The World of Arcade Games: A Journey Through Video Games

Arcade games have been here for many years. Pinballs were the first to hit the market, followed by classic video games from the golden age of arcades, and finally the modern, high-tech arcades of today.

All of them were and are still here to delight our senses and give us a touch of joy in life.

Game machine with classic arcade games such as Pac-Man ,Donkey Kong or Space Invaders

We will now guide you through the history, evolution and enduring appeal of retro gaming!

Multiple pinball and racing retro arcade games in one cabinet

What Games Are Played at an Arcade?

Arcades have always been a hub for a diverse range of games. If you step for the first time into an arcade, you can find a variety of game genres for different tastes and preferences. Check below some of the games you can find at an arcade:

1. Classic Arcade Games

 I will never forget titles like “Pac-Man”,  “Donkey Kong” and “Space Invaders” as they are so fun to play. These classic video games and arcades have been here for decades and players from all over the world enjoy them so much for many reasons.

They are easy to understand, so you are instantly in the action, they are addictive (in a good way)  and are housed in iconic good-looking colorful cabinets.

retro arcade games pinball machine

2. Pinball Arcade Machines

Pinball machines are, as mentioned above, one of the first entertainment machines that comes on the market and it has a big impact on arcade games culture. They feature a ball and two to ten flippers.

The players use the flippers to keep the ball in the playfield as long as possible to reach a high score. Each pinball machine has its unique theme (often borrowed from a movie), awesome colored blinking lights, sounds, and challenges.

3. Racing Games

Arcade racing games will send you somehow in a virtual car and they offer players the feeling of high-speed competition. You can find traditional racing games like OutRun or for more futuristic experiences something like Mario Kart Arcade GP2.

Bartop arcade system with arcade games such as Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter,

4. Beat ‘Em Ups

We cannot talk about Beat ’em up arcade games if we don’t mention Street Fighter, Mortal Kombat or The King of Fighters series.

These titles put players against one another in one-on-one combat or against the computer. They require quick reflexes, precise timing, and also a good dose of strategy.

SNK neo-geo The King of Fighters '98

5. Shooting Arcade Games

Shooting games are one of the most beloved titles in the arcades. They use a Light Gun pointed at the screen and push you into action immediately.

From light gun shooters such as Virtua Cop, House of Dead, Time Crisis, or Terminator 2 The Arcade Game to fascinating experiences like House of the Dead or Area 51, these games challenge your marksmanship and reflexes hard and thought.

light gun shooting video game terminator 2 arcade

6.Ticket Redemption Games

These are arcades games in which players are rewarded in tickets,

proportionally to their score..The tickets can then be exchanged for prizes, according to the result.

arcade games cabinet with pinball machines

What is a regular arcade game?

One of the most common arcade games that you will find in most arcades are the classic pinball machines and video games.

Pinball tables have been an arcade staple since the beginning, and they’re still here because they manage to give players that unique combination of lights, sounds, luck, and a whole lot of skill.

All this together gives it uniqueness and simplicity for this type of arcade, known for a long time by dedicated gamers. However, little by little, as electronics in video technology evolved, video games outnumbered pinball tables in many arcades.

Video Game Console with modern arcade games such as TeknoParrots

Are There Any Modern Arcade Games?

Yes, there are many modern arcade games that have taken advantage of modern technology. They evolved hand by hand with the evolution of electronics and mechanics. 

For example, they come now with better video graphics and more hardware input devices . Here are some examples:

workout on the dance dance revolution

1. Dance Dance Revolution

From the game menu you can choose lots of songs and dance styles for every taste. Dance Dance Revolution is not only a fun game but also a very good workout for your body so expect lots of sweat.  Basically you jump on some pads in the same time with the rhythm of the music.

be a rock star with guitar hero

2. Guitar Hero Arcade

In this game you take the place of a rock star and play your favorite title on a guitar that have some buttons. On the  Guitar Hero Arcade screen you will have some certain time when you need to push that buttons and from there will result(or not) the synchronization of the song with the guitar notes.

3. Virtual Reality (VR) Arcades

With the arrival of virtual reality, we will be in another dimension. VR arcades aim to transport the players to other worlds. This mean you will on a  battling space aliens or exploring fantastical worlds or high speed races!

video game Mario Kart Arcade GP DX

4. Modern Racing Simulators

With the advanced graphics and processing speed, the modern racing simulator arcade games gave us a  feeling of speed and rush as never before.

For example Mario Kart Arcade GP DX .This is now a big hit in the arcades because is fun to play with your friends.

Let’s be honest, who don’t want to be in the Super Mario awesome car and blow away the evil  Bowser with a well targeted rocket or mushroom you hardly grab from the runway, in the speed of your car.

Sega Genesis Sonic The Hedgehog

Who are the most important manufacturers of arcade games?

The most important arcade game manufacturers are Sega, Neo-Geo, Capcom, Taito, Midway, Konami, and Namco


Sega is a legendary Japanese arcade game manufacturer. It is well known by all video games lovers for its big contributions to the gaming industry. Sega was founded in 1940 and their first business was not about video games but slot, pinball and vending machines. Then, the company  played a huge role in the video game arcades in the 1980s and ’90s.

SEGA created amazing games like “Sonic the Hedgehog” and also  powerful  hardware for the time like the Sega Genesis,  Saturn or Dreamcast.

Sega’s legacy continues with modern arcade games but now they are concentrate on creation of software for console gaming such the Playstation and Xbox, and of course PC.

bartop arcade games machine with neo-geo video games

2. Neo-Geo:

Neo-Geo was developed by SNK Corporation. It is one of the most appreciated by gamer for the unique titles in arcade systems and home consoles.

The Neo-Geo arcade cabinets (MVS) was the first that introduce multiple arcade games cartridge  in a single unit.

Arcade owners love this because it was way cheaper to change only the cartridge and not all the JAMMA board.

Neo-Geo released iconic and unique games like Metal Slug ( still the best run and gun video game ever made) and “The King of Fighters” .

They also release a gaming console (Neo-Geo AES) . It was a beast in terms of price ($650) but the most powerful at the time.

bartop cabinet final fight arcade games

3. Capcom:

Capcom has created many fighting arcade games such as Street Fighter 2 and Marvel vs. Capcom.
They also created classic arcade adventure games, run and gun, or SHMUPS games. See some examples below:

Final fight.
Bionic Commando.
Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo.
Marvel vs. Capcom 2
Ghosts and goblins.
Resident evil
The Mega Man

The stories in the games created by Capcom are attractive and competitive, and this has made them very popular with arcade players around the world.

SHMUPS darius gaiden arcade


Taito was founded in 1953 and is one of the oldest arcade game manufacturers.
It gained fame with classics such as Space Invaders, Bubble Bobble and the classic side-scrolling hack and slash Rastan. .

Taito goes beyond and crates the popular beat ’em up Double Dragon but also one of the most appreciated SHMUPS, the Batsugun and Darius Gaiden.

Midway's video game arcade Mortal Kombat 3


Midway’s games left an indelible mark on arcade culture but they also influenced the development of all the fighting game that comes after.

Midway Games was a major player in the North American arcade scene. We all remember (and still play) Mortal Kombat which drew attention for its controversial content. But they also drew the attention of video game lovers for his unique graphic for the time.

Konami Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles


Konami created beloved classic titles such as:
Contra, Dance Dance Revolution, Turtles in Time, The Simpsons, Sunset Riders, Castlevania, Frogger, Silent Hill, Metal Gear
They are well known for their diverse arcade games library. Taito is known for the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, one of the best side-scrolling platform games ever made.
The colorful and well-designed graphics for the time were very appreciated in the arcades.

namco fighting retro tekken


Namco is named now Bandai Namco Entertainment. They influence both the arcade and the console gaming industry.
The company is responsible for timeless classics like Pac-Man. They do also racing games – Ridge Racer and one of the best fighting games franchises -Tekken.
Their most appreciated game classics are: Pac Man, Did-Dug, Galaga, Time Crisis, Soulcalibur

All these manufacturers give their contributions to the retro gaming evolution by bringing unforgettable gaming experiences. They bring joy to many people and as a result, they are celebrated by gamer and enthusiasts around the world.

mini arcade games machine pac man

What Is the Most Liked Arcade Game?

There is no “most liked” arcade game as preferences vary greatly among gamers. Some players like adventure style, some fighting or shooting. But yes, there are a few iconic titles that have gained widespread popularity and have left an indelible mark on gaming culture:

1. Pac-Man

“Pac-Man” is undoubtedly one of the most recognizable and beloved arcade games of all time. Released in 1980 by Namco, this maze-chase game features a round, yellow character (Pac-Man) gobbling up dots while avoiding colorful ghosts , Pinky (pink), Blinky (red), Inky (cyan), and Clyde (orange)

mini pac man game replica

How to Play Pac-Man?

The Pac-Man game must clear all 240 maze points and all four power-ups to advance to the next difficulty level.
The ghosts follow Pac-Man throughout the maze as he consumes the dots, and he will perish if he collides with one of them.
Ghosts become edible to him when he eats one of the energizers, which turns them dark blue.
However, their gaze will refocus on the pen in the center of the maze if Pac-Man has consumed any ghosts, at which point they will all revert to their original forms and follow him again.
From time to time, an additional reward or fruit will appear momentarily in the center of the maze below the ghost enclosure.

retro system with space invaders

2. Space Invaders

Space Invaders was a big hit. It was released in 1978 by Taito.
The game comes with a fresh and innovative idea: to destroy alien invaders descending from the sky and getting closer and closer to the player’s ship.
Back then, there were no significant shooters so this was the first video game that introduced the concept of high scores.
This brilliant idea changed the way gamers interact with the game in the long run because this is exactly the reason players compete one each other.
When this game was at its peak in Japan, it caused a coin shortage in the market.

retro cabinet donkey kong arcade

3. Donkey Kong

“Donkey Kong” is a pioneer in platform arcade games.
This game introduced two iconic characters and that is Mario and Donkey Kong. Developed by Nintendo in 1981, this game stars Mario (known at the time as Jumpman) as he climbs platforms to rescue a damsel in distress from the clutches of the giant (but sweet) monkey Donkey Kong. The game’s unique idea (to throw empty barrels at Mario’s head), but also the beloved characters and fun action have earned it a place in arcade games history.

street fighter 2 mini arcade machine

4. Street Fighter II

Street Fighter II was released by Capcom in 1991 and became a huge success in the arcades. Sometimes arcade owners have two or three arcade cabinets to handle the high demand because the players where crowded on top.
What was unique about Street Fighter II? : They introduced more characters, which was greatly appreciated by the players. Not only… each character come from different parts of the world, but also used unique fighting styles and special moves.

Street Fighter II became a phenomenon. The competitive nature of the game gradually sparked the rise of e-sports and fighting game tournaments that are so popular today and generate huge amounts of money.

The success of this game was the starting idea that generated the production of the following arcade games:

bartop game machine with mortal kombat arcade title

5. Mortal Kombat

The video game Mortal Kombat Arcade was released by Midway in 1992.
This fighting game had a feature that had not appeared in any of its predecessors, namely “fatalities”.
The ” Fatalities ” brought him a lot of fans, but he also attracted a lot of criticism, especially in the US where many attempts were made to ban him.
Despite all these problems, fans loved him. They found it a real challenge to be able to pull off those ” fatalities ” that weren’t easy to get.
The combination of buttons and joystick direction to be made took into account several conditions such as speed reaction or distance between opponents.

ready to battle Mortal Kombat tournament

How To Play Mortal Kombat:

In Mortal Kombat the following fighters are available for selection by players: Raiden, Sub Zero, Kano, Sonya Blade, Lui Kang, Johnny Cage, and Scorpion. Each character in the Mortal Kombat tournament has a unique backstory and fighting style.
They battle the machine or another human player in a randomly generated environment.
Battle your way up a tournament ladder by going up against other players one-on-one until you meet Goro, the four-armed mutant sub-boss. Once you’ve vanquished him, you take on Shang Tsung, the boss.

cabinet mortal kombat mini replica

Mortal Kombat was a huge success

Despite the controversy, Mortal Kombat was a huge success in the arcades and spawned many other game sequels.
The game’s unique graphics and realism in movements were achieved using digital sprites based mainly on actors from movies. Before this game, the images in video games were drawn by hand.
The sequels added more female ninja characters with color changes, but also mythical-mechanized characters of all kinds..not far from the characters we know from Star Wars.
They all gradually became very different characters in the following installments of the series. Mortal Kombat 4 brought the series into 3D, replacing the digitized fighters of previous games with animated polygon models using motion capture technology.

The games we have presented above are some of the most popular arcade games. So what makes an arcade game “top rated” comes down to individual preference.

This is because some players are passionate for pacifist and classic games like Pac-Man, while others like fighting games, sprinkled here and there with violence (and a little blood) like Street Fighter II or Mortal Kombat.. to beat someone, if not in real life…at least on screen.

In conclusion, the most popular arcade game is about personal taste, the important thing is that in arcades we had and still have a choice for all tastes!

arcade video game machine for retro games

Are arcade games still popular?

Yes, arcade games are still popular, but not as much as they were in the 90s. Their heyday was sometime in the late 90s or early 2000s.
I will explain this to you: you can drink coffee at home or the bar… Same with video games. When game consoles like the PlayStation, Nintendo, and Xbox began to be powerful enough to be able to offer the same quality of arcade video games, the popularity of arcades began to decline.

Why aren’t there so many arcades?

There aren’t that many arcades because with the rise of the home video game console industry in the 2000s, video games started to become more affordable for households so people didn’t have to go out and play in arcades.
It’s much more comfortable sitting on the sofa, with your family or inviting some of your friends to play your favorite game and keeping the quarters in your piggy bank… awesome.

What is an arcade game called?

An arcade game is sometimes a video game, mechanics, or a combination of the two, that operates with coins, or specialized chips.
Nowadays, most of the time it can be found in entertainment centers but also bars or restaurants. These games are designed for short play sessions (or long if the player is skilled) and are often characterized by accessibility, fast play, and competitive nature.

home gaming system

How do arcade machines work?

This is simple, when a player inserts the coins or chips, the machine gives them credits and thus the game begins. This is the happiest part. Then the CPU starts executing the game code. This will dictate the gameplay and control mechanics as well as the objectives.
But if you don’t touch the controls like joysticks, buttons, steering wheels, and light guns, just to name the most popular ones, nothing will happen on the screen and you will lose the game against the computer or your opponent. ..
Then an internal combination of hardware and software inside the car will begin.
The hardware takes care of tasks like rendering graphics and generating sound that will perfectly sync with the actions players have to give to the joystick or button actions and the atmosphere of the game, while the software provides the rules, objectives, and game challenges.
That is, the hardware and software of the arcade games system work together to create, with your help, the best gaming experience that was intended by the creator of the game. Players aim for high scores, to compete and master the game either against the computer or with a friend, but in the end…to have some fun.

classic video arcade games in Hyperspin home system

Where to Buy the Best Arcade Games? 

If you’re interested in purchasing individual arcade games for your collection, there are several options to explore:

1. Arcade Game Resellers

There are specialized businesses and online resellers that focus on arcade gaming sales. These sellers have some classic and vintage titles available for purchase. You can find both fully restored and original machines in various conditions. Now, it’s better to be safe than sorry…when dealing with resellers, so there are a few questions to ask:
– what is the condition of the cabinet and the electronics?
Here the most important is to check the booting sequence to be free of funny or pixelate errors but also the monitor contrast and sharpness. Don’t forget that CRT monitors are no longer produced. If that is “tired” you will have a hard time finding another one.
– where the arcade was used before… brief history,
– what guarantees do they offer..if any?

video game

2. Online Auctions

On online auction platforms like eBay, you may be able to find retro games, so they can be a good way to find certain titles that you can’t easily find elsewhere. However, be cautious when buying from individual sellers: ask lots of questions (as above), see how …and how much they answer, and don’t forget to check the seller’s reputation.

3. Arcade game forums

You are mostly in a safe place here. Video game enthusiasts are usually trustworthy people who show respect to their colleagues who share the same passion.
Many of them activate on these online forums for many years.
These guys are usually dedicated to this hobby and sell (sometimes trade) video games regularly so you can confidently try them out.

Retro Video arcade game Cadillacs and Dinosaurs
4. Local announcements

Check local classified ads, both online and in newspapers. You might be surprised to find arcade games in good working order at low prices. Sometimes people in your area sell arcades, offering the opportunity to inspect the game in person before making a purchase.

5. Retro game stores
Retro game stores often offer a selection of arcade video games in addition to console games. These stores can be a good place to explore and find classic titles. You can also find vintage game consoles and accessories to round out your collection.

worlds best custom arcade cabinet

Why Custom Arcade Builders Are Your Best Bet!

If you want a truly unique and custom arcade machine you should consider working with a custom arcade cabinet builder.

There are many good bespoke arcade machines builders with multiple games, tailored to your specific preferences, and it would be fair and nice to include myself here. Our name is TinyArcade UK and we have been building arcades for 37 years so…we probably know what we’re doing, but I think it’s better to let past customers give their opinions about this.

If you decide to work with us you can choose for your bartop arcade machine so you can choose:
– what arcade games you want
– cabinet shape and design, such as the Marquee or the side stickers with your favorite game characters,
– style and colors for joysticks and buttons,
– hardware power and features.
This way you can create a truly unique and quality home arcade machines or mini arcade cabinet for many years to come.

Tiny Arcade UK mini arcade machine for sale

In conclusion

Arcade games have a rich and storied history, only a few of which I could comment on here. Although they began humbly with pinball machines, technology and passion for video games have evolved into the immersive experiences that virtual reality arcades offer today.

Whether you’re a fan of classic titles or want to explore the latest innovations, arcades offer an immersive world for all types of players.. So the next time you step into an arcade, take a moment to appreciate the continued charm of these timeless games!

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