SB Recommends Arcade Games

arcade_mecha.jpgThe arcade, though once the hub of videogame culture and bleeding edge of videogame hardware, has since dwindled in popularity in most parts of the world. And the arcades that are still to be found are mostly dedicated to a few select genres. Luckily we have MAME, which does a good job of emulating the wide variety of arcade hardware, even if it can't simulate the variety of input and feedback features that still make arcade cabinets special. Not to mention the atmosphere of the places. There have also been some good arcade compilations for consoles. Particularly worth mentioning are the Sega Ages series, and the Taito compilations. There are some okay Midway ones too, but not all the ports included are great. It seems like companies are getting a bit better at putting them together, at least; and a bit more generous.

This section is potentially quite large, so things are organised into loose genres.


Uncategorisable, and as-of-yet unsorted. Probably a good group of arcade games will fit here.

  • Bump 'n' Jump / Burning Rubber (JP) (also on: 2600, ColecoVision, C64, Intellivision, NES1)
    • dessgeega: Bump other vehicles off the track or into satisfying, domino-like chains. Keep your speed up, though — bumping a car from behind will slow you down — because your car is a jumping car, and needs to be moving fast enough in order to clear environmental obstacles and debris dropped by enemies. you can also use your jump to land on other cars, squashing them goomba-style.
  • City Bomber
    • shnozlak: Takes place almost entirely not in the city and no bombing of said city occurs. It's Bump-N-Jump at about 3 times the speed with the addition of some great power ups. Like the wings that let you jump higher and longer, Speed Racer style saws, a grenade launcher gun upgrade and so on. Stages are very tightly timed and you must execute near perfect runs to complete the higher levels.
  • Dig Dug
    • slime: im thinking about dig dug
  • Gunbarich
    • dessgeega: If you need an Arkanoid clone, you can do worse than this one from Psikyo. The ability to gain control over your ball (and bullets fired by enemies!) by whacking it with the flippers makes the game more nuance and makes the game move along much quicker.
  • Gun Fight / Western Gun (JP)
    • The Blueberry Hill: A really fun, really early, versus shooting game by Nishikado Tomohiro. Each player controls their character with the joystick, which is also rotatable2) to allow control of the firing angle. I assume this would be easy enough to emulate with two analogue controllers. This game has maybe the most devastating feeling bullets I've encountered in a vidcon.
  • I, Robot
    • vamos: Stange and beautiful.
  • Jungler
    • dessgeega: Incredibly balanced game that combines the mechanics of the calculator snake game with the back-and-forth of a Pac-Man maze game. Shoot at your opponents' tails to make them shorter, then eat their heads to gobble them up. Snake speed is determined by tail size, so snakes you can eat will always be just faster than you, snakes that can eat you just slower.
  • Marble Madness
    • The Blueberry Hill: Race against the clock with fun slippery controls, and one of gamings most striking and haunting soundtracks.
  • Missile Command (also on: 2600, 360, Atari 8-bit, GB, GG, Jaguar, Lynx, MD/G, PC, SMS)
    • dessgeega: One of the first games I ever played, and totally gave me nightmares. This game always ends with nuclear holocaust, and to begin a game is to doom yourself to inevitable armageddon. Play with the mouse, using either the mouse buttons and wheel for the three missile silos, or three keyboard keys. If you'd rather play with a joypad, try Taito's Colony 7 (which replaces the generic cities with a more elaborate infrastructure which actually serves you).
  • Onna Sanshirou / Typhoon Gal
    • leoboiko: A fighter where you play as a judo girl, very Yawara-esque. Has … interesting… controls I can't quite figure out, but it's a must if, like me, you enjoy non-SF-like fighters.
  • Pengo (also on: 2600, 5200, C64, GG)
    • dessgeega: SEGA's penguin game takes place in a maze of ice blocks you can shove from one side of the screen to the other. Smoosh enemies with blocks to get rid of them, and change the layout of the maze as you do so. The enemies are smart and won't walk right into your path of shoving. Tips: push against the edge of the screen to stun enemies touching it. When a new enemy appears, blocks containing enemy eggs will flash; crush those blocks to kill enemies before they appear.
  • Penguin-Kun Wars!
    • shnozlak: I like to hold gaming parties from time to time and when its 4 am and the drinks are gone and some ones passed out on the couch this is the game we play. Your the penguin and you must throw the pink balls to the other side of the table faster than your opponent (usually some sort of bear) can return them. If you hit the opponent he will be temporarily knocked out. The reverse is also true so watch out. Eventually strange obstacles will travel back and fourth across the middle of the table disrupting your balls. Get all the balls to the other side to win or have the fewest on your side when the timer runs down. This game is not for the well rested or sober.
  • Phozon
    • dessgeega: Kenta Cho-approved3)! this Namco shooter is one of a handful of identifiable Katamari prototypes. In this game you attempt to construct molecules by collecting atoms and adding them to your body. Each one you add makes you a bigger target for the dancing nuclear monster that chases you around, scattering and then reforming dangerously near. While dancing around this pursuer, you're trying to make sure the atoms get attached in the right places (push the button to eject one).
  • Pooyan (also on: 2600, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, C64, CC2, MSX, NES4), TRS-80, Wii VC)
    • dessgeega: Pooyan — which is a game about firing arrows at balloons to keep wolves from reaching the cliff where they want to shove a rock down onto your head, so you can rescue your little piglets — is all about character. It's also about simple, single-axis gameplay that quickly gets pretty frantic, with wolves moving at different speeds and rocks and fruits littering the space that you're trying to shoot across, and formations you can chain with a parabola shot for bonus points. Pooyan was designed to be accessible but deep, which will become a trend for this list.
  • Raiders5
    • dessgeega: raiders5 is a puzzle shooter that is actually both puzzley and shootery. your goal is to destroy every target in the level while evading baddies, but you can only turn when you hit a wall or in an open space. in the above picture you see me using the egg that forms when an enemy is shot to turn my ship and shoot a target. it's by upl and has their usual cute-but-not-clean visual style.

Beat 'em ups

Beat 'em ups, Belt Scrollers, and other games where one wanders the screen terrorising hordes of palette swapped punks. One of the big genres in the heyday of the arcades: big colourful graphics, multiplayer, and great soundtracks are typical genre markers. There are quite a few gems that never made to to consoles, too.

  • Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
    • Loki Laufeyson: A pretty manly beat em up, based on a very manly comic series. Make a T-Rex docile by punching it!
  • Denjin Makai II (JP) / Guardians
    • T.: So much depth and beauty amongst the absurdity. So many characters!! and moves! and the detail and style of the backgrounds is unmatched.
  • Dungeons & Dragons: Tower of Doom (also on: PC, Saturn)
    • Bennett: I often call this my favourite game of all time, if the mood strikes. It's not without its flaws, but I still adore it… it has so much heart.
  • Dynamite Deka (JP) / Die Hard Arcade (also on: PS2, Saturn)
  • Dynamite Deka 2 (JP) / Dynamite Cop (also on: DC
  • Dynamite Dux
  • Ed Randy: The Cliffhanger
    • Take It Sleazy: The Cliffhanger: Edward Randy is like specifically wired to my nervous system. Just an absolute joy.
  • Gaia Crusader
    • Burp: The first Noise Factory game, in a time were the beat em ups are almost unexisting in the industry. Its not so awesome in graphics but it got an awesome combo system.
  • Growl
  • Ninja Baseball Batman
  • The Ninja Kids
    • dessgeega: Four player brawler with differently-colored ninjas, each of whom wields a unique weapon. Thus far it sounds similiar to a certain other arcade brawling game, but where Ninja Kids wins is in the awesomeness category. Everything about this game is utterly ridiculous, from the premise — rescuing a town from the evils of THE SATAN — to the armies of levitating cultists, the chopping zombies in half in a construction yard, the duel with an evil ninja on top of a blimp, the crazy climber homage autoscrolling stages — and of course, the dialogue.
  • PuLiRuLa
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Surrealism and existential terror in beat-em-up land.
    • Loki Laufeyson: A lot of games are surreal, but PuLiRuLa is on a different level>
  • Sunset Riders (also on: MD/G, SNES)
    • Take It Sleazy: A physical manifestation of the untainted joy of a child's bloodlust in a crackling, pulsating, neon colored, western wonderland. An experience that is one of the best things to ever be sold in increments of quarters.
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles in Time
  • Trio the Punch - Never Forget Me… (also on: mobile, PS2)
    • Take It Sleazy: Trio the Punch is better than a video game. It is a mental state.
  • Violent Storm
  • Warrior Blade
    • Loki Laufeyson: The awesome game that Golden Axe is in your rose-tinted memories, only it's real.

Light Gun Games

One of those genres that are a bit tricky to port to consoles. Though ports and gun accessories were quite popular during the 32-bit era and on the Wii, some of the more attractive features—like big unique guns, strong force feedback, etc.—were never able to make the transition.

  • Alien 3 The Gun
  • Crisis Zone
  • Dragongun
  • Gunmen Wars
  • Jurassic Park:The Lost World
  • L.A.Machineguns
  • Silent Scope (series)
  • Virtua Cop
  • Virtua Cop 2

One Screen

(The scope of this classification is probably too large; it pretty much encompasses every early-earlyish arcade game, and many later ones. Single-screen platformers could have their own bit, at least.)

  • Bezerk
  • Bogey Manor
  • Bomb Jack
    • dessgeega: Like the bullet hell of Single-Screen Platformers, in that you're given incredible manueverability and then expected to use it to squeak through the hordes of enemies homing in on you. Hold up or down on the joypad to adjust the height of your jump and tap the button in mid-air to cut off a jump, or to “flap” to stay in the air. Collect bombs when they're lit for the highest amount of points.
  • Bubble Bobble
    • dessgeega: Taito platformers are characterized by simple mechanics with lots of depth, especially for those interested in playing for score. Bubble Bobble has bubble-blowing dinosaurs! the bubbles are both a method of attack and a way to get around the screen. Contains like a bazillion different power-ups. Play with two players. other Taito platformers to consider include Rainbow Islands, Don Doko Don, The New Zealand Story, and Liquid Kids.
  • BurgerTime
  • Dead Connection
    • spectralsound: “MEN MAKING A STAND AGAINST A GIGANTIC CRIME.” better at being a noir game than L.A. Noire!
    • dessgeega: A Taito film. Each stage serves as a backdrop for a grand firefight between players and a bunch of mafia thugs, and the sets change as the gunfight rages: shoot a gunman off of a balcony and break the railing, set bushes or tables ablaze, topple a statue. Slight auto-aiming and a “dive out of the way” button make the game play that much tighter and look that much more cinematic.
  • Diet Go! Go!
    • Loki Laufeyson: The spiritual sequel to Tumblepop, that plays a lot faster. The villain is also notable, for his heinous plan of giving cakes and meat to the people of the world to make them overweight.
  • Donkey Kong
    • The Blueberry Hill: If there was a videogame licence test you would have to be able to complete two or three loops of Donkey Kong, I'm sure. The game's terrific, and you should dedicate a few hours to learning it a bit, is what I'm trying to say. Also the NES version's title screen music is very very special.
  • Donkey Kong Jnr.
    • Lynchburg: Donkey Kong Jnr. […] is thoroughly, eternally charming and remains so to this day.
  • Sinistar
  • Snow Bros
  • Super BurgerTime
    • bizcwn: Everything is so colorful that it reminds me quite a bit of the Neo Geo games. There is also a lot of variety in enemies designs with some having different abilities. A few take more than one hit of pepper and at least one (the giant pea) can shoot stuff at you (pea pods). It will take a few deaths to learn all their special abilities.
      One thing I like are the unique level designs. While they are very typical of such games with ladders enabling you to go up and down, there are a few differences. First off, you cannot just walk over the burgers. You need to jump on them. They are higher than the levels and you need to jump up on them and then keeping jumping to knock them down a level. Also, some levels need to be scrolled to complete.

Platformers, and Adventurey Things

  • Biomechanical Toy
  • Dyna Gears
  • Elevator Action Returns (also on: PC, PS2, Saturn, XBox)
    • spectralsound: goddamn this game is just the fucking bee's knees. this and Dead Connection are Taito at their best. (maybe throw RayForce in there.)
    • dessgeega: Amazing to see in motion. A game about spy gunfire exchange in urban towers that conducts itself with such style and panache that watching your character run, leap and shoot onscreen will make you proud of your own abilities.
    • sawtooth: It's become one of my favorite games to play over the past year. I love the deliberate feeling of it, like I was playing Flashback or Prince of Persia, except that in this case you only have yourself to blame if you accidentally throw yourself down an elevator shaft.
  • Jungle Hunt (also on: all the Ataris, Apple II, ColecoVision, C64, MSX, PC, PS25), TI-99/4A, Vic-20, Xbox6)
    • Jeff Garneau: It has pretty much anything you could ever ask for in a game: vine swinging; croc punching; boulder jumping; from savages maiden rescuing. There's really something about the underwater segments that's completely desperate and just makes you go, “YEAH FUCK YOU CROC I GOT YOU THIS TIME”.
    • The Blueberry Hill: Yeah, this is one of those game with, um, really specific controls that add to the game and the challenge, rather than being something negative and frustrating.
  • Haunted Castle
  • I'm Sorry / Gombe's I'm Sorry (JP)
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Still the best political satire game.
    • leoboiko: Play as corrupt Japanese politician collecting gold in a Pac-Man-like maze. Enemies include MiBs who are actually sadistic crossdressers, Michael Jackson, Giant Baba and Madonna. Need I say more?
    • bizcwn: A Pacman like game to be played just for the humor alone. No spoilers here. Just play it!
  • J.J. Squawkers
    • sharc: It's over too quickly and the randomized weapon drops will inevitably ruin your day, but that aside this is delightful cartoon anarchy and not to be missed.
  • Micheal Jackson's Moonwalker
  • The New Zealand Story
  • Osman / Cannon-Dancer (JP)
    • Shapermc: The spiritual sequel to Strider from the creators of the original. Developed by Mitchell company and, by some stroke of idiocy, never properly distributed or advertised in the US (or anywhere else as far as I know). If you like the original Strider, chaces are you can get into this game and find an even greater challenge.
    • Rero Rero: Osman is really fucking sweet, it's like a harder version of Strider with a more athletic player character who knows martial arts. It is so close to Strider Capcom should sue but it ends up being much more fun. The first stage even looks almost similar to Strider's and you can climb the walls and ceiling. But unlike in Strider your character doesn't rely on a pussy sword instead using his body as a weapon, netting him more badass points. There's even a bit where you have to run down a slope and jump when you get to the end. Only instead of mines in your way there's a speeding truck behind you with a machinegun on the top. After it crashes you get chased by the explosion up a wall and then across the ceiling.
    • Deets: I was really interested in Osman when I saw it on Haze's WIP page, but I had doubts. Namely, it's by Mitchell. Still, the screenshots looked so good that I held out hope.
      Then it turned out that the game blows. Really bad. Surprisingly so. It rips off some of the cool things that Strider does, but it controls weird and plays like shit, just like pretty much every game Mitchell's ever made, now that I think about it. It's kind of like Strider, but with really bad choices in level and game design. Your character has incredibly limited range, for example, even though the game seems to have been designed with a character who can hit enemies from more than a few feet away in mind. One of the last stages, for example, has you scaling platforms suspended between two buildings, and each of these platforms has one of several types of enemies, nearly all of which fire constant streams of bullets at you. It seemed improbable that the stage was just impossible to clear without credit feeding, so I reloaded from an earlier save state and played the stage a few times. If there's a way to do it, I'd like to see it, because that shit just seemed impossible. The rest of the game past stage 4 or so feels like a sloppy mess in the same way, really.
      My recommendation, though? Play it anyway. It's worth checking out just to see everything right and wrong that it does.
  • Psychic 5
    • dessgeega: Psychic 5 is the platform version of Earthbound.
      I mean that.
  • Shadowland / Youkai Douchuuki (JP)
    • Prince Megahit: A peculiar platformer taking place in a Japanese version of the netherworld. It has a lot of atmospere and humor, and it's pretty interesting in most aspects. It's also too hard for me to get very far. Searching around for information I found out that this was the first game released on the Namco System 1 board, if this page is trustworthy.
  • Trio The Punch
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Data East's merciless self-parody. “WIN WIN
  • Thunderfox
  • Wardner no Mori/Wardner/Pyros
    • sharc: Straightforward but servicable genre entry from legendary shmup dev Toaplan. Enjoyably challenging, until the very last stage where it turns into a tedious bullshit trainwreck.
  • Wonder Boy (also on: Atari ST, C64, CPC, GG, SG-1000, SMS, Wii VC, ZX)
    • dessgeega: The arcade version of Super Mario Bros7). This game is about always moving forward — in fact, one of your power-ups, a skateboard, forces you to. This game is a lot like playing Super Mario Bros. with the run button held down, which is how most people end up playing Super Mario Bros.


  • Gals Panic S
  • Libble Rabble (also on: SNES. Towns Marty, X86, Wii VC)
    • dessgeega: Libble Rabble is a dual-stick game designed by Toru Iwatani after Pac-Man success made him, temporarily, Namco's golden child. Instead of a game about shooting, like all of its dual-stick contemporaries, though, Libble Rabble is a game about gardening. Each stick controls a small marker, which can move autonomously, though they have a line strung between them which can wrap around posts planted in the field. The goal is to use the line to fence in and harvest struttin' mushrooms (mushlins) while keeping the markers away from wandering baddies (hoblins).
      Libble Rabble is a great game, and the SNES] port is excellent.
  • Loco-motion
    • dessgeega: A sliding tile game, but the tiles are actually tracks, and a tiny train is rolling along them. Rearrange the tracks to direct the little train to its stations and to redirect the sinister, fanged “crazy trains” that careen along the tracks hoping for a collision. Game allows for a lot of improvisation if you're quick and crafty. You can hold the button to speed up the train.
  • Logic Pro
    • Loki Laufeyson: One of (if not the only) the few Nonogames that actually turns the concept into a videogame. A time limit is constantly ticking down, and you lose a big chunk of it if you try to fill in the wrong square, and it refills a tiny amount for every correct square filled in.
    • The Logic Pro series is made for the arcade, and non-coincidentally takes a very 'videogamey' approach to nonograms. There is a tight time limit, which is added to, and subtracted from, based on accuracy of boxes checked. The image being revealed becomes unimportant in solving the puzzle, as the player is left little time to think if they wish to score well, not to mention just complete the board. The third game in the series, Logic Pro Adventure, is also availible on the PlayStation.
  • Puchi Carat (also on: GB, PC, PS, PS2, PSN, XBox)
    • Loki Laufeyson: It's surprising it took until the late 90s for Puchi Carat to exist. A breakout game that has blocks that keep advancing like a puzzle game instead of stages is such an obvious good idea! (in before someone posts a much earlier example of this occuring).
    • The Blueberry Hill: Qix, and every clone of it, is the best game.
    • dessgeega: Beautifully abstract. You construct the stage as you play, each successful line-drawing gambit bringing you closer and closer to the insane vector beast who prowls in the center of the screen, content to apparently ignore you for a bit and then suddenly lunge at your line-in-progress and make you jump as it seems to mock your failure with its sinuous vector dance. Scary game.
  • Star Sweep / Puzzle Star Sweep (also on: GB, PS) forum thread
    • colour_thief: The NTSC PSX port is for all intents and purposes the definitive version of the game. It has a bunch of new game modes and you can rotate in both directions instead of just one. Some subtle game elements (timings, and I think the randomness) are slightly tweaked also, but not in any way you are likely to notice.
      The PAL port runs at 5/6 speed, as is common with lazy port jobs. It's otherwise fine, but the game gets slightly easier because of the reduced pace.
    • Booter: It's so so good, it's the best of this type of game in nearly every respect. Setting up chains is more mentally difficult than in Panel de Pon, there's a bit more strategy to it. There's a bit less of an “actiony” feel. It's the thinking man's Tetris Attack.
  • Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo
  • Tetris the Absolute The Grand Master 2
  • Volfied
    • The Blueberry Hill: A Taito-made Qix-alike with neat powerups. One of the best of the genre.


Another one of those genres the arcades really do well, which is why you'll still find linked Daytona cabs. everywhere.

2-D & may-as-well-be 2-D

Racing games viewed from overhead perspectives, typically made in 2-D, and having large portions of the track in view, if not all of it.

  • Drift Out 94
  • Ivan 'Ironman' Stewart's Super Off Road (also on: Amiga, Amstrad, Atari ST, C64, DOS, GB, GG, Lynx, MS, MD/G, NES, SNES, ZX Spectrum)
    • YoutImaginaryFriend: Super Offroad is actually one of my favorite multiplayer games. Me and my little brother spent a lot of time playing that game together(along with TMNT Arcade and Super Contra) and we got hours of entertainment out of it. I love the way it feels, and it's the only racer of its type that I've enjoyed playing.
  • Sega Hot Rod
    • Slonie: Uber-awesome top-down racing in the vein of Super Sprint, except taking place in a huge country full of roads. So much fun, though I it might lose something when played in MAME instead of on the awesome 4-player cocktail cabinet that it had in the arcade.
  • Stocker
    • Slonie: God, could this game be any more perfect? The setup is simple. “Race from coast to coast!”. Try to avoid cops (3 tickets and you lose, or just lose your bonus, selectable via dip switch). Make it to the gas station before you run out of gas, or you lose! Top view perspective, you won't guess that it's anything special if you look at a screenshots, but just play it.
      The driving handling feels just right, allowing you to slide all over leaving tire marks and dirt trails in your wake. Offroad shortcuts may make sense, and avoid the police as well.
      Cops chase you down, or wait on the side of the road and take off when you drive by. There's usually two of them forming a road block at the state lines. There's branching paths and shortcuts that might lead you to another state quicker, or leave you stranded and out of gas (game over).
      The difficulty level is set so perfectly…Perfect enough to lose in 3 mintues yet demand another playthrough immediately. Games that can be won or lost in 5 or 10 minutes are always a real bite-sized treat. That really makes it an arcade game.

3-D & Pseudo 3-D

For games with 'cockpit' or behind car viewpoints, be they actually 3-D or not.

  • Battle Gear (series)
  • Daytona USA
    • Loki Laufeyson: A staple of almost every arcade I've ever been to, for good reason.
  • Emergency Call Ambulance
  • Ferrari F355 Challenge
  • GTI Club (series)
  • Datsun 280 zzzap
    • HavaR: This is a game from 1976 by Midway. I was initially drawn to it because of the amazingly cool name, but it's actually a very good racing game. The simple graphics doesn't detract from the incredible sense of speed in this game. The sound doesn't work8), but the gameplay makes up for it.
      I don't know if there's a finish line in the end since my urge to drive fast overpowers my ability to stay on the road, but I have a feeling there may be nothing out there except more road.
      Highly recommended!
  • Initial D Arcade Stage (series)
  • Outrun
  • Outrun 2
  • Outrun 2 SP
  • Ridge Racer (series)
  • Rave Racer
  • Sega Rally Championship
  • Sega Rally 2
  • Sega Super GT
  • Special Criminal Investigation
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Sequel to Chase HQ. More of the same great Outrun-like action, except you've got a gun.
  • Super Chase
    • mmd: First person driving game of criminal chasing action. GO FAST because the bad dudes won't slow down. In the first person view there are plenty of nice effects. When you hit a tree the windshield will burst and parts of the car my fly off. If a helicopter comes and pelts you with rounds, bullet holes will appear on the windows. To take down a criminal you must hit them a certain amount of times (which can be annoying when you have 3 guys who take 10 hits each). When a threat approaches, the game will zoom out into a 3rd person view of the car so you can dodge bullets, grenades, whatever.
    • Slonie: Super Chase is the third game in the Chase HQ Series, after Chase HQ and Special Criminal Investigation. They're all worth a shot.
      The move to first person in Super Chase actually hurts it, but the overall presentation is very polished. Definitely worth playing if you're a fan of the series or if you just like to see more examples of what the later days of scaling sprite 3D were like.
  • Super Hang On
  • Thrill Drive (series)
  • Virtua Racing
  • Wangan Midnight:Maximum Tune

Run 'n' Gun

  • Crime City
  • Devastators
    • dessgeega: A Konami run-and-gun in polygon-free 3d. like G.I. Joe with slightly less jingoism (actually the final mission is to overthrow Cuba or something) and slightly more strategy — the game isn't auto-scrolling and you have to advance carefully, dodging around enemy shots and taking cover behind obstacles. Has kind of an Ikari-like in feel. a very tight time limit (and a crazed computer sargeant yelling “move it out! move it out!”) keep you moving. When a targeting reticule appears over an enemy craft, you can press the grenade button to fire a rocket at it.
  • G I Joe
  • Metal Slug X (also on: Neo-Geo, PC, PS, PS2, Wii)
    • Broco: don't bother with 2, X is better in every way. You'll hear from some quarters that 2 is better but I have no idea why anyone thinks that. X is worth it for the lag reduction alone, and there's also a ton of extra weapon and enemy variety.
  • Metal Slug 3 (also on: 360, Neo-Geo, PC, PS2, PS3, PS4, PS Vita, XBox, Wii)
    • Broco: Everything is a bullet sponge, even the first crab enemies in Stage 1. Most of the bosses don't give you any weapon drops so you need to kill them with the pistol if you die once.
      There sure is a lot of great artwork in it so it's worth playing once or twice for that. But Metal Slug X is definitely where the most fun is to be had in general.
    • Loki Laufeyson: 3 would be the best if the final stage wasn't such absolute bullshit
    • allensmithee: 3 is fucking tiresome but it has the most sights to see so i feel it is worth playing for that purpose. it gets really fucking ridiculous
  • Surprise Attack
    • Teflon: I like Surprise Attack, sort of a more tense Rolling Thunder IN SPAAAACE.


  • Bosconian
    • dessgeega: It's one of two Galaxian sequels Namco developed after its success — the other is Galaga. In Bosconian you fly around a large map, destroying enemy battlestations by firing into their cores (you can also destroy their weapons before taking them out).
      The enemy forces respond to your invasion, first by sending lone ships to tail you, then by dispatching formations of fighters, then finally by activating “red alert”, during which time they will throw ship after ship at you until you are dead. there are nice “mission control”-style vocal samples to announce these developments, but you'll need to download the sound pack from
  • Grobda
  • The King: Grobda is a beauty. The color choices are lovely, blues and purples and green, and the psychedelic lasers and explosions. The explosions are lethal so if enemies are near one another you can kill them by chain-reaction, and the sound effects fit the game perfectly.
  • Outzone
    • Predator Goose: I love this game. It's basically Gain Ground with Aliens and Lasers.
  • rescue Raider
  • The Speed Rumbler / Rush 'n Crash
    • dessgeega: Capcom title starring Super Joe from the Bionic Commando games. Drive your gun-mounted car through the wastelands of the future chasing gang thungs and outmaneuvering enemy pursuers (and rescuing other Super Joes. There are apparently a lot of them). When your car takes too much damage, push button 2 to dive out before it explodes — Super Joe will continue on foot, struggling to survive until a replacement car is delivered. Pro-tip: red barrels explode when shot.
  • Time Pilot
    • dessgeega: Probably the best game ever made. Swoop through the skies, outdancing missiles and scattering bullets like cherry blossoms. Elegant, graceful, and utterly satisfying to play. The sequel is a good game in its own right but nothing quite comes close to the original Time Pilot.

Single-Screen Shooters

  • Galaga
    • TORUMASUTA: I play Galaga on one of those controller-to-TV miniconsoles whenever I have spare time before I need to head off to the bus stop, and I'd argue it's an important game because it hits all the right notes in terms of playability—there's a few mysterious parts, such as the twin-ship trick and the scoring mechanisms, but most of the game is immediately accessible to anyone, and the difficulty hits a sweet spot where it can be difficult but also is fair in its difficulty, which I don't get a sense of from most contemporary arcade games.
  • Galaga 88
    • dessgeega: Totally charming — dare I say sassy — 1988 update to Namco's 1981 gallery shooter. “Galactic dancing” challenging stages, which feature Galagans performing waltzes and tangos and jazz numbers, punctuate waves of alien-sniping. Galaga rewards precision and accuracy while letting button-mashers play along too. In the beginning, ignore the dimensional warping (which provides a more difficult and higher-scoring game to those who want it), and just shoot pop-eyed, adorable alien invaders.
  • Gaplus
    • Sniper Honeyviper: It's everything Galaga should have been: actual bullet patterns, a great “juggling” bonus stage, and 8-way movement. No one played it because it came out at the dawn of the video game crash.
  • Space Bomber:
    • L: “Cutesy” bullet-curtain shooter. One button shoots, while the other button grabs with the claw. Grabbing an invader creates a small enemy icon (maximum of 3) that trails your ship (like Yoshi's eggs, both in appearance and function). You hold down the fire button to “ready” an enemy. Once you do that, you have two choices:
      • Releasing the fire button simply drops the enemy, whereupon it sits there using its signature attack on the invaders. Armadillo and turtle enemies act as barriers that block shots. Also, any invaders hit by the enemy's fire will drop small money-bags.
      • Pressing the claw button will fling the enemy forward, creating a large area-of-effect blast on contact. Invaders disintegrated in this manner release big money-bags — and there's a bonus multiplier for multiple invaders struck!
  • Space Invaders '95 (also on: PS2)
  • Spiders
    • bizcwnThe game plays somewhat like Space Invaders. You have the spiders coming down like the aliens in Space Invaders, but the difference is they are making webs and branching out and there are more and more spiders. Your goal is to keep them from reaching the bottom of the screen, much like Space Invaders. If they do, you are dead and the game is over.

Horizontal Shooters

  • Fantasy Zone
    • thesycophant: Dropped a few coins in a Fantasy Zone machine at the Mikado in Shinjuku. Having only played its NES and Genesis ports, this was something something of a revelation. I don't know if I can play any other version every again.
  • Gradius
  • Metal Black (also on: Saturn, PS2)
    • Sniper Honeyviper: “The Earth died, and it was about to enter upon silence times…
    • Shapermc: Origianlly designed to be a gaiden to the Darius saga, Metal Black is the love child of Taito. It has an excellent and unique powerup system that builds up as you pick up more DNA. The awesome thing about this is that the bosses also use the same power ups as you do. What this means is awesome lazer shooting, you versus boss, endurance test. These little sections of the boss fight are pretty amazing. A similar mechanic shows up again in Border Down.
  • Pilot Kids
  • R-Type
  • Rezon
    • T.: rezon is the least comforting game

unlabored flawlessness: I find its very short, heavily downsampled music loops rather hypnotic.
Honestly, it's less stressful than most of the Irem shooters it rips off. What happened to Allumer, anyway?

  • Sol Divide

Vertical Shooters

  • Air Gallet
  • Armed Police Batrider
    • spectralsound: but only if you like arcane, ludicrously difficult scoring mechanics.
  • Battle Bakraid
  • Dangun Feveron
  • DoDonPachi
  • ESP RaDe
  • Exed Exes / Savage Bees
    • dessgeega: Exedexes (released in North America as the bizarrely-titled “attack of the savage bees”) is one of my favorite shooters. simple, straightforward shooting and dodging. It has a few little tricks. “POW” icons, ala Son Son, that change all on-screen enemies into fruits. bosses which are huge gun platforms that have to be destroyed piece by piece. It goes on and on, stages blending seemlessly into each other, and often I'll just play for an hour or two, feeding in credits.
  • Guwange
    • Rudie: Use your Samurai Ghost to defeat Tootsies the Spider-Kitty.
  • Radiant Silvergun
  • Raiden Fighters Jet
    • Shapermc: Not much to really say about this. It's the evolution of the Raiden games, making them faster and with many more bullets on screen. The fast enemy bullets have been replaced by more interesting patterns. There is a nice large ship selection, including ships from other Seibu games. The reason that I recommend this over the other two is because it is the most playable of the RF games on MAME9). I am pretty sure I like it the least of them all, but I still enjoy it quite a bit!
  • RayForce / Layer Section / Galactic Attack / Gunlock (also on: iOS, PC, Saturn)
    • Shapermc: Man, Rayforce is amazing. I should stop there because it will be painful to see my poor writing disgrace this game. The game starts off by showing you what it is going to do differently from other games: shoot things below you. Using your lock on target to aim at things below you the game starts to yell at you about a sense of depth that needs to be noticed in a 2D game. The depth itself is fairly amazing, and not just when you are targeting. The game really shows off how three dimensional a 2D game can look and it is gorgeous, every moment of it. The game is also overflowing with small details that were not needed to be put in, but were anyways. This game is one long, amazing journey from outer space to inner earth with a tragically good ending.
  • Strikers 1945 Part II (also: on PS, PS2, Saturn)
    • dessgeega: Elegant Psikyo shooter that bears all the hallmarks of its developer: fast, inventive bullet patterns; a bunch of ships to choose from with a variety of different play styles; a random order to the first four stages, so you're guaranteed to see half of the game regardless of your level of skill; a great deal of character for a game about World War II planes; and vehicles which turn into completely anachronistic giant boss robots.
  • Truxton II / Tatsujin Oh (JP) (also on FM-Towns)
    • T.: One of the last Toaplan games and with all of the audiovisual splendor you'd expect from that, but unlike V-V or Batsugun this isn't at all a proto-Cave game. Instead it's a slow-paced, unforgiving and long long long vertical memorizer (yes!) with infuriating checkpoints. I love it so much :] the game is doing everything it can to keep you from progressing and the music and spritework and enemy patterns and atmosphere are so superb that you refuse to cede to it
  • Viper Phase 1
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Raiden in space with pumped-up weapons. Good stuff.
  • Zero Gunner

Rail Shooters

Railshooters, Hariets, and other 3-D, into the screen type shooting games. Often the arcade versions have big moving cabs like racing games.

  • After Burner II
  • After Burner Climax
  • Counter-strike:Neo
  • Galaxy Force II
  • Red Barron((Okay, not a railshooter, but–)
    • The King: Red Baron is amazing, the wireframe representation is beautiful. When you see the little spinning lines and realize they are your propeller — just wow. It's a minimalist's dream game.
  • Rail Chase
    • Slonie: Absofuckinglutely amazing game that pulls off the most absurdly awesome things with scaling sprites. Also had an awesome sequel on the Model 2, but the original may always be the more impressive one in terms of doing what it did without any “true 3D graphics!”
  • Star Wars
    • dessgeega: Typically a light gun game in MAMA is played with the mouse, and while there are many fine light gun games in MAME — Point Blank and Rail Chase for example — the mouse is often too precise and makes games easier than they should be. In Star Wars, where the mouse controls both your targeting reticule and the movement of your craft, it's just right. Don't fire during the trench run for a force bonus!
  • Star Wars Arcade

Sport Games

  • Back Street Soccer
  • NBA Jam (also on: SNES, GB, GG, MD/G, Mega CD)
    • Bennett: A wonderful way to implement a basketball game. The first and last design we can say that about.
  • Off the Wall (not to be confused with the two Breakanoids)
    • Bennett: Off The Wall (Sente). Most fun I've ever had with a two-player game.
  • Stone Ball
  • Hit the Ice
  • Virtua Tennis (series)

Versus Fighters

Now the main arcade genre, and one who the arcade experience is still considered a vital factor, even during development (IE the importance of location testing). Make sure to browse the CPS and Neo Geo pages for lots more.

  • Asura Blade
    • Sniper Honeyviper: No-name developer Fuuga shamelessly rips off the Darkstalkers series, with mostly positive results. Not quite as good, but the fantasy-anime setting is nicely imagined, and the archetypal character design is solid. The sequel adds several new characters and sexes up its existing female ones, but it's unfortunately got serious emulation problems as of this writing.
  • Capcom vs. SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001 / Capcom vs. SNK 2: Millionaire Fighting 2001 (JP) (also on: GC, PS2, XBox)
    • T.: I think this is where all of my food money went for the last month+ LOL.
    • The Blueberry Hill: I guess it's a weird hallmark of Capcom fighting games: that it's the mistakes that kind of make them. Capcom vs. SNK 2 has a good cast of characters, and a flexibility in fighting styles (the grooves) that make it a lot of fun for both serious players and people who just want to goof around. What attracts me is that it just feels really nice, and that any friend who fondly remembers Capcom or SNK fighters will at least play a match or two with me.
  • Cyber Troopers Virtual-On
  • The Fallen Angels / Daraku Tenshi
    • leoboiko: Interesting and not well known fighter with smooth animations and nice mechanics. Characters include a hot crossdresser. Final boss is a grownup yakuza version of Brock/Takeshi (from Pokémon) with a katana. Amazingly enough, Brock's katana actually does more damage than punches and kickes.
  • Outfoxies
    • Sniper Honeyviper: Smash Brothers before there was Smash Brothers. Gorgeous spy-movie aesthetic and screen zooming effects.
    • dessgeega: “Kill your enemy by any means.” Now with working sound! A predecessor of games like Power Stone and Smash Bros., Outfoxies has you and an opponent scramble around ever-changing stages — an exploding apartment building, a flooding museum — attacking each other with whatever weapons you can get your hands on — guns, swords, fruit baskets, tigers. Absolutely amazing. The final stage in particular is spectacular to witness.
    • shnozlak: Its a 1 on 1 smashless Smash Brothers Esq brawl that takes place in various interactive environments including: A plane that dives and climbs an aquarium that floods, and a boat on rough seas among others. The game takes advantage of lots of sprite resizing, zoom and rotation of the environment.
    • killy: Versus battle Rolling Thunder. With scaling effects depending on the level and/or how far away you and your opponent are from eachother. That's all there is to know. That's all you need to know.
  • Rival Schools
  • Tech Romancer
  • Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3
    • Sniper Honeyviper: A steaming pile of broken, idiotic, utterly hilarious bullshit. Best played while drunk, and with the arcade version's insane X-shaped button layout.

See Also

1) as Buggy Popper(JP)
2) though Wikipedia says it uses two joysticks per player, which is not my experience. Two versions, I guess
4) Famicom only, I think. And it's pretty commonly found in pirate cart compilations
5) Taito Memories/Legends
6) as part of Taito Memories/Legends
8) comment from October 1995
9) as of June 2006.
 sb/recommended/arcade.txt · Last modified: 2020/05/18 02:20 by rudie
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