Xbox and PlayStation come to most people’s minds when talking about video games, so it’s easy to forget about the classics that got us to where we are today. Classic 25-cent arcade games are my personal favorite, and I hope some others feel the same way, too. Without any further ado, allow me to take you back to the ‘70s and ‘80s and show you some of the best games from the time!
No. 18: Dig Dug
Dig Dug is a popular arcade game released in 1982 by Atari. Dig Dug was originally released under Namco in Japan, but was released by Atari everywhere else in the world. Dig Dug is a basic game, where the main character, Dig Dug, has to dig his own underground tunnels and blow up the enemies using an air pump. Get touched by one of the monsters and you lose a life. This game has a very simple concept, but it will keep you coming back with a bag full of quarters every time you want to play it, as it is super addictive. You will never realize how sick this game is unless you play it, so I recommend that you do play it if you ever happen to see one.
No. 17: Pole Position
Pole Position is yet another game developed and released by Namco in Japan, but licensed by Atari to everyone else in the world. Pole Position is a racing game that was manufactured in two different styled cabinets—one being a standup cabinet with a gas pedal, gear shifter, and steering wheel, with the other being the same, but with a racing seat attached to it for a more realistic experience. Upon dropping in your quarter, your first mission is to qualify for the race by getting around the track before the time runs out. If you don’t make it to the finish line in time, the game is over. However, if you do cross the finish line in time, then you proceed to the race. The objective is to race around the track and pass your opponents without hitting them or the signs on the side of the road. Crash one too many times, and once again, game over! WIth the realistic driving mechanics added, this game is truly ahead of its time. Pole Position is one of my personal favorites, and if you ever get a chance to play it, I think you should.
No. 16: VS. Super Mario Bros
VS. Super Mario Bros is the arcade version of the game Super Mario Bros, released on NES (Nintendo Entertainment System). The game is essentially the same with just some minor differences, the biggest one being that when the game is over, you need to drop in another quarter! The main purpose of the game is to guide the main character, Mario, through a variety of stages without dying, and see how far you can get. VS. Super Mario Bros has a lot of levels and takes a long time to fully complete. Even though I was really never too good at this game, I still find it very fun and I encourage that you try it if you ever happen to come across one.
No. 15: Tempest
Tempest is an arcade game designed and programmed by a guy named Dave Theurer, and manufactured and released to the public by Atari. Tempest is a simple game that uses a spinner wheel and two buttons. The objective of the game is to move around the playing field and shoot all of the enemies. One of the buttons on the arcade cabinet is “fire,” which shoots the enemies that you are aiming at, while the other is labeled “super zapper,” which will kill all the enemies on the playing field at once. A cool thing you will notice about this game, if you ever see one, is the vector screen it uses. A vector screen is a display that uses lines instead of a grid of glowing pixels to create its graphics. Upon seeing the colorful vector graphics of Tempest in person, I’m sure you won’t mind spending a few quarters on this game.
No. 14: Galaxian
Galaxian is yet another game released by Namco in 1979 to Japan, but was imported and distributed in the U.S. by Midway. Galaxian was one of the most colorful games of its time and featured some of the best graphics, too. The idea of Galaxian is to navigate the ship on the bottom of the screen back and forth to shoot out all of the aliens without getting hit by one. Once all the aliens are cleared, you move on to the next level. This game is very similar to Space Invaders, but it features more modern and colorful graphics. Galaxian is one of the more rare games out there, so if you happen to come across a working one, I suggest you take the opportunity to play a few rounds!
No. 13: Track & Field
Track & Field is an arcade game developed by Konami that is played different than most video games. The first event you enter at the beginning of the game is the 100m dash. You must beat the opponent by rapidly pressing the button labeled “run” on the machine. Once you win the 100m dash, you move on to long jump. Long jump requires rapid pressing of the “run” button to get as much speed as possible followed by the press of the “jump/throw” button once you reach the jump line. The other events include javelin throw, and high jump. Failure to make qualifying more than 3 times in any one of the events, and you get game over. Track & Field is an insanely fun game that requires you to be fast in real life in order for you to be fast in the game. If you ever happen to spot a Track & Field arcade machine, I would definitely try it out.
No. 12: Centipede
Centipede is a very interesting game as it has a simple concept that brings excitement that cannot be felt with many other games popular at this time. The arcade cabinet features a ball that you roll with your hand to navigate around the gun at the bottom of the screen, as well as a “fire” button. Once you start the game, a centipede begins crawling down the screen left to right, and your job is to shoot it until it is completely gone. The centipede moves fast, making it rather challenging to shoot. As you can imagine, touching the centipede results in game over. Make sure that you have more than one quarter if you ever come across this one, because it’s one of those games that will keep kicking you in the rear end!
No. 11: Frogger
Frogger is a classic that you have probably never heard of or even played before. Frogger is a game that utilizes a single four-way joystick to play. To win the game you must navigate the frog across a busy road without getting hit, and then cross a flowing river to get it back home. If at any point you end up getting hit by a car or eaten by an alligator, you will lose a life. When you lose all three lives, your game is over. If at any point in playing this game you think it’s easy, you should think again, because with every level the traffic gets faster and heavier, and the enemy capacity increases. Due to its popularity, anybody who likes arcade games would probably tell you Frogger is one of the best!
No. 10: Galaga
Galaga is a game released by Namco in Japan, but was distributed everywhere else by Midway. Galaga was one of the most popular games of its time, and still can be found in many arcades today. Galaga is very similar to Galaxian in terms of gameplay, but Galaga incorporates more mechanics into the game that make it even more enjoyable than Galaxian. Galaga also has better graphics and sounds than Galaxian, making a game that most people are going to want to spend their quarter(s) on. Galaga is all about navigating a ship at the bottom of the screen and shooting all of the aliens that come down to attack you. If at any time you come across an original Galaga arcade cabinet, try it out and you’ll see why this game is so popular!
No. 9: Space Invaders
Space Invaders was an arcade game that was popular even before the arcade industry had fully kicked off. Released by Taito in Japan and Midway in the U.S., Space Invaders was an instant hit among the arcade world. It featured a color screen and cool sounds that set it out from the small crowd of arcade games of its time. Even though the game was released in 1978, it kept its popularity throughout the ‘80s, making it a well known game. To win the game, you must navigate the ship at the bottom of the screen back and forth and shoot all of the aliens firing down at you. The only difference between Space Invaders and the other similar games that came out around this time was that Space Invaders had four shields for you to hide the ship behind on the bottom, compared to Galaxian, which shares a similar concept but lacks the shields. The Space Invaders arcade cabinet was also very cool because it had a picture of a planet as a background to the game itself. If you take this game seriously, I guarantee you will have loads of fun.
No. 8: Burger Time
Data East, 1982
Burger Time is an insanely fun game developed by Data East where you control a guy by the name of Peter Pepper. You must navigate him around to create burgers while avoiding the hot dogs and eggs that chase you. To build the burgers, you must walk across the various parts of the burger to cause that part of the burger to fall. Once all the parts of the burger fall, you have a complete burger at the bottom of the screen. If you happen to have no choice but to run into a hot dog or egg, there is a button labeled “pepper” that will stop them for a second so you can walk by. The pepper is limited though, and if you run out and end up hitting a hot dog, you’re done! This all sounds ridiculous on paper, but trust me, this game is a blast!
No. 7: Q*bert
Q*bert is a fun arcade game released in 1982 by Gottlieb. Q*bert is a very popular arcade game mostly because of the main character Q*bert. After playing this game, you will never forget the funny sounds Q*bert makes when you get hit by one of the enemies or fall off one of the sides. The objective of the game is to navigate around a 3D triangular playing field, avoiding enemies whilst turning the individual square platforms you step on yellow. Once you turn all the squares yellow, you move on to the next stage. As you go through the stages, they only get harder, and while you do get three lives, they go quickly. Even if you have never heard of Q*bert, after playing it once, you will never forget it!
No. 6: Mario Bros.
Mario Bros. is a legendary game released by Nintendo in 1983. Not to be confused with VS. Super Mario Bros, Mario Bros is the first game to introduce the character Luigi into the Mario series. Mario Bros. is one of the first Nintendo side by side two-player game. The Mario Bros. arcade cabinet was designed to be physically wider than most arcade cabinets so that there is enough room for two people to play side by side. The original Mario Bros. is a game where you must wait for the enemy to be on the platform above you, so that you can jump up and flip the creature over. Once the enemy is flipped over, you must jump up and kick it off. Waiting too long after flipping over the enemy results in the enemy flipping back over and moving at a faster pace. If all of this seems confusing, the game plays a short demo for everybody that happens to drop a quarter in the machine. Mario Bros. was an instant classic ever since it was first released, so if you ever happen to spot one in its original wide cabinet glory, grab a friend, and play a few rounds of this legendary game!
No. 5: Tron
Tron is a mega hit when it comes to popular video arcade games. Released by Midway in 1982, Tron is a game that takes place inside a computer. Once you drop a quarter in this legend, you are faced with four main events. The first event is known as the I/O Tower, and the idea of this stage is to enter the tower through one of the two entrances while avoiding any of the Grid Bugs that can kill you. The next event is known as the MCP Cone, and this one is rather simple. The MCP Cone is a rotating shield that you must get through by shooting out parts of it, and walking through it. The third challenge are the Battle Tanks, and the idea is to shoot the other tank before getting shot yourself. The fourth and final event is the Light Cycles where you are riding a bike that leaves a trail of light behind it. You must make your opponent run into your trail of light without running into any obstacles. Whatever event you decide to go to first is entirely up to you. Tron also features some of the catchiest sounds and songs of any arcade game, so expect to have them stuck in your head for a few days after playing this game!
No. 4: Asteroids
Asteroids is a popular vector arcade game with a rather simple concept. If you’ve ever played this game before, you will probably remember it by the glowing bullets that come out of the spaceship when you shoot. Asteroids was released before joysticks were common in arcade games, so this game features a total of five buttons to play (not including player 1 and player 2 buttons). One of these buttons being rotate right, the other being rotate left, thrust, fire, and hyperspace. In the game, you are a small spaceship in the center of the screen that must shoot all of the asteroids without getting hit. Occasionally, an extra enemy ship will come onto the screen and start firing at you, but it’s extra points if you can shoot him too. The hyperspace button simply transports your ship to another part of the screen quickly, just in case you are surrounded by asteroids with no way of getting out. Be careful when using it though, because you never know when it can transport you right in front of an incoming asteroid!
No. 3: Mappy
Mappy is a very exciting and fun game that I think anybody would have a fun time playing. With its catchy soundtrack and great gameplay, this game has something to offer for everyone. In Mappy, you are a mouse dressed as a police officer that must collect all of the objects around the house, all while avoiding the pink cats that chase you. Opening doors knock over cats if they are on the other side, which allow you to walk past them briefly if you need to. This game is pretty hard to miss because of the huge glowing “Mappy” marquee Midway put on these arcade cabinets. Ask anyone whos been to the arcade in the ‘80s, I bet they would remember this classic!
No. 2: Pac-Man/Ms. Pac-Man
Pac-Man is a game that I’m pretty sure everyone has played before. Known as the most popular arcade game of all time, Pac-Man is a game where you guide the main character, Pac-Man, through a series of tunnels while eating all of the dots present in them. What makes this so difficult is the little monsters that chase you around the board that are deadly. Run into one and you lose a life. Lose all your lives, and it’s game over!
Ms. Pac-Man was the more successful of the two Pac-Man’s and that was mostly because of all the improvements that were made in the game since the original. Midway not only sold dedicated Ms. Pac-Man arcade cabinets, but also sold conversion kits to convert the older Pac-Man arcade machines to Ms. Pac-Man, making the newer game even more common than the original. Ms. Pac-Man featured four different boards to complete, rather than just the same one over and over again like the older Pac-Man. It also featured more color, and better sound effects for the time, which contributed to its extreme success.
No. 1: Donkey Kong/Donkey Kong Jr./Donkey Kong 3
Donkey Kong is one of the most popular arcade games of all time. Released by Nintendo in 1981, the original Donkey Kong arcade game is so popular that it probably can be found in any arcade with hundreds of games. In Donkey Kong, you play as Jumpman, and the whole objective of the game is to save his girlfriend, Pauline, from Donkey Kong. In the game there are a total of four different screens, each with different obstacles to challenge the player. Donkey Kong features a total of three buttons, as well as a four way joystick to play. Two of the three buttons are player one and player two, buttons while the other button is the “jump” button. With this game’s exiting arcade sounds and awesome gameplay, I’m sure you will end up spending a few dollars to play this one!
-Donkey Kong Jr.
Donkey Kong Jr. is the second game in the Donkey Kong series and was almost just as successful as the first! In the original Donkey Kong, you are Jumpman trying to save Pauline. In Donkey Kong Jr., you are Jr. trying to save Donkey Kong from Mario. Donkey Kong Jr. was the first game ever where Jumpman was officially named Mario, bringing this iconic character to life. Like Donkey Kong, there are four stages in Donkey Kong Jr., but they are all completely different than the original. Donkey Kong Jr. completely redesigned all of its stages from the original, and that’s part of the reason for its success. All in all, if you ever see a Donkey Kong Jr. arcade cabinet, I would give it a play!
-Donkey Kong 3
Donkey Kong 3 was the third and final game in the Donkey Kong series and was also the least popular. While the other two Donkey Kong games were sold mostly as dedicated cabinets, Donkey Kong 3 sold more in conversion kits than anything. Donkey Kong 3 featured only three levels, and changed the whole game completely. While on the other two games you must complete a screen to save someone, in Donkey Kong 3, the idea is to spray Donkey Kong with bug spray until his head goes into a bee hive at the top of the screen. Donkey Kong 3 didn’t even have Mario in it. Instead, they introduced another character by the name of Stanley to do the job. While Donkey Kong 3 is not the most popular game in the series, if you ever happen to spot one, it’s an extremely fun game to play.
There you have it! Those are my top 18 ‘70s and ‘80s arcade games ever! Once again, if you ever happen to spot one of these legendary games, I would take a break from the new games and give these legends a try! You know what they say, you can’t beat the classics!