Saturday Top 5: Classic Arcade Video Games

In keeping with this weeks theme of video games (in case you didn’t know, I got a Wii) the top 5 list today will be my favorite 5 classic arcade video games. I wasn’t a big time arcade junky, mainly because my parents didn’t let me throw away my money in there every week. But I do remember growing up in the 80’s that in every mall there was one place always booming with business, the arcade! I was thrilled when my dad would give me a buck or two to spend because that meant I could play 4-8 games. It was a major treat when dad would give me $5 because you would usually get 25 tokens for a 5 dollar bill at most arcades. That would last about 2 hours. I liked to try all the games that looked interesting in the arcade, so I never got to be super proficient at any one game, unlike my dad who was a missile command genius! With that lengthy intro, these are my Top 5 classic arcade games.

Honorable mention goes to Pacman. I know a lot of you out there think I’m nuts for not making this one #1, but this is my list! 🙂 I can still hear the sound effects of this game as the little yellow character chomped on the white pellets. It was definitely the most popular arcade video game ever do to its crossover appeal to both male and female. It did not make my number 1 because the buzz had worn down on this game by 1984 or 85 when I started playing some video games. It was still one of my favorite games. I never really could get how some of those serious Pacman’ers became so good that they could flip the game several times.

5. Missile Command. Defend your cities against missile attacks. This was obviously a game capitalizing off the nuclear scare of the Cold War. My dad was so good at this game that I believe he was the reason they started charging .50 per game. He would stretch a game out so long that there was a line of people waiting to get to the machine.

4. Centipede. Now this was a game I was a little better at. If you could get the centipede to line up in the right spot, you could eliminate him with some rapid fire. The thing I hated was those dumb fleas that would drop to the player level and leave new mushrooms after you spent a good deal of effort clearing previously.

3. Galaga. This was a sequel to another great arcade classic “Galaxian”. I didn’t really understand why there were bees, flies, and mosquito-like creatures flying around in space shooting at me, but I really enjoyed this game. Of course I always let them abduct my ship if I had a second one available, because that was how you got the double fighter. Also, with the double fighter that was about the only way to rack up the points on the bonus rounds. The original Galaxian was a lot like Space Invaders but it had vivid colors, better music and sound FX, and the dive-bombing elements. Galaga improved Galaxian with graphics, sound, rapid fire game play, bonus rounds, and the abduction/rescue which let you have two fighters side-by-side.

2. Asteroids. This was a great game! With a little practice, I was good enough to crack the high score. I also really enjoyed this game because the fighter was not confined to a track and could go anywhere on the board. Even though it was in monochrome colors, I thought the action and sound were cool. Besides, the Atari version was close enough of a replica that when I got to play it on the console, my skills translated pretty well.

1. Donkey Kong. My number one choice for Classic Arcade video games is the inspiration for so many spin-off games and characters that are still popular today. Donkey Kong introduced not only the title character, but also the super popular Mario and his girlfriend which went on to become Peach. This was a fun arcade game. Since I was not an arcade maniac, I never totally mastered this game, but between Donkey Kong and Donkey Kong Jr. I spent most of my arcade tokens. In Donkey Kong, you are Mario. Peach has been kidnapped by the gorilla Donkey Kong. Your job is to run through what appears to be levels of scaffolding jumping over barrels that the gorilla has thrown at you in an attempt to reach the top and rescue your girl Peach. In a sequel released the year after the original Donkey Kong, you are Donkey Kong’s son “Jr”. DK has been captured by Mario and you are attempting to free him from the cage by swinging from vines and springing in the air. Both of these games were addictive, innovating, and fun. Nintendo was also sued by Universal Studios for copyright infringement. Nintendo successfully argued that King Kong was in the public domain and had already been declared so by Universal.

Some of the great games of all time were omitted from the list due to my personal preference. But there are many other great games that would bring back some memories of playing (or many times just watching) at the arcade: Qubert, Dig-dug, Joust, Tank, Tempest, and Space Invaders just to name a few. Those games by today’s comparison seem so simple and silly, but they were innovative and intriguing back then.


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5 responses to “Saturday Top 5: Classic Arcade Video Games

  1. I never played video games at the mall arcade – only at home on our (Sears equivalent) of the Atari 2600. We (me and my little brother) had a bunch of Atari and (cheaper) ActiVision games back then (early-1980s). My personal favourites were Space Invaders and Asteroids. I was excellent at both of those games.

  2. I agree with all except number 5 and I need to say that Ninja Turtles or Street Fighter would have to jump in there. Of course, my arcade years are a few years later than yours. For instance, you grew up with Pac Man and I grew up with Ms. Pac Man 3D.


  3. Did you forget “Preppie”, the home version of “Frogger”, “Lunar Lander”, and “Hostage Rescue”, home arcade comes all? Maybe Hostage Rescue was under another name, but you know the one where you pilot a helicopter through attacks from jet planes and that funky smart satellite that had eyes looking at you as you tried to rescue hostages from a building in the Middle East, a very prophetic game for the early eighties.

    And Qix, too?

    A typical good game in Missile Command was 100,000 points, getting a bonus city every 10,000. If you reached 489,000, the game banked you up with 23 bonus cities, but no more thereafter. I only got there one time when I beat a Missile Command whiz kid half my age. What a gas that was! The game lasted almost an hour. He was seriously ticked that he lost to a 38 year old geezer.

    I think it was “Missile Command” that stopped the cold war. Gorbachev already knew about a theoretical US Strategic Defense initiative (called Star Wars by the liberal media). BUT, when that game reached the Soviet Union, showing KIDS actually could defeat incoming ICBMs with computer-launched anti-ballistics he was unnerved. That is why Mikhail folded after Reagan’s “Tear-Down-This-Wall!” speech.

  4. I made my list based on the “Classic Arcade Games”, so Preppie wouldn’t have qualified. Qix was a great game, but it didn’t have the impact of the other games on my top 5. Some great games that were left off that were a few of my alltime favorite video games were Spy Hunter, Paperboy, Punch Out, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Narc, and Pole Position. Paperboy and Punch Out were probably my two favorite video games ever, but I am not sure if they were really from the Golden Era of arcade video games. Frogger was a great one too.

  5. Hey Atom Splitter, never underestimate the power of video games or Japanese innovation!

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