Arcade games go back as far as the 1920s when amusement parks consisted of shooting galleries, fortune tellers and the type of slightly creepy mechanical music that you instantly think of when you think old-fashioned arcades.
The original games consisted of things such as ball-toss games where you paid someone to have a go at throwing a ball to knock a prop off its stand or a ring toss game where the idea was to toss a ring over a post, or even basic shooting galleries with simple targets. All of the games were played to win prizes and you would hand your coins over to the assistant to start the game.
Next up where the coin-operated pinball machines that didn’t need the supervision of an attendant, although these didn’t arrive until the 1930s. These machines were all made of wood and were very basic. They didn’t have the flashing lights or the electronic scoring that we are so familiar with now. It wasn’t until the late 1970s that we started to see the fully electronic pinball machines come into play.
Sega have always been one step ahead of the game and this was the case for the early years as well as the later ones. They came out with the first electro-mechanical game – a game called Periscope. Periscope was an early submarine simulator and light gun shooter. The set up was using lights and plastic waves to simulate the ships sinking from a submarine and cost a quarter per play. Taito was also a major player early on and released its own version of a simulated football game using similar electronic versions of pinball flippers as though found in Periscope. Throughout the 1970s, arcade games developed rapidly with Pong being a turning point for Sega as one of the first electronic video-games on the market. Taito reappeared in around 1978 with its break-through game Space Invaders which turned out to be a massive blockbuster video arcade game.
Whilst the trend really began to drop off for arcade games during the late 1980s, mostly due to the advances in home video games, the 1990s saw a massive revival with the introduction of competitive fighting or martial arts arcade games such as Street Fighter II. Street Fighter II was a huge success, paving the way for other games in the fighting genre such as Atari’s pit-fighter, Mortal Kombat, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, Virtua Fighter, Killer Instinct and The King of Fighters. There was a huge focus on martial arts games during this time in the coin-op arcade game industry and it kept the industry afloat right through the 1990s and into the 2000s.
Street Fighter II was a huge success, paving the way for other games in the fighting genre such as Atari’s pit-fighter, Mortal Kombat, Fatal Fury: King of Fighters, Virtua Fighter, Killer Instinct and The King of Fighters. There was a huge focus on martial arts games during this time in the coin-op arcade game industry and it kept the industry afloat right through the 1990s and into the 2000s.
Martial arts games made it on to the home consoles with the Sinclair ZX Spectrum being one of the first consoles advanced enough to feature coloured graphics and up to 128k – a huge contrast to its predecessor the Sinclair ZX81 with only a monochrome display and 1k of memory.
Home gaming really took off and started to head down the road we now know. Titles such as Street Fighter, Double Dragon and Mortal Kombat were all turned into movies started a world-wide obsession with martial arts movies and games that continues to this day.
One of the very first arcade games was the much-loved and timeless game of Space Invaders. The introduction of games such as Space Invaders took over from the cult of pinball machines Of course, since then the graphics have improved substantially but the game is still just as playable and just as addictive as it was back then! The earliest forms of the game were not the type you carried around with you on your phone or on a portable games console, but the big free standing arcade game style. Many an afternoon spent with a friend pouring over a table with the chunky TV screen set into it with the controls on either side so that you could do battle with one another.
Arcade games have been around from as early as 1978 with a big boost in display quality with the introduction of vector graphics in 1979. Arcades were bursting on to the scene around the late 1970s but this took a bit of a dive when around 1983 NES came onto the scene, meaning that with the introduction a clunky machine and cartridges, the joys of arcade games could now be enjoyed in the comfort of your own home. If you were around and gaming in those years, you would be very familiar with Atari’s Pong, thought to be the first patent filed signaling the start of the era, which gained a huge cult following. Hot on its heels were Space Invaders, Atari’s Asteroids, Donkey Kong and Namco’s much-loved and still around today (and considered the highest grossing arcade game of all time) – Pac-Man.
Interesting fact: The Space Invaders game became so popular that there is an urban legend that says it was responsible for a shortage of 100 yen coins in Japan leading to a production increase of the coins.