10 Awesome Arcade Games That Have Been Forgotten
Home consoles are all well and good but for the best graphics, groundbreaking design and the latest hits you have to hit the arcade…or so it was, 20 years ago. Prior to the Playstation generation the home system just couldn’t compete and the best games of the day were in the arcades. Many coins were sacrificed to these pioneers of one of the biggest entertainment industries in history. We all remember the Street Fighters, the Daytonas and the Jousts. Many franchises made the jump to home consoles and continued their legacy, some became cultural icons…some faded into obscurity. You may well remember playing these gems back in the day, or might be of the younger set and learning about them new. Enjoy.
A predecessor of the light gun fad that still holds down the fort in arcades worldwide, Cabal put players in control of commandos taking down enemy bases. Unlike most action games in the side-scrolling era, Cabal put us behind the characters and had them move on a fixed horizontal axis. You could take cover for defence and freely aim your targeting reticle around the screen using a trackball. The game was praised for it’s unique design and challenge, and it visually stood out in the market with characters dodge-rolling back and forth while buildings crumbled. Home console ports were not well received, nor was the Western themed follow up and the game disappeared.
Coming on the tail of Street Fighter 2 and Mortal Kombat we had this claymation style game that incorporated the bright, cartoon style of one and the violence and gore of the other. Set in a post-apocalyptic world the combat takes place between giant monsters who represent hunger, death, decay and so forth. Giant reptilian and primate beats knock the crap out of each other until the losers heart explodes or a horrific finishing move is executed. It was unique, looked like a Ray Harryhausen effects reel and appealed to gamers of the era. The sequel was cancelled at the last moment (although test cabinets did appear in California), and home console ports cut a lot of content to make the transition. Lots of merchandise was created, including a novel to tie up the story, but it’s popularity was short lived.
Another classic game controlled with a trackball. A massive hit when it was released in 1984, it sold thousands of cabinets and was often the highest earning game in the arcade. You used the trackball to guide a marble through a series of tracks, avoiding physics based obstacles and enemies and making sure you reach the ‘goal’ space before the time runs out. Although it had great presentation, introducing stereo sound to arcades, and was entirely unique the small number of tracks left it with little replayability. In spite of its popularity it fell off the charts after only a few weeks. Most ports were well recieved and played well in spite of missing the trackball, but the planned sequel never eventuated and it was left as a nostalgic memory.
Run and guns were all the rage in the late 80s, and this game cashed in when it was released out of Japan in 1989. Focusing on a pair of mercenary brothers whose family have been kidnapped by ‘King Crimson’. They embark on a rescue mission through waves and waves of foes utilising a range of different firearms. Each level was punctuated by boss battles, and in between levels players could spend collected keys to buy special weapons. The Contra franchise on home consoles are more fondly remembered, Midnight Resistance was a bright, colourful game with imaginative level and enemy design, even if it got a bit bonkers at the end. When it did jump onto the home systems the Sega port suffered for the lack of a rotatable joystick, but the Amiga versions were well received.
Just as popular as the run and gun games were the scrolling beat ’em ups. Towards the tail end of the trend and at the beginning of the environmental fad (the peak of which came with Captain Planet) came Growl, a scrolling slugfest about a team of rangers taking on a gang of animal poachers. The gameplay was pretty formula with the gimmick of rescuing animals who would then pitch in and kill some villains for you. For a group of rangers out to protect wildlife they do have a hilarious disregard for human life, sending severed limbs flying after laying into unarmed gang members using rocket launchers.
If there’s one thing that drew a crowd in 1987 arcades, it’s an awesome cabinet. After Burner often came equipped in a large model cockpit that you’d use to steer your fighter jet through stages of shooting down enemy jets. Clearly inspired by the movie Top Gun, this was more style of substance but between the sweet graphics and awesome soundtrack it was worth the coins. A sequel got released the same year but was largely a revision rather than a new game. Sega flaunted the brand from time to time, but the series pretty much faded along with arcades.
After Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat the arcades were awash with competition. Every company and their dog had their own tournament fighting game, often a knock off from the popular titles. On the back of groundbreaking 3D fighter Virtua Fighter came the more colourful and campy Fighting Vipers, one of the more fun entries in the genre. Featuring fast combos, over-the-top characters and a unique armour system made this one of the more playable fighters of the mid-90s. A sequel did come out but the market was well and truly saturated by this point, and a Sonic based version was released, but the industry had moved on.
An early entry in the beat ’em up genre, P.O.W. featured 2 player action in a war time setting, marking it as different than the gang themed games that were popular at the time. With a heavy reliance on pick ups and weapons to take out the hordes of enemies rather than martial arts, you Rambo your way through bases, jungles and the like in order to make your eventual escape. With enemies arriving on helicopters, motorbikes and jeeps it was every part the 1980s action film in game form. After a piss-poor single player NES conversation the franchise of shelved.
Meet Albatross, a secret agent member of the World Crime Police Organization, tasked with saving New York and a female agent from evil organisation Geldra. It was James Bond by way of Japan, sending you down a series of multi-leveled corridors and warehouses to shoot weirdly hooded henchmen. It was bold and colourful, and the anime style was something we hadn’t seen much of at the time. It was fast paced, has smooth graphics and was barrels of fun. Over the course of two sequels the franchise sadly disappeared.
Four years before the legendary Aliens vs Predator beat ’em up arcade game made our lives that extra bit special a shoot ’em up based on the film was released. Playing as either a blonde Ripley or Hicks the players chased down Newt through waves of alien foes and boss fights. The game had solid graphics and would jump from side scrolling to over the shoulder shooting sections, vehicles and elevator sections and cool pick-ups like the power loader. It played fast and loose with the design of the creatures, with alien heads flying around with bat wings but some of the imaginative boss monsters returned in Aliens vs Predator years later. Cabinets only turned up from time to time but it was damn good game.