Most of us 80s kids will remember the ‘one more go’ feeling of inserting our hard-earned coins into our favorite arcade cabinet. Or maybe we remember the excitement of crowding around a friend or older brother, watching them get close to the final level of a new exciting shoot ‘em up.
Arcades may be largely a thing of the past today, but our memories will never fade, so we’ve trawled through our retro gaming mind palace to bring you 10 amazing arcade games that you may have forgotten that you even spent money on.
10. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
When the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles first came high-kicking their way onto TV screens at the tail end of the 80s, every kid in the playground argued about who was their favourite turtle. Happily, the arcade game gave you the chance to be any of them; it was one of the comparatively few games that allowed four players at once.
This colourful 1989 beat-’em-up saw the evil Shredder kidnap April O’Neill and Splinter. The Turtles then have to fight their way through legions of Foot Clan ninjas and end-of-level bosses including Rocksteady, Bebop, Baxter Stockman, Krang and of course the big bad Shredder.
9. Star Wars
The legendary 1983 Star Wars arcade cabinet used state-of-the-art 3D color vector graphics to make us believe we really were Luke Skywalker leading an assault on the evil Empire’s Death Star. It may look primitive by today’s standards, but this legendary game that was released into arcades in 1983, really did make you feel like you were stepping into the cockpit of an X-Wing fighter.
It didn’t hurt that the lo-fi graphics were almost identical to those which X-Wing fighter pilots see through their targeting computers in the Star Wars movies themselves!
8. Dragon’s Lair
What could be more amazing than literally stepping foot into a cartoon world? 1983 arcade game Dragon’s Lair almost literally enabled us to do this. The game cast the player as Dirk the Daring, a bold knight on a quest to rescue a stolen princess from a dragon – and it all looked like a full-blown, old-school 2D animated movie.
Utilising interactive movie LaserDisc technology, Dragon’s Lair was the handiwork of Don Bluth, the ex-Disney animator who went on to make such beloved 80s movies as An American Tail and The Land Before Time.
7. Out Run
Out Run is one of the best-selling computer games of all time, and is notable for its pioneering hardware, graphics and music, and innovative features such as a selectable soundtrack and nonlinear gameplay. Originally released into arcades in 1986, Out Run is one of the most fun driving games that we’ve ever had the pleasure to play.
Out Run was a product of pioneering video game company Sega, who just that same year presented themselves as a contender to Nintendo with the release of their home console, the Sega Master System.
6. Smash TV
Known as Super Smash TV on The Super NES, Genesis, Master System, and Game Gear, the arcade cabinet version was simply called Smash TV, and it was just about the most fun you could ever have with a ten pence piece. Released in 1990, the game was not an official adaptation of The Running Man, but its premise was clearly reminiscent of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie.
Smash TV saw us taking part in a futuristic, violent game show by using the arcade cabinet’s ‘twin sticks’ to destroy wave after wave of enemies, utilising the various weapons and power-ups that were at our disposal.
5. After Burner
After seeing Top Gun, what child of the 80s didn’t fantasise about being a fighter pilot? 1987’s After Burner, an arcade rail shooter produced by the legendary Sega, gave us a taste of what it would be like in the cockpit of a super-powered high speed combat jet.
The arcade version of After Burner had an amazingly detailed joystick, and some cabinets even had a moving seat, making it one of the greatest game playing experiences of many an 80s kid’s youth.
Thanks to Stranger Things et al, a lot of kids these days assume that we were all playing Dungeons & Dragons back in the 80s – but those of us who were there remember that wasn’t the case. However, we still had a taste for sword and sorcery adventures, and one of the most notable video games to explore this was Gauntlet.
Launched to arcades in 1985 by the iconic video game company Atari, Gauntlet was one of the original multi-player dungeon crawl games, enabling players to either become a warrior, an elf, a valkyrie or a wizard.
3. The Simpsons
TV’s The Simpsons isn’t exactly an action-adventure show, but its immense popularity meant that a video game was inevitable. Published by Konami, this four-player beat-’em-up first hit arcades in 1991, sending Homer, Marge, Bart and Lisa on a mission across Springfield to rescue the kidnapped baby Maggie.
The plot and gameplay were pretty similar to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, but The Simpsons arcade game has a unique feel all of its own, really evoking the madcap humour of the iconic TV series.
2. Operation Wolf
Military action games were around long before Call of Duty. Introduced into arcades in 1988, Taito’s Operation Wolf was by no means the original first-person shooter game to utilise light gun technology, but the graphics and gameplay were a whole lot more immersive and exciting than Duck Hunt.
If you don’t remember playing the original then maybe you instead played one of its three sequels: Operation Thunderbolt, Operation Wolf 3 and Operation Tiger.
1. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
Based on a comic book and animated TV series (both of which are almost entirely forgotten today), Capcom’s Cadillacs and Dinosaurs was one of the most enjoyable arcade games of the early 90s. How could any red-blooded gamer resist a side-scrolling action game in a post-apocalyptic setting with human heroes doing battle side-by-side with dinosaurs?
While it was primarily a beat-’em-up, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs also allowed players to pick up weapons ranging from bats and clubs to machine guns and rocket launchers, just to keep the action engaging and keep us dropping in those coins.