10 Great Arcade Games From the 1980s

Bosconian

Man, I loved this game. You just fly around in space shooting down space stations. Of course you’ve got to avoid enemy fighter ships and missiles and asteroids, but hey, it wouldn’t be any fun if there wasn’t any challenge. I got really good at Bosconian. I mean really good. Probably the best I ever got at any arcade game.

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Gauntlet

This is the first arcade game in my memory that really felt like you were playing Dungeons and Dragons. It’s also the first game I can remember that allowed you to keep dropping in quarters to continue playing at wherever you last ended. I played this game forever and ever, and it costs me tons of dollars over the years. But I don’t ever remember making it to the end. The original version of this game, if my memory serves, allowed you to play one of four different characters: an elf with a bow, a barbarian with an ax, a warrior woman with a sword and a wizard. Or you could get three friends together and all four of you could play, one of you playing each of the available characters.

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Karate Champ

Karate Champ was my favorite of the early karate arcade games. It’s you against one other guy. You use a bunch of different moves to try to score points by tagging the other guy, and all those moves were hard to remember since there were so many of them and you only had two joysticks to do them. Great, great game. One of the best.

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Kung-Fu Master

A fairly simple scrolling, fighting game. You run across the screen, all the while kicking tail against these guys that keep coming after you. Every once in a while you have to dodge a thrown knife, and then you’ve got to fight the boss guy. And you had a timer to beat. Simple, but entertaining. This early scroller could keep the fun rolling for a long time.

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Punch-Out!!

Who doesn’t remember Punch-Out!!? At least the home version on the NES. But I always preferred the arcade versions. Lots of action in this one, as you faced boxer after boxer and each one got tougher and tougher. After a while, though, you got to know the other fighters’ moves and you could get to the point where you could counter them pretty easily. Still, it took a while to get that good, and once you won your first championship belt, your opponents got tougher.

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Superman

There were several different video games, some for home systems and some for the arcades, about this classic superhero, but this 1988 version from the Taito company was always my favorite. It had cool graphics and great gameplay. There were lots of different villains to face and none of the bosses were easy to take out.

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Tag Team Wrestling

I loved this game? It’s the first wrestling game in the arcades that I remember. At the beginning of the game, you had your choice of which tag team you wanted to play. Then your two wrestlers hit the ring to take on their opponents. You could only play one of your guys at a time, but if the one got tired you could go slap hands and out came your fresh wrestler. Gosh, it seemed so real. 

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Tapper

This is a game not a lot of people seem to remember. You play a bartender at one end of a bar. You have to keep serving more and more root beer drinks to incoming customers and you have to make sure none of the glasses get broken. A pretty unique game. Not one of the most action-oriented games, but it kept you amused for a while.

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Tetris

Sure, there are a hundred million computer versions of this game nowadays, and you can play it anytime you want. But it just doesn’t have the same feel as the arcade version from the 1980s. I spent hours and hours and quarters and quarters on Tetris. Eventually I got pretty good and the quarters became less and less, though the hours tended to grow longer.

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Zaxxon

Zaxxon was like a breath of fresh air when it came out. Graphically, it was quite unique at the time. You were flying a space fighter jet over a giant space station or spaceship or something, all the while trying to blow away your enemies without getting shot down yourself. And you had to refuel every so often. And once you beat the big bad boss robot thingy at the end of the giant whatever-it-was-you-were-flying-over, a bunch of enemy space fighters would come after you. Then you started all over again. Great times. 

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