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The 14 Greatest Arcade Cabinets In Video Game History

Looking at the early heyday, from the late 70s until about 1983.

Cloud668, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons


7. Dig Dug

364149-dig_dug_2008_07_29_00_24_05_541982 was a great year. In Dig Dug, players would tunnel underground, eliminating monsters by either inflating them with air until they explode, or by dropping rocks on them. Occasionally, Fygars, a race of green dragons that can breathe fire, would up the ante.

I can vividly remember rapid fire pounding on the inflate button in order to burst a monster, then get the heck out of there before another would track Dig Dug down.

Dig Dug Specs | Game Play Video


6. Defender

defender_screenshotI don’t want to brag…OK, I will. I was unbelievable at Defender. Spaceships, lasers, and aliens – Defender was an arcade game that had everything I loved as an 8-year-old boy. I would’ve sold my immortal soul for a quarter in order to play this game, but I never had to because I could play forever on one quarter.

Defender was a 2D side-scroller where players controlled a spaceship. The object was to destroy alien invaders while you protected astronauts from abduction. Humans that were successfully abducted would return as mutants to attack your ship, because that’s what an alien-abducted astronaut would do.

It was an amazing game, certainly one of the best all-time on my list.

Defender Specs | Game Play Video


5. Frogger

frogger-fullFor some reason, I’ve always stunk it up at Frogger. But even though it never stuck with me personally, it’s high on this list because the game certainly has held a place in pop culture and video game history.

And those poor little frogs, having to dodge bulldozers and semis, only to then hop on the backs of turtles and logs. Why didn’t they just stay put?

Frogger Specs | Game Play Video


4. Donkey Kong

donley-kingWhy do people say, “It’s on like Donkey Kong!” Because it’s a slant rhyme and Donkey Kong is awesome?

No time for that! Donkey Kong had kidnapped the lady and is holding her hostage at the top of an industrial construction site where he has unlimited barrels. Players control the hero – Mario! – as Donkey Kong hurls barrels at him in an effort to thwart his progress. Mario, of course, jumps the barrels or smashes them with a hammer.

Back in my day, I spent more quarters on Donkey Kong Jr. 3, but I had to give proper props to the original.

Donkey Kong Specs | Game Play Video


3. Space Invaders

Space Invaders was released in 1978, originally sold in Japan, but later licensed for production in the United States by the Midway division of Bally. One of the earliest shooting games, the aim was to defeat waves of aliens by repeatedly firing a laser. It was a button masher, for sure.

Players would controls a laser cannon by moving it horizontally across the bottom of the screen, then fire it upward as row after row of aliens would move slowly, then drop a row toward the bottom of the screen. As more aliens are defeated, both their movement and the game’s music would speed up. 

The 1980 Atari 2600 version quadrupled the system’s sales and became the first “killer app” for getting consoles into homes.

Space Invaders Specs | Game Play Video


2. Galaga

post-9364-0-79480300-1363656708Galaga took Space Invaders pro, and if it was not out of respect for Space Invaders’ place in arcade game history, one could simply cut straight to this, the ultimate space-themed cabinet game.

Another 2D space-themed button masher, Galaga puts the player in control of a spacecraft situated at the bottom of the screen. Enemy aliens arrive in formation, then dive down at the player’s ship in order shoot it or collide with it.

The game added a few little bells and whistles like aliens capturing the ship in a tractor beam, but what everyone remembers is the sound effects of a relentless assault toward your ship.

Galaga Specs | Game Play Video


1. Ms. Pac Man

MspacmancabinetTypically, I give nods to the originals, but Ms. Pac Man was simply the superior game, and one that I’d argue is the greatest cabinet game of all time.

The gameplay of Ms. Pac-Man is identical to the original Pac-Man however. Player eat pellets and avoiding ghosts. Eating a power pellet causes the ghosts to turn blue, allowing them to be eaten for extra points, and bus fruit bounces across the screen. Otherwise, Ms. Pac-Man is simply enhancements, tweaks, refinements, and improvements over the original.

But a simply description sells short it’s addictive gameplay that ultimately resulted in it being one of the most important video games in history. It’s a true classic.

Ms. Pac Man Specs | Game Play Video


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