The 20 Most Beloved Arcade Games Everybody Loves

The 20 Most Beloved Arcade Games Everybody Loves

Although mostly a relic of the past, or a fun novelty at best, arcades were once hotbeds of gaming. Modern gaming, as we know it today, wouldn’t be the same without the existence of arcades to help accelerate technology and propel the medium forward. Sure, console gaming is all the rage now, but let’s take a minute to discuss the hits of yesteryear with a list of the 20 most beloved arcade games.

1. Donkey Kong

Not only was Donkey Kong a revolutionary title that helped pave the way for modern-day platforming games (a phrase that didn’t exist back then), but it also introduced the world to gaming’s biggest icon: Mario. Donkey Kong put Nintendo on the map and changed gaming forever.

Kelly-Sikkema-Pgtoahfqjq0-UnsplashPhoto by Kelly Sikkema

2. Street Fighter II

A massive leap forward for the fighting genre and competitive arcade games, Street Fighter II is regarded as a classic arcade title that put iconic characters like Ryu and Chun-Li on the map. It introduced combos, grossed billions, and changed the landscape of gaming as we know it. 

Arcadethumbkxz Chen on Wikimedia Commons

3. Space Invaders

Often cited as the most influential arcade game of all time, Space Invaders has earned its rightful place on this list. Having grossed billions of dollars during the golden age of arcade gaming, this iconic shooter introduced millions of people to the joys of gaming. 

1024Px-Headingley Space InvadersTim Green on Wikimedia Commons

4. Galaga

This fixed shooter classic is often regarded as one the greatest golden era games ever, as both critics and fans alike praised its addictive gameplay and technical innovations. It was among the top-grossing arcade hits of the early 80s and contributed greatly to the growth and popularity of the medium. 

1024Px-Video Game - Ms Pacman And GalagaBrian Katt on Wikimedia Commons


5. Pac-Man

As the game that helped spark the arcade craze of the 80s, Pac-Man is unquestionably one of the most beloved arcade games ever. Its simple yet addictive gameplay has made it an arcade staple that continues to stand the test of time. 

1024Px-Pac Man Machine (48073273896)Matt Brown on Wikimedia Commons

6. Ms. Pac-Man

A smash hit that proved that video game sequels could surpass the original in every way possible, Ms. Pac-Man took the arcade world by storm. Despite various legal issues, the game was instrumental in moving the franchise forward and further expanding its reach. 

Isaiah-Schultz-Glovktofdzc-UnsplashPhoto by Isaiah Schultz

7. Mortal Kombat

Proving arcades weren’t just for kids, this brutal fighter introduced the world to “fatalities” and pushed boundaries with its graphics, fighting mechanics, and unprecedented violence and gore. It was a massive hit in the arcade and spawned a massively popular franchise that is still going strong to this day. 

2048Px-Pax South 2015 - Mortal Kombat Arcade (16165005248)Daniel Benavides on Wikimedia Commons

8. Asteroids

This minimalist yet infinitely challenging space shooter was one of the first major hits of the golden age of arcade games and proved to be just as successful in the home console market. The game inspired numerous clones and ports over the years, cementing its status as one of the most beloved arcade titles of all time. 

1024Px-Gamer At E3 2012 (7165443243)Sergey Galyonkin on Wikimedia Commons

9. Frogger

Frogger’s simple yet increasingly difficult formula made for an instant hit when it was released in 1981. Tasked with guiding a frog across a busy road and treacherous river, players found themselves hooked on trying to beat their score ( a la George Costanza in the famous Seinfeld episode). 

1024Px-VglfroggerIan Muttoo on Wikimedia Commons

10. Tetris

Tetris is most notable for its home releases (particularly on the GameBoy). Nonetheless, the addicting puzzle game was originally released to arcades in 1988, where it quickly became a massive hit. Its unique and entrancing gameplay has made Tetris an enduring force in gaming that still somehow resonates in today’s crowded gaming landscape. 

Ali-Yilmaz-1Wp0Iw0Z-Pw-UnsplashPhoto by Ali Yılmaz


11.  Double Dragon

This famous cooperative brawler laid the foundation for beat-’em-up games for years to come. Originally released to arcades in 1987, the influential beat-’em-up instantly gained traction in the industry, inspiring a myriad of clones and home console ports. 

DbldragonRyC - Behind The Lens on Wikimedia Commons

12. Q*bert

Known for its quirky, foul-mouthed protagonist, Q*bert was an instant hit with gamers when it was released in 1982. It quickly became one of the highest-grossing arcade games of 1983 and continued its reign with a variety of home console ports and even film appearances. 

1024Px-2013 E3 - Vhm Q-Bert (9097078521)- EMR - on Wikimedia Commons

13.  Punch-Out!!

Released by Nintendo in 1984, this iconic arcade fighter allowed players to step into the ring and battle it out with a variety of opponents. The game was a massive success and spawned a number of sequels. Including Super Punch-Out!! and Mike Tyson’s Punch-Out!! on the NES. 

PunchRob Boudon on Wikimedia Commons

14. Tron

Based on the popular film of the same name, Tron allowed players to experience the fictional virtual reality world by way of light cycle races and intense tank battles. With over $45 million in sales, the game was a massive success resulting in several ports and even a sequel.  

TronDarth-Wiki-Man on Wikimedia Commons

15. Spy Hunter

In a bid to mirror the thrill and adventure of a James Bond car chase, Spy Hunter allowed players to take the wheel of a fully-equipped spy car, with all the weapons and gadgets one could dream of. It was one of the top 5 best-selling arcade games of 1984-5 and led to innumerable ports, sequels, and reboots. 

1024Px-Spy Hunter Sit-Down CabinetRob DiCaterino on Wikimedia Commons

16. Paperboy

Developed and Published by Atari in 1985, Paperboy puts players in charge of contending with an increasingly difficult paper route. Riddled with varied obstacles like dogs, cars, and even the Grim Reaper, Paper Boy made a mundane concept into something unique and infinitely fun to play. 

Cpc464.Computer.750PixAdrian Pingstone on Wikimedia Commons


17. Rampage

Taking its cue from movies like Godzilla and King Kong, Rampage allowed players to take control of a larger-than-life creature on its journey to destroy everything in sight. Known for its destructible environments and fun cooperative play, Rampage was a big hit with arcade-goers, eventually leading to a number of ports, sequels, and a feature-length film.

MidwayMidway Games Inc. on Wikimedia Commons

18. Dig Dug

As one of the highest-selling arcade games of the early 80s, Dig Dug was a massively prominent and influential title during the heyday of arcade gaming. Known for its cute characters, compelling gameplay, and reliance on strategy, Dig Dug was a hit with gamers and quickly spawned numerous ports, sequels and spin-offs. 

1024Px-Dig Dug-Logo-O.svgatari on Wikimedia Commons

19. NBA Jam

The High-flying, over-the-top basketball hit took arcades by storm with its release in 1993. Know for bringing popular phrases like “He’s on fire!” and “Boomshakalaka!” to the forefront of pop culture, NBA Jam generated well over $2 billion in revenue since its release, leading to a slew of similarly rambunctious arcade sports hits such as NFL Blitz and NHL Open Ice. 

NbajamPhoto by Kyle Nieber

20.  Crazy Taxi

Originally released for arcades in 1999 before its eventual port to the Dreamcast, Sega’s Crazy Taxi quickly topped the charts. Taking the mundane premise of picking up and dropping off passengers in quick succession, Crazy Taxi turned things up to 11 with its lively open-world, ridiculous psychics, and unmatched, over-the-top charm. 

1024Px-Crazy Taxi Magfest 2023St. Jimmy Jammy on Wikimedia Commons