When I was a kid the arcades were a magical place to go. In fact my love for gaming really started in the arcades.
Article by Darren Cater. Follow Darren here: @RetroGamerDaz
Back in my early days of gaming arcade machines were for quite some time the pinnacle of video games. These machines could not be topped by any console/computer you could have in your house.
Yes many arcade games got converted to home formats, but you could never replicate the experience you got for parting with your ten & twenty pence pieces in the actual arcade.
The graphics, sounds (if you could hear them over the noise from all the other cabs) and overall experience could not be topped. For me, arcade visits were usually part of a summer holiday or day out at the seaside. So let me guide you through my most memorable arcade game memories from being a small child in the early 80’s, through to a teenager somewhere in the 90’s.
What can I say; this is where it all begins. This arcade machine along with Ghostbusters on the Commodore 64 is one of the first games that I loved. It’s easy to see why as I am a massive Star Wars fan & as a child I had loads of the toys & constantly watched the movies on VHS (usually recorded versions of the annual Christmas terrestrial TV broadcasts).
You sit down put your money in & you are away. You are flying an X-wing, Obi-Wan Kenobi is with you & so is that very famous music. Shoot down tie fighters make your way to the trench run & destroy the Death Star. The controls are pretty much unique to the game & it works so well. I hunted for this arcade game wherever we went & for a long time I can remember an indoor market at Gt Yarmouth had the sit-down version long after it had initially gone out of fashion along with other what seemed out dated machines (all probably regarded as classics now). The dream is to someday own one.
Kung Fu Master
I was still very young - the bright colours & Kung Fu kicking action pulled me in to this classic side scrolling beat em up. I was completely rubbish at it, but it sticks out in my mind as the first game of what would become a very popular genre of arcade game that caught my eye.
I have a very vivid memory of it being in a chip shop we would sometimes pop into when on a seaside day out before heading home.
Wow what can I say about the proper sit down hydraulic version of this? It was an experience that set it’s self apart from everything else back then.
The speed of the graphics, the onslaught of all the different enemies as well as being thrown around in your seat was great fun for my younger self. To be fair I very much enjoy it now.
I still fire this up on my Sega Saturn & have a great time playing it.
Super Hang On
Who didn’t want a motorbike when they were young? I can remember sitting on real motorbikes & thinking wow I’d love one of these. This arcade game was the closest I ever got to one. I loved the novelty of sitting on the bike & leaning left & right. The more modern bike games that have followed still draw my kids to them just like this did back in my day.
As a teenager my parents wouldn’t let me have a motorbike & now as an adult I don’t want one as I’m too concerned about what might happen if I fall off. Thank god for Super Hang On.
I have picked this game because this was my Dad’s arcade game of choice. Any arcade we were in that had this machine gun shooting game would eventually get some of my Dad’s money.
He would often disappear & leave my Mum to watch over me & my younger brother so he could get some game time in. I would also play it because back in the day with all the big action movies of the 80’s this was the closest you could get in video game form to be Arnie or Sly. Yes games like Commando were great but holding that gun & firing your way across the screen was something else. It must have been good if it pulled 2 generations of a family in!
I would go on to own the game on the Commodore 64 & the Sega Master System, but the arcade game was where the action was.
WWF Wrestle Fest
American wrestling was big news in the early 90’s. WWF was on Sky, WCW also made its way on to British TV & it felt new & exciting back then. Huge wrestlers with OTT personalities were captured perfectly in this button bashing crazy game.
A lot of the time you would often feel a little out of control - but it was so much fun. The massive sprites, the entrances & finishing moves really captured what the WWF was all about at the time.
My Brother & I had been sucked in to the TV programme and we were often buying the videos & we couldn’t wait to throw our coins into this machine. Yes WWF Superstars preceded this game & is worth checking out, but this arcade machine came into my gaming life at exactly the right time to give me my a video game wrestling fix you couldn’t get anywhere else (usually in Royal Rumble mode).
Final Fight is a game I discovered myself & played while my younger brother would probably be playing Turtles or the Simpsons.
This is a period where I was heading into my teenage years & could wander off on my own with my coins & this game is probably memorable for me not just for the great graphics & gameplay but for the independence I was gaining at the time as well.
I always played as Haggar which probably has something to do with the wrestling influence at the time (see previous game). This is my scrolling beat em up of choice in the arcade. It’s a strange one as I don’t know why really. I simply found it, loved it & returned to play it again & again.
Teenage Mutant Hero/Ninja Turtles
Nowadays we are allowed to call them Ninjas but they were hero turtles back in the late 80’s & early 90’s. I got the Turtle NES bundle back in the day like many kids & always felt that Turtles NES game was ok, but it would always in my mind get compared to the wonderful arcade game.
At the time the arcade game was massive like the Turtles themselves. It had the feel of the hit cartoon series & it was actioned pack. I have mentioned it here because my brother was massively into Turtles so we both played it.
Also at one point my town’s sports centre had it for a while, which was great for playing after school with friends or watching whoever had money play it. There weren’t many occasions where I got to play arcades with my friends & this goes on the list because not only is it a classic but it was a shared experience as well.
I mentioned above that the local sports centre got the Turtles arcade game which was a treat as the small town I grew up in never had any arcades machines to play before anywhere.
Well in the early 90’s a new community building was built adjacent to the sports centre & the youth club I attended on a Friday evening eventually moved to this new facility. The best thing about this was that for some reason someone put a Chase HQ cabinet in there.
I hadn’t played the game before but enjoyed it straight away. From Nancy giving you instructions to chasing the bad guys & using your speed boosts tactically I always enjoyed it. My pocket money for the evening would be spent on this machine other than some put aside for the odd can of coke.
It was a sad day when I hit the latter years of secondary school & left the age bracket that could attend youth club. I would eventually buy it for my Amiga 600 though.
Mortal Kombat with its digitised graphics & OTT violence was always going to be a hit for my younger teenage self along with all my mates. My town would have a travelling fun fair visit once a year toward the end of the school year. I would head up there with my mates & ride the waltzers, gravity wheel & generally loiter around as you do as a teenage boy.
The fair always brought an arcade with it & one year (1992 or 1993 I think) it had Mortal Kombat. The arcade was never really that great as it was mostly fruit machines if I recall correctly, but Mortal Kombat pulled in the crowds. You had to wait your turn & when you got to have a go your every single move was scrutinised by all the lads drawn to the machine.
There was a pressure when playing the game not to be completely rubbish at it - which I hadn’t experienced before. Yes I had played video games with mates before but this was different.
This was damage limitation as we all wanted to be respected gamers. Especially myself as I was known to have a lot of consoles & to be a gamer. I think I did ok, but that may have been because I spent a bit of money on the machine just to make sure.
This is my final game in the list as beyond this I stopped going on family holidays & day trips to the coast. Also beyond this I suppose I grew up & the wonder of the arcades disappeared somewhat. So there you go. My stand out arcade memories from years gone by. I hope you enjoyed them & they may have hopefully stirred up some of your own arcade memories.
The arcade really was a different place back then but it is certain little things that can make different games stand out & mean something to each of us.
Keep retro gaming & keep playing arcade games when you get the chance.
Article by Darren Cater. Follow Darren here: @RetroGamerDaz