The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (2022)

Nolan Bushnell, founder of Atari, Inc., played an integral role in introducing arcades to the masses with one of his most successful inventions, "Chuck E. Cheese's Pizza Time Theater" in 1977.

Bythe 80s and through the mid 90s, arcades were king of the video game industry. Everything from shopping malls to seedy bars were home to neon-lit game rooms packed with the latest machines and sugared up kids budgeting out their remaining quarters.

Today we take a look back at the 10 most popular arcades of all time in the United States of America. This list is based on total hardware units sold and their unadjusted gross revenue.

10 Mr. Do! - 1982

The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (1)

Mr. Do! was developed by Universal and released into arcades in 1982. The gameplay is a mixture of Pac-Man and Dig-Dug. Players take control of Mr. Do as he digs tunnels, outruns enemies, and collects all of the cherries scattered around the field. If Mr. Do touches an enemy or is crushed by falling objects, he loses a life until no more lives remain, resulting in a good old fashioned game over screen.

The graphics were bright and colorful, but primitive. Highlights include varied animation with little to no slowdown and some cheery interstitial cutscenes when players completed a certain number of levels. This gave players a short period of time to wipe the sweat off their hands before the next round!

In the first year of release, Mr. Do! sold over 30,000 units to arcades across the country. Home systems like the Atari 2600, ColecoVision, and Commodore 64 were the first to port the arcade game to game consoles. In later years, Mr. Do! would appear on SNK's Neo Geo system as well as Nintendo's Super NES and Game Boy systems.

9 Donkey Kong Jr. - 1982

The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (2)

Although it never managed to recapture the success of its predecessor, Donkey Kong Jr. remains one of Nintendo's biggest arcade releases of the 1980s. The game was designed by Shigeru Miyamoto, creator of Super Mario Bros. and The Legend of Zelda, and recasts the previous game's hero, Mario, as the villain who has captured Donkey Kong Jr.'s father.

The game featured a grand total of four stages, each one designed to pose unique platforming challenges for players to overcome on their way to the top. After players beat all four stages, they are returned to the beginning to face the challenge again at a higher difficulty level.

Donkey Kong Jr. sold more than 30,000 units its first year and was later ported to home systems such as the Atari 2600, Atari 7800, Colecovision and of course Nintendo's own NES system.

(Video) Top 10 Arcade Games Of ALL Time

8 Galaxian - 1979

The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (3)

Often mistaken as part of the Space Invaders series, Galaxian is game developer Namco's take on Taito's original arcade concept. Most of the blame for this confusion rests on Midway Games' shoulders, as they served as publisher for both titles in the US and released them just one year apart.

Galaxian is an example of game developers producing surprising results on now-primitive hardware. They were able to free up enough resources to present the game in full color. Galaxian packed in dozens of individual, animated sprites with more varied attacks, a full-color scrolling star field, and elaborate musical tracks. All this was accomplished without the usual problemsof the era, such as the game slowing down or flickering sprites.

The look and sound of Galaxian set the tone for nearly all arcades released inthe so-called "Golden Age of Arcades" to follow, including many on this list.

When it was released, Namco's game was a favorite among fans and critics alike, appearing in over 40,000 arcade rooms across the country, enough to earn it a place on the top 10 most popular arcades of all time.

7 Defender - 1981

Eugene Jarvis is a legend of the games industry. Defender, his very first video game, took cues from Space Invaders and Asteroids, putting players in charge of defeating aliens invading from the sky while protecting astronauts on the surface of a far away planet. The game's big achievement was featuringa stage that was wider than the screen it was displayed on, enabling players to horizontally traverse the terrain endlessly if desired.

In order to control the ship, elevation, acceleration and attack, Defender utilized an unusual 5-button layout that turned a lot of players off. Fortunately for Jarvis and Midway, Defender was a surprise hit with gamers all over the world thanks to its numerous ports to virtually every system known to man. To date, over 60,000 arcade cabinets were manufactured for the USA, bringing in over $1,000,000,000 in gross revenue as of 2002.

6 Asteroids - 1979

The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (5)
(Video) Most Played Arcade Games 1978 - 2020 (by Earnings)

It was the end of the 1970s. Pop culture had begun to toss aside flower power and gear up for the computer revolution of the 1980s. With the affordable personal computer still five years away, most people's first experience with the technology of tomorrow were simple video games like Asteroids in November, 1979.

The game put players in the role of a tiny ship adrift in the space amongst the titular celestial hazards. The controls allowed people to rotate their ship, accelerate, and fire a shot that splits asteroids in half until they cycle down to nothing. Players stayed alive by avoiding fragments of asteroids, a goal that becomes harder to obtain with every completed stage.

Being one of the first arcade games to track high scores and player initials, Asteroids became a frequent choice for competitive play and world record attempts. Players enjoyed the game's bold vector-based graphics (a rarity in gaming to this day) as well as the "floaty" control scheme that simulated movement in a weightless environment.

Over 100,000 arcade units were sold, and revenue surged to $800,000,000 by 1991, outperforming Defender in a shorter span of time.

5 Ms. Pac-Man - 1981

The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (6)

In a May 1982 issue of "Electronic Games Magazine", Stan Jarocki of Midway claimed Ms. Pac-Man was created as a thanks to all of the "lady arcaders" who made the original Pac-Man a hit with both genders.

Released worldwide in early 1982, Ms. Pac-Man plays identically to its forerunner. Players guide the yellow gobbling sprite through a full-screen maze, eating every pellet in sight to advance to the next stage. When ghosts are introduced into the maze, players can choose to evade them or eat a "power pellet" and hunt them down for bonus points. Bonus fruit can further boost your high score, resulting in extra lives.

Exact revenue figures are unknown, but over 125,000 cabinets found their way into arcades before the end of the 1980s. Ms. Pac-Man returned to arcades as part of a "20 Year Reunion" cabinet alongside Galaga in 2001.

4 Donkey Kong - 1981

The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (7)

In late 1980, Nintendo was desperate to do business in the United States. Hiroshi Yamauchi, Nintendo's president at the time, chose 29-year-old rookie game designer Shigeru Miyamoto to take on a special project.

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Drawing inspiration from "Popeye the Sailor Man", "Beauty and the Beast", and "King Kong", Miyamoto nailed it. "Culturally significant" doesn't begin to cover the 1981 arcade release of Donkey Kong by Nintendo. Not only was the arcade game a runaway success, it is also the genesis of Nintendo's most famous mascot - Mario.

The gameplay was innovative for the time, as it was one of the earliest examples of a platformer. Players run, jump, climb ladders and avoid various obstacles on their way to rescuing Pauline from the clutches of Donkey Kong. Along the way, players can acquire a hammer which allows them to temporarily fight back falling barrels and baddies.

Donkey Kong sales were explosive, with over 132,000 arcades sold to the tune of $280,000,000 in its first year alone!

3 Street Fighter II': Championship Edition - 1992

Street Fighter II: The World Warrior was an immediate success when it hit arcades in 1991. The competitive fighting game drew such huge crowds that the entire arcade game industry was revitalized for the remainder of the decade.

One year later, Capcom revised and re-issuedthe original game as 1992's Street Fighter II': Championship Edition. The game's previous four boss characters were presented in playable form. Every character in the game now featured a secondary color scheme, enabling two players to compete as the same fighter. Many of the game's multiple endings were enhanced, and the fighters themselves went through rebalancing to give the game more strategy to appeal to experienced players.

Relentlessly ported and re-released to every home game console known to man, Street Fighter II: The World Warrior and it's re-introduction as Street Fighter II': Championship Edition sold over 200,000 cabinets in the USA, racking up an extraordinary $2,500,000,000 in revenue less than five years!

2 Pac-Man - 1980

The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (9)

Pac-Man requires little introduction. Released worldwide to arcades in 1980, the original gameand it's 30+ revisionsare now available on every platform from Android to ZX Spectrum as of 2015. Certainly not the most basic example of a video game, Pac-Man nonetheless has gone on to inspire generations of video game designers all over the world.

After a brief musical stinger, players tour Pac-Man through 256 levels of ghost-filled mazes in search of tasty pellets and other snacks. Each maze is completed when the player successfully manages to eat all of the pellets while avoiding ghosts. With the fabled "Power Pellet", Pac-Man gains the ability to eat his ghost enemies for a short time.

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Pac-Man was one of the first characters in a video game to transcend the medium. Before long, Pac-Man could be found in comic books, toys, breakfast cerealand ananimated television series or two. After just two years, Pac-Man sold 400,000+ arcade cabinets earning a staggering $2,500,000,000. That's 10,000,000,000 quarters.

1 Space Invaders - 1978

The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time (10)

As primitive as it looks today, Space Invaders was a feat of engineering when it was released into arcades around the world in 1978. Computers were in their infancy, and at the time, they weren't powerful enough for invading space creatures, even with it's simple monochromegraphics and famous four-note music loop.

In Space Invaders,players control a laser cannon and defend their turf againstwaves of enemies whogradually descend from the sky. Defeat all of the enemies before they destroy the planet to advance or fail your way into a rudimentary "Game Over" screen. Contrary to popular belief, the game doesn't intentionally speed up as the number of enemy ships decreases; rather, the weak CPU becomes more capable of running the game at higher speeds with fewer objects to display.

The game's makers drew inspiration from science fiction classics like The War of the Worlds and Star Wars when planning it out, and it paid off royally! Space Invaders remains the most popular arcade game of all time, selling 360,000 units in two years and earning $2,702,000,000 in just four years after its initial release.

Sources: Wikipedia.com, Mobygames.com, Youtube.com

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The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time? ›

The 10 Best Classic Arcade Games, Ranked
  • 8 Asteroids.
  • 7 Donkey Kong.
  • 6 Virtua Fighter.
  • 5 Defender.
  • 4 NBA Jam.
  • 3 Street Fighter II.
  • 2 Ms. Pac-Man.
  • 1 Space Invaders.
Dec 7, 2021

What is the highest selling arcade game of all time? ›

In 1982, Space Invaders was considered the highest-grossing entertainment product of its time, with comparisons made to the then highest-grossing film Star Wars, which had grossed $486 million, while Pac-Man is today considered the highest-grossing arcade game of all time.

What is a common arcade game? ›

From the early days of Pong, through the glory years of Space Invaders, Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Gauntlet, Double Dragon, Street Fighter II and beyond, players have been lining up their quarters in anticipation of 90 seconds of quality arcade action.

When was the golden age of gaming? ›

The period from the appearance of Space Invaders in 1978 through The Great Video Game Crash of 1983 is often known as the Golden Age of Arcade Games, note In Japan, this time period, give or take a few years, was known as the Invader Boom, when 8-bit Arcade Video Games emerged to rule popular culture, coin-operated ...

How many arcade games are there? ›

This list contains 4810 game titles.

When was the arcade most popular? ›

The years between 1978 and 1982 saw unprecedented growth across the entire video game industry. A January 1982 cover story in Time magazine noted that the most popular machines were pulling in $400 a week in quarters and the number of dedicated arcades in the United States reached its peak with around 13,000.

What is the first arcade game? ›

Arcade video games were first introduced in the early 1970s, with Pong as the first commercially successful game. Arcade video games use electronic or computerized circuitry to take input from the player and translate that to an electronic display such as a monitor or television set.

What was the first arcade? ›

Computer Space is considered the first ever arcade machine, created by Nolan Bushnell and Ted Dabney (under Syzygy Engineering) in 1971.

Are arcade games still made? ›

There's something about the fun atmosphere, exciting graphics, and nostalgic vibes that have fans of arcade games continuing to visit to play. The latest and greatest best, new arcade games are still being released in arcades and are even being adapted for consoles and PC.

Were arcades popular in the 90s? ›

The '90s heralded the peak of the arcade scene, including many releases that are regarded as the best arcade games ever. Arcade games have a long history that dates back roughly half a century ago. From Pong to Pac-Man, the '70s and '80s pioneered the games that would eventually become console classics.

Why are arcade games fun? ›

Arcade games allow us to enjoy a sense of nostalgia.

When you play video games, you enjoy an activity that takes you back to your childhood. That sense of nostalgia can be just as much fun as the game you are playing. Arcade games for adults are the perfect way to enjoy some relaxation time.

Will arcades make a comeback? ›

The games are available on consoles, using arcade gameplay. The arcade revival doesn't mean we have to crowd around single machines in external settings, it means a return to skills-based gameplay. Taking arcade games into the 21st century is a huge part of the comeback the specific style of game is making.

What is the most purchased console? ›

Best-selling game consoles
PlatformTypeUnits sold
PlayStationHome102.49 million
WiiHome101.63 million
PlayStation 3Home87.4 million
Xbox 360Home84 million
46 more rows

Can arcades still make money? ›

Arcade Machines are still profitable for many people. Arcades aren't as popular (or profitable as they once were but arcades have started to make a comeback in recent years. Many businesses have started pairing food or alcohol with arcades and come up with the modern “barcade””.

How old are arcade games? ›

From Spacewar! to Space Invaders

Although the first arcade cabinet wouldn't be built until 1971, we must go back to 1962 to get the complete picture of arcade history. That was the year Steve Russell created one of the first video games: Spacewar!

Can arcades still make money? ›

Arcade Machines are still profitable for many people. Arcades aren't as popular (or profitable as they once were but arcades have started to make a comeback in recent years. Many businesses have started pairing food or alcohol with arcades and come up with the modern “barcade””.

When was the arcade most popular? ›

The years between 1978 and 1982 saw unprecedented growth across the entire video game industry. A January 1982 cover story in Time magazine noted that the most popular machines were pulling in $400 a week in quarters and the number of dedicated arcades in the United States reached its peak with around 13,000.

What is the most purchased console? ›

Best-selling game consoles
PlatformTypeUnits sold
PlayStationHome102.49 million
WiiHome101.63 million
PlayStation 3Home87.4 million
Xbox 360Home84 million
46 more rows

How many copies did Mortal Kombat 2 Sell? ›

The Genesis version went on to sell 1.78 million copies in the United States, along with an additional 1.51 million American copies of the game for the SNES.

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