The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time - Warped Factor - Words in the Key of Geek.

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The 10 Most Popular Arcade Games Of All Time

How many of these did you play?


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. Back in the 1980s, if you wanted to experience the graphics of Dragon's Quest or the ride-in action of OutRun then you weren't going to find that on your home video game console. The arcade's ruled, and they became the hang-out of choice for many children.

Across the years thousands of different arcade machines have decked the floors of ten of thousands of arcades worldwide, but which of them were the most popular? As for revenue earned by the player, that's almost impossible to tell. Individual establishments aren't going to keep track of every coin put into every specific machine, but they certainly know which ones are filling up their coin banks more than others and so, in many cases, ended up investing in multiple units. Back in the golden age of arcade video games, hardware units cost anything from $1000 to $4000 (or more) brand new, and with a reported 10,000 video game arcades across North America alone by the end of 1982, that's some heavy investment going on and some serious profit being earned by the manufacturers.

Possibly the most accurate way to work out which arcade game was the most popular is on actual hardware units sold, so we've done just that - rounded up the 10 arcade games that sold the most individual units.

How many of these classic arcade games did you play?


1. Pac-Man
Arriving in arcades back in 1980, the original title of Namco's Puck Man was changed to Pac-Man for international releases as a preventative measure against defacement of the arcade machines by changing the P to an F. Outside Japan, the game was published by Midway Games as part of its licensing agreement with Namco America, where it was met with widespread acclaim and huge commercial success, spawning multiple sequels, thousands of merchandising licenses, and even its own Saturday morning cartoon.

The Pac-Man video game franchise got off to a flying start with the sale of 400,000 arcade units of the original cabinet game between 1980 and 1982, each costing approximately $2,400. Pac-Man is the top-selling arcade game of all time, and has been in production in one form or another for 40 years now, generating more than $14 billion in revenue to date! That's certainly a figure to give a Puck about.


2. Space Invaders
The oldest title in the top 10 dates from 1978, and pretty much kick-started video game arcades after earlier machines had largely been found in bars, restaurants and diners. Space Invaders, though, became a cultural phenomenon. 360,000 of the original arcade units were sold at a price of between $2000 to $3000 (depending on location).


3. Street Fighter II
Where as most of the hardware units in the top 10 are from the golden age of arcade gaming, Street Fighter II arrived in 1991 and gave the industry a much-needed boost at a time it had lost many customers to their home video game consoles. Between both The World Warrior and The Champion Edition, 200,000 hardware units were sold to arcades worldwide, at an average price of $1900 each.


4. Donkey Kong
From his humble beginnings here in 1981s Donkey Kong, the protagonist known only at this point as Jump Man, would go on to such great things after bidding his plumbing business goodbye, teaming up with his brother Luigi and rescuing Princess Peach for the millionth time. Yes, the debut of both Mario and Donkey Kong shifted a huge 132,000 arcade units back in the day, spawning multiple billion dollar franchises for Nintendo that show no sign of stopping.


5. Ms. Pac-Man
General Computer originally made the game in 1981 as a modification kit for the original Pac-Man, titled Crazy Otto. Following legal action with Atari, GCC was forced to present the project to Midway, the North American distributor of Pac-Man, before release in February 1982. Multiple names were considered for the game, including Super Pac-Man, Miss Pac-Man and Mrs. Pac-Man, before the final name was chosen for being easier to pronounce. While the game was reportedly made without Namco's blessing, Namco president Masaya Nakamura provided feedback on the player character's design, and the company collected the same royalties on each cabinet as they had with Pac-Man. And they were obviously very happy with said royalities as 125,000 Ms. Pac-Man arcade units were sold before the production of the original cabinet was suspended in 1988.


6. Asteroids
To this day I can still hear the sound-effects from 1979s Asteroids every time the game's name is mentioned. Like the best arcade games form the era, it was simple to understand, easy to play, but frustratingly difficult to master. Meaning customers couldn't wait for their next turn and lined up their quarters on the 100,000 arcade units sold as they patiently awaited their turn.



7. Defender
The smooth scrolling speedy action of 1981s Defender was Williams Electronics' first attempt at developing a new video game. Previously known for their pinball tables, the company chose employee Eugene Jarvis, who had a successful record of designing their best selling pinball games, to head development. With no real experience in the field, but a young and eager team, they came up with a stone-cold arcade classic. Shifting 60,000 units into arcades and generating over a $1 billion in revenue.


8. Centipede
1981 was a hell of a year for classic arcade titles, as it also saw Centipede arrive in June. Eager gamers could be found fighting off spiders, scorpions and fleas, before eliminating the centipede that winds down the playing field to successfully complete the round. 55,998 reported cabinets were sold into arcades before the sequel, Millipede, arrived the following year.


9. Galaxian
Galaxian was Namco's 1979 answer to Space Invaders, which was released the previous year by rival developer Taito, and it's perhaps the best imitator to arrive during the golden age of video gaming. Galaxian was also inspired by the cinematic space combat scenes in Star Wars, with enemies originally being in the shape of the film's TIE Fighters, and was one of the first video games to feature RGB color graphics. With so much going for it it's perhaps no surprise that it is one of the 10 best selling arcade cabinets of all time, with at least 40,000 reported units shipped between '79 and '82.


10. Starhorse
Well here's a thing. Proving that arcade games are very much alive and well in the 21st Century, this final title in the 10 biggest selling games of all time is one which, I suspect, most of you are unaware of - unless you happen to be in Japan.

Starhorse is a Sega horse racing arcade game which allows players to gamble for tokens. The first in the Starhorse series appeared in 2000 and was followed by many annual updated versions, eventually adding the ability to simulate actual Japan Racing Association events.

The biggest individual selling machine in the franchise to date has been 2005s Starhorse2, which by the time of its hardware's fifth and final expansion in 2009 had sold 38,614 units. A staggering number considering its, albeit huge, but limited local market. With a reported ¥4.8 billion from machine sales by 2011 (equivalent to nearly $60 million), Starhorse2 was superseded by, unsurprisingly, StarHorse3, which within its first year on the market grossed ¥3.3 billion from arcade machine sales (equivalent to more than $40 million).

And there you have it, the ten most popular arcade games of all time, complied via hardware units sold globally. Which ones of these did you play? And what one was your favourite? Let us know in the comments below... And bonus points if you've ever played Starhorse2!

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