As part of my continuing efforts to alienate people who read this blog for some "insight" into board games, I am again devoting this entry to a topic other than board games.
These arcade games aren't really listed in any kind of order. These are just the most memorable ones for me. Note: a lot of classic games (Pac-Man, Q*Bert, Defender, Pong, Donkey Kong, and so on) aren't listed. They are good games, but I've played them a lot on home systems when they came out (not that 2600 ports were entirely faithful) so they don't have the sheen that these 4 games do.
Dragon's Lair, SMASH T.V., X-Men (arcade), Dance Dance Revolution (DDR).
I suppose that you could argue against DDR being on the list (since it's been on home systems since it released), but the experience of playing in the arcade is vastly different to playing at home. Anyway, I made up the rules for this list and I can break them, too.
SMASH T.V. is just pure chaos on screen. So many enemies. So many directions to shoot in. Even a bit of a story (3 stages to complete). It's almost impossible to beat the game in 1 quarter, but whenever you lose your last life, you feel like you could have gotten through one more room if you'd played differently. Almost the perfect difficultly level for sucking quarters out of you.
X-Men is the game to play with friends. I have played it single player, but with 5 other players the game is a beauty. Mutant powers, tons of enemies. Display that's 2 screens side by side. Memorable bosses. When I've seen old cabinets in bowling alleys or where ever, starting up a game is still magic. Even people who didn't play the game when it was first released (1992) jumped in and we all have a ton of fun.
Dragon's Lair is also special. First laser disk machine. First 50 cent game. I love the fantasy theme (something that wasn't as popular as sci-fi themes). It is 10+ years since I played the Sega CD version, and 20+ years after I played it in arcades. I just played Dragon's Lair recently and it is amazing how many of the patterns I still remembered.
Yes, I'm old (arcades are dead now). Now we have consoles which have the technical capacity to play "any game" (console exclusives prevent this, but that's not really a technical limitation). Instead of 25 or 50 cents a game, we have unlimited plays for $50+. Games are also easier, which makes sense. They aren't trying to suck quarters from you as fast as possible; they are trying to make you feel good about dropping $50+ on the title.
Honourable mentions: Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Star Wars (1983 vector graphic game), and Time Soldiers. I'm sure that there are others that I missed. Feel free to let me via comments or whatever.