My Favorite Classic Arcade Games

March 6, 2017

 If you know me, you know I’m a strong supporter of the modern arcade industry. It still exists, it’s still awesome, and there are plenty of new games to enjoy each year. There is one problem, however: New arcade games have become more and more casual as time goes on, and the variety of games has taken a huge hit because of it. Unfortunately, kids just want racing games and rail shooters these days! And as much as I love supporting each and every one of these new games (because they are still top-notch), it sometimes is much better to go back and take a look at the classics…which I did not live through. At all. I’m still allowed to like them, gosh darn it!

 

Brief note: I wasn’t sure when to cut off the time period in which a game was considered “classic”, so I just included my favorite 80’s games. Well, barring Smash TV, of course. It just barely squeezed in, because I decided 1990 wasn’t too obscenely recent. Also, this list isn’t quite as text-heavy as my previous posts. I tried to put in-depth descriptions for each game, but I ended up just repeating myself over and over and shoving it full of fluff.

 

Read to the end to find the results of my first Twitter poll! This week, I asked what your favorite Galaga game was, and you…told me? You’ll see when you get there.

 

Galaga

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Midway (North America)

Release Date: 1981

Pros: Galaga is pure, simple fun. It may seem almost too simple to just shoot a bunch of little dudes that only move in predetermined patterns, but for me, it couldn’t be more perfect. (Well, it actually can. You’ll see when you get to the Galaga ’88 section.) The difficulty curve is both steady, and I never feel cheated out of a life. For whatever reason, I also really love the music and sound effects when they come out of the actual arcade cabinet. It just doesn’t sound the same in ports, ya know? I guess it’s like the “warmth” people talk about when listening to vinyl.

Cons: My only criticism is one that has nothing to do with the actual quality of the game itself: If you play too much Galaga in succession, it starts to get kind of boring and repetitive, because you have no continues. You just keep playing those darn stages all over again! Then again, I never use continues on these older games even if they allow them, because they’re much more fun for high-score chasing. Basically, just take a break in between extended bouts of Galaga, and you’ll be fine.

 

Bosconian

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Midway (North America)

Release Date: 1981

Pros: Though I used to not be able to get into this game, age has helped me realize just how great it really is. The free-roaming space and the possible length of each stage are both factors that make this title really enjoyable. Also, unlike many slightly more free-roaming games, I don’t get easily lost or bored. It’s enough freedom to have fun, but not enough to either get tiresome or keep operators from making money. It’s a perfect balance!

Cons: I haven’t gotten too terribly far on any of my playthroughs, but I guess it could be the lack of variety in stages. Perhaps difficulty makes up for that perceived problem.

 

Dig Dug

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Atari (North America)

Release Date: 1982

Pros: Could this be a perfect game? The game gives you time to “explore” and rack up point within the stage, but it also knows when to rip that freedom away from you by speeding up the enemies and forcing you to either die or move on to the next stage. To top it off, the difficulty curve, like Galaga, is incredibly fair. It’s one of the few games where I can always get 4 to 8 minutes off of one credit. Also, the game mostly avoids the repetitiveness of other retro titles, but it could just feel that way because I like it playing it so much.

Cons: I don’t really…know. I guess the lack on enemy variety is rather disappointing. Also, how do I go for the world record? I was never clear on that.

 

Gauntlet

Developer: Atari Games

Publishers: Atari Games

Release Date: 1985

Pros: This game packs some fairly challenging difficulty. If you want a game that is constantly demanding that get better (or just shove more money into it), then this is a game for you. The difficulty is more manageable in multiplayer, which just happens to be this game’s strong suit.  Traversing dungeons and killing ridiculous hoards of enemies is pretty fun when you’ve got somebody going through with you.

Cons: That’s just it, though: it’s a great co-op experience. Unfortunately, I just do not have as much fun playing alone. It just feels…empty, which is weird, given how many enemies there are. There’s no music, and it eventually feels somewhat plagued by the problem facing many of these older games: repetitiveness.

 

Space Harrier

Developers: Sega

Publisher: Sega

Release Date: 1985

Pros: It’s a sharp, fast rail shooter (not the light gun kind) that can be a ton of fun. Given that it came it out in 1985, the graphics are also really top-notch. But graphics, of course, are not why we play games. Space Harrier is your kind of game if you like a fast-paced shooting with somewhat odd enemies and a difficulty curve that will soon start to give you quite the challenge (and good music, if that’s your kind of thing). Oh, one more thing: If you don’t play it for a long time, at least play to the bonus stage. You will not be disappointed.

Cons: I can’t really think of anything I particularly dislike about the game, so I’ll just leave it at that.

 

Sky Kid

Developer: Namco

Publisher: Namco

Release Date: 1985

Pros: For one, Sky Kid is arguably an even better co-op experience than Gauntlet, mostly because I’m not as good at dungeon crawlers and it’s skewing my opinion. But of course, there are little things that make the co-op more fun, like shooting your friend for the fun of it (non-lethally, of course). Secondly, Sky Kid is also a better single-player experience. Unlike Gauntlet, you probably won’t get bored nearly as easily playing alone. But hey, maybe that’s just me! Then again, we are comparing apples and oranges here—a scrolling shooter and a dungeon crawler. Overall, though, Sky Kid is a really fun title full of shooting planes and dropping bombs, and the music is positively bopping.

Cons: Yeah, I couldn’t think of any cons again.

 

Rampage

Developer: Bally Midway

Publisher: Bally Midway

Release Date: 1986

Pros: It’s a crazy fun multiplayer experience. I mean, what other 80’s game let’s you walk through cities with your friends as a bunch of giant monsters and smash everything to oblivion? Also, as always, Brian Colin’s art is quirky and hilarious. There are so many little touches everywhere that just watching someone play the game can be entertaining!

Cons: Single-player, unfortunately, can make the game lose some of its luster. A layer of fun goes away when you have no friends to punch in the face and you’re not competing to destroy the buildings first.

 

1943: The Battle of Midway

Developer: Capcom

Publisher: Capcom

Release Date: 1987

Pros: Besides Xevious, this is the only shmup I’ve every played. I’ve been dying to play more, but that hasn’t really happened. Anyway, I like this game for a number of reasons. For one, I like the health bar as opposed to the three lives 1942 had. Also, the game is just hectic fun. It may not be “bullet heck”, per se, but it still is packed full of action, and I love it. I especially enjoy the "bosses" (as pictured), because they provide quite a real challenge for me. Also, they're just plain cool.

Cons: I’m not really sure. It’s a fun shmup; that’s really it.

 

RoadBlasters

Developer: Atari Games

Publishers: Atari Games

Release Date: 1987

Pros: This game has wicked graphics and is a TON of fun! Perhaps it may seem repetitive by modern standards, but this has to be one of my favorite arcade vehicular combat games (besides Batman 2013, of course). You drive at breakneck speed, you blow up dudes in cars and motorcycles, and you try not to run out of fuel before getting to the finish line. It sounds great to me! The impending empty gas tank is also a reason to love this game: You have to have skill to beat it as you go on. If you crash a lot and don’t pick up many red and green fuel dots, you’ll be quite out of luck.

Cons: If I must pick a con, I guess it’s that some people might find this game repetitive. I think it’s fantastic, because it really tests my skill as I get farther and farther. It’s not really hard for the first few stages, but it does eventually get into that territory. It’s just a matter of perspective, really—whether you like games with varying environments and levels, or whether you’re content with the game just increasing the difficulty.

 

Galaga ‘88

Developers: Namco, Dempa

Publisher: Namco

Release Date: 1988

Pros: You may wonder why I’ve put a second Galaga game on this list, and I’ve got a fantastic answer for you: Galaga ’88 was the perfect and natural evolution of the Galaga series. It did everything I liked about the original even better and added some wicked stuff to that already great formula. For instance, the levels are now varied and sometimes play more like a scrolling shmup. And who could forget those Challenging Stages? My goodness, that really is galactic dancing.

Cons: I suppose the lack of continues might be a con, given when the game was released. Eh, it's still a great game.

 

Smash TV

Developer: Williams

Publisher: Williams

Release Date: 1990

Pro: Seeing as how I put Smash TV, many of you may be wondering why I didn’t put Robotron 2084 on this list. It’s not that I don’t like Robotron; I just think that Smash TV took everything that made Robotron awesome and multiplied it by 11. For one, the graphics have come quite a way since the early 80’s, and we now get to be bombarded with a visually overstimulating mess of blood and gore. Also, Smash TV added two things I believe a lot of games simply cannot go without: bosses and continues. The bosses are sick, hilarious freaks of nature that get terribly disfigured and explode into bloody soup by the end of the battle, which is always a ton of fun to play and to watch. I believe the continues are necessary because the game can be rather ruthless in terms of difficulty. If you want to see the rest of the bosses and beat the game, you’ll probably need some continues (unless you are insanely wicked).

Cons: There’s not really anything music-wise, but you’ll be shooting too much to care anyway. Also, there aren’t really any hostages to speak of like in Robotron, but I suppose that has to do with the change in scenario from an alien invasion to a gameshow. I still love Smash TV. It is truly a glorious gift from Eugene Jarvis himself.

 

Consensus

So yeah, I suppose that's it. There were a few more games I could have included (like Mappy, Xevious, and Ms. Pac-Man), but overall, I'm very happy with this list. Maybe I'll make another list of favorite 90's games. After all, I can't just not put Cruis'n USA on some list. Or hey, maybe I can make a list of my favorite modern games! We shall see, people.

Arcade and Retro Gaming Club Update – 4.14.2017

This week, we were donated two new TVs. One is a crazy old Sharp TV, so I may need an AV to RF converter. The other was a nice (and much more modern) Sylvania TV with a built in VCR. The small white TV is one that Coach Fricke already had, so we may use that at some point. It also only has RF, but it's still cool. To see some photos of the TVs, check out my Instagram page. Overall, today was fantastic. Like I predicted, the turnout decreased quite a bit (from 16 to 8). However, a few people just happened to miss the club today, so I'm looking forward to a slightly better turnout tomorrow. We also had a brand new member, which was nice.

            Today, since we had two TVs, we got to play a few more games. Unlike last week, there wasn't a tournament. On the PlayStation, we played Tenchu Assassins (for like 5 minutes, it didn't really count), Tekken 3, and Dead or Alive. At the end, there was a little bit of Street Fighter EX Plus Alpha, but it didn't dominate the meeting at all like it did last time. On my Nintendo 64, we played Killer Instinct Gold for quite a bit, and then we dabbled in a bit of Cruis'n USA and Ms. Pac-Man.

            Even though we've only had two meetings so far, I've learned a little bit. For one, I can already tell that fighting games are going to absolutely dominate popularity-wise. It makes perfect sense, given that they're great in a social environment like this. I'm also going to continue to push for a trip to the Game Galaxy Arcade, because I really haven't done enough to get that idea out there.

            I see great things in this club's future!

 

Twitter Poll Results – 4.14.2017

This week, I tried something new: a Twitter poll. Unfortunately, not many people responded, so I didn't get any solid results on what people really think. It's alright, though. Next week, we'll hopefully get more votes, because I'm going to start doing this regularly. Anyway, this week's poll was about which Galaga series game was your favorites. The choices were Galaxian, Galaga, Gaplus (Galaga 3), and Galaga '88. Unfortunately, you can't have five choices on a Twitter poll, so there was not choice for Galaga Assault. Oh, how I wanted to have Galaga Assault. Eh, I'll survive. Here are the results:

Unfortunately, the turnout wasn't quite as great as I was hoping it would be. But you know what? I'm still happy with how things are going lately. Also, I have a new poll up for this week, so you should go vote. See ya later, ya sweaty nerds. Arcades forever!

 

 

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