Gets an Arcade
November 2, 2014 3:48 PM   Subscribe

The fine folks at the Internet Archive bring you The Internet Arcade: some 900+ emulated arcade games from the 1970's through the 1980's. Most of them are playable, many of them through your browser. This is name brand stuff: Pac-Man, Defender, Ghouls 'N Ghosts, and on and on. A fine followup up to last year's Internet Archive Console Living Room (as seen here, naturally.)
posted by DirtyOldTown (66 comments total) 150 users marked this as a favorite
Thank you! (wanders off muttering, what was the name of that game???)
posted by Julanna at 3:59 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Oh wow!

Thank you Metafilter's own Jason Scott! I guessed he might be behind this before I followed the link. Was not disapointed.
posted by el io at 4:11 PM on November 2, 2014 [14 favorites]

The most memorable arcade games to me, from my youf, were the old TMNT game, the 1983 Star Wars with the enclosure seat, and Mad Dog McCree. I see this site has none of them.
posted by kafziel at 4:26 PM on November 2, 2014 [4 favorites]

It is often better to ask forgiveness than permission.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:54 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hm -- in the inbrowser emulator, anyone figure out how to change the keys? For me, it's control, and control-arrow on a Mac switches desktops and thus I cannot play Joust which is THE SADDEST THING
posted by Rev. Syung Myung Me at 5:16 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

They. Have. HACKER!!!!

I'm so happy right now.
posted by Room 641-A at 5:45 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

i wish they had one of these for old webgames. i'm still trying to find an archive or list of everything that was on in like 1999-2001
posted by emptythought at 5:53 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is very nice, shame there's no good sound support yet though. Pepper II was silent on my end, which is a shame because the game uses music to cue the player in on when power ups end.
posted by JHarris at 6:00 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Rev. Sun, if you hit TAB you can menu to a menu that lets you change the keys.

Don't seem to have any of the vector classics. (I had an actual Battlezone machine for awhile. I miss it.)
posted by localroger at 6:01 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Jason Scott has just put up a quick technical support blog entry that might help people out with their difficulties
posted by coleboptera at 6:03 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Holy shit, I feel like I'm havin' a heart attack here.
posted by boo_radley at 6:04 PM on November 2, 2014

This is super cool, but that page layout is killing me! Really hard for my brain to take in a massive wall of arcade logos with no spacing.
posted by buriednexttoyou at 6:12 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hi there. Heard you like games.

The aforementioned tech support entry will help with issues like controller and sound. Sound is silent by default. TRUST ME, this was a smart thing. As the JSMESS emulator gets better, so will soundand responsiveness.

After 1988, a lot of games become way too metal for one hand. Also, you will be jazzed to know we got an Atari Jaguar working.... at 20% speed. Hence other ones running at 100% is like electronic nectar.

Kafziel, your refund is in the mail.

Buriednexttoyou - Try the new interface (we announced it this week), it's a prototype/beta: - (an EXIT BETA badge is in the upper right).
posted by jscott at 6:43 PM on November 2, 2014 [28 favorites]

By the way, I checked:

- Mad Dog McCree was a Laserdisc game. This is Javascript. Next.
- Star Wars is a Vector game, we are working hard on them. They're hard.
- TMNT runs very, very slow in this system. It does a lot. I'm happy to add it.

A lot of reason you don't see something is we compiled it, added it up, and went "Oh yeah, back in the oven with you." Over the months of refinement, more and more games are playable.

If you want a 30 second lesson in "Hmm, maybe don't do vector quite yet", enjoy Tempest:
posted by jscott at 6:49 PM on November 2, 2014 [10 favorites]

Tempest is completely unplayable without the flywheel-equipped rotary encoder. Why not do Battlezone which was much simpler, slower, and the "math box" a trivial thing for modern CPU's to deal with, and playable with arrow keys and a space bar for the fire button?
posted by localroger at 6:59 PM on November 2, 2014

I literally showed you why we're not doing Tempest, and your response is to tell me we shouldn't do tempest. Metafilter, what happened to you
posted by jscott at 7:02 PM on November 2, 2014 [27 favorites]

Also there was a Flicky machine at the arcade I frequented in the 1980's and I quite liked it, though I never got as good at it as I got at Battlezone. Never thought I'd see that game again. I think the console was even converted from another game. But then the one I played in the US had been Anglicized.
posted by localroger at 7:04 PM on November 2, 2014

Sorry I didn't credit you in the post, jscott. Didn't realize you were one of ours. Fantastic thing you made. Thanks a million!
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:05 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

I literally showed you why we're not doing Tempest,

But the problem with your implementation of Tempest isn't that it's a vector game, it's that there is no suitable controller for it in PC world. What about Star Wars and Battlezone, which were controlled by regular switches operating at a cycle keyboards can emulate?
posted by localroger at 7:05 PM on November 2, 2014

Honestly, I thought the Tempest emulation looked great and acted exactly like the original game, but it was the keyboard getting in my way of trying to play it.
posted by localroger at 7:08 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I was also thinking of Tailgunner, but I think it used an analog joystick nobody will have.
posted by localroger at 7:10 PM on November 2, 2014

Well, let's go over the Bonus Equine Dental Plan specifically.

The problem, first and foremost, is that it's a vector game. All the vector games look horrible. This is partially because of the Vector-Raster conversion situation, but also that there's another layer of rendering with the JSMESS emulator that is doing some sort of aliasing action, plus the resolution has to be small-ish in this javascript implementation or even Firefox starts to choke.

Next comes controller issues, but the whole corpus of games up (there's 900) have plenty with pretty significant controller issues. For the record, you can easily play Tempest with an xbox controller - it's not the same, and of course if you're going to go down The Goat Path Of How Perfect a Recreation This Is, you will never hit that.

Finally, if it's not there, it might be in the future. Or never.
posted by jscott at 7:10 PM on November 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

In other news, please check out Uncle Poo (1983), an obscure Japanese videogame that didn't make it to America for some reason.
posted by jscott at 7:18 PM on November 2, 2014 [6 favorites]

It's okay jscott. What you have even now is awesome. I'll post a list of interesting highlights later if people would like to see it, I know a bit about some of these games.
posted by JHarris at 7:18 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

For the record, you can easily play Tempest with an xbox controller

OK I'll take your word for it; I never was very good at Tempest because it really seems unplayable without millisecond level timing accuracy. So again, why not start with something like Battlezone or Star Castle, which have much simpler user interfaces? Yes the vectors will always be a bit fuzzy because not raster, we are not idiots here. Is it something like the rendering making the images lag the basic gameplay significantly?
posted by localroger at 7:21 PM on November 2, 2014

Tempest is completely unplayable without the flywheel-equipped rotary encoder

You obviously didn't drop acid tonight.
posted by Room 641-A at 7:22 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

The Internet Archive also has complete MAME, MESS, Saturn and other collections that you can get by torrent.
posted by lkc at 7:35 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd been looking forward to a thread appearing on Metafilter about this, after a year of work.
posted by jscott at 7:36 PM on November 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

I had been planning on sleep tonight. Nope. Golden Axe.
posted by mrjohnmuller at 7:47 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Rally X! I spent half of my lunch hours playing this damn thing!
posted by SPrintF at 8:01 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

localroger, I really love vector games too, and would love to eventually see them emulated really well in this context, but I think you are kinda harping on this point without paying any attention to the given set of reasons that the thing you are asking for is technically not very easy at the moment. Meanwhile there are some pretty decent re-creations of some of those games out there if that is what you want and you go looking. (Hell, a guy where I work just did a halfway decent (for a couple weeks of messing around in his spare time, especially) Tempest-alike in JavaScript for a Halloween easter egg we put up, and I remember a version Microsoft released around the time of the Win95 launch that was actually way playable with a mouse.)

jscott, this is awesome stuff, and a lot of us deeply appreciate the work that is being done here.
posted by brennen at 8:12 PM on November 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

Oh god, now I can suck at Joust just as much as I always did.

(thank you)
posted by feckless at 8:17 PM on November 2, 2014 [5 favorites]

jscott, you are a prince, sir. This is awesome.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 8:28 PM on November 2, 2014

First Platform Game: Space Panic
First Left-To-Right Scrolling Shooter: Scramble
First Isometric Scrolling Shooter: Zaxxon
First Game With 3D Filled Polygons: I Robot
First Game With Digitized Sprites: Journey
First "Traditional" Beat-Em-Up: Kung Fu Master
First Game About Delivering Newspapers: Paperboy
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 8:36 PM on November 2, 2014 [9 favorites]

Moon Cresta: still a bastard.
posted by The Tensor at 8:42 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

That's great that there's I Robot. The only chance I had to play it was in the lobby at Siggraph '84 (Siggraph award mentioned in interview with game designer Dave Theurer, who also did Missle Command and Tempest.)
posted by larrybob at 9:14 PM on November 2, 2014 [3 favorites]

Joust, Galaga,... Yes, Zaxxon! This is insane. Totally insane. Many Thanks!
posted by cleroy at 9:29 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is fantastic stuff. Damn. Now I can waste as much time on Mappy as I want, all day long. My only suggestions would be to add Bump & Jump, Polybius and Zookeeper.
posted by Spatch at 9:39 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Well if isn't Congo Bongo, my old enemy. Oh, and you brought Tutankham with you. Scramble.. Lost Tomb... all you bastards.

Oooh, it has the Moppet Video games. When I couldn't get my friends to play Two Tigers anymore, and I was running out of tokens, I'd go play Leprechaun what seemed indefinitely.

Bump & Jump

Bump n Jump is Burnin Rubber on that list. My surprised-not-to-sees are Gorf and Wizard of Wor.

Game I vaguely remember: side game like Dig Dug, with digging, even, but your guy is very small and it's a little bit more like a puzzle game. The whole map fit on the screen and was split into little areas, kind of like ZZT meets Dig Dug.
posted by fleacircus at 9:47 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

They have Major Havoc. I'm happy. Although I guess now I need a gamepad.
posted by ob1quixote at 9:52 PM on November 2, 2014

Is that Mr. Do fleacircus?
posted by Golem XIV at 9:52 PM on November 2, 2014

Wait, this is awesome but how is it legal???
posted by TheNewWazoo at 10:43 PM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is absolutely amazing.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 2:05 AM on November 3, 2014

For Qix, you pretty much need to press your crotch against a subwoofer while playing so that you can recreate the visceral experience of being rewarding for doing something well by having the cabinet thrum a low and throbbing WHUMMWHUMMWHUMMWHUMM directly through your Toughskins into the region of your penis.

I was very, very good at Qix.

For some reason.
posted by sonascope at 3:57 AM on November 3, 2014 [12 favorites]

fleacircus, perhaps it was BoulderDash?
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:09 AM on November 3, 2014

And, lo, the first bug report was filed under the "penis-feel" category.
posted by dr_dank at 5:09 AM on November 3, 2014 [4 favorites]

It wasn't Mr. Do or Boulder Dash. It was less like Dig Dug than those, and the characters were smaller I think. I think it involved exploding bombs to clear out boulders, in addition to trying to dig them out of areas where they blocked the doorway to the next little room on the screen. There may have been some countdown or something to get to the end of the map. I think you started in a bottom corner and were trying to get the top through these various chambers mostly filled with dirt.

Maybe I'm badly misremembering it. I didn't play it much because it looked too intimidating, but it was right next to the Qix machine and I'd watch other people play it.
posted by fleacircus at 5:50 AM on November 3, 2014 ?
posted by user92371 at 6:14 AM on November 3, 2014

Wait, this is awesome but how is it legal???

We all know it's not.

It's hard being the party pooper when we all know this kind of work is sorely needed to preserve the history of these games. MAME is an amazing accomplishment, something I thought would never be possible twenty years ago.

Some of these games were written by friends of mine. They've always had a big shrug when it came to ROMs floating around on BitTorrent and whatnot. It's not like they could really do anything about it. It also tended to fly under the radar of the larger publishers.

The act of putting these flat out on the Internet Archive, though, is kind of a major step over the line of "well, who's gonna care anymore?"

Lots of people care. A lot of the copyrights on these titles are owned by companies that have held onto them and/or acquired them over the years. Gottlieb/Mylstar stuff is owned by a pretty serious company that enforces their copyrights. Williams/Bally/Midway titles are now held by Warner Bros Interactive. The Vid Kidz are still active and writing games. Namco is selling their own emulated titles. I'm pretty sure none of these groups got a call over the weekend saying "Um, so we're cool with putting your stuff up for free play now, right?" The only person I know who released their stuff into public domain is Jamie Fenton, who let Robby Roto go.

I'm not here to say this stuff shouldn't be done. It's a wonderful thing to see people discover an old friend and have a fun afternoon reliving some classic titles. I have great respect for jscott and his work in preserving this stuff. For the record I personally indulge in MAME and have DVDs of the ROM sets. I'll be the first to recognize a lot of these copyright holders are assholes and have done stupid things to keep classic titles out of the hands of players over little silly legal issues or just plain corporate greed.

So what happens next remains to be seen, but you can pretty much guess the immediate future will not be a happy thing. Grab what you can, or jump out of the browser and discover what a MAME running on native hardware is capable of. But don't expect all of this to be up forever.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:03 AM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

Lots of these games don't have clear title anymore though. They've changed hands so many times that no one knows who owns the copyright. A sad feature of our copyright law is that it's harder to abandon copyright than to declare it.

Hopefully we've passed the point where the nostalgia can no longer be effectively monetized and the companies just let go. Without the grey-area efforts of preservationists and emulation writers, many of these games would already be lost.

You could make a Fair Use argument that preserving these games requires a living, breathing manifestation of the titles in an actively developed emulated environment.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 7:37 AM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

All I know is we need to bronze jscott's shoes.
posted by DirtyOldTown at 7:46 AM on November 3, 2014 [3 favorites]

posted by Splunge at 8:32 AM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Namco is selling their own emulated titles. I'm pretty sure none of these groups got a call over the weekend saying "Um, so we're cool with putting your stuff up for free play now, right?"

I know that the Internet Archive is assiduous about removing things when rights holders complain. Note that Pac-Man isn't here, even though Pac-Man Plus, which ran on nearly identical hardware, is. I'm not sure what the deal is with that, but I expect the rights issues involving Pac-Man variants produced by Midway are complex. I would imagine similar situations exist with Bosconian, Galaga and Dig-Dug, but they're also here. I can only assume that Pac-Man is still widely recognized, while those other games have fallen off even the slim shelf of profitability they were hanging on to.

The days where these companies could release compilations, probably put together by Digital Eclipse, and just get money for these games over and over, are fast disappearing. I've legally got many of Namco's and Midway's arcade games at least twice, and yet since their compilations are for obsolete systems if I want to play them I have to either hook up my Dreamcast or Gamecube or buy them yet another fucking time, and I don't even know what system I can get them for now! I have absolutely no moral qualms about pirating them anymore, they've gotten far more than their fair share of value out of these properties in my opinion. Of course my opinion isn't the same as a lawyer's opinion, but copyright law has been ludicrous for decades and just keeps getting more insane the longer it thwarts the handful of people who even care to play, for example, Q*Bert, from enjoying it.

I go through this because there is kind of a scolding tone to your comment, along the lines of "oooh they shouldn't be doing this!" The rights holders may still be alive, but they simply are not making substantive amounts of money from these games any longer. As with many things, the legal and ethical schemes relating to these games are way out of sync with each other. In any case, the Internet Archive is in a position that they can afford to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, and they have actively lobbied the Copyright Office to make use of the archival provisions that exist under the DCMA, which is about the only good thing I can say about that law.

The Vid Kidz are still active and writing games.

This statement bothers me, relating to the scolding tone you adopted, like we're taking food out of their mouths somehow. The corporate entity known as "Vid Kidz" hasn't been operating around three decades. The people who comprised it are making games for different organizations, but that doesn't even matter for purposes of copyright law, since Williams owned the games they produced. Jarvis and DeMar are still in the industry, and I'm sure they'd protect their current works as far as they are able, but I have never heard either of them saying anything about the legal status of, say, Robotron.

The only person I know who released their stuff into public domain is Jamie Fenton, who let Robby Roto go.

There are some more. A number of Exidy games have been released, although notably Exidy (which I seem to remember still exists as a corporate entity) never got around to releasing from copyright their most popular games.
posted by JHarris at 11:17 AM on November 3, 2014 [2 favorites]

This is so great. Does anyone have a good USB controller to recommend for playing these? I'm on OS X Mavericks, if that makes a difference.
posted by slogger at 12:06 PM on November 3, 2014

Here is my promised list of interesting games:

AMIDAR: At first it seems like just a maze game where, half the time, you surround boxes instead of eat dots, but it's actually an action variation of Japan's cultural Amidakuji lotteries! The result is, most of the time the enemies don't actually chase you, and you can predict where they'll go. The game's still difficult because you're greatly outnumbered, and if you take a while one of the enemies will start following your footsteps. A very interesting game.

ANTEATER: A version is known to computer gamers as Oil's Well, I think this one came first. Another kinda maze game where you have to eat all the dots, this one is made interesting because "you" are really the tip of a long tongue that extends through the maze, and you're vulnerable everywhere along the tongue's length. The further you go into the maze, the more vulnerable you are, but at the end are two Queen ants that clear out all the enemies when eaten. It's an addicting mix of risk and reward.

ARKANOID: I actually think the earlier Breakout games are more interesting (Breakout being one of the few pre-Space Invaders games that's generally known of today), Arkanoid is one of those games from the middle period of arcade gaming, after the classic era, where games got a little too difficult for sustained casual play. Still, the game does interestingly add to the Breakout formula.

ASTRO BLASTER: This isn't a game I've spent a substantial amount of time with, but it's kind of known for having a large number of secret bonus awards, including a few that are actually impossible to get.

AZTARAC: This is a vector game with pretty good graphics, unfortunately its control scheme, which I believe involved a joystick and a dial, is difficult to replicate with standard PC hardware.

BAGMAN and SUPER BAGMAN: Weird French games with a good amount of personality and excellent music. An escaped convict tries to get all the bags of money out of a three-screen mine by dragging them all, one at a time, to a wheelbarrel. You're opposed by a pair of guards and a challenging time limit. At first the game seems too easy, but you're slowed down by carrying a bag, and every time you make off with one the guards get a little faster, so by the end you have to exploit the enemy's AI weaknesses to win.

BERZERK: It was a major hit for Stern and is still somewhat remembered to this day for its twitch action gameplay and malevolent, indestructable smiley-face baiter Evil Otto.

BIONIC COMMANDO: The arcade game came before the NES game, but is far inferior to it. Mentioned so you'll know to avoid it.

BLACK TIGER: This, however, is a fairly awesome game, with optional "dungeon" levels and shops to buy equipment at. I've heard it described as the predecessor of one of my favorite arcade games of all time, Magic Sword.

BLUE PRINT: Has cool music and character-filled, cartoony graphics, although the gameplay is kind of repetitive I think.

BOMB JACK: The predecessor of the infamous NES game Mighty Bomb Jack, this one's probably a better game overall, although it contains nowhere near as many secrets.

BOSCONIAN: The marquee says Midway, but like Pac-Man this is really a Namco production. This is one of their "B" games, not as well-known as Dig-Dug or Galaga, but still fun, and like many of Namco's games of the classic era, it's not hard for even a new player to have a game of satisfying length. Also, the design of the player's ship here is very close to that of Galaga.

BURGERTIME: A clever side-view maze game where the player walks over giant hamburger parts in order to make them fall onto large plates. One of those clever game concepts that seemed to be everywhere in the early 80s. If these kinds of inventive ideas were more widespread and popular now, I wouldn't be nearly as depressed about the state of gaming as I am.

CARNVAL: A cool little game set up along older lines, where instead of lives dictating game length, you have a limited number of shots to clear out a shooting gallery. But there's still a survival element: you have to work towards hitting targets to replenish your bullet supply, and if you're not careful, hungry, dive-bombing ducks will eat what ammo you have left!

CRYSTAL CASTLES: One of Atari's early middle-period successes, contemporary with Marble Madness and sharing a similar isometric view. Uses a framebuffer display and trackball controls. Whimsical and fun.

CRAZY CLIMBER: Notable especially for its dual joystick controls, where one stick controls your left hand and the other your right. I'm not sure how well this translates to PC play.

CENTIPEDE: One of the best classic-era shooters, and as a trackball game with direct movement, one that translates very well to mouse play. The design to this game is very good, I think, the enemies post an excellent mix of direct challenges (trying to kill you) and indirect challenges (manipulating the mushroom field in such a way as to make the Centipede get to you faster).

CRUSH ROLLER: It's better known to US players as Make Trax, it's another Pac-Man style maze game, although one with exceptionally clean graphics and an interesting design.

DEFENDER and STARGATE: A notoriously difficult shooter, Defender was hugely innovative at the time. Is probably too hard for today's audiences, but its blistering speed, large game world, wide variety of opponents, and especially its awesome sound enthralled players back in the days when difficulty wasn't necessarily a bad thing for a game to have. The controls, however, are terribly complex and difficult to master. Stargate has even more going on than Defender. For some reason, though, I do better playing Stargate than Defender, although I've still never made it past wave 10.

DIG DUG: I actually much prefer Mr. Do! to this, but that's only because Mr. Do! is amazing. Dig Dug has a lot less going on, but is still an engaging game.

ELEVATOR ACTION: A nifty early platformer where half of the challenge is in manipulating the environment, here the many independently-operating elevators, in order to create situations where you can overcome the many bad guys.

FLICKY: An underrated Sega game, this scrolling maze game actually plays a kind of trick on the player: each board is actually just one screen wide, but wraps around horizontally as it scrolls so it gives the impression of a larger board.

FOOD FIGHT: A lot of character in this fun shooter variant. The arcade game used a joystick that could aim in more than just the standard 8 directions, making this game well-suited to analog control. Food Fight was created by GCC, aka General Computer Corporation, the creators of Ms. Pac-Man and Quantum. The company still exists today: they make printers.

FROGGER: An early hit for Konami, the game is overflowing with catchy music, enough to be impressive to this day.

GALAGA: There is probably no more classic shooter than Galaga, which can still sometimes be found in the wild, either stand-alone or as part of Namco's highly successful anniversary rereleases with other games.

GAPLUS: This is a weird sequel to Galaga. The game has a fair bit more play variety, but isn't as stylish or iconic. Still, not so much a bad game as just not as good as Galaga.

GHOSTS 'N GOBLINS: The NES/Famicom port is probably played a lot more than the arcade original. This is a great shame, as the port was produced by legendary shitty console developer Micronics and has a shockingly bad frame rate.

GOLDEN AXE: Is a fun, although very short, beat-em-up where the characters use swords and axes instead of fists. It is easier for modern sensibilities to enjoy this game if you think of it more as a score attack game than one where you are struggling to "win."

GYRUSS: What is it about classic gaming music that rocks so hard to this day? Even now, Gyruss' soundtrack can get the blood pumping like little else can.

HYPER OLYMPIC and TRACK & FIELD: Konami's button-pounding classic, a game that will probably destroy your keyboard if you let it. Has a "world record" feature that records the best performance anyone has made on that machine.

JOUST: Another of William's greatest hits. Received a little-known sequel that greatly expands the gameplay which somehow not being nearly as much fun.

JR. PAC-MAN: Another GCC game, a followup to their Ms. Pac-Man, this was the first Pac game to feature scrolling mazes. Seems to be disowned by Namco today, this only got one home port, but it was an amazing adaption for the Atari 2600 that may actually be more fun than the arcade game, although it must be side is very hard.

KRULL: An adaption of a lacklustre 80s fantasy movie, the game is probably more notable now than the film.

LADYBUG: Weird cabinet art distracted a bit from one of the great classics of maze gaming. Challenging and random enough to support many plays, yet even newbies can clear two or three boards.

LOST TOMB: Another framebuffer game, I am no good at this game, but damn it certainly looks and sounds nice.

MAPPY: Another of those concepts that were everywhere in the 80s and yet would never be made today, despite there being many more developers at work making games now. All developers to make games as simple, engaging and interesting as Mappy, and it's not even one of Namco's biggest hits.

MARBLE MADNESS: An excellent example of Atari Games at the height of their powers. One of the great travesties of gaming is that its prototype-only sequel, Marble Man, never made it to production and is nearly unheard-of today.

MAJOR HAVOC: A surprisingly modern game with a lot of variety. Its platformer sections are amazingly prescient, including the ability to influence jump height by how long you hold down the jump button, Mario style, and yet are only half of the game.

MILLIPEDE: Not as focused as Centipede, but still an excellent game. I can excuse the game from cribbing so much from its predecessor when Centipede has been copied by so few others.

MOON PATROL: Not really a very complicated game, but the gameplay combined with the infectious rhythm laid down by the soundtrack is amazingly fun.

MR. DO!: I've lauded this game in other threads, so I'll content myself here by saying this is the game you want to play, not Dig Dug.

MOUSE TRAP: A difficult game to control on PC, what with there being four buttons to juggle as well as the arrow keys, but still, a lost classic from Exidy.

PAC-MAN PLUS: I call this one out so you'll know what you're in for. I assume Namco's litigousness is why Pac-Man itself isn't included. Like Ms. Pac-Man, this game is basically a romhack of Pac-Man. Unlike Ms. Pac-Man, Pac-Man Plus feels like a romhack: nonsensical things tend to happen, the maze and sometimes vulnerable monsters go invisible sometimes, and the fruits have been changed. Best avoided.

PENGO: A clever game that's sort of like a maze game, but one in which you can manipulate the walls and use them to crush enemies. It's a wonderful game, and they don't make them like this anymore. People who point to mobile gaming and claim that wasteland of copycat games filled with expensive IAPs is somehow a modern renaissance of gaming, I respond to you by asking where are all the Pengos? The Space Panics? The Mr Do!s?

SPACE PANIC: A game that can be recognized as a kind of prototype for Lode Runner, it's not difficult to imagine that its creator Doug Smith was inspired by this game. Some people have called this an early platformer, but it's really not because your guy can't jump. You dig holes in floors and lure enemies into them, then fill the hole back in to make the enemy fall to kill it. If you don't fill it in in time then, Joust-like, it revives at a harder difficulty. Tougher enemies must be forced to fall more floors before they'll die. Interesting for historical purposes, but not really fun to play by current standards.

PEPPER II: This isn't a sequel to anything despite the name. This is one of Exidy's best games, a blisteringly fast maze game set across four connected screens. I think it did pretty well for Exidy back in the day. I've cleared the whole board three times (maybe four?) in one play. The key is in chaning together invulnerability periods from capturing the corner and center blocks of each board.

PITFALL II: LOST CAVERNS: Presented for novelty value. Yes, there once was an arcade version of Pitfall II, produced by Sega. It's actually more like a mixture of Pitfall I and II.

POOYAN: A weird name obscures a game with brilliant sound design, one of Konami's great early classics. What is it about all these early Konami games that make them sound so great? The game itself focuses on the efforts of a mama pig to protect her kids from attacking wolves, which in a way that could only make sense in a classic arcade game, requires that the wolves blow up balloons to float up or down a cliff, putting them in range of arrows fired by the mama pig, whose position is adjusted by some of her piglets who are suspending her from a small elevator via a rope they're pulling. I'm not surprised if you're confused, but it all makes sense when you play.

Q*BERT: Pretty well known these days, although I suspect that kids now know it best from its cameo in Wreck-It Ralph. At the time it was a bit controversial to allow the player to actually jump off the pyramid to his death. An interesting thing about this game is how the nature of the game changes drastically when you reach Level 3, the first level where you can actually undo your work, and so requiring much more strategy to progress from that point on. Its unreleased sequel, Faster Harder More Challenging Q*Bert, was released for use by MAME users, yet I note isn't available on the Internet Archive.

QIX: This is one of those games that has been remade endlessly, both legitimately and by copycats. For the record, it was originally produced by Space Invaders maker Taito's short-lived US branch, as was the equally awesome, yet less remembered, Zoo Keeper. A framebuffer game, you draw lines to enclose boxes to claim portions of the screen. To clear a board you have to get 75%. However you're beset by enemies that travel along the lines you've drawn, and by the Qix itself, which is best described to current audiences as a Windows screensaver gone rogue.

QUANTUM: GCC, the company I mentioned before who made Ms. Pac-Man for Midway, worked as kind of a contractor for game development. I seem to remember that they got their start with an Asteroids enhancement that they were sued by Atari to stop making, but in a weird turn, the details of their settlement allowed them to make games for Atari. Quantum, a forgotten classic if there ever was one, is one of those games. You use a trackball to try to draw circles around subatomic particles. It's very easy to play with a mouse and I recommend it highly. One neat element: when you get a high score, you sign your name using the trackball!

RALLY-X: Another of Namco's non-Pac-Man classics. The word is they were expecting this game to tear up arcades at the time, and Pac-Man was released as an afterthought. Well, even now, it's evident that Rally-X has none of Pac-Man's charisma, but it's still a cool game.

ROBOTRON: 2084: The original dual-stick shooter, and still among the best. The terrific action, neon color scheme and classic Williams sound effects combine to produce one of the greatest video games ever made. Unfortunately, I expect it'll be hard to play on a PC without a USB gamepad.

SCRAMBLE and SUPER COBRA: Konami's nearly-forgotten side-scrolling shooters. These days Konami has been heard to acknowledge that the popular Gradius series is basically a set of extended sequels to Scramble.

(Street Fighter II is pointedly omitted.)

SPACE HARRIER: One of Sega's most iconic properties, it amazed arcade goers in the mid 80s with its awesome scaling effects, which somehow are still pretty fun to look at even today.

SINISTAR: It was released right before the Great Game Crash of 1983, the moment where arcade games ceased being a fun thing anyone could play and became instead the realm of the teenage male. Why did it happen? Well partly it could be said that it was the popping of a bubble, the end of a fad. But now I'm coming around to seeing that also, arcade games had abandoned the casual player, and they're only now finding them again in the mobile field. Sinistar, which is amazingly difficult, could be taken as an example of that, but it's still a fun game, and with an iconic antagonist.

SKY KID: A terrific game, a prime example of Namco at their best. Its sequel, Super Sky Kid, is even better. There are endless little details that make this game a joy to play. One thing: the only thing that kills you in Sky Kid is your plane crashing into the ground. Anything that shoots or collides with you just makes you go into a tailspin that you can pull out of if you can pound on the buttons in time. So people with good button-pressing skills are at an advantage, although the game is plenty difficult even if you can pound 'em like Takahashi Meijin.

SPRINT and SPRINT 4: Worth an inclusion for being the beginning of one of the longest-lived game franchises in arcades (Atari was still making Sprint games at the end of the 80s). Sprint 4 gets its name from the number of players the game supports. Atari once made a game called Tank 8, which I would dearly love to play sometime, but I don't know if a single working cabinet still exists. Sigh.

STAR TREK: STRATEGIC OPERATOINS SIMULATOR: Features the digitized voice of Leonard Nemoy. Older computer users will remember a text game called Star Trek where you have to travel the sector and use key commands to aim at and fire at Klingons. This vector game is basically an official, and real-time, version of that. I've not played it much myself though.

SUPER PAC-MAN: The true sequel to Pac-Man, made by Namco. Did nowhere near as well as the original in arcades, while Ms. Pac-Man is one of the best-selling arcade games of all time. Notable for featuring a speed-up button that works while Pac-Man is under the effect of Super Energizers, which make him big and invulnerable to ghosts (however, he cannot eat them in this state unless he's also eaten an ordinary Energizer). While the speed-up button is held Pac-Man moves so fast that he can shoot across the screen in a split second! If you can master his control at that speed clearing the board is easy, but the timing is very hard to master. Also notable in that you have to eat keys to open doors to get to the objects you want to eat to clear the board. You can just eat right through the doors in Super mode, though.

TOOBIN': From Atari's "Silver Age," where the company went into creative overdrive trying to make games that would be profitable after the game crash. They did a pretty darn good job right up until Street Fighter II hit and enthralled a generation of boys. This game featured unusual controls, where you used different buttons arrranged in a circle to paddle an intertube down a series of increasingly ludicrous rivers. A great amount of fun. Like a few other Atari games at the time, featured a secret objective the player tried to complete through the game in order to win a T-shirt. In this case, the player had to collect letters in the word TOOBIN'. Success gives the player a huge score award and a screen full of instructions and an address at Atari to write to, which much have been a shock to a player without a pen and paper handy. Unfortunately, the contest ended December 1, 1988. Sigh. This guy writing for Destructoid like Toobin' almost as much as I do.

TRON: Another game with a strong movie tie-in. Tron actually only did so-so in theaters (so why did it get a sequel decades later?), but the game was a pretty nice hit for Midway. Like Krull, it presents a number of scenes from the movie as gameplay challenges.

TUTANKHAM: Notice the name is misspelled from the famous Egyptian boy-king. Features classic sound design reminscent of Williams games. Why don't games sound like this anymore? It's a crying shame.

VENTURE: Another Exidy classic, you move "Winky" the archer through a series of rooms collecting treasures. One of the few games to really get the Dungeons & Dragons feel right, poor Winky has to survive a variety of infuriatingly random monsters and weird situations, and in the map screen between rooms is pestered by Cthulhu himself. While Winky is similarly composed of just a smiley face, he has a much harder time of things than Evil Otto from Bezerk.

ZOO KEEPER: A completely different game from that recent casual puzzle thing, this game has terrific sound effects running on Qix-like framebuffer hardware and weird gameplay where you try to reinforce a brick wall and keep animals from escaping. If you manage to jump over lots of animals in one gloriously long, floaty leap you earn more and more points, culminating at a solid million, but I've never done that.

I could go on, but this comment is long enough as it is. Sorry if I didn't cover your favorite game here.
posted by JHarris at 12:40 PM on November 3, 2014 [24 favorites]



The flashing lights! The 8-bit sounds! I never want or need to leave the computer again.

Golden Axe! Frogger!! SINISTAR!!! Thank you!
posted by Kevin Street at 12:45 PM on November 3, 2014

JHarris: I wasn't trying to take a scolding tone, and please accept my apologies if I did.

Near the end of my comment I tried hard to say "Look, this situation is a mess and we all know it". I hate rebuying these things over and over as well. How many copies of Dark Side of the Moon do we all own?

You are also correct that the Vid Kidz titles were developed for Williams, not licensed to them. That was my mistake.

The main point was that, sad as it is, copyright applies to these works just as much as any other copywritten work from the era.

(And thanks for the mention of the Exidy and other misc titles available for free.)
posted by JoeZydeco at 1:27 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

The world is long overdue for an official internet browser-based archive of awesome MAME titles. As far as copyright stuff, I'm sure there is some happy middle-ground that will soon be reached with these things.

I'd gladly pay a bit of money to have some sort of official, PC based emulator/emulation zone where the titles could be updated or balanced a bit for modern machines....the 3D Realms anthology being an (overpriced) example of this.
posted by GreyboxHero at 2:44 PM on November 3, 2014

My nemesis, my bete noire, Raiden, is not on the list. Good. I've moved on. I'll not speak its name again.
posted by Bron at 3:42 PM on November 3, 2014

In the mists, Raiden awaits.
posted by fleacircus at 4:59 PM on November 3, 2014

Metafilter: best described to current audiences as a Windows screensaver gone rogue

And thanks, jharris, this is so wonderful
posted by matrixgeek at 6:47 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Awesome list, JHarris.

For more information about your local arcade, check out this montage

Or, watch an episode of Starcade
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:10 PM on November 3, 2014 [1 favorite]

Here's a video for you guys of a game that's not on the list, but is one of my very favorite games of all, Atari Games' Rampart (41m), in all its three player glory. Watching it makes me happy.
posted by JHarris at 12:15 AM on November 4, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ah, I notice Boing Boing has linked to the Internet Arcade now too, and gave a via to this thread. So much for that year before the floodgates opened....
posted by JHarris at 2:10 AM on November 4, 2014

Two million people have visited the arcade as of this writing.

And I wrote this essay:

Before It All Arrives
posted by jscott at 11:59 AM on November 6, 2014 [5 favorites]

That's impressive as hell, jscott.
posted by localroger at 2:25 PM on November 6, 2014

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