As THE INFINITE LEAGUE goes on sale this week, I’ve started feverishly imagining what I would spend my extra cash on when I’m a wealthy and famous author. (Okay, I’ll be honest-----I appreciate your support and thank you for visiting my blog, but I’m a long way from that. If I can at least sell fifty copies, I'll still feel like J. K. Rowling.) But I digress. What luxury would I have if money were no object? It’s not new cars or flat screen televisions or boats.
I’d build my dream arcade!
A few weeks ago, I was playing a little mental game with myself. If I could have any ten arcade games, which ten would it be? I easily rattled off a list of thirty games I’ve always loved, but narrowing it down to ten was tricky. But after some time spent in deep thought (you know, time that probably would have been better spent actually writing my next book) I narrowed it down to the ten must-haves that I would love to own someday. So here's the list, for those of you that care!
This was a polarizing game. People either loved or hated the game where you guide a daring knight through a dark castle of death traps and monsters in his quest to save the bubbly Princess Daphne from the clutches of a dragon. I loved it because unlike his pixelated contemporaries Pac-Man, Frogger and Mr. Do, this was a lushly animated masterpiece created by Don Bluth. People hated it because there was only one correct way to proceed in any given situation; once you beat it, you could always beat it. It didn’t have any replay value, basically. Unless you just loved the brilliant animation and musical score. It was a piece of art, which is why I count myself among it’s fanbase.
As Peter Pepper, you are armed with a pepper shaker while fighting to construct a number of hamburgers while avoiding angry anthromorphic pickles, hot dogs and eggs. I have a Playstation 1 port of this game, but the controls just aren’t the same.
I was lucky enough to have this in my comic book store for a few years, where I sat on the high score for many a moon.
Guide an orange weirdo up and down a triangular set of stairs, getting all the steps adjusted to the same color while avoiding Coily, WrongWay and Ugh. One of my all time favorites. It broke my heart to see that they ended up being homeless in Wreck-It-Ralph!
DISCS OF TRON
Don’t get me wrong. The original TRON was an amazing game….but I really enjoyed Discs of Tron more. You hurled deadly energy discs at another player on the other side of a very 3-D field, trying to knock the bastard off into a pit. It actually inspired a very notorious incident that happened in high school, one that I still laugh about.
STAR WARS: THE CLASSIC ARCADE GAME
There have been many Star Wars game released since this one, and most of them are better. But there was something about the original wire-frame Star Wars game that allowed you to fly over the Death Star and blow it up. Of course, they kept rebuilding the damn thing, so you’d have to repeat the whole experience until you finally ran out of lives. For optimum effect, you need the sit down cabinet.
You’re a knight flying on top of an ostrich, and you have to ensure that your lance is higher than the other knights when you make contact. If you dismount them, then you have to retrieve the eggs they leave behind before they are retrieved by a faster, even angrier knight. And you can’t fall into the lava. And you have to avoid the pterodactiles when they arrive. Okay, that’s a whole lot of “what the hell?” when you say it out loud. But trust me, it was a fun game. Especially when your buddy joined in a second player to help. Or sabotage you at an opportune time, like my bastard friend Duke would always do.
The original Punch-Out, with your goofy green wire-frame character going up against the likes of Glass Joe, Kid Quick, Pizza Pasta and Mr. Sandman is always a classic. I liked the tall cabinet with the double screen, and the feeling of slamming that massive blue K.O. button to knock out your opponent. I almost got kicked out of the Du Quoin malt shoppe once for losing my shit after being sucker punched by Pizza Pasta for the fifth time in a row. Ah, good times.
It was a toss-up between this game and the similarly themed TOTAL CARNAGE. But in the end, this Total Recall-inspired game show pitting your heavily armed character against room after room of soldiers, thugs and monsters is just a blast.
(Apparently the game makers were fans of RoboCop as well. The snarky announcer would occasionally utter “I’d buy that for a dollar.”)
GAUNTLET: DARK LEGACY
The original Gauntlet is an all-time classic. But at least with Dark Legacy, you feel like you’re accomplishing something because there’s a legitimate ending you can get to in this souped up, modern interpretation of guiding wizards, valkries and warriors through a labyrinth of orcs, goblins, demons and other nasty monsters.
Plus, this was the first video game I bonded with my future wife with, when there were still arcades to visit.
ELVIRA: SCARED STIFF
Okay, not a video game. But I loves me some pinball too----and if I was going to have only one pinball game, it would be this one. I was lucky enough to have this in my comic book store for a year, and I just played the hell out of it. And cursed at it. But mostly I loved it. I have a near perfect port of it on Playstation 4, and it plays virtually exactly the same----complete with perfect sound effects and play style. But it will never be the same as playing the original machine.
There were a lot of other games that I absolutely love, but didn’t quite make the top ten:
Space Ace, Super Pac-Man, Street Fighter II, Rampart, Tron, Mr. Do, Donkey Kong Jr., Mortal Kombat II, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Klax, Dance Dance Revolution, Crazy Taxi, Frogger, Rampage, Asteroids, Marvel vs Capcom 2, Elevator Action, Addams Family Pinball, and Medieval Madness Pinball.
A great majority of these games have been made available in various formats for my Playstation, and I still play them often. While I’ll always love my modern Star Wars Battlefront, Tomb Raider and Grand Theft Auto games, I’ll always have a soft spot for the classic arcade games. You gotta remember your roots, right?
So happy Friday to everyone, and just out of curiosity---what would be the ten games in your private arcade?
John Yeo Jr. is the author of THE KING’S TOURNAMENT and MAMA SAUVETERRE’S CURIOSITY SHOPPE. His new novel---THE INFINITE LEAGUE----is now available on Amazon, or directly from his website at www.yeoniverse.com