This is the list of my twenty favorite arcade games of all time. You may notice that a lot of the arcade games I mention in my top 100 don't appear here. Well, that's because I didn't actually play them in the arcade (most of those I played on the various arcade compilations and deluxe packs released for the PlayStation), or if I did, it was years after I played the games on this list. These are the games I actually played in their original arcade form. Unlike a lot of you, I didn't go to the arcade very much when I was younger. These are games I had played in convienence stores, laundromats, restaurants, hotel lobbies & gamerooms - and every so often, an arcade. Usually I played these when my family had gone on vacation in the '80s, usually during the summer. Surprisingly, I didn't encounter a lot of the more popular games (like Strider and Shinobi, for instance) until years later.
Anyway, without further ado, here we go...
When my family was on vacation in Florida in the early '80s, we stopped in a laundromat to do our laundry. They had two arcade games there - Ms. Pac-Man and this "spaceship game" (as I referred to it) that I'd never seen before - or could remember the name of afterward, for that matter. I loved the game, but I never saw it again in any other location. Many years later, upon receiving the PSX Konami Arcade Classics disc, I fired up Scramble and discovered that it was the elusive "spaceship game" that I remembered playing in that laundromat. Needless to say, I was very happy. ^_^
I recall first seeing this in a little restaurant somewhere in Southeastern Connecticut. I thought it was the most unique Pac-Man game I'd ever seen, and I would play it whenever my family stopped there to eat. It didn't exist for a home system, apparently, but at least I was finally able to latch onto the PSX Namco Museum disc that had it (it's Volume 2, for those of you keeping score).
I had played the Rastan sequel Nastar Warrior before I played this, and I loved it. When I found out that it was the sequel to an existing game, I started searching for the original. I finally did find it in a small arcade in the Florida Keys. It was everything I'd hoped for, too.
There was a Fina convienence store near my house in the early '90s that my friend Chris and I used to visit that always had two or three arcade games. Upon one of our visits to the Fina, I discovered this gem of a shooter. I'd never seen anything quite like it, and I decided to pop a quarter in and try it out. I can't tell you how many quarters Chris and I spent on this that day - all I know is that it was a lot. ^_^
The first time I ever visited the Fina, I encountered Nastar Warrior. I had never seen anything quite like it before, and after a few plays I was hooked. Yes, compared to the original Rastan, it's definitely the weaker of the two, and I do like the original game better - but I have stronger nostalgic feelings for this, which is why it placed higher than Rastan.
On a trip to the Volusia Mall in Daytona sometime in 1990, Chris and I encountered Haunted Castle in the mall arcade. We couldn't believe it - it was a Castlevania arcade game! As both of us are huge Castlevania fans, we had to play it. I recall speculating with him as to whether or not the upcoming Castlevania III for the NES was going to be based on this game (it wasn't, as it turned out). I've loved the game ever since that day.
The local Food Lion had this game in their lobby sometime in 1990. I popped a quarter in and tried it out, and was hooked. This was one of the first Sega arcade games I played (I was quite familiar with the SMS and Genesis at the time), and I recall hoping that Sega would release a home version of ESWAT for the Genesis. They did - however, it was a sequel to the arcade game (which I picked up anyway). Sega did port the arcade game to the SMS, but made a complete botch out of it. To date, they haven't released an arcade-perfect version of the game outside the arcade...
Upon one of our visits to the Fina, Chris and I discovered a shiny new Xybots machine. He had seen the game before, but I hadn't. I decided to try it out, and ended up spending every quarter I had on it. I've searched in vain for a home version ever since that day (I was just informed of the various PC versions by Andrew Crane, and I did know about the Atari Lynx version - but that wasn't exactly what I had in mind as far as a home version of the game).
There was once a cheesy all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant that my family would go to every Sunday in the early '90s. I spent more time playing Darius, this monstrous three-screen arcade game that they had in the corner (along with Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga and Pit Fighter) than eating the food. From my first play, I was absolutely hooked on the game (I loved what I could hear of the soundtrack), and hoped that there was a port for a home system. There was one for the PC Engine CD-ROM, but unfortunately, it was only released in Japan. I have yet to find and buy a copy of it...
Around the same time Chris and I found Haunted Castle, we stumbled across Aliens (in the same arcade as Haunted Castle, if I remember correctly). Even though I wasn't too familiar with the Alien films at that point in time, I became hooked on the game, which seemed to me like Contra without the ability to jump. I hoped and hoped that Konami would release a home version of the game for the Genesis or SNES, but it never happened. Konami never did release a home version of the game at all, to my knowledge.