Unfortunately being born in the very early 90s I missed out on some best UK arcade period of the 70s and 80s, but that doesn’t mean that arcades in the 90s didn’t have their gems.
I’m sure there are many MANY people who miss the days of arcades, the sticky floors, the sound of bingo being played over some speakers in the background, and that one 2p coin dropper that had a shiny Zapdos Pokemon card right on the edge (with the one side you wanted to drop coins in jammed), or maybe that was just my experience. The arcade industry in the UK is nothing like what it used to be, it is really sad to see as when arcades used to be a buzz of people wanting to play games and children begging their parents in the cafe for just another pound, now arcades just seem to be all about gambling machines. Lets take a trip back to a time when arcades for me still had the feeling of excitement and visit some of the best 90s arcade games I played growing up.
Dance Dance Revolution
Once of the biggest gaming crazes of the 90s, Dance Dance Revolution was a game that didn’t appeal to all gamers but it did grab people who wouldn’t generally play games, making the craze even more popular. This game had an impressingly large amount of people stepping on arrows to the beat of catchy music while looking stupid, this is unless they were amazingly good and could play every song on the highest difficulty while not holding onto the back bar and doing flips. In my opinion DDR was (and kind of still is) one of the best ways to get casual gamers to workout while playing a game, because lets me honest no one used a Wii Fit board more than twice. The game then inspired similar games that are still going today like Just Dance, mainly for the people who still wish to make themselves look like idiots while still insisting they can dance better than anyone else because they got a higher score.
House of the Dead
If I could get back every pound I had spent on the House of the Dead series while growing up I’d be able to fund my own zombie experiment and take on shooting them full time. This series was what made me start to enjoy rail shooters so much, the mix of being able to hold a plastic realistic gun, the horror expect and also the story which other rail shooters at the time didn’t really have, to this day I still enjoy playing a rail shooter. Unfortunately these games are really hard to come by now in a working condition, they have either been ravaged by time with broken screens and troublesome sensors that refuse to shoot a bullet where you want, or just ravaged by kids swinging on the guns which are connected via cables to the machine.
Another rail shooter that was really popular in the arcades, even more popular than House of the Dead, children gathered round with pound coins in their grasp patiently waiting for their turn while at the same time assessing how the person in front of them was playing. The game was made more immersive than other arcade shooters by having a foot pedal which could be used to spring up out of cover, this meant a lot of people had to change their strategy rather than just going through the game shooting as fast as possible. Again these machines suffered the same fate as House of the Dead with hardly any of the original machines working properly in UK arcades. Serious players often found that the quote ‘ACTION’ was implanted into their minds many hours afterwards.
For people wanting a shooter that shows off just how good they are there was Point Blank. Not a rail shooter but still with a plastic gun you would fire at a screen this game was less serious than other shooters out at the time. Rather than a story this game had a huge and varied collection of challenging mini games of various difficulties, if you could make it through a certain amount of levels on the hardest difficulty you were King or Queen of the arcade!
Simpsons Arcade Game
Often in many people’s list of ‘Best arcade games ever’ with good reason, this game was amazing at the time and still holds up pretty well today. Best described as Streets of Rage meets The Simpsons the multiplayer aspect of this game is what made it so special, being able to have 2 people pick a member of The Simpson family and stroll through the Simpsons universe fighting everything in sight was just fluent and satisfying. Another great addition was the special moves where 2 players could link up in game and do a powered up attack that changed depending on the 2 characters in play.
There is not much I remember about the rail shooter Area 51, the cabinet wasn’t really easy to find, my first memory of seeing the game was at an arcade in Blackpool which used to be arcade heaven. I remember the graphics look pretty realistic at the time, people who looked real(-ish) and even the aliens had a look about them that just made you think ‘Wow!’. The game was actually a pretty good shooter and there was something oddly satisfying about playing a game that is set in a real place with relatively life like graphics.
If you have ever visited an arcade or a holiday park in the 90s then this next quote will be subconsciously burnt into your brain, “DAYYYTONAA, Let’s Go Away!”. If that isn’t enough to jog your memory, have a listen to this and remember the time you were bored watching cheap cabaret and this was drawing you in from the background.
Daytona USA still stands as a great game and holds a firm hold over a position in my top racing games list, this is pretty good for a guy who doesn’t really like driving games. I believe the game is still hidden around the UK in more older arcades.
I have never played Spider Stomper myself but these things were in EVERY arcade I went in while I was growing up to it would be rude not to give it a mention. The aim of the game is slightly similar to advance Dance Revolution except there is no music and the spider buttons on the floor lighting up when you needed to set on them, teaching kids from a young age that spiders are bad a readying them for a future of spider overpopulation. You always knew there was someone on this machine due to always hearing a loud stomp and a cartoon voice shouting ‘Ouch!’.
What arcade memories do you have from the 90s? Let us know in the comments or on Twitter!