Arcades transformed the lives of many teenagers in the 1970s and 1980s. They gave them a great excuse to get out of the house and were a relatively cheap form of entertainment. In the UK, the first digital arcade machines emerged in the mid-70s and some of the earliest games included Pong, Pac-Man, and Space Invaders. 

Pac-Man was slightly different from most games as it was not aggressive or war-themed. This helped attract new audiences, including younger children. This in turn made arcades more family-friendly venues and attendees more diverse. 

Towards the end of the 1980s, several major brands launched home-video consoles that we're able to offer similar or superior graphics and gameplay to those found in arcades. Nintendo launched the NES in 1985 and the Gameboy in 1989. Also in 1989, Sega released its 16-bit Genesis console. Naturally, this resulted in a reduction in the number of people visiting arcades, as they were able to enjoy games from the comfort of their own homes.

The Arcade Era, Modern Games, Female Arcade Gamer

Despite this, it remained the case that many games which became available on consoles were based on pre-existing arcade games. This still applies today as many of the most recent games have their origins in the arcades.

Arcades do still exist in some countries although they are primarily targeted at retro-gamers and are often combined with bars as opposed to being standalone. There are also several video game museums around the globe, which are full of classic arcade machines from the golden age of gaming.

Culturally, arcades still have a place even now. For example, you will often come across a Pac-Man or Space Invaders t-shirt when wandering the streets of a city. Additionally, there probably would never have been the degree of interest in video games or consoles that we see today without the arcade boom. 

The most successful arcade games

In an era where revenue was earned one quarter at a time, several games stood head and shoulders above the rest in terms of popularity and revenue. The top 10 games in terms of (inflation-adjusted) revenue as of 2016 were as follows:

Pac-Man: $7,681,491,635
Space Invaders: $6,612,228,000
Street Fighter II (Champion Edition): $3,582,553,228
Ms. Pac-Man: $2,494,552,816
NBA Jam: $1,704,501,968
Defender: $1,588,463,873
Asteroids: $1,346,548,823
Mortal Kombat II: $787,607,559
Mortal Kombat: $748,462,000
Donkey Kong: $686,262,000

Between them, Pac-Man and Space Invaders generated over $14billion in revenue (figures adjusted for inflation).

The best classic arcade games


Released in 1980, Pac-Man features possibly the most recognizable video game character in history. When released in Japan, the game was so popular it led to a national coin shortage! Along with the main character of Pac-Man, there were four ghosts (Blinky, Pinky, Inkey, and Clyde) to avoid on the trip around the maze. Whist the premise of the game was fairly simple and was arguably the first maze chase game, it was fiendishly difficult to get to the higher levels. 

PAC-Man spawned numerous sequels, spin-offs, and remakes, even making several guest appearances on the big screen (notably in Pixels and Wreck-It-Ralph). More recently, Pac-Man has featured in numerous game compilations for consoles such as the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 as well as for PCs. Additionally, it was one of 30 games included in the NES Classic Edition released in 2016.

Space Invaders

Released in Japan and North America in 1978, Space Invaders was the first of the ‘fixed shooter genre and is considered by many to be the most influential game of all time. 

The game aims to defeat the alien army that descends from the top of the screen towards the player’s laser cannon. Each time all the aliens that are on the screen are defeated, another more difficult wave appears - and this can continue endlessly. 

Space Invaders was the very first arcade game to be converted and released on a cartridge-based home console system - the Atari 2600. Space Invaders helped action games become the dominant genre both in arcades and at home. It could be said that many of today’s most popular games such as Halo and Call of Duty might not exist if Space Invaders had never been created. 

Street Fighter (series)

Street Fighter was the first fighting game developed by Capcom and hit arcades in 1987. It was the first arcade game to utilize the six-button controls and special techniques and featured ten computer-controlled opponents, each of whom had their own skills, special moves, and distinctive features. 

Street Fighter 2 was released in 1991 and actually proved even more successful than the original. There have since been several further versions, the most recent being Street Fighter V, released in 2016 on the PlayStation 4 and PC.


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General Information

Platform(s): Xbox One, PS4, PC
Publisher(s): Capcom
Developer(s): Capcom
Genres: Fighting
Themes: Fighting
Release Date: 2018

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