10 Arcade Games You Might Have Forgotten
David Hayward inserts 10p for an extra credit
Arcades were an amazing place to spend your early teens. The neon-soaked atmosphere, soundtracked by a cacophony of digitised sounds and that strange miasma of overheating circuitry, was music to the senses. These days, it’s not quite the same... Gone are the classics, leaving us with a smattering of racing titles, some kind of shooting game, gambling machinesd odd ticket dispensing monstrosities.
Since it’s the summertime – a time when we used to look forward to going on holiday and experiencing the arcades of Brighton, Yarmouth or another seaside holiday spot – we thought we’d look at ten arcade titles you may have forgotten about. You won’t find Space Invaders or Pac-Man in here or any of the usual top five classics, but you will some cracking games that may spark a memory or two.
This 1986 Tecmo sidescrolling platformer had you battling across the land of Argool as the resurrected ultimate warrior, Rygar. A popular game, it ran off a dual Z80 4MHz board, with a 256 x 224 resolution display. Although the first level was quite easy, the difficulty soon ramped up and the later levels had you timing your jumps or else you’d fall into the lava or get done-in by the increasing number of monsters.
Operation Wolf took the arcades by storm when it was released in 1987. This on-rails shooter with an Uzi – or a couple, in two player mode – as the main controller was tricky to master, but glorious fun. From the intro, where the commando laces his boots, sheaths his knife and tapes grenades to his legs, to the digitised voice announcing your intention to take on the countless waves of enemies, it was a great game.
It needed a fair bit of power to run too, using a combination of a Z80 4MHz and a Motorola 6800 12MHz setup.
This early 1982 vertical scrolling shooter from Namco used the same basic hardware that the ever popular Galaga was coded on – a three Z80 3MHz setup. This, too, was a quick-paced game that had you keeping an eye on the aerial patterns of the flying sprites, but also trying to deal with its ground-based enemies. Needless to say, you’re battling against an invasion from an alien intelligence come to reclaim the Earth – or something like that.
It was a colourful and quite impressive game for the day, certainly one to get hold of via MAME or other emulation.
Now here’s a cracking wireframe vector graphics game from 1980 that played brilliantly, but was a bit of beast when it came to mastering the controls. You had two joysticks that moved the tank caterpillar treads to the left or right – reversing one or the other. The viewscreen, in the early models, even had a kind of periscope to see through, emulating you looking through the viewport at the front.
Legend has it that the U.S. Army used this game to train its tank gunners. What’s definitely true, though, is that the MOS 6502 2MHz processor ran this incredible machine, and it still plays well today.
This Taito 1983 title wasn’t as popular as it should have been over here in the UK. Those who travelled abroad, though, were probably more familiar with it unless your local arcade was particularly well-stocked.
The game was really quite clever. It cast you as a spy infiltrating a building with countless doors and a set of lifts up the centre. You had to work your way down the building until you find any red doors, enter them and steal the plans within. Once you’ve got them you can work your way to the basement and escape.
Stopping you, however, were the lift (elevator) sequences and numerous henchmen who appear out of the other doors to the building and try to shoot you. After a while, the game becomes quite fast paced and very tricky to master. Great fun, though.
1987 saw Taito launch this excellent sidescrolling platformer hack and slash. Rastan has you as a mighty Conan-like barbarian warrior, who’s quest is to slay a dragon – somewhere toward the end of Round 6 – as well as everything else that gets in his path.
It’s a wonderfully well-crafted arcade game, with a superb soundtrack accompanying it. One of our favourites, it ran exceedingly well on its Motorola 68K and Z80 combo.
Data East’s 1987 scrolling platformer, Karnov, featured an ex-circus Russian strongman who could breath fire, produce ladders from his pockets and obtain those pointy-toed boots that are always in Aladdin films to make him run faster.
Although a strict by-the-numbers scroller, Karnov was a fun game to play; mainly because it was such a challenging title to get to grips with. There was plenty of on-screen action, with most of it happening at once, which led to some pretty frustrating loss of life moments.
Bad Dudes vs. DragonNinja
Rampant Ninja related crimes seem to have been a problem in 1988, at least according to Data East they were. Here, you and a friend were tasked with taking to the streets and kicking the snot out of a multitude of colourful Ninja characters as you work your way through seven levels in order to rescue President Ronnie, the kidnapped leader of the free world.
When you factored in a second player and the plethora of digitised grunts and groans it created as you laid waste to anyone that happened upon the same screen space as you, Bad Dudes vs. DragonNinja was tremendous fun. Cheesy as anything, but fun.
18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker
July 2000 saw the release of SEGA’s 18 Wheeler, also known as 18 Wheeler: American Pro Trucker. A truck driving racing sim, the game demanded you transport various cargo loads from one place to another before your rival trucker.
Along the way, you were awarded extra time if you wiped out a certain van, and you could edge yourself closer to the various checkpoints and the final destination by taking advantage of shortcuts and the slipstream from other large vehicles. Once you managed to complete the allotted mission, you were awarded cash points based on how fast you got to the destination, how much time was left on the countdown timer and whether you beat your rival to the goal.
After that, there came a mini-game where you had to park the truck within a certain time limit. If you managed that, it gave you a power up of some description.
The arcade version was superb, with a huge steering wheel and even the horn cord on the sit-in versions.
Track and Field
Konami’s Track And Field from 1983 is to blame for all those joysticks being broken on the 8-bit machines. It inspired the likes of Daley Thompson’s Decathlond countless other joystick waggling games that left us in a sweat with sore arms.
Track And Field, though, instead of using the joystick, had you pounding on a set of buttons to force the athlete on the screen to ever faster speeds. With the right timing and a set of very quick fingers, you could easily beat the records set for the 100 metre dash, long jump, javelin, 110 metre hurdles, hammer throw and the game’s finale – the high jump.
While there are countless other arcade games out there we could mention, we hope our brief ten will have brought a smile to your face as you fondly recall dropping the best part of your paper round wages into them. mm
Tricky controls, but Battlezone was an instant hit
Operation Wolf, one of the classic violence and gaming talking points
Rygar, a popular sidescroller from Tecmo
Xevious was an advanced vertical scrolling shooter
Ever wanted to drive an 18-Wheel truck? Well here’s your chance
Hither came Rastan, who sought to slay the dragon and kill everything in sight
Button mashing at its best with Konami’s Track and Field
The fire breathing Russian, Karnov, somehow kept ladders in his pockets
Are you 80s enough to be a Bad Dude and take on the Dragon Ninjas?
Elevator Action seemed simple to begin with, but soon became difficult