Multiplayer at the Arcade

Some of my fondest video game memories as a child & teenager happened in an arcade.  Don’t get me wrong, being able to play on your console at home was AMAZING, but it couldn’t compare to the sweet victory over an opponent in public, in front of (ideally) a bunch of spectators.  Yes, 1-Player games had the boasting upside of attaining a high score, but 2+ Player games had the thrill of the instantaneous gratification of glory over an opponent or joining forces & taking on a baddie.  I will most definitely go into the 1 Player games I adore/hate in the near future, but today’s post is about the 2-Player & up-to-6-Player, arcade games that I remember most fondly.

I was usually the immediate under-dog, because I was generally one of a handful of girls who weren’t just there in a baby-sitting capacity & because most boys are overconfident.  My version of babysitting while at the arcade, much to my little brother’s vocal chagrin, was having him stand right next to me while I played for hours.  As you can guess, he was not a fan.

As I grew up, I continued to venture towards the arcade area in restaurants, movie theaters, malls, & even rest stops.  Funny story, I was once accidentally left behind by my church’s Youth Group at a rest stop while we were driving to Disney World for an organized bonding trip because I was playing one of the Street Fighter II series in the mini arcade section.  Thankfully, I was playing solo & then against other persons, so by the time I realized what had happened, they were already on their way back.  But, they left me for over 20 minutes before realizing I had been left behind, all this in a time before cell phones (the horror!).  My rest stop “buddy” completely failed at her one job, but then again I also didn’t notice she was nowhere near me either, so we both failed at our assigned task.  With my left over 50¢ I called my mom from a pay phone to let her know what had happened. Needless to say, I stopped going on trips with that group after that ordeal.  I even searched out an arcade while visiting Paris for the first time & had the great pleasure of annihilating a truly horrible French guy in record time playing Tekken 3.  I didn’t need advanced French to understand his boys were dogging on him after his pre-match trash talk didn’t hold any water.

So without further ado, here is my list of the top 10 multiplayer arcade video games:

10. Rampage
1-3 Players


Audio is a bit distorted, so adjust your volume accordingly.

The great anti-hero game.  Instead of trying to save people or the town, here your task was to destroy it as completely as possible, & if you could kill some people in the process, even more points for you!  Ripping off King Kong & Godzilla just enough so as to not get saddled with a copyright infringement lawsuit, this game had you choose between George (aka: King Kong knock-off), Lizzie (aka: Godzilla knock-off), & Ralph ( a giant werewolf just to spice things up).  Button mashing plus destruction are always a fun combination.  The way the story justifies this complete disregard for human life is by having the characters be the victims of experiments at the hands of the evil-doers of Scumlabs.  Though, with a name like that, at least a few suspicions should have been raised prior!  This game was, as is the case with all of the great arcade video games on this list, ported to home consoles.  I personally think that the joy of button mashing is best experienced on an arcade machine, console controllers (even the ones modeled after the arcade game) are just not as satisfying.

9. Mortal Kombat II
1-2 Players

The Mortal Kombat series is definitely not my favorite fighting game (Spoilers!), but it had an undeniable grip on arcade all goers since it was released.  The sheer gore on the screen was enough to draw a crowd.  The audio was also very attention grabbing & appropriately loud (for an arcade), Scorpion yelling, “Get over here!”  And the announcer, Shao Kahn,was always very even-keeled but validating, “Flawless victory” & “Excellent.” Plus it had the buzz of having secret characters & other goodies such as character & level specific fatalities.  Some of the fatalities were just hysterical: Reptile takes his human mask off, grabs the opponents head with his Go-Go-Gadget tongue, rips off the opponent’s head, eats it, then smiles at the camera & rubs his tummy in satisfaction.  My favorite fatality was “Friendship”, even the announcer was confused by the non-violent nature of it all. The other bit of memorable humor was the “Toasty” taunt (Check out this video for an explanation of the Toasty taunt origins).  My character of choice was Reptile because he could become invisible & spit venom at you as a projectile weapon, plus he had that orb that knocked the opponent down.

8. The Simpsons
1-4 players

Gang up with three friends & button smash your way through Springfield with The Simpsons.  This game was just fun, plus snarky catchphrases from our beloved characters.  I loved playing Bart, who would smack anything on the screen with his skateboard.  I enjoyed how you could get the individual characters to interact in certain combos, such as Homer carrying Bart, or when the characters got sent flying into the screen.  This game didn’t break any new ground, using a tried & true template from one of the games further on this list (Spoilers), but it was fun nonetheless.

7. NBA Jam
1-4 Players

I heard a game call out, “He’s on fire!!” as I walked passed.  It was NBA Jam, & I was hooked.  Not only was this the first game with NBA licensing, but everything was exaggerated for maximum fun. 2-on-2 basketball at its finest.  Throwing elbows was the only way to defend & jumping unnecessary high added to the fun of this game.  The game was also chuck full of easter eggs, which are always a great addition to a game’s replay value.  This game spawned various sport 2-on-2 officially licensed games by the NFL, NFL Blitz, & the NHL.

6. Time Crisis II
1-2 Players

The only light-gun, shoot ’em up game on my list.  While definitely not the first of it’s kind, it was definitely the one I enjoyed most & spent a lot of money on.  I’d go to the bowling alley & play through this entire gem with my best friend at least once a week during high school (we’d also bowl). I, like many my age, had been introduced to shooting games with Duck Hunt on my NES, so shooting at the screen with a light, plastic gun was already familiar.  What Time Crisis series did was to add the petal pushing & shooting off-screen to reload, etc.  I loved the multi-tasking involved in this game because it made the adrenaline flow faster.  The co-op was also great, because you are both helping each other, but there is still a bit of bragging to be had.  The gun upgrades & health, blowing up stuff, & memorizing where the bad guys would emerge to kill them in record time, all made this such a great game for me to play multiple times.

5.  Marvel vs. Capcom: Clash of Super Heroes
1-2 Players (could technically be 4 player*)

Introducing tag team fighting that kind of allowed for 4 players*, if you actually tagged in & out with a partner in real time with the game. This style led to the visually stunning Tekken Tag Tournament many years later, which I also love.  So, you loved Capcom fighting games & the old school X-Men game, well then this is a dream come true! I enjoyed playing this as a real life tag team experience with 3 other friends, this way you can do more taunting!  A new kind of strategy needs to be used in order to have the best offense & defense, as some super power moves do substantial damage even when successfully blocked.  I would rotate my secondary character, but I always played Wolverine.  Can’t resist a “Berserker Barrage!”  I loved the nostalgia revamped with favorite characters, such as Mega-Man.

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
1-4 Players (Deluxe)

As a child of the ’80s, TMNT were awesome.  If you were lucky enough to have access to the deluxe 4 player version of the arcade game, then you & 3 of your friends could have fun endlessly button-mashing all over the baddies.  This was such a great cooperative onslaught that it could bring together complete strangers.  I personally liked playing Michelangelo, but didn’t have a problem playing any of the other three.  Just fun all around.

3. X-Men
1-6 Players (Deluxe)

All the fun of co-op button-mashing mayhem possessed by TMNT, but with super powers?!  And the deluxe version was 6 players?! Sign me up & take my money!  The ’90s introduced me to the X-Men via the spectacular cartoon series, X-Men: The Animated Series, on the Saturday morning cartoons on Fox.  These X-Men were based on Jim Lee’s version of them in the comics.  I had four characters I loved playing: Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, & Colossus.  Wolverine was obvious: “Berserker Barrage!”  Not only is the character a bad ass, but in the video game I’m pretty sure he could use his powers a lot more often than the rest. Nightcrawler was my second favorite character <Bamf!> & so the fact he was included in the game just warmed my heart.  Storm had the best range with her power & was particularly effective against Magneto.  Colossus Smash!  The fun & nostalgia I have for this game led me to playing X-Men Legends & X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse, both on the Playstation 2.

2. Street Fighter II: The World Warrior
1-2 Players

http://youtu.be/lGSKZgEnbYI

This game set the standard for 2-Player fighting games.  I remember skating (it wasn’t weird, keep reading for context) up to this game & the hoard of people around it, while checking out the arcade section of the local roller rink as a young girl (see, I told you skating was contextual).  The commotion & excitement was electric.  Instant glory or defeat in front of an eager audience.  It was hard to get time alone on the machine to learn the moves & transcend beyond sheer adrenaline fueled button mashing, but it was well worth it.  The only thing that I think started on this game & has held true for every fighting game since is if I am not Player 1 on the left side, everything is “backwards”.  I blame it on my dyslexia; if I find myself on the right side trying to take over the machine, be forewarned I am immediately going to try to out maneuver Player 1 to gain possession of the left side of the screen!  I usually played Chun-Li, not just because she was the only female character, but mostly because she was a bad ass.  Energy projectile: check! Lightening Kicks: check!

1. Tekken 3
1-2 Players

My favorite multiplayer arcade. Period.  I love fighting games, so that is why Tekken 3 is my #1.  Of course, I am not alone in praising this gem, as it routinely shows up on top game lists.  I really enjoyed playing Tekken 2, but this game was a revelation.  The graphics, the music, the sounds effects, the fleshed out stories. ❤️  My two favorite characters are Jin, because he beautifully combined both of his parent’s fighting styles, & Eddie, because I have always been interested in capoeira.  I remember going to the Borders (R.I.P.) & looking up the chains & special moves for Jin & Eddie in GamePro Magazine (R.I.P.).  I memorized each’s 10-move chain special attack & could perfectly execute them.  It was a thing of beauty: 30 seconds in & my opponent, computer or human, was toast.  I learned to always block as my first move, just in case.  I even learned to almost completely overcome my right player “backwards”-ness, that is how much I played this game.  For a while in high school, I was really good friends with the guys who worked at the arcade by my house & every day after school I would swing by & play.  Oh, the glory of the master key & unlimited free credits.  Those guys deserve a special place in gamer heaven, though their boss would probably beg to differ.  To this day, whenever I see an arcade, I look for this game.  The console ports are fun, but there is something lost in the art of executing combo chain attacks when you can simply assign them to a button.  For the fighting game purist in me, the arcade is where these games are meant to be played.


So, what multiplayer coin-operated arcade video games are on your list?