When we fell in love with what would become the most popular arcade games, we would often flock to arcades and movie theaters to play via large compartments in which the electronic components of the games resided. These coin-operated machines were everywhere: malls, pizza parlors, and other social gathering spots. Luckily, if you’re in Chicago, you can still find a few of your favorites in our 4,000-square-foot Redemption Arcade.
Your first arcade game is a unique experience for many reasons. The most popular arcade games owe their popularity to the food, sounds, and social atmosphere as much as to their designers. The very first arcade game overall is Computer Space. However, some later favorites include:
- Space Invaders
- Street Fighter II
- NBA Jam
- Mortal Kombat II
Easily one of the best arcade games of all time features a maze where you control a yellow circle named Pac-Man. Pac-Mac is tasked with consuming fruit and dots until the maze is cleared while avoiding the different colored ghosts. Luckily, Pac-Man can use unique beads to turn the spirits blue, which makes them edible and gains the player more points.
Pac-Man’s original designer didn’t include an end; instead, you can play until you lose your remaining lives. The 256th level is a glitch resulting in an error in the game’s code, so if you beat the 256th level, you’ve theoretically beaten Pac-Man.
Taito’s and later Midway’s Space Invaders is still one of the best arcade games of all time. Have you seen a pixel? Then you’ve seen the visual height of Space Invaders, but what this game lacks in visuals–maybe even because of the simplicity–it makes up for in pure, addictive enjoyment. You control a lone ship desperately shooting at a wall of enemies descending upon you. Your task: stop the space invaders from reaching the bottom. This anxiety-inducing gameplay intensifies as more enemies are defeated, which means the remaining enemies move faster and faster. Space Invaders is the highest-grossing game of all time: $13 billion across systems.
Street Fighter II
Street Fighter II defined gaming combat and hooked millions. Capcom originally released it for arcades in 1987. Street Fighter II improved and expanded on concepts from the first failed game: command-based moves, a combo system, a six-button configuration, and more expansive choices of unique characters. In addition, Street Fighter II features a two-player mode to encourage social play.
Some people’s fondest memories are the glitches, and there are several, including Guile’s “invisible throw.” In single-player, the player faces the other seven main characters before proceeding to the final four non-selectable boss characters. Matches can last up to ten rounds, and players can lose by default without a clear winner.
Donkey Kong is Mario’s first appearance, making it a significant part of history. Jumpman, who would later attend a plumbing apprenticeship and start a small business with his brother Luigi, desires nothing more than to reach the top of a towering deathtrap –except maybe rescue the princess from Donkey Kong. That’s right. Donkey Kong is the notorious, classic bad guy who hurls barrels toward Jumpman to stop him.
Although Donkey Kong was Shigeru Miyamoto’s first arcade game, he would become the figurehead of Nintendo and ultimately earn a cult gamer following. In addition, Miyamoto’s designs would influence entertainment overall and genuinely enrich the lives of people who may have never heard of him or played a video game.
The House of the Dead
Disclaimer: This game features gory images, ghouls, and zombies that gave us the chills as kids.
Sega’s The House of the Dead is a fast-paced, bloody zombie shooter that was, at least in the ‘90s, as close to virtual reality as you could imagine–earning it a spot in our list of top arcade games. This rail shooter uses gun-shaped controllers to progress through the story while you aim and destroy zombies. The fast, loud, gory zombies add a few jumpscares to ensure terrified gamers go home shaken but return for more.
You should learn that the game offers three different endings based on your performance in-game. But we won’t ruin the surprise.
If you don’t know Tetris, the famous tile-matching game starts with a clear board. It’s your job to keep the board from filling as tiles begin to fall slowly. These tiles come in multiple shapes. You must complete a line of tiles from one side to the other to clear that line. Often, you can do this to several lines at once if you get the right piece. Like Space Invaders, the more you succeed, the faster the tiles come down. We’d be lying if we told you that this feature doesn’t create one of the most infuriating, fun experiences of any game, classic or modern.
If you haven’t been to an arcade yet, you haven’t been to one since their early days, or you are some kind of space invader, we think you’re in for an exciting surprise when you see what arcades have become. Top arcade games and the arcade genre are alive and well. In addition to the best arcade games of all time listed above, there are new games and new ways to game in arcades today.
Wintrust Sports Complex in Bedford Park, Illinois, is the Midwest’s premiere sports, events, and recreation destination. We offer residents and visitors top arcade games, laser tag, an e-sports cafe, and more. Our Redemption Arcade is a full-sized 4,000-square-foot arcade with the latest video games. It is the perfect addition to any birthday party, group event, or game night.