Before the days of Playstation and Xbox, people had some trouble getting their hands on the latest games of the season. From the ’70s on to the ’90s people really only had two ways of playing new titles. One way was to get your hands on a very expensive and often sold-out home console.
For the average video game junkie, though, arcades were the much more affordable choice for sampling new games. This being the case, arcades were a huge business opportunity in the ’70s and ’80s, and many companies would invest a lot of money into creating hit titles to appear in cabinets. Now, more than four decades later, some of these titles have persisted so well that you might not even know that they started as arcade cabinets.
Tetris has one of the most interesting development stories in gaming history. It was developed by software engineer Alexey Pajitnov in the Soviet Union. Alexey’s only motivation for creating the game was for fun and to see if he could pull it off. Once the game was developed, he handed over copies of the game on floppy discs to his friends to sample.
His friends became so enamored with the game that it started to spread via word of mouth and innumerable floppy discs. Eventually, Alexey sold the rights and many companies published versions of the game as an arcade cabinet. The story of the copyright is convoluted and hard to follow, and many companies held it at one point – including Nintendo themselves.
9 Dance Dance Revolution
Dance Dance Revolution is probably one of those games we all had a pad for at home at one point. For a very long time, DDR was one of the highest-grossing games of all time. This being the case it saw a number of home releases for Playstation 2, the Nintendo 64, Wii, and Gamecube just to name a few.
Going into this article you may, like me, have believed that DDR was a home release first, and then had an arcade cabinet based on it. In reality, the first DDR was released in 1988. It appeared in arcades across the world and people begged for copies that they could take home. Konami delivered in full, and the franchise is how it remains today.
8 Donkey Kong
Nintendo has all kinds of interesting facts about their development. For example, did you know that they were founded as a trading card company decades before the first video game was even conceptualized? As old as they are, Nintendo has planted its fingers in as many business endeavors as it can.
One such endeavor was the Donkey Kong arcade cabinet. Now it may not come as much of a surprise to you that Donkey Kong was an arcade cabinet. What may surprise you is that Mario himself made his debut appearance in this title. That’s right, Nintendo’s flagship mascot appeared as an unnamed protagonist in his first game. Talk about a glow-up.
7 Super Mario Brothers
This entry may really surprise you. The very first Super Mario Brothers was actually an arcade cabinet. Many of you reading might have believed that it was first published on the NES home console. Many of you might have even owned the console and played the game yourself.
In reality, Super Mario Brothers was first published as an arcade cabinet. It was unimaginably popular in its heyday, and Nintendo wasted no time in adapting the title to home systems. So, if you are a fan of the Mario franchise, make sure to thank your local arcade for making that empire possible.
6 Space Wars
Space Wars is an interesting entry on this list because you have probably never heard of it. What you may have heard of is the film titan, Star Wars. George Lucas cites many media sources as inspiration for Star Wars ranging from Dune to Flash Gordon, and even to the Bible. One source that you won’t see cited is the 1977 Space Wars Cabinet.
Though it is not specifically cited as inspiration, the original Space Wars game was developed as a computer program in 1968. Even if the hyperspace flying game did not inspire the TIE fighter dogfights, just take a look at the title text of Space Wars. Someone on the production team of Star Wars certainly took the promotional posters for Space Wars as inspiration for the famous font we all know today.
5 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time
Many of you will remember booting up your SNES and popping this cartridge in to play for hours. Highly regarded as one of the best beat-em-ups of all time, it is no wonder so many remember it so fondly. Funnily enough, many of those memories aren’t wholly correct.
Turtles In Time was actually a sequel game to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, first released as an arcade cabinet in 1991. Both games were, of course, based on the popular cartoon by the same name. Turtles In Time was a rare instance in gaming history where the sequel so far outshone the original that many forget it existed.
Metal Slug was first released in 1996 by Nazca Corporation. Metal Slug spawned a huge gaming empire from its original cabinet. It would go on to release games on the Playstation 2, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and many retro consoles. The games were routinely released from 1996 until the most recent additions as IOS apps in the present day.
Metal Slug is a great example of just how powerful one title can be in developing a gaming empire. The series is still regularly releasing titles and shows no sign of stopping soon. One game for almost half a century of later titles? That’s a good trade if I’ve ever heard of one.
For those of you not in the know, you may have been confused as to why everyone was foaming at the mouth for the 2020 release of Battletoads. That is because the staunch and loyal fans have been patiently waiting since 1991 for a sequel to this cult classic.
Like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time, Battletoads is another strong contender for best beat-em-up of all time. Battletoads is wild from start to finish and refuses to take itself seriously. The original was so deeply loved not only for its wacky and fun setting but also because of the dozens of unique moves available to the player based on stick and button input.
Contra remains one of the highest-grossing gaming franchises of all time. It may surprise you to learn that the game came from rather humble beginnings. It first came onto the scene in 1986 thanks to Konami. Konami has always been a master of run-and-gun shooters, and Contra was no exception.
Contra was simultaneously one of the most difficult and most profitable cabinets of its time. Two years after the cabinet release, Konami released the game to NES. This spawned one of the greatest franchises of all time that persists to this day. For any of you reading that is a glutton for punishment, check out this series. The modern games are just as difficult as the originals.
1 Soul Calibur
Many fighting games found their beginnings as arcade cabinets. Some you probably know are Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. What you probably didn’t know is that the Soul Calibur franchise also started as a cabinet. This is because this first game was released in 1995 under the title Soul Edge.
The sequel adopted the name we all know today, and the rest is history. Since its debut, Soul Calibur has been released for most consoles and PC. Additionally, it has become one of the most popular fighting games for tournaments and competitive play. Soul Calibur has always been a breath of fresh air in the fighting genre, and fans still cling hard to it today.
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