TAG Mount Rushmore – Arcade Games

Introducing TAG Mount Rushmore

In our last Mount Rushmore, we wrote about our favorite platformers. This time around, we’re talking about sports!

We are officially in the twilight years of the 8th generation of video games. Here’s a quick recap of our TAG Ages:

  • Golden Age | “The Bit Era”: Nintendo Entertainment System | Gameboy | Sega Genesis | Game Gear | Super Nintendo | Other 3rd + 4th gen consoles
  • 3D Age | “The Disc Era”: Playstation | Nintendo 64 | Dreamcast | Playstation 2 | Gamecube | Xbox | Other 5th + 6th gen consoles
  • MMO Age | “The Social Era”: Xbox 360 | Playstation 3 | Wii | Other 7th gen consoles
  • Present Day | “The Greatness Awaits Era”: Wii U | PS4 | Xbox One | Other 8th gen consoles

Feel free to check out our original Tag Mount Rushmore post on Golden Age RPGs for more details on each era!
 Now, let’s get to the good stuff.

Arcade Games

Do you remember going to the skating ring for birthday parties, eating mediocre pizza and then dumping dozens of quarters into large, black machines? We do, and it’s tough to replicate the feeling of cramming three other people around a tiny screen.

Arcade games have been bringing people together since the 1970s. The button-mashing, joystick toggling excitement is fun for all ages. Eventually, creators brought arcade games to consoles to replicate things at home.

Quarter have been replaced with plastic game cards but the concept is still the same. Fast-paced action and tons of replayability.


The Process

We ranked our favorite arcade games individually, along with the Average Gamer community, and then come together to form a combined list. After assigning values for 1st through 4th place, we summed up their total score then ordered this list based on the total. 

Without further ado, here is the TAG Mount Rushmore – Arcade Games Edition.

#1. The Simpsons Arcade Game ( 1991)
Julian (2nd), Fred (1st)

With how popular the Simpsons TV series has been, it’s no surprise that a Simpsons game sits at the top of our list. 

The family sets out to recover Maggie, who has practically eaten a stolen diamond. Each character has a unique weapon which perfectly fits their personality:

  • Homer – ol’ fashion punching and kicking
  • Marge – vacuum
  • Bart – skateboard
  • Lisa – jumprope

Through this side-scrolling story, you see plenty of familiar faces and fight through waves of goons. After several boss fights, you go toe-to-toe with the big boss, Mr. Burns himself.

Fun to play alone and a real treat when you could get a few friends together!


Julian’s Take: 

When I was done falling all over the skating rink, it was game time. I would gather 3 friends and a ton of quarters to conquer this beast of a game. If it wasn’t this game, it was the slightly more difficult X-Men game

The game’s plot is a bit of a stretch from the most iconic sitcom of our lives. Maggie got kidnapped – that’s not cliche at all. However, that did not make this game any less fun.

Usually I played as either Homer or Lisa. The real fun came when you stood next to another character. This activated a combo attack to help beat up the baddies.

While this game wasn’t especially difficult, a lot of these beat ’em up games were black holes for quarters. It was very difficult to avoid getting hit. Because of that, young Julian would often be seen sprinting to his mom to retrieve another quarter before the 30 second game-over timer expired. 

For those of you too young to have experienced this game, I feel bad for you. I’m hopeful that arcades will make a comeback at some point in our lives.

Fred’s Take:

There are so many things to like about this game. From the level loading tv screen to the comical scripts, the game stays true to is Simpsons’ roots.

The attacking animations are hilarious and work beautifully in the technicolor world of Springfield. When I finally figured out how to do combo attacks with another player, it was a literal game-changer.

Each boss was challenging enough that you would lose a couple lives but not so difficult that you would need to add quarters to the machine. It almost reminds me of Punchout, where each boss has a specific sequence of moves that let the player know when to attack.

Don’t even get me started on the bonus stage…I’m not sure if The Simpsons did this before or after Mario Party, but there’s an inexplicable rush of adrenaline when you are mashing buttons to fill up a balloon. It was a welcomed break between the standard levels which added a layer of competition among players.

This is one of those games where if I see it, I have to at least go through the first few levels. Instant classic.

#2. Pac-Man ( 1980)
Julian (3rd), Fred (4th)

This is another obvious one. Pac-Man has been around for several decades and continues to evolve with the changing times. The original arcade cabinet was the source of millions of hours of play and the gameplay has aged incredibly well.

Tasked with eating all the pellets, Pac-Man navigates the board while being chased by ghosts. Fun fact from The Arcade Blogger, each ghost has its own chase path:

Blinky | chases Pac-Man directly
Blinky | chases Pac-Man directly
Inky | chases at the mirror point exactly symmetrical to Pac-Man
Inky | chases at the mirror point exactly symmetrical to Pac-Man
Clyde | has a random chase pattern
Clyde | has a random chase pattern
Pinky | targets a position 32 pixels ahead of Pac-Man’s mouth
Pinky | targets a position 32 pixels ahead of Pac-Man’s mouth

If you’re a pro and have these paths memorized, you can masterfully move about your business. For the rest of us ‘regulars’, you’ve got about a 50% chance of being caught on any given day.


Julian’s Take: 

Let’s be honest. Pac-Man is THE arcade game. 

Simple concept. Check. Quarter eater. Check. One screen level progression. Check. Iconic visuals and audio.

It is the highest grossing arcade video game of all time. 

But just like any great man, the woman beside him takes him to the next level. Ms. Pac-Man, the sequel to the original, and 4th highest grossing arcade game of all time, is better in every way.

Considered to be video games’ first major mascot – even before you Mario and Donkey Kong – he is now appearing in the latest Super Smash Bros.

Fred’s Take:

It’s so simple yet so nuanced. I can’t think of any game which requires only a joystick that is more fun than Pac-Man.

I appreciate that the developers give you the means to fight back when you eat the larger pellets. Otherwise, it would feel like a larger version of Number Munchers.

The game also forces players to exhibit some level of patience, as the position of the ghost can often have Pac-Man doubling back to a location he already cleared. When you finally clear the map, there’s a sense of accomplishment and relief after tense minutes being chased. 

Even though I generally lean more heavily on multiplayer games, especially for arcade games, Pac-Man still cracks my top 5 list for it’s ingenuity and game mechanics

#3. Street Fighter 2 ( 1991)
Julian (N/A), Fred (N/A) – Average Gamer Community Pick

No matter if you think this is the best fighting game series of all time, Street Fighter has iconic characters. Ryu, Ken, Chun-Li, Guile, Akuma, Bison. The list goes on and on. 

Even though Street Fighter 2 is by definition the second of the series, for many, this was their introduction to the series. The original Street Fighter was not nearly as popular or polished. Street Fighter 2 allowed character selection and introduce combos to the gaming world. Now games feature combinations that can exceed 40 hits!

Despite long time hits like Resident Evil, Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter, Street Fighter remains the golden child of Capcom games. 



Julian’s Take: 

The Street Fighter series is as old as I am.

It has seen sequels ranging from super, hyper, ultra, and alpha versions. I haven’t been able to keep up with the series lately but Street Fighter II has been considered to be one of the best entries. 

My biggest memory of Street Fighter was playing the SNES-ported Championship edition on a vacation with my brother. This version of the game introduced a handful of new characters, my favorite being M. Bison (I have a thing for villains). What’s not to love about a guy whose special move is called the psycho crusher? I also enjoyed spamming fire attacks with Dhalsim while I kept my opponents at literal (for him) arm’s distance. 

While it didn’t have finishing moves like its long time rival, Street Fighter has always felt like a more fluid experience.


Fred’s Take:

If you didn’t play Street Fighter 2, did you even actually like fighting games? Instead of elaborate combo moves, I relied more on precisely timed blocks and counter attacks. I’m one of those people who liked to throw things so I was always keeping the opponent at a distance.

I can’t explain it but I really like that the game slows down when a character is hit. The slowdown is even more pronounced during the finishing blow. 

SF2’s dynamic backgrounds were really cool, with the destructible environment and the crowd cheering behind you. The commentator has a strong voice, which balances out the mediocre dialogue from the fighters.

Continuing with the bonus level infatuation, Street Fighter 2 let you beat up a car for fun! How cool is that?

#4. NFL Blitz (1997)
Julian (N/A), Fred (N/A) – Average Gamer Community Pick

From the creators of NBA Jam, Midway blessed the video game community with NFL Blitz in the late 90s. An over-the-top, arcade-styled interpretation of passing the pigskin. NFL Blitz featured a 7v7 game where inhuman leaps and WWE styled tackles were the norm. 

Rules were also different. Or better said, rules were non-existent. Penalties like late hits or pass interference were not called but encouraged. First downs required triple the distance. 

Fun fact: In addition to NBA Jam, Midway also produced Mortal Kombat, Ms. Pac-Man, Cruis’n, and Rampage. 


Julian’s Take: 

NFL Blitz came along at the perfect time. Madden was the genre leader when it came to the simulation football experience. 

The legendary NFL 2K series had yet to enter the scene. Tecmo Super Bowl was past its prime. And any other title was not worth a mention when it came to playing an NFL game. For those that wanted to experience the backyard feel of America’s game without stressing over franchise demands or draft woes, NFL Blitz was here.

It was the perfect title to get a football experience in and not have to worry about getting flagged for everything.

I didn’t play a ton of the game but I did enjoy it when I did it was hilarious. Realizing that it was created by the same people who made Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam makes perfect sense. 

Fred’s Take:

In the last 15 years, I’ve probably played through at least 40 full seasons of Madden. Even with that love for traditional football simulation games, there’s something special about the Blitz series.

No human should be able to fly through the air 10 yards. Players shouldn’t be allowed to sumo lift their opponents off the ground. Clotheslining people should not be ok. Dropkicking your foes at the end of the play should be a penalty.

But all of this just works in NFL Blitz.

The flashing lights, blinking characters and bright colors all add to the ridiculousness of this game. When you pick up this game, you know exactly what to expect. Absurd hits, fast gameplay and high-flying catches.

Even though it didn’t make our list of top golden age sports games, it definitely deserves a spot as one of the greatest arcade titles.

From the Community

We surveyed the Average Gamer Community to hear which honorable mentions should be on the list.

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Here are some great games that would sit proudly on the hypothetical fifth head of our mountain!

  • Tapper (1983) – Playing as a bartender, it is your job to serve and clean up after a seemingly endless stream of angry and eccentric customers. If too slow, the customer rages and drags you out the bar. 
  • X-Men vs Street Fighter (1996) – The crossover that no one asked for but everyone loved. Wolverine vs Ryu. Magento vs M. Bison. Eventually evolving into Marvel vs Capcom, this is the quintessential fast-faced, combo-heavy fighting game. Though it has been ported to consoles, it screams arcade experience.
  • Killer Queen (2013) – From the modern era of gaming, we get a team-based competitive game which has a cult following. Participants can either ride a snail to one side of the map, fill their hive with berries, or kill the queen three times. It’s a lot more fun than the description allows:

  • Virtua Fighter (1993) – Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat dominate the console video game fighting genre. Tekken and Marvel vs Capcom pick up what is left. However, within the walls of your local arcade, Virtua Fighter has a seat at the table. Boasting 8 unique fighters, it offered one of the first 3D arenas across the entire genre.
How’d we do?

What grade would you give our Mount Rushmore? Would you change any of our selections? Which game was your favorite arcade game? Let us know in the comments!

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