Who’s up for a blast from the past? We’re pressing that nostalgia button and heading straight to the coin-operated glory days. It’s time to celebrate the most influential arcade games, the legends that lit up our local hangouts and lured us in with the promise of high-score glory. From pixelated classics to charmingly clunky cabinets, these are the games that have made their mark on both our quarters and our hearts.
Join us for a trip through the neon-lit, joystick-wielding, button-mashing world that once was the hallmark of every mall, the local arcade. These influential arcade games didn’t just devour our pocket change; they transformed the way we game, influencing the industry and paving the way for future generations. Buckle up for a wild ride down memory lane as we count down the classics that changed the face of arcade gaming forever.
A music game that allows players to simulate playing a guitar, Guitar Hero was a cultural phenomenon in the mid-2000s and helped popularize the music game genre. The game's use of licensed music and colorful visuals made it a hit with casual players, while its challenging gameplay appealed to more hardcore gamers.
One of the earliest platformers, Donkey Kong features the titular ape as he attempts to escape while throwing barrels at a character named Jumpman (who would later become known as Mario). The game introduced many now-familiar elements of the platforming genre, such as jumping and climbing, and helped establish Nintendo as a major player in the video game industry.
The House of the Dead
A rail shooter game in which players shoot zombies and other monsters, The House of the Dead helped popularize the horror game genre and introduced many innovations, such as the use of light guns as controllers. The game's success led to numerous sequels and spinoffs, as well as a dedicated following among horror game fans.
Widely regarded as one of the most popular and iconic arcade games of all time, Pac-Man is a maze game in which players navigate a yellow character through a maze, eating dots while avoiding ghosts. The game's simple yet addictive gameplay, memorable characters, and catchy theme song made it a sensation and helped establish video games as a mainstream form of entertainment.
Dance Dance Revolution
A rhythm game that involves players dancing on a pad with arrows corresponding to on-screen prompts, Dance Dance Revolution was a pioneer in the "exergaming" genre, which combines video games with exercise. The game's popularity led to the creation of numerous sequels and spinoffs, as well as a dedicated community of players and fans.
Known for its over-the-top violence and controversial content, Mortal Kombat helped popularize the fighting game genre and introduced many innovations, such as the use of digitized actors for its characters. The game's "fatality" finishing moves, which allowed players to perform gruesome and often absurd killings on their opponents, were particularly controversial and helped fuel the debate over video game violence.
One of the earliest shoot-'em-up games, Space Invaders was immensely popular and helped establish the genre. The game features rows of aliens that move back and forth across the screen, with the player controlling a small ship at the bottom of the screen. The objective is to shoot down the aliens before they reach the bottom of the screen. Space Invaders was notable for its addictive gameplay and iconic sound effects.
Street Fighter II
A seminal fighting game, Street Fighter II popularized the one-on-one fighting game genre and established many of the conventions of the genre that are still used today. The game features a diverse cast of characters, each with their own unique moves, and became a fixture in arcade culture during the early 1990s.
Considered the first commercially successful arcade game, Pong is a simple tennis game that helped establish video games as a viable form of entertainment. In the game, two players use paddle controllers to hit a ball back and forth across a black-and-white screen. Pong was a sensation upon its release and paved the way for the arcade industry to grow and flourish in the 1970s.