Guy’s Top 5/Bottom 5 ARCADE GAMES

I grew up in the arcade.  There was once a time that I had to push a chair up to the game to be able to even see the games and control the joystick and buttons.  Pac-Man was my first real love, and even today, I prefer the “quick and easy” access that arcade games offer.  Of course, that symphony of electronic-laden beeps and neon carpeting led me to work in the industry, and even since my exit, the arcade is still never far from my mind.

Below are the “Top and Bottom 5 Arcade Games” that I’ve come across in my experiences.  The ones that have always stuck with me, and the ones that should go far, far away.


Ms. Pac-Man (1982)

To me, this is an example of a “perfect” game. Take all of the classic elements of the original Pac-Man that worked, and refine them with multiple mazes, trickier patterns, moving fruit, and the first digital love story between two yellow mouths. The game is eternal, with never-ending replayability, and always challenging to get that higher score. I can play this for hours, always striving for that higher score.

Tron (1982)

Based on one of my favorite science fiction films, Tron does a remarkable job of taking the source material and turning them into fun and challenging mini-games. Coupled with a beautiful blacklit cabinet, a fantastic rendition of the Wendy Carlos soundtrack, and even more visual nods to the film the farther you go, everything about this game looks great. The game has been so influential in my life that I bought an arcade cabinet of this two decades ago, and never looked back.

Space Harrier (1985)

“Welcome to the Fantasy Zone!” Even today, Space Harrier’s into the camera visual style is impressive. The world that Harrier inhabited was bright, colorful, and frenetic, with all sorts of bizarre enemies, one helpful dragon, and a billion things to shoot. The soundtrack remains one of my personal favorites with its bright and lively beat, making blasting everything that much more exciting.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1989)

Arcade games always had the graphical advantage over home consoles, and this game looked and sounded exactly like the animated series it was based on. Adding to the authenticity of the experience, the game was four-player simultaneous, meaning the full team was represented at once, and was chaos in beating up the various minions and bosses of the Foot Clan. Sure it was a little repetitive, but if there was ever a game that personified its source material, this was it.

Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

I owe my entire career in the video game industry to this game. True, this lacked some of the more iconic fighters from the first two games (later rectified in the home versions), but the action was fast, the combos were numerous, and there were so many various types finishing moves to discover for each character. It was this game that cemented Sonya Blade and Sub-Zero as my “mains”, which remains so in future installments today.


Jack the Giant Killer (1982)

When I look back on this game, I remember the screeching sound effects that were quick to induce a migraine. It’s really too bad, as conceptually, it’s a neat idea, playing upon the old fairy tale. Even the graphics are really well done and cartoony. But between the “plinks” that punctuate every single move you make, boundary detection is also super sketchy, where you’ve never really sure if you’re grabbing something solid or thin air. It’s a shame the sound and hit detection are the real killers here.

Professor Pac-Man (1983)

When I think of Pac-Man, I definitely don’t think of quiz games. Sure, Pac-Man has deviated a few times in her career, from racing games, platformers, puzzle games and fighters, but at least those had some semblance of action even in the worst outings. This is simply answer trivia questions with Professor Pac-Man, with a few nice animations to remind you that this is supposed to be a video game. I played it once, and was mad that I spent the token. It’s little wonder Namco yanked the license away from Midway after such shenanigans.

Real Ghostbusters (1987)

As a standalone game, it’s not awful. As a Ghostbusters-based game, it’s incredibly generic. Other than a repetitive refrain of the main Ghostbusters theme, a few somewhat recognizable sprites, and a laser-based weapon, this could easily have been any game. In fact, the game was known as Meikyū Hunter G in Japan, showing how non-specific and disposable the game elements were. Despite its animated namesake, it didn’t look to be related to either the show or movies it was based on, resulting in a half-hearted game that should have been so much more.

Mortal Kombat 4 (1997)

There’s no getting around it: Even if a game was good, the 3D polygonal graphics of the 1990’s have never aged well. Unfortunately, this didn’t even have good gameplay going for it. Basically, a 3D version of the first Mortal Kombat, the arcade version always felt incredibly incomplete (especially compared to the home versions). No sub-boss, terrible new characters, jerky animation, laughable voice acting, and ugly graphics resulted in a game that pushed the series dormant for five years before Midway tried its hand with the series again.

California Speed (1998)

I nearly gave this place to War Gods, but as I already have a fighter present, this entry goes to California Speed. In the age of San Francisco RUSH and even Cruisin’ USA in the arcades, this game lacked in originality or anything truly standout. At times, the game even felt like it was playing itself, which made getting immersed into the experience of fast paced racing feel more like driving through a school zone with the parking brake on. The lackluster graphics and blatant product placement did nothing to round out the package.