Some of The Best 90s Arcade Video Games

Some of The Best 90s Arcade Video Games

By Alex Balaniuc

In the arcade gaming landscape, the 90s are considered a “Renaissance” era. Although the 80s were filled with bangers, in this decade the arcade market suffered from a terrible crash that for many people meant the death of the industry.

But the arcade games of the 90s miraculously managed to save the day, because they brought about a slew of titles that are nowadays regarded as the most iconic arcade games ever.

So, in this article, why don’t we explore the best arcade video games from the 90s?

A brief history of arcade video games

The video game as we know it has its origin in the coin-operated arcade cabinets that infested amusement centers, but also pubs and restaurants, starting from the 70s. Many of the most influential games of all times were born as arcade video games: Pong, Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Defender and Donkey Kong (in which the ultra-famous Nintendo mascot Mario first made his appearance) are just a few notable examples.

The Golden Age and the industry’s crash

The Golden Age of the arcade game lasted for around 10 years, from the early 70s to the early 80s. After that period, the disastrous crash of the gaming industry in 1983, and the appearance of the first home video game systems on the market, such as the NES, significantly put a stop to the success and expansion of the coin-op cabinet game.

Into the 90s with the success of the fighting game

Fortunately, it didn’t take too long for the market to recover, and by 1986 the arcade scene reached yet again new heights with the explosion of the shoot ’em up and beat ’em up genres.

The fighting game craze was still alive and well at the start of the 90s, a decade of revival for the arcade game that saw the release of big hits, such as Street Fighter II and Mortal Kombat. 3D racing games, like Virtua Racing, were also super popular at this time.

The decline of arcade gaming

But, soon enough, new enemies started raining on the arcade industry’s parade: home consoles and PCs, which at the turn of the century were already much more affordable to the masses. Game developers were churning out title after title for these two systems that had a lot of potential.

Thus, the arcade game slowly but inexorably started retreating into the darkness. Nowadays, this form of gaming has almost disappeared in the US, but it is still holding on in Japan.

Best 90s arcade video games

With that said, let’s find out about the arcade games from the 90s that made history.

1) Street Fighter II

Developed by Capcom and released in 1991, the beat ’em up Street Fighter II is generally regarded as the most successful arcade game of the 90s. It was so popular that many believe it singlehandedly revived arcade gaming at the time.

What did this title do that made it so special? Well, it improved upon lots of features from the first game, such as the special command-based moves, it introduced a combo system and the six-button configuration. The playable character roster was wider, with each fighter having a unique fighting style.

But the possibility of fighting against a friend in two-player mode was probably the feature that made the game so beloved and fun.

2) Mortal Kombat

Midway‘s Mortal Kombat is a martial arts-based fighting game released in 1992, and it’s one of the greatest games of all time.

What set this title apart from other beat ’em ups was the introduction of the “juggling” concept, consisting in lifting an opponent into the air and attacking him/her relentlessly while still in the air.

The Fatality, however, is undoubtedly the most iconic innovation of the game. Finishing your enemy via a very gruesome and graphic execution was certainly the highlight of the match. This feature was also at the center of endless controversies surrounding Mortal Kombat, and it lead to various countries banning it altogether. It’s safe to say that the controversial nature of the title only helped increase its popularity, though.

3) X-Men

Developed by Konami in 1992, the side-scrolling beat ’em up X-Men was another great arcade success. The fact that this game was based on one of Marvel‘s most famous superhero teams surely helped with making it so popular.

The player could choose among the 6 X-Men: CyclopsColossusWolverineStormNightcrawler or Dazzler. The objective was to stop the evil Magneto from wreaking havoc on humanity by surviving his and his minions’ attacks.

A highlight of X-Men is that each character has a unique mutant power that can be used to defeat multiple enemies on the screen at once.

4) Time Crisis

Now, let’s talk about a different genre, the shoot ’em up one, with Time Crisis.

The Time Crisis series, created by Namco, was a big hit in the 90s arcade sphere. The first game was released in 1995, and its incorporation of original gameplay mechanics made it one of the best titles within the shooter genre.

These innovative elements were the ability to duck into cover to dodge attacks and reload the player’s weapon, and also the obligation to complete battles in each level with a limited amount of time.

Later, the next games introduced other features, such as two-player co-op mode and the ability to use different weapons in battle.

5) Crazy Taxi

The racing game Crazy Taxi was developed by Hitmaker and published by Sega in 1999, and it became a huge success in the arcade world.

You, the player, assume the role of a taxi driver who needs to deliver passengers to their destinations as fast as possible in exchange of money. The best part about your job is that you’ll earn tips by performing “crazy stunts” before the time runs out. This results in fast-paced, insane rides during which traffic laws become completely negligible.


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