In America, video game arcades are a thing of the past. Sure, you'll still see the occasional cabinet in a restaurant, and there are even a few malls with full-blown collections, but for the most part it's over.
It was good while it lasted—mostly. Here are the five best and five worst arcade games of all time.
5. Out Run
SEGA's classic arcade racer has a special place in my heart—it was in the Godfather's Pizza of my hometown—and I am definitely not alone in this sentiment. While the graphics are primitive by today's standards, the game always gives players a sense of speed as they blow past the other cars on the road. The twists and turns are challenging, but the early levels are easy enough that you always got your quarter's worth.
4. Dance Dance Revolution
By the time DDR came to America, arcades were already fading. But this game was a shot of adrenaline to the industry, giving people a whole new way to play (and get some exercise). This is probably the most recent game you'll see in a modern-day mall, and its influence is seen in blockbuster rhythm titles like Guitar Hero.
3. Area 51
With light-gun rail shooters, it's hard to pick just one. The Time Crisis and House of the Dead franchises could just as easily appear here. But between the shooting-gallery gameplay, the wide variety of weapons, and the mood of an alien invasion, 1995's Area 51 will always remain a must-play.
2. Street Fighter II
As with rail shooters, it's hard to pick just one arcade fighting game, but this is the one that started them all. SFII launched not only an entire genre of video games—the one-on-one fighter—but also a culture. Arcades quickly became home to fighting tournaments, with people lined up to challenge the current winner for a position at the cabinet. Every fighting game we play today owes a huge debt to Street Fighter II.
Any discussion of arcade games needs to include this classic—though it's been decades since the fad passed, everyone still knows who Pac-Man is and why he matters. And to this day, firing up Pac-Man—or any other game from the same era, like Galaga or Space Invaders or Donkey Kong—is sure to put a smile on your face. There are even ongoing high-score rivalries for this generation of game, as documented in the movie The King of Kong. It's a testament to these games that, in making this list, I had to limit myself to one "Golden Age" title so the other eras could have their say.