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9 Greatest Sports Arcade Games of All Time

by: Howard Cosmell On  Friday, March 4, 2011

People want different things from arcade games than they do from console video games. Arcade games are largely social, so they ability to beat the crap out of your drinking buddies or girlfriend in a football game is WAY more important than realism or strategy. Consequently, the best arcade games are often grotesque bastardizations that rely more heavily on action than on anything else, which is totally fine by me. Then again, anything that allows me to gloat and scream at members of my social circle is totally fine by me.

9. NFL Blitz
In the 90’s, Midway nailed the formula for arcade sports games. Realism took a backseat to, you know, fun. NFL Blitz did away with strategy and presented players with a chance to run around, and just chuck the ball down the field. No offensive coordinator necessary. The play didn’t really matter; just make sure your guys were past the first down marker when they caught the ball. Defense, normally a boring aspect of football games, was fun because you could just hit the hell out of your opponents. The reduced number of players also allowed players wide open spaces to juke and get beheaded. All in all, a delightful game for people with the attention spans of fruit flies.

8. Pop-A-Shot
A classic arcade game that still holds up. Again, there’s no reason to over-think this one. The (normally) miniature balls get released, and you just start chucking them up towards the rim. There’s absolutely zero correlation between actual shooting skill and success in this game. The name of the game is speed, just start throwing up shots haphazardly and if you can get more shots off in the allotted time than the other guy, unless you’re playing Reggie Miller, you’ll probably win. The moving parts are a benefit because you can take all your aggressions out on the backboard with that one ball that’s left after the gate closes. Hey, if the bar didn’t want you destroying their property, they wouldn’t have given you those little balls to heave, right?

7. NBA Jam
He’s heating up…

A classic from the moment it was introduced. Very similar to NFL Blitz, NBA Jam reduced NBA basketball to a two-on-two run-and-gun experience. Frustrations abound when your opponent catches fire after making three unanswered baskets, allowing them to make shots from halfcourt and throw down dunks from the parking lot. Say goodbye to realism, in this one, though Blake Griffin’s emergence may one day allow for the type of summersault dunks that 13 year-olds always felt should be part of the NBA game. One drawback: Jordan wasn’t on the roster for the Bulls, so you were left with Pippen and Horace Grant or Steve Kerr. Yawn…

6. Big Buck Hunter
I don’t know about you, but when I drink beer, I like to kill things. Animated things, anyway. Big Buck Hunter allows urban drunks to go on safari and shoot the hell out of most any large animal that graces our green earth. Don’t shoot the women, though, or your turn is over, and you’re awarded no points. Just like in real life. My only complaint about this game, other than the fact that I suck at it, is that I’m ready to take the next step and start shooting people in cities. If Grand Theft Auto will let me beat up a hooker and steal her money, I would like to shoot a bunch of accountants as they leave their offices to go home. No? Okay.

5. Dance Dance Revolution
Like most people, I really don’t consider dancing a sport. It’s normally something I do when I’m drunk and trying to find someone to have sex with. However, DDR is a sport, in that it’s the most exhausting, cardiovascular-intensive activity short of middle-distance running. No matter how good you are, you WILL NOT do as well as the 13 year-old kid in the hoodie who is up after you. The screen scrolls a list of instruction which correspond to foot movements. It starts easy and gets insanely hard. If nothing else, it’s fun to watch the experts at this game, as their legs appear to move independent of their body, a la The Lord of The Dance.

4. Boxing Game
They should just rename this game “the wrist breaker.” The only goal here is to punch a padded block as hard as humanly possible, then make fun of your friends for not being able to punch it as hard. It’s also a great spectator sport for several reasons. First of all, the strongest or toughest person will NEVER win. It will always end up that someone’s girlfriend or the smallest guy in the group will emerge victorious, which results in the big guys dismissing the contest as “some stupid game.” Secondly, if a group plays this game after four or more drinks, one member of the group WILL injure themselves. It will be hilarious and pathetic. Let the good times roll.

3. Bubble Hockey
I haven’t seen a bubble hockey game in a bar in over a decade, which is a damn shame. The game is a blast, flaws and all. Sure, the game requires a Rain Man-like level of coordination to master it, and the puck always seems to end up in an area where no one can reach it, but the complexity and novelty of the game can’t be sold short. It’s no surprise bars don’t carry these things anymore. They’re hugely expensive, they have moving parts that always break (How bad does it suck being on the team with all the broken sticks?), and the games take forever, resulting in low turnover. Whatever. This game rocked, and it should be brought back.

2. Pole Position
It’s amazing how little car-racing games have really evolved since their emergence in the mid-80’s. Pole Position is remarkably similar to Need For Speed #514 or whatever game is on the market right now. There’s a wheel and an accelerator. There may have been a brake pedal. I don’t know cause anyone who uses the brakes in a racing game is a loser. The game was always short, and the frustration of not making the checkpoint to extend your time was overwhelming, but also kind of charming. The only real criticism I have about this dinosaur from Atari is that it doesn’t have the option to play against other people, a technology that was developed in the 90’s when these behemoth machines were 12 wide and cost $75/minute (roughly)

1. Golden Tee
The quintessential bar game. It took a lazy person’s sport and made it even lazier, which should be the endgame for every arcade game developer. All control is done by a trackball that often causes hilarious injuries for overzealous players. I never got involved in the tournament aspect of this game, but it looks like if you had chops, you could play on a network and actually score some real cash. Granted you’re probably playing against a barfly at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Sarasota, FL that has their mail forwarded to the Golden Tee machine, but hey, good luck. Also, newer iterations of this game take credit cards, which is good because it allows lazy people to be even lazier. Score!




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