WELCOME TO MY ARCADE. IF I HAD ONE.

There’s a small scene in X-Men: Days Of Future Past where Quicksilver plays Pong against himself. The weird thing is that instead of falling into the background as a sight gag, I thought, “Wow, that cabinet is in great shape. I wonder if it’s real?” I’d like to think that the producers found an actual 1972 Pong cabinet, perfectly preserved and/or restored to look like the cutting edge of technology it was 40 years ago. After the movie was over (I highly recommend it) I found myself thinking back to that Pong machine.


Arcade games are weird because they’re dated, yet timeless. We may have more gaming power in our pockets now, but can a phone compare to the magnificence of a glowing marquee, a 5-foot tall mural and a glowing pistol-grip control stick?

Today I’ll revisit a discussion I had with coworkers and friends from Game Trader in the 90s. This came up one night at an after-work meet-up at Bennigan’s. Yes, Bennigan’s. (One guy’s wife worked there and we got food at a discount.) At the time, Namco had introduced a series of arcade games that ran on Sony PlayStation hardware, known as System 11. Why would you play Tekken 2 in the arcade when you could play the exact same game at home? One of us posed the question: You have a personal arcade with 7 machines. What are they?

It opened up all kinds of discussion. Some put in their own limits, like “no obvious choices like Street Fighter 2 or Mortal Kombat” or “nothing 3D”. There were no wrong answers. There was no judgment. Just a bunch of gamers celebrating their favorite bits of a gaming format that, unknown to us, was entering the first throes of a slow death.

And why the number 7? Who knows… I can’t remember. In any case, the X-Men Pong scene got me thinking of making a new list. So here it is:


#7 S.T.U.N. Runner by Atari – Race down a space tunnel, armed with a laser to shoot anything that gets in your way. The best part? The top ten name entries became 3D time markers at the finish line. I’d have the “bike” cabinet of course.


#6 Gain Ground by SEGA – Travel through time, shooting everyone you see in order to rescue other time-travelling warriors before time runs out. The arcade version was three players and had people yelling tactics long before the FPS.


 

 #5 Virtual On: Cyber Troopers by SEGA – Two sticks to control the giant robot of your choice. Your goal? Beat the metal crap out of the giant robot controlled by the person sitting next to you. The only fighter I was good at.

 

#4 Crack Down by SEGA – A sci-fi top-down shooter that had you playing as a spandex-clad action movie stereotype, shooting monsters and planting bombs in the maze-like base of an evil doctor and his cybernetic goat beast. And with co-op!

 

 #3 Escape From The Planet Of The Robot Monsters by Atari – An isometric shooter with square-jawed heroes blasting their way through a colorful ‘50s robot dystopia while rescuing human slaves, many of which were female and half naked.

 

 #2 Discs Of TRON by Midway – This game’s complex control setup combined with low-res taunts from David Warner as Sark was the closest any of us would ever get to experiencing what it was like to be in TRON. (At the time, that is.)


#1. Virtua Formula by SEGA – This monstrous version of Virtua Racing featured eight motion simulators linked together in front of big-screen TVs. While winning was nice, it was fun to crash just to get tossed around.

Culling this list down to seven was a near impossibility, only made possible by the looming deadline of getting the article done. I had to leave out I, Robot and Reactor, among others. While some of these are playable on home versions or emulation, they’re just better in their cabinet versions…especially Virtual On.

I open it up to you in the comments section, readers. What are your favorites? Are you all about vector graphics? Would you have a hall of Namco Classics? What would you have in the giant game room in your space mansion on Mars? Let’s have some good ol’ game talk.

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  • reply James Ballard ,

    My arcade would include:

    7. Donkey Kong
    6. Playboy Pinball
    5. Galaga
    4. Tempest
    3. The Black Knight Pinball
    2. Joust
    1. Robotron

    • reply Jim Foronda ,

      Tempest is a great one! There have been many home versions, but none have the feel of the arcade spin controller. And I didn’t even think about pinball machines…

    • reply Leese ,

      Tempest is the only one I was any good at, plus the music was cool.

      • reply Scarydad ,

        Stun Runner
        Golden Axe
        Star Wars (The Battle of Yavin in the sit-down cabinet. 80’s version)
        Excitebike
        Operation Wolf
        Q-Bert
        Top Gun

        • reply Jim Foronda ,

          Didn’t that Star Wars sit-down have a window in the top so you could watch the player’s game? Also, did you ever play Ghost Squad from a few years back? It had full-size light “machine guns” attached by wire so you could hold them Schwarzenegger-style. They actually kicked and had grenade launcher. It was the insane evolution of Operation Wolf!

          • reply Scarydad ,

            The Star Wars game did have the window! It had the same graphics as the movie (pre-Lucas lunacy) where you fought Tie-Fighters and then flew the trench on the Death Star. I loved that game.

            I haven’t played Ghost Squad. I don’t think I’ve seen an actual arcade in years. There used to be one in the mall but they closed it long ago.

            • reply Todd Trann ,

              YES to Golden Axe and Q-Bert!! Those were both great.

              And I was killer at Discs of Tron when it was in the arcade. I challenge you all to a tournament!! :D

              • reply alex kimmell ,

                have you ever heard of Vectrex?

                • reply Jim Foronda ,

                  I am the proud owner of a Vectrex. I even have most of the transparencies!

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