Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Top 30 Arcade Games from the Silver Age (1986-1995)

As promised here is the follow up to The Top 30 Golden Age Video Games (1978-1985).

The period from 1986 up to 1995 is, in my mind, the silver age of arcade video games. Improved graphics and sound but less inventiveness. Specific genres of video games were cemented in the psyche by this time. Shoot'em ups, Beat'em ups, Platform and Racing games ruled the roost. At this point I had a terrible job and the arcade after work was my chill out time until Saturday afternoon came along. But in the evenings sometimes I was the only person in the whole arcade.

Towards the end of the eighties I went to college to improve my skills in the hope of getting a much better job. There I met a bunch of friends who also enjoyed video games. We regularly visited the arcades after lectures to play games like Double Dragon and my personal favourite, the game I could make 10p last for three quarters of an hour, 1943. I also remember watching a guy play Dragons Lair and completing it, without even looking at the screen.

But still the slow down was obvious. People had home consoles and computers which were proving much more popular than a visit to the arcade. By the time the Sony Playstation came along everybody had one and nobody went to the arcades anymore. The arcade game manufacturers tried to create games that would be difficult to physically reproduce at home but even this didn't halt the decline. Instead of a weekly pastime arcades became something you checked out whilst on an annual holiday. The arcades were dead. But they would return.

So without further ado here are my Top 30 Silver Age Video Games. Note this is my own personal list and if you don't agree with it, which you probably won't with it being subjective an all, it would be great to see your comments.

Number 30 - Robocop - 1988, Data East

Based on the violent sci-fi action movie of the same name. Side scrolling run and gun game where you can punch and shoot enemies and take on the end of level bosses to save old Detroit. I preferred to just watch more skillful players on this rather than play it myself, but it looked pretty good.

Number 29 - U.N. Squadron - 1989 , Capcom

Take on helicopters, tanks and gun emplacements in this side scrolling shooter with huge end of level bosses to deal with too. A bit run of the mill but I still enjoyed it a lot.

Number 28 - Rampage - 1986, Bally Midway

Choose to be a giant gorilla, lizard or werewolf and tear up the urban landscape whilst trying to avoid the army troopers helicopters and tanks in this smash'em'up. A bit different from most other games that were around at that time.

Number 27 - Roadblasters - 1987, Atari

Super fast driving and blasting game where you shoot other cars and road side turrets, avoid road mines and catch special weapons dropped from drones. You also have to keep an eye on your fuel and top it up with green and red fuel balls strewn across the road at various points. 

Number 26 - In The Hunt - 1993, Irem

Side scrolling sub shooter where you are attacked from below and above the waves by enemy subs, jets and helicopters whilst dealing with sea mines and icebergs. Fortunately you can shoot up and out of the water as well as launching torpedo's ahead. I really like the underwater trail effect from your subs weapons.

Number 25 - S.T.U.N. Runner - 1989, Atari

A sci-fi version of Roadblasters where you drive your vehicle 360 degrees around tunnels and along highways collecting stars, jumping on speed boosters, destroying enemy vehicles, keeping your shields intact and reaching the finish line before time runs out. I enjoyed playing the sit down cockpit cabinet version of this.

Number 24 - Shackled - 1986, Data East

A real time dungeon crawler where you must roam each floor, collecting treasure, shooting bad guys and rescuing friends who will then tag along giving you added fire power. Once you find the exit your friends are freed and you go onto the next floor.

Number 23 - Altered Beast - 1988, Sega

Side scrolling beat'em up where you must battle undead zombies and two headed dogs to rescue the daughter of the mysterious guy who brought you back from the dead. Collecting powers ups, making you stronger and stronger, until you eventually change into a super strong werewolf complete with special flying attack and fireballs.

Number 22 - The New Zealand Story - 1988, Taito

Colourful platformer where you control a fuzzy yellow kiwi who must fly and swim around each level avoiding boomerangs, crabs, teddy bears and ducks to rescue his kidnapped kiwi girlfriend. Serious kawaii overload in what you knew was obviously a game from Japan, even before you saw the Taito logo.

Number 21 - Prehistoric Isle - 1989, SNK

Multi directional scrolling shooter where your plane must destroy various dinosaurs and cavemen, collecting power ups and bonuses ready to face the huge dinosaur boss enemy at the end of each level. The power up orb which you collected could be rotated to different positions around your aircraft to give you different weapons and modes of attack.

Number 20 - Jail Break - 1986, Konami

Side scrolling run and gun shooter where you are a cop who must blast escaped prisoners and rescue innocent civilians who kindly give you extra weapons such as grenade launchers and bazookas to deal out even more mayhem. Strangely at the end of each level your cop is shown to be recapturing prisoners rather than killing them all.

Number 19 - Shinobi - 1987, Sega

Fairly slow paced side scrolling platformer / shooter similar in style to Rolling Thunder although this time you play a ninja who uses shuriken and a sword rather than bullets to kill the enemies, including one who strangely resembles spider-man, and rescue captives dotted around each level. After so many levels a boss enemy must also be dispatched.

Number 18 - Ghouls and Ghosts - 1989, Capcom

Medieval run and gun shooter sequel where your knight must destroy various creatures ranging from bats and birds to zombies and carnivorous plants. The game is fairly difficult in that it makes you complete it twice. However, the second time through it's six levels you must collect and use a special weapon otherwise you cannot complete the game for real.

Number 17 - Toki - 1989, TAD Corporation

After being turned into a monkey by an evil wizard Toki must rescue his beloved in this surreal side scrolling platformer. Avoid or breath fire on goblins, crabs, bats and all manner of weird creatures whilst picking up an American football helmet as a shield. I especially like the see-saw complete with ton weight used to jump up to very high ledges.

Number 16 - R-Type - 1987, Irem

Seminal horizontal scrolling shoot'em up with strange bio-mechanical enemies and scenery, everything seems to be living and breathing. The end of level bosses are some of the best ever imagined along with the eye catching weapon power ups and infamous full beam laser blast.

Number 15 - Double Dragon - 1987, Technos

One of the best two player beat'em ups with a variety of different bad guys on screen all at once and the attacking moves and weapons to deal with them. Although most people tended to use the back elbow attack as it seemed the most effective ,especially against the big dudes. However, I tried using baseball bats, barrels and boxes as it was much more fun.

Number 14 - Sega Rally - 1995, Sega

A finely tuned rally driving game with fantastic car physics and track variety. The game features several driving surfaces which all affect the way the car handles significantly. Everything in this game feels very realistic and that's what makes it so fun to play.

Number 13 - Vigilante - 1988, Irem

Side scrolling beat'em'up that plays like an updated version of Kung Fu Master. Enemies attack you constantly from left and right but don't worry as you can also get your hands on some nunchaku.

Number 12 - Wonderboy In Monsterland - 1987, Sega / Westone

Fun platformer / RPG where you can jump around and stab monsters with your sword for coins. You can then spend them in shops, hidden behind various doors, to get upgrades. Doors can also lead to information, traps and the level exit which needs a key. A dozen levels all with their own unique features keeps the game fresh.

Number 11 - Speed Rumbler - 1986, Capcom

Top down racer / shooter which looks a like a cross between an early GTA game and Mad Max. You have to traverse each area in your car blasting bad guys and other vehicles in an attempt to rescue kidnapped villagers who give out points and power ups.You can also get out of your vehicle and blast enemies whilst on foot.

Number 10 - Rolling Thunder - 1986, Namco

Side scrolling platformer / shooter that has two main levels on each stage enabling you to do a balcony jump either down or up. Masked enemies, probably aliens as they melt into the floor once shot, come at you thick and fast. Fortunately various doors dotted around the stage allow you to get your hands on more bullets and machine guns bullets to help you in your quest to get the girl.

Number 9 - Operation Wolf - 1987, Taito

One of the first shooters to feature a story line with passages shown at the end of each stage. The optical gun controller, shaped like an Uzi, allows you to blast the enemy soldiers and vehicles on screen. You also have a number of rocket bombs to wipe out numerous enemies from the screen. 

Number 8 - Outrun - 1986, Sega

Quite scenic and relaxing 3D driving game which even gives you the option to select the background music on the radio. You must get to the end of each stage as quickly as possible to move onto the next before the time runs out. Each checkpoint offers a choice of two stages depending on which fork in the road you decide to take. Left is easier than right which is something I didn't realise back in the eighties.

Number 7 - Golden Axe - 1989, Sega

Side scrolling fantasy style beat'em' up where two players can each choose one of three different characters each with their own style and weapon. Blue potions can be thrown in the air to cast magic and can be replenished by whacking the little pixie like creatures which carry them. The player can also ride various beasts and make use of their attacks too.

Number 6 - Beast Busters - 1989, SNK

Similar in style to operation wolf however this time it's for up to three players and you're up against a zombie horde rather than the military. Power ups in the form of ammo, rockets, grenades, health and armour cam be picked up which are especially useful against some of the weirdest boss enemies you've ever seen. The three player aspect makes it especially fun with friends.

Number 5 - Twin Cobra - 1987, Toaplan / Taito

Vertically scrolling two player shoot'em'up. Each player has a helicopter which must go through the stage blasting enemy helicopters and tanks. Power ups come in four different colours. Red is the default weapon, green is the power laser, blue is the spread weapon and yellow is the multi directional shot. Each stage had a huge end of level boss.

Number 4 - Black Tiger - 1987, Capcom

Fantasy themed platformer / RPG where Your hero jumps around platforms and pillars whilst throwing daggers and a mace. Enemies, friendly wizards and clay pots drop coins which allow you to upgrade your weapons and armour with other friendly wizards. Keys are sometimes dropped too to allow you to unlock treasure chests, which sometimes contain only a fire trap. Bonus items can also be found hidden in the walls of some stages. There is also a time limit but egg timers cam be found which extend this. Bonus dungeon levels can be found within each stage and there is an end of level boss for each stage too.

Number 3 - Ninja Emaki - 1986, Nichibutsu

I remember playing this in the evening after work in a virtually empty arcade besides the change guy. Horizontal shooter where you start off as a ninja riding a cloud like Monkey. You can use eight different magical weapons, after you pick up enough scrolls, to fight the bad guys. After cloud flying you run around some temples Then you appear in a magical place where the end of level boss is a giant toad. Later levels have boats, mazes. lava pits, deserts and more strange end of levels bosses. This game is relatively unknown but I love it. Great memories for me.

Number 2 - Cabal - 1988, TAD Corporation

Similar in style to Operation Wolf only it's two player and you can see yourself. You move your character left and right and a cross hair moves with him. When you're firing you stand still and move the cross hair independently. You can also throw grenades that do a lot of damage. You have to fill up your enemy kill quota to go onto the next stage. Destroying scenery gives you weapons and points bonuses. The variety of enemies and scenery are what makes this game for me, along with the crazy little dance and tune at the end of each level, and it's a lot of fun playing alongside a friend.

Number 1 - 1943 - 1987, Capcom

My favourite arcade shoot'em up of all time. Maybe my favourite arcade coin op ever. Total addiction which is a bit surprising as I wasn't a fan of 1942, the first game in the series. But this game is a different kettle of fish altogether. I like the idea that you have an energy bar so you can take a few hits before you die. The power ups are finely balanced and it takes some skill to get what you want. You even have the option of grabbing power, instead of adding to your weapon time, to boost your energy bar instead.

Each level is split into two. The main level which is at high altitude and then the sub level which is where you take on a convoy with a carrier boss or a mammoth fighter bomber boss. There are various secrets, like in most Capcom games, like cows and barrels for bonus points and I almost forgot to mention this game can be two player. This is where you really see someones character traits. Will they share the power ups with you if you're more needy or will they be selfish and just take everything they see appear on the screen no matter what.

I still love playing this game almost 30 years after I first saw it. For me that's what makes a truly great game.

If you want to play these or other arcade video games on your computer you can download MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) and then try to find the roms for the specific games you want to play.

 The Official Site of MAME is here

Some games that didn't make my Top 30 but are also worth playing are Arkanoid, Break Thru, Bubble Bobble, Dragon Breed, Forgotten Worlds, Gauntlet 2, Hard Drivin', Mercs, Midnight Resistance, Mortal Kombat, Operation Thunderbolt, P47, Pang, Pit Fighter, Psychic 5, Rampart, Rainbow Islands, Rodland, Street Fighter, Shadow Warriors, Shadow Dancer, Sidearms, Splatterhouse, Spyhunter 2, Time Crisis, Toobin', Vendetta, Vindicators and Xybots. If you feel I've missed out any games from the silver age that deserve a mention feel free to comment.


  1. No Space Harrier? What heresy is this?

    1. Hahaha, didn't play it so it's not on the list. Although technically it's a Golden Age game as it was released in 1985. However, I missed it off that list too, LOL. I'll probably add it on another list being as it's so ground breaking. Thanks for your comment :)

  2. Replies
    1. Yep, an excellent, sometimes overlooked, driving game that still holds up well today :)