My Suggestions for Preserving Classic Arcade Games

Though I mostly cover modern arcade games, I absolutely love the classics, too. There are a lotta goodies out there: Galaga, Dig Dug, Shao-lin’s Road, Gun.Smoke, Smash TV, NBA Jam, and so many more. Classic arcade games are often these perfect, timeless experiences, and I’d love for everybody to get to experience at least a few of time at some point in there lives.

Because it’s so largely understood that classics are great, there have been a number of efforts to preserve them (and/or capitalize on their popularity) in other formats. The most common way to preserve these games has pretty much always been classic compilations. The IP-holders will typical task a small developer with shoving 10 to 20 classic arcade games onto one cartridge or disc. We’ve had a large number of wonderful compilations since the late-90’s or so: Namco Museum, Midway Arcade Treasures, Taito Legends, SNK Arcade Classics, and many more.

These compilation volumes have done a wonderful job of preserving arcade games for generations to come, and I’m darn glad we have ‘em at our disposal. Still, porting arcade games to consoles always results in the diminishment of the experience in some way, shape, or form. Sure, we have the games—but do we have them the way they were meant to played?

That’s why I believe, in order to perfectly preserve classic arcade games, developers must create literal arcade compilations. Essentially, legal multicades! And it’s not like this idea is anything new. Namco has their Classics Compilations and Pac-Man’s Arcade Party, after all. Even the idea of putting creating an arcade duo cabinet (a la the Maximum Force and Area 51 duo from Atari in the 90’s) preserves arcade games in their truest form. The only problem is, despite arcade compilation cabinets existing, the idea has never been pursued as deeply as it could have been.

The fun thing about arcades is that they’re often a beautiful hodge-podge of decades and eras. You’re just as likely to find the original Pac-Man as you are to find Terminator Salvation. Arcades bridge generations and exhibit the best games no matter what their age may be!

Unfortunately, these glorious anachronisms don’t always get to live forever. Some games were desecrated through upgrade kits at some point in their lifetimes, and some just plain die. As repairs become more expensive and replacement parts become more difficult to track down, I imagine that some arcade operators eventually can’t justify the trouble of maintaining the games and sell them off to collectors on Craigslist. (CRT monitors in particular are becoming ridiculously hard to come by these days.) It’s not necessarily bad; it’s just a reality of the amusement business.

As more games disappear from the face of the Earth, so do a player’s opportunities to play a classic arcade games in their original forms. And sure, there are lots of home console compilations out there. But wouldn’t it be great if developers released compilations in genuine arcade cabinets? Wouldn’t it be nice if there were modern options for arcade operators?

That’s why I 100 percent believe that developers should release their classic arcade games in official multicade compilations. Gamers and operators alike should be privy to the convenience and simplicity of modern machines that hold multiple games. Imagine how great it would be to find a treasure trove of classic games all on one cabinet. Gone would be the days of tracking down elusive original cabinets; popular and obscure games alike would be just a credit away at your local arcade.

In my opinion, the best way to organize and release these multicades would be by genre and series. Raw Thrills could license and compile Robotron 2084, Smash TV, and Total Carnage in one Midway twin-stick shooter package. SEGA could rerelease the first four House of the Dead games (and HOTD 4 Special!) in one convenient cabinet. SEGA could also group together a bunch of classic arcade driving games, like Daytona USA, Daytona USA 2: Battle on the Edge, Outrun, Outrun 2, and Crazy Taxi. Namco could shove the first four Time Crisis games into one cabinet, too! Official multicade compilations could make classic games more accessible for everyone. For games like Daytona USA 2, multicades thrust rare arcade experiences back into players’ hands. For long-running like The House of the Dead and Time Crisis, multicades would be a simple way for players to catch up on the story without going to a million different arcades. The possibilities and benefits are both innumerable.

Naturally, there’s a lot more thought and energy required to pull off multicades than I carelessly write about here. All games—even a bunch of seemingly simple multicades—take a lot of time and money to bring to light. But I believe that this idea is a necessary one. To preserve arcade games in an arcade format, developers should release officially-licensed multicades with games from all stretches of arcade history.

Thinking about it now, it seems rather odd that we haven’t seen more multicade efforts from developers in the past. Old arcade games eventually die; it’s the sad truth. Releasing small, inexpensive multicade cabinets seems like the perfect way to combat this inevitable aging. As long as the multicades have a small footprint and retail somewhere in the $4,000 to $7,000 range, I see them as the most cost-effective and enduring way to preserve classic arcade games. Besides, buying the original arcade cabinets doesn’t support the arcade industry, in the same way that buying used games doesn’t support the home video game industry. Providing modern compilation alternatives will ensure that the classics get played and the industry itself continues to thrive.

Because this is probably a wild fantasy and this is my personal blog, let’s look at some games I’d like to see rereleased in official multicade form.

  • A “SEGA Drivers” collection - SEGA has churned out a ton of excellent racing/driving games throughout the years. Unfortunately, you can’t always find ‘em out in the wild in 2018. That’s why a multicade featuring such classics as Daytona USA, Daytona USA 2: Battle on the Edge, Out Run, Out Run 2, the Virtua Racing games, and Crazy Taxi would be glorious. It would be nice if the compilation were released in both upright and sit-down cabinets, just to expand its location reach. Licensing would be the only problem with this multicade. The Daytona games are fully licensed, and Crazy Taxi uses licensed music.

  • A House of the Dead collection - The House of the Dead series is a staple of arcades. With House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn coming to arcades this year, it’s important that younger players (including myself) get a chance to experience the first four games. Considering that the HOTD games are much more story-oriented than most arcade games, a multicade would be especially helpful for new players. Wouldn’t it be so cool if a little House of the Dead multicade was sitting right next to House of the Dead: Scarlet Dawn at your local arcade?