back to article Twenty classic arcade games

I’d better say it from the outset: picking 20 all-time arcade game classics is a nightmarish task, not simply because of the almost endless array of titles available to choose from, but because of all the really good ones you have to omit. Space Invader Here then, are the titles that made the cut, either because they have …


This topic is closed for new posts.


  1. jason 7

    Oh no Space Harrier?

    My fave.

    1. 2020hindsight

      Re: Oh no Space Harrier?

      Agree - Space Harrier was to my memory the first mainstream hydraulic cabinet game, and to be honest I think the pinnacle of arcade fun before the consoles took the money and innovation out of the market.

      1. Professor Clifton Shallot

        Re: Oh no Space Harrier?

        Yeah, would have had Space Harrier, Battle Zone, and Missile Command on the list.

        And Moon Cresta, Galaxians, Tempest, Centipede, Asteroids, Scramble, I Robot ... and, and ,and damn it really is an impossible task to whittle these down.

        1. big_D Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Oh no Space Harrier?

          Yep, Moon Cresta, Scramble and Tempest were great, as was Space Harrier.

          We had Gaplus, Amidar and Time Pilot in the college common room, later joined by Food Fight.

          I could clock Time Pilot and Gaplus. 10p in Time Pilot was good for whiling away a couple of hours...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Oh no Space Harrier?

      First game to have 16-bit graphics and use the new Sega "super scaler" game engine.

      Mr Do should be on the list somewhere too, it was the first game to be sold as an upgrade or conversion kit to reuse existing cabinets, so it was cheaper for arcades to replace games.

    3. Craig Chambers
      Thumb Up

      Re: Oh no Space Harrier?

      Welcome to the fantasy zone... Get Ready!

  2. Thomas 4

    This is an outrage

    No Afterburner on the list? For shame, sir!

    1. ukgnome Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: This is an outrage

      Totally agree, the hydraulic cabinet was way ahead of it's time.

    2. Peter Bennett 1

      Re: This is an outrage

      I'm sorry that 'Scramble' is absent. That and Defender used to take up a lot of my teenage time.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: This is an outrage

        Karate Champ, Kung Fu Master, Gorf, Phoenix are on my list.

      2. 4.1.3_U1


        I never became any good at Defender, but at the time I found it to be extremely compulsive - just had to put one more 20p (or whatever it cost) in the slot.

        For some reason I still have nostalgic feelings about this game; never mind (the bollocks).

    3. Psyx

      Re: This is an outrage

      I was thinking the same about 'Centipede'; the first game I ever saw with a trackball.

      1. Super Fast Jellyfish

        Re: This is an outrage

        Not sure, did missile command do it first?

        1. Psyx

          Re: This is an outrage

          "Not sure, did missile command do it first?"

          Maybe, but I never *saw* that game in the flesh.

      2. Homer 1 Silver badge

        Re: This is an outrage

        +1 for Atari Centipede, my all-time favourite game.

        Also: Missile Command; Mach 3; Pac-Man; Gorf; Qix; Gradius; Battlezone and Final Fight, to name a few.

    4. Jamie Jones Silver badge

      Re: This is an outrage

      > No Afterburner on the list? For shame, sir!

      I managed to read this post 8 times, due to the fact the pages had the "top scored posts" at the bottom of every bloody page.

      *why*? Even on single pages reading a "top reply" first may be senseless if you don't see what it's a reply to,

      If it ain't broke, don't break it :(

      REG FAIL

  3. Ian 45
    Thumb Up


    I was only looking for Paperboy and Defender for my phone this week.

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Classics

      Just grabbed Dragon's Lair for my Nexus 7 - I can see some definite timewasting coming up over the next day or two...


    Has to be ... Star Wars!

    Ahh the memories of wasted hours [1983) in the Bath Student Union bar trying to 'use the force'. Only got to plant the torp a couple of times.

    oddly pints of Wadsworth's 4X didn't help Luke in any form in using the force....

    1. jason 7

      Re: Has to be ... Star Wars!

      Yeah playing Star wars at the Arcade in Hunstanton was great fun. Never got all that far but it was thrilling to play.

      Loved gaming back then as your imagination was encouraged to fill in the gaps.

      1. diego

        Re: Has to be ... Star Wars!

        I recently found my Ultima maps and manuals from the Ultima collection (I-VI). That's what I call filling the game's gaps with imagination. Those books really set the mood for the game, I agree that games today lack that...

    2. ArmyCrow

      Re: Has to be ... Star Wars!

      Luke never could hold his shandy. The amount of times 3PO had to pilot the Landspeeder home was embarrassing.

      1. Heathroi

        Re: Has to be ... Star Wars!

        but it took a loooooonnnnggggg time as 3po wouldn't go very fast and stopped at every notice board.

    3. Merlinski

      Re: Has to be ... Star Wars!

      Wadworth's 4X ???

      6X, surely.

      It's Castlemange who make 4X. (Yes I know how Castlemange is spelt, thank you.)

      1. philbo

        Re: Wadworth's 4X ???

        ..maybe he only had 2/3 of a pint?

    4. R W Rodway

      Re: Has to be ... Star Wars!

      Yup, got to concur with Star Wars. I spent FAR too much time playing that at Uni. Including one 11 hour game (got to 95 million+, 350 odd death stars (the counter stuck at 99, but after 256 it went back to 0), and then the arcade closed and they threw me out! Still don't know if the score can handle 100M :))

  5. EddieD

    Ah - the passage of time

    I knew - and loved - all the earlier games, but the later ones were a mystery. I think I discovered girls or something.

    For me, Space Invaders - the first really huge game, Donkey Kong - the first platformer, Star Wars - incredible 3D, but I think BattleZone was first on the Vector 3D..., and Gauntlet - just damn good fun in the Union bar - I got the adaptor for my Atari ST so that we could play G2 4 up on the machine - but since you couldn't buy more healther, it wasn't as good.

    All classics - and cheers for the memories (btw, no Lunar Lander? That was the first I played, in the mini Virgin Megastore in Nottingham...)

    1. Andrew Moore Silver badge

      Re: Ah - the passage of time

      I always thought it was a great pity that The Empire Strikes Back wasn't more available and that The Return of the Jedi was in raster not vector.

    2. MarkBlack

      Re: Ah - the passage of time

      I was surprised that BattleZone didn't make list.

    3. Super Fast Jellyfish
      Thumb Up

      Re: Ah - the passage of time

      Ah battlezone, with the periscope viewsight. However I think tailgunner was the earliest 3d vector game back in '79...

  6. Tsung

    Ahh memories..

    Paperboy was an arcade game you could crash by holding full right (or it might of been left) at the end of the level. This would cause you to miss the end of the level and carry on into the abyss. :) Space Harrier missing? makes me sad. That must of been one of the first full motion sit in arcade cabinet games. There are so many other iconic games missing, Golden Axe, Pole Position, Outrun, Mr Do, Bagman.. Maybe a top 100 list next time?

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Maybe a top 100 list next time?

      I second that idea! And would third it too if that were cricket.

      If I might over an amendment? Do it as a Reg submission/poll sequence.

  7. Tweets
    Thumb Up

    Surprised that Golden Axe isn't in there! It was one of the few games from that same era that to me summarised it almost as well as Star Wars! Spent many a £ on Gauntlet, Star Wars and Golden Axe!

    1. FartingHippo

      Bestest Game Evar!

      I suspect the 'best' coin-ops were the popular ones when you were 12-16 years old, however old you are.

      (unless you're under 20, in which case you can just f*ck off back to your console)

      1. Simon Round
        Thumb Up

        Re: Bestest Game Evar!

        +1 - That made me chuckle. Personally I was 12-16 in the late 70's early 80's. Oh the memories.

        Me looks wistfully into the middle distance. Must Build Cabinet.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hyper Sports should be there

    The follow up to Track and Field, Hyper Sports should really have taken it's place. The game play was better as each round got more and more difficult to pass.

    Track and Field stopped getting hard after 3 or 4 rounds and and it was possible to play it for 14 hours on a single 10p (restricted to the opening hours of the shop it was in). We did this as a relay team one day taking turns to do rounds - Think we ended up with a score of around 7 million.

    For any Hyper Sports fans out there I was part of a partnership called HFX - we mainly played in the north (as that was where we were from and weren't old enough to drive). We held the vast majority of records in Blackpool and surrounding holiday locations.

  9. FartingHippo


    The definitive list will never be agreed on, but here are my faves from the era:

    Bubble Bobble (I mean, come on! 100 levels, hidden portals, easter eggs galore)

    Wonder Boy (I can still hum the music)



    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: Others

      And to add to the list:

      Dragon's Lair (or Space Ace) - As something different, with it's laserdisc animated graphics

      Hypersports - much better than track and field (using half a kinder egg to mash the buttons).

      Galaxians - would deserve a place, but I guess too much to squeeze into 20 that already has Space Invaders (which should of course always be #1 in the list).

      Joust - still love that game today!

      Rampage - manga monster mash! Nuff said.

      1. FartingHippo

        Re: Others

        Galaxians? Pfff. We don't need your steenking Galaxians.

        Galaga, though, is a whole other story.

        1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

          Re: Others

          Nah, Gorf was better, or at least ate more of my 10p's.

          Then there's Asteroids, Tempest, Missile Command, Tron (On Discs of course, the better of the two games) and Battlezone.

          Damn, I'm gonna have to dust off Mame and have a retro-fest this weekend!

    2. Dave Schofield

      Re: Others

      Surprised at no mention of:

      Pacland/Super Mario Brothers


      Space Harrier

      Marble Madness


      But, each to their own and they all took a big chunk of my available cash. Might be time to fire up MAME again tonight...

    3. Bushman1234

      Re: Others

      What about Space Harrier?

    4. Osmosis Jones

      Re: Others

      aaah Shinobi....I could have been the next Mozart or George Best but wisely i dedicated my formative years to becoming a Master Ninja.

  10. Reading Your E-mail
    Thumb Up

    Bang on

    Yes there are a ton of others you could have had, but the 10 you picked were all bang on as far as I'm concerned, all ten have swallowed up their fair share of my time (actually probably much more than that).

    Killer Instinct Arcade would be on their if it was my list, the only arcade I have ever 100% finished (even with eyedol) but it's your list not mine so 10/10 :)

  11. Mike Smith

    And what about

    Space Fire Bird (with the screen embedded in a table) and Missile Command? Fond memoiries of playing that in the Bournemouth Pier arcade. The huge explosion when you lost Missile Command and the words THE END blazing from the screen.... ah those were the days.

    Explosion icon, obviously.

  12. David Paul Morgan

    Missile Command anyone?

    with the enormous track-ball.

    Tellingly, if pushed, you would sacrifice the civilian cities to protect your missile launcher!

    Where's WOPR & Matthew Broderick when you need them

    1. Merlinski

      Re: Missile Command anyone?


      And that's why I use a track ball not a mouse ... how can you possibly navigate a spreadsheet <strike>launch nukes at a target quickly and accurately enough </strike> with a mouse ???


      1. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

        Re: Missile Command anyone?

        I used to be pretty good at Missile Command. Was certainly on the High-Score table most times anywhere I played, and often at the top.

        One day I cam to my favourite machine (with the smoothest track ball), and there was a stranger playing. I watched him clock the machine (twice, IIRC), have cities stacked up across the screen, and then get bored after about 45 minutes and walk away before he was wiped out (in fact, before he even started losing significant numbers of cities). You would not believe how erratic the intelligent mines became, and yet he could hit them. I think he must have maxed out the difficulty levels, and the machine started using more and more lurid colour combinations to put him off.

        I never saw him again, and I lost all interest in playing, knowing that I could NEVER be that good. In fact, that was pretty much the end of me spending time in Arcades.

  13. Pete the not so great

    Ahh, thems were the days

    Galaxian, Phoenix, Asteroids and one I cant remember the name of but it's catchphrase was "Downtown humanoid"

    1. Siberian Hamster

      Re: Ahh, thems were the days

      I believe you mean 'Countdown humanoid, countdown intruder!' and also 'humanoid chicken, fight like robot!'

      Loved that game... Berzerk I think it was.


This topic is closed for new posts.

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2019