The 1980s was the golden age of video arcades, and it’s the games released there that have influenced the world of computer games ever since. Every game you have known and loved in your life owes a debt of gratitude to the 1980s arcade games that have enthralled millions around the world and continue to do so.
Since arcade games typically cost a quarter ($0.25) to play in American arcades, it’s only fitting to present a top four list of the best and most influential arcade games. Insert coin and begin!
4. Donkey Kong (1981)
Donkey Kong was released by Nintendo in 1981 as an attempt to break the North American market. Originally conceived as a game in which Bluto had captured Olive Oyl and Popeye the Sailor had to rescue her, the three characters were changed due to a failure to secure the rights to use Popeye in the game.
Bluto was swiftly changed into the ape Donkey Kong, the damsel in distress to Pauline (originally Lady), and Popeye to a red-and-blue clad man named “Jumpman”. Upon release, Donkey Kong was a massive North American success for Nintendo, earning them more than $280 million ($730 million today) in the first two years after its release. It has won countless awards and remains easily one of the most popular video games of all time.
Of course, the most notable thing about the original Donkey Kong arcade game is that it spawned the most popular video game franchise in the world. Donkey Kong was the first appearance of Mario in a video game, although he was known as the aforementioned “Jumpman” when the game was first released.
3. Fortune Coin (1970s/1980s)
If we included Donkey Kong because it put Nintendo on the map in the western world and was the spark that lit the fire of the most popular video game series ever made, then we would be remiss to not include the Fortune Coin slot machines that sprung up in casinos and arcades the world over in the late 1970s and early 1980s. It was this machine that inspired the tens of thousands of video slots and online slot games that followed it and continue to do so today.
The age of video slots began in 1975 with the invention of Walt Fraley’s Fortune Coin slot machine. Rather than the classic one-armed bandits that slots were before, this game was an electronic video game – that could pay out huge prizes and not just level accolades.
Nowadays, the world of slots is beyond vast. Not only are casinos around the world jammed wall-to-wall with slot machines based on Fortune Coin, but the world of online casinos and mobile gambling is dominated by slots games. Slot makers like Microgaming and IGT have created some great ones like Mega Moolah and Da Vinci Diamonds. Due to the inspiration of the classic Fortune wheel, slots are more than just “spin and go” machines, giving them interactive mini-games and bonuses that players around the world still enjoy today.
2. Tetris (1984)
Arguably the most recognisable video game in the world, the extremely simple concept of Tetris proved a major hit when it was introduced to arcades in 1984. Originally designed by Russian programmer Alexey Pajitnov, it was the first software to be exported from the USSR to the US, where it took the world of gaming by storm.
The simple concept, fantastic music and frustratingly addictive gameplay saw it become one of the most popular arcade games in the world almost instantly. To date, it remains one of the most successful games of all time and is available on almost every games console and computer system in the world.
In fact, Tetris is so addictive and popular that it even has a brain effect named for it. The Tetris Effect refers to players visualising and dreaming of the game even when they’re not playing; while this can happen with any repeated visual activity, the fact that it is named after Tetris is proof of the game’s amazing popularity!
1. Pac-Man (1980)
When people think of arcade games, they think of Pac-Man. It’s that simple, and that’s why he’s taken the number one spot on this list. Pac-Man created an entirely new genre of arcade game when it was released in 1980, as the arcade scene was almost entirely dominated by space games like Space Invaders and Asteroid.
Namco’s Pac-Man revolutionised arcade gameplay in Japan and then the world and remains regarded as one of the most influential video games of all time. Pac-Man was the first gaming mascot and remains one of the most recognisable video game characters in the world; it introduced the concept of power-ups in gaming and laid the foundations for many other video game genres.
Pac-Man is one of few arcade games to have been consistently re-made and re-published since its release, meaning that the Pac-Man franchise and the original game itself now spans into four decades of video game dominance. It’s an easy choice to top this list, because who hasn’t been enthralled by that “waka waka waka” at some time or another?