The birthplace of all modern video gaming, the dimly lit, chirruping dens of arcade cabinets were wondrous places to intrepid gamers.
We're celebrating 50 Years of Games in conjunction with the Golden Joystick Awards 2021, the world's biggest public-voted games awards show. This year's show will celebrate a milestone in gaming history, the release of Computer Space, the world's first commercial arcade machine in November 1971. And we'll be looking for your votes on the best console of all time (starting 3PM GMT, November 8).
In their heyday they offered gaming experiences that couldn’t be had elsewhere – whether that was in the days that pre-dated the home console revolution, or the long stretches where purpose-built arcade machines far outshined the capabilities of their living room brethren.
With console dominance firmly cemented in this day and age, the arcade’s glory days are long behind it. We do have a best PS5 games for the new generation. But with its menagerie of influential titles, bizarre peripherals and gaming firsts, the arcade is still an insanely fun place to visit when you can track a good one down – and have a pocket full of change handy.
So join TechRadar on a trip down memory lane as we run down (in no particular order) the 50 best arcade games of all time.
- Vote for your Ultimate Game of All Time and Best Gaming Hardware of All Time by visiting goldenjoysticks.com - voting ends on Nov 12.
Donkey Kong (1981)
- Remembered for: It’s a-him, Mario, making his debut!
Love Mario? Then you owe it to the great plumber to go back and visit his first adventure, facing off the mighty Donkey Kong and his steel-girder hideout. Donkey made his debut in this puzzle-platformer too, in which Mario must jump barrels and other hazards to race to the top of the tower and save his beau. It’s a stone-cold arcade classic, and one that’s sparked many a gamer rivalry (see: the ace gaming documentary, The King of Kong).
Guitar Freaks (1998)
- Remembered for: Depriving a generation of real axe slingers
There’s a love-hate relationship with Guitar Freaks in the TechRadar office. On the one hand, Konami’s arcade hit kickstarted the plastic band fad as characterised by console games Guitar Hero and Rock Band – and there’s no post-beer game session better than slamming those Rock Band drums and wailing into its karaoke mics. However, it meant a whole generation of gamers swapped real guitars for finger slapping plastic buttons instead of maplewood neck shredding. So now we’ve got Ed Sheeran instead of Eddie Van Halen. Oh well.