Arcade franchises are going through a revival period currently in the world of gaming. We’ve seen many of the biggest classic titles brought up to speed in the modern world: Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter are consistently popular franchises, and titles like Rampage have even made it onto the big screen (in a surprisingly decent film, at that). But not all of the arcade classics have been so fortunate – some are still left behind. This is of course understandable, as there’s not a market for any and all classic games form the past. Still, we think it’s time some other arcade classics get their turn in the spotlight.
The following are a few that stand out….
Long considered the king of arcade sports titles, NBA Jam is a franchise that holds a special place in the hearts of many. Beloved for its over-the-top antics like flaming basketballs, insane trickshots, and of course, the ridiculous dunks, NBA Jam brought an extra sense of silly fun to a genre that hadn’t seen anything like it before, and that hasn’t since. While there have been sporadic attempts to revitalize the series (including through a modern mobile app), none have had the same spirit of the originals, which is a true shame. For this reason, we’d suggest the game needs to go home to where its original developers are now: Netherrealm. The Mortal Kombat developers made the original NBA Jam what it was. Surely, they could bring it back to life.
Since the 1981 original, poor Frogger hasn’t had a great run of it. He spent time trying to steal Mario’s and Sonic’s thunder with a new mascot-ized 3D design, and also had his game rather shamelessly copied by the mobile title Crossy Road, which has gone on to become a hit in its own right. As a result, we think the arcade genre’s favorite frog deserves another chance at redemption. The question is how to do it. The simple answer is that a mobile arcade could resurrect the original game, but one has to assume this would have happened by now if it were ever going to. Another option that comes to mind is injecting Frogger elements into a different genre – specifically, modern casino gaming. Among slot games offered at U.S. sites, there are actually some character-specific games that do a good job of incorporating themes and mini-games (with characters from Greek gods to Jekyll and Hyde), and one could imagine some approximation of the classic Frogger arcade blending in with a slot arcade.
In an age of beat-em-ups featuring street thugs and dingy alleyways, Golden Axe took the genre in a different direction – one that’s still fondly remembered to this day. The side-scrolling medieval romp let up to three players crusade together through fantastical lands, beating on the armies of the evil Death Adder while looking for the titular weapon of power. With a number of games under their belts, Ax Battler, Tyris Flare, and Gilius Thunderhead are well remembered names from the arcade era, but have now been missing for over a decade. With other beat-em-ups like River City Rampage and Streets of Rage receiving reboots, we think it’s time Golden Axe got the same treatment. It could even be done via mobile (which is true of most of these games, really), and for that matter the aforementioned themed slot idea could at least put these characters back on people’s minds!
The mouse cop dealing with a lot more crime than he bargained for might not be the most well-remembered of Namco’s golden era of arcade cabinets (Pac-Man and Dig Dug hold that title). But Mappy’s certainly one of the best of them. The fun and frantic cat-blasting title is a favorite of many old-school arcade-goers (in no small part due to its super-catchy music), but has seen little outside of a few low-effort mobile titles since the 1983 original. A new Mappy has a lot of potential if done properly, especially if the developers lean into the lovable character designs of the original. We’d just hope they find a way to tap into the original music.
Let’s end this list with an oddball selection: Dragon’s Lair is a very unique arcade title in that the entire game is animated by hand, as though it were a classic cartoon. Animation legend Don Bluth was responsible for the magnificent artwork featured in the game, and the game been cherished as a unique and sought-after title for decades as a result. However, barring some decidedly sub-par sequels, it’s been just as long since Dragon’s Lair has seen any new worthwhile content (unless you count its significance in season two of the hit show Stranger Things)With the novelty of the original having long since expired, we think Dragon’s Lair should go in an entirely different direction: full-length animated film. Seeing these classic characters brought back in the style of the originals would be a perfect way to honor their legacy, while also introducing more classic hand-drawn animation into a world sorely lacking it.