Many of today’s kids will find arcade games a concept hard to fathom. For us fortunate enough to grow up with them, they are an essential part of our childhood. Imagine row upon rows of games, each housed in its own cabinet and operated via coins. A bunch of kids either playing or waiting patiently for their turn, cheering for their friends. The atmosphere inside an arcade is hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. The age of arcades gave us some of the most iconic games ever and many of them are still being played today. To remind us of that time, here are the top 5 most popular arcade games ever.
When Pac-Man was first released in 1980, the game cost about $2,000, which was a big pile of cash at that time. Despite that, Namco managed to sell more than 400,000 of them in the first two years of its existence. The game was an instant hit among players and to this day holds the title of the top-selling arcade game of all time. Numerous sequels have been created after the original title and it is estimated that Pac-Man has generated more than $14 billion in revenue for its creators, with all the related merchandise calculated. All that money came from a yellow blob running around the screen and consuming shiny dots while being chased by the ghosts. The familiar yellow shape was emblazoned on everything, from lunchboxes to t-shirts and caps and everybody wanted to buy them. In more than 40 years of its existence, Pac-Man has appeared in more than 30 games and that number will surely grow in the future.
Street Fighter 2
The original Street Fighter was released in 1987 and it proved to be very popular among gamers, but nowhere near the popularity, the sequel had. Street Fighter 2, launched in 1991, sold more than 200,000 cabinets and earned $2.3 billion in revenue by 1995. In today’s money, that would be around $3.5 billion. It set the standards for fighting games that still stand today. Interestingly, nowadays when you browse online to find the best Esports betting sites, you will come across games that use almost the same mechanics and similar graphic solutions. Street Fighter was also one of the first arcade games that was heavily pirated, which means the revenue it made should be even higher.
The concept of Space Invaders is used in many games in the past and we are quite familiar with it, but back in the late 1970s, it was revolutionary. Rows upon rows of alien space ships descending upon you from the top of the screen don’t seem very exciting today, but in those days, it was a concept that change arcade games forever. It is incredible that something as simple as this could keep you glued to the screen for hours and force you to spend all your pocket money on it. When first launched in Japan in 1978, the game quickly became the most popular arcade ever, selling 100,000 copies in the first six months. The game was so popular that there was a temporary shortage of 100-yen coins (used to operate the game) in Japan and the government had to mint additional quantities. It soon became a major export success. In the United States alone, Space Invaders generated more revenue in its first year than the most successful movie of the time, Star Wars. It was the game that kicked off the fledgling gaming industry to a marvelous start.
It is often said that Mario first made an appearance in Donkey Kong, which isn’t technically true. The original hero of Donkey Kong was called Jumpman and he was a carpenter trying to save his beloved, called Lady. Only later, when the game made it to America, was he renamed Mario. His occupation was also changed to plumber and the girlfriend was renamed Pauline. The changes were obviously successful, as Mario went on to become one of the most popular gaming franchises ever. And it all started with climbing ladders and skipping barrels thrown by an angry gorilla.
NBA Jam was not the first basketball arcade game, but it was the first one that had the original NBA teams and players, thanks to the licensing deal developer Midway made with the league. The NBA was incredibly popular at the time, as well as arcade gaming, which was going through the revival process in the early 1990s. Thanks to these two facts, NBA Jam became one of the most popular arcade games ever, selling more than 20,000 cabinets. Iconic catchphrases like “He’s on fire” and “Boomshakalaka!” made into the everyday language and are still used by sports commentators today. An interesting tidbit about one of the conspiracy theories surrounding the game was confirmed in 2008 when one of the developers admitted that the game had a built-in bias against Chicago Bulls. If you were playing as Bulls, the game code made it impossible to hit any last-second shots against Detroit Pistons, something many of the gamers claimed back in a day.