent had already left to make their own companies like ActiVision and Imagic.
We’ve been accustomed to having 3 game consoles, the PC and two smartphone platforms. The evolution of the tool sets to create games allows just about anyone to make something and porting a game between consoles is not something that necessarily takes years to do – game engines now will allow you to easily build across different platforms. Nothing like that existed in 1982. Back then, you had around 10 consoles and countless computers that were all incompatible with each other, but even they often worked like consoles, coming with cartridge ports. The concept of the “3rd party developer” was barely 2 years old and the hype that surrounded video games in general attracted a lot of people hoping to get rich quick. Some devs made utter trash which “poisoned the well” or rather, tarnished the idea of video games, when someone would pay $30 for a new game cart and it was absolutely terrible (this is why Nintendo came up with their “Seal of Quality,” to give an impression of real care and quality that went into games).
It was basically a gold rush in the American market and by December 1982, the gold ran out. 1983 served as the corrector for the market.
- Despite the crash, a lot of great(or interesting) games came out this year and will mark turning 40 in 2023, including: 10-Yard Fight (Irem); Congo Bongo (Sega); Crossbow (Exidy); Crystal Castles (Atari); Discs of TRON (Midway); Dragon’s Lair (Cinematronics); Elevator Action (Taito); Firepower II (Williams); Food Fight (Atari); Gyruss (Konami); Journey (Midway); Krull (Gottlieb); Major Havoc (Atari); Mappy (Namco); Mario Bros. (Nintendo); Mr. Do’s Castle (Universal); Pole Position II (Namco/Atari); Royal Flush Deluxe (Gottlieb); Spy Hunter (Midway); Star Wars (Atari); Tapper (Midway); Time Machine (Zaccaria); Track & Field (Konami); Up ‘N Down (Sega). Yes, many other fun games were released this year but these above seem to get mentioned the most, others tend to be obscure unless you’re an arcade nerd. What is your favorite game from this year?
I have to give the nod to Discs of TRON, since it was the first game that really stopped me in my tracks during my first visit to an arcade as a child, although outside of that kind of nostalgia, I enjoy Atari’ Major Havoc the most out of that group of mentioned games. The only flaw I can think of with MH is that I suck at it, and it’s so hard to find that you end up paying a fortune to get your hands on one. The game itself is flawless and it’s a real shame that it didn’t get that recognition at the time to help turn Atari’s fortunes around. Out of the bunch, I’ve probably spent the most time playing Spy Hunter (be it the meh Atari 2600 port or SH on Midway Arcade Treasures). I just love that theme track and the concept of the game. Likewise I’ve played a bit of Tapper, more so on Midway Arcade Treasures; Congo Bongo on the admirable Atari 2600 port. I have had a Crystal Castles since before opening up my arcade and it’s all right but I dunno, it’s just never been as fun to go back to as Ms. Pac-Man BUT it has one of the most incredible arcade cabinets of the 80s. I could also give a nod to Exidy’s Crossbow; Almost no one remembers Exidy these days but the type of gameplay that Crossbow introduced was able to keep Exidy afloat for the next five years. It’s also a fun and entertaining game.
Journey I only mentioned because of it’s digitized sprites tech which it introduced; Otherwise the game blows chunks.
Here’s a couple of images taken at AMOA 1983 where Atari was showing off the likes of Pole Position II and TX-1. This would be the last year where Atari would really be in their #1 dominant position within the industry; The company would be split into two and sold in June 1984 where Atari Games would take on the mantle but between the diminished resources and the damaged brand name, Atari never really would see success like they used to. Star Wars would be the last game released under the brand which would sell over 10,000 units.
- 1983 saw the debut of laserdisc technology being used in arcade games with Sega’s Astron Belt. The biggest name to come out of this tech as Dragon’s Lair but by ’84 it would already wear out its welcome. Astron Belt only beat DL to the market by a few weeks so while first, a vast majority of players would’ve experienced the tech through DL, given how widespread it became while AB was obscure. The worst variation of laserdisc games was the CED videodisc, which didn’t use a laser, but a needle. Williams would make games like NFL Football using that tech but regretted the decision quickly enough.
- Chances are many readers can’t really relate to those ancient times though, so a date a little closer – say, 1998 – will be more appealing. Here are some of the arcade games turning 25 this next year: Area 51 – Site 4 (Atari Games); Battle Tryst (Konami); Breakers Revenge (Visco); Cactus Canyon (Williams) California Speed (Atari Games); CarnEvil (Midway); Cyber Troopers Virtual On (Sega); Dance Dance Revolution (Konami); Daytona USA 2: Battle on the Edge (Sega); Dynamite Deka II (Sega); ESP Ra.De. (Atlus); Gauntlet Legends (Atari Games); L.A. Machineguns (Sega); Marvel Vs. Capcom (Capcom); Metal Slug 2 (SNK); Monster Bash (Williams); pop’n music (Konami); Raiden Fighters Jet (Seibu Kaihatsu); Radiant Silvergun (Treasure); Ray Crisis (Taito); Sega Rally 2 (Sega); Soul Calibur (Namco); Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (Sega); The House of the Dead 2 (Sega); The King of Fighters ’98 (SNK); Time Crisis II (Namco). What is your favorite game from this year?
I tend to look at more recent games with more of an Operator Eye than a Gamer one, where it becomes a little difficult to say which one is my personal best. When it works, CarnEvil raked in incredible earnings, but my cab has been dead for 5+ years now (beyond time for me to sell it off as parts). Time Crisis II on the other hand is just rock solid, as is The King of Fighters ’98, although the latter will never earn close to what any 90s light-gun game will. DDR is also a “staple” of an arcade offering; I’ve had DDR Extreme since 2015 and while it occasionally has maintenance issues it is such a consistent draw that I regret not opening with one. I remember playing Area 51 Site 4 at the arcade where I first worked and it never pulled in all that well. I think the focus on mini-games at the first and a shortened campaign made it less attractive.
As a gamer though, Gauntlet Legends is the most memorable release this year for me, followed closely by Sega’s Star Wars. I discovered the new Gauntlet on the last day of school then, where my friends and I spent most of the day at a local nickel arcade, giving most of our time & money playing it. But often I was playing with strangers – it was a lot of fun. Star Wars I would discover in ’99 and I played it during breaks while working at an FEC arcade. I got good enough at it that I was able to 1cc it and not even get hit. That was the first time I’d ever experienced having a small crowd gather around to watch me play a game, a surreal, arcade-only kind of experience. I’ve played more HOTD1 than 2, although I know 2 is a better game; I also remember playing Soul Calibur a bit and I’d say it’s one of my favorite fighters(this will get tomatoes thrown at me on a stage but Soul Calibur > Tekken for me :O).
The arcade I worked at had Daytona USA 2 but I don’t remember playing it much. I remember it looked amazing but when we got San Francisco Rush 2049, that became the only racing game I (and most other employees) would play, even though there were many other racers to enjoy (this was early 2000 as I recall; We also had California Speed). I wasn’t aware of the myths and legends that the first Daytona had at the time…just one of those things I missed out on as I didn’t have an opportunity to visit arcades often in the early 90s.
Not many will recognized Breaker’s Revenge on the list, making it likely the most obscure of the bunch, but as Street Fighter II clones come, I think it’s the best. Really good game that’s worth learning if you ever come across one.
My guilty pleasure from the group would be Dynamite Deka II – most probably have forgotten this one but I’m a sucker for beat ’em ups. 😛
- It also marks 25 years since Sega will have introduced the Sega NAOMI hardware. One could argue it’s one of the most influential hardware systems Sega ever made, even they got a lot of mileage out of it, the base spec being used in the NAOMI II, Atomiswave, and System SP platforms. What’s your favorite game to use NAOMI technology?
Are there any gaming anniversaries I missed? Got a game released in 1983 or 1998 that you think deserves a little more love? Comment below!