Nostalgia touches us all from time to time, especially when it comes to the video games of our youth. The simple innocence of old school arcade halls filled with flashing boxes and rowdy kids with pockets full of change is in stark contrast to the cold couch-sitting we do today to play games.
It’s this ache for the past which led us to write this article listing the best arcade games from the past. These games look simple by today’s standards, but we think they’re every bit as fun to play.
It’s hard to say what exactly made Pac-Man such a wild success in the arcade world – was it simplicity of controls? How easy it was to learn but difficult to master? Was it the achievement a player felt collecting points at a rapid speed, or the colorful ghosts or maybe the seemingly endless set of levels with increasingly impossible difficulties?
No matter the reason for Pac-Man’s success, there’s no denying the game remains in our consciousness and pop culture even today, despite being made over 35 years ago.
2. Space Invaders
Much like Pac-Man, we have a tendency to believe most of Space Invader’s popularity can from its incredibly simple controls and idiot-proof rules. You can open into a new game of Space Invaders and instantly know the goals and directives – invaders come down, you have to guard yourself and shoot them before they get past these handy bunkers.
If you weren’t alive when Space Invaders came out, you may not understand why it’s number two on the list, but in its time Space Invaders was a cultural phenomenon.
3. Atari Breakout
Originally designed to combat the Pong clones, Atari made Breakout to be a version people could play by themselves. Add colorful blocks, unique challenges and its own special paddle controller and you had a hit on your hands.
Breakout has been the inspiration for a ton of games since, some of which you might even have on pre-installed on your brand-new computer or video game console. This endearing quality makes Breakout one of our top picks.
It may not seem fair that a predecessor takes a higher place on the list than the original, but Pong definitely has its downsides. Its blinding simplicity meant that anyone could play it, and in fact it wasn’t even intended for an arcade market but the bar game industry. Still, as one of the first video games ever and certainly one of the most popular and lasting part of the last century’s history.
5. Donkey Kong
Unlike the other games on this list, Donkey Kong is not without its learning curve. Simply having motor function does not qualify you to play, as with Pong or Pac-Man. Instead, Donkey Kong tried its hand at story-telling and puzzle-solving mixed with real-time action and a range of controls. The characters were quirky and memorable, and the challenges were very real.
Of historical importance, Donkey Kong was one of Nintendo’s first breakthrough games in the U.S. market, setting the stage for a long and rich relationship we enjoy today.
6. Pole Position
Believe it or not, this little racing game set the standard for almost all racing games to come after it. Not only did it appear in arcades with its own driving console and steering wheel control, it featured the commonly used behind and above view driving games use today.
It may still be a 2D game, but Pole Position was also one of the first to create an accurate(ish) illusion of a 3D track, which is something that captured audiences for years to come.
Stop reading and start playing!
Did we bring back some memories with these articles? Well stop reading about why we love them and start playing for yourself. Despite the dated graphics and sound, we think even younger audiences have something to gain from playing these old arcade classics.