Best Arcade Games of The 90s: It’s Time to Get Nostalgic!

best arcade games of the 90s

We can still hear people talk about Pac-Man and other classic games, but they have been around a lot longer than you might think. The golden age of arcade games dated back as far as the 70s.

During the period, there were so many games released which are considered classics in this day and age. Space Invaders and Pac-Man are the prime examples.

So, what made them such hits in the first place? There were massive changes in the game industry at that time in terms of graphics. Although the details were nothing compared to modern games, they were considered stellar for that time period. There were no intense graphics like what we see on today’s games.


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However, the strength of classic games isn’t in the graphic quality. They tried to bring excitement with great storytelling and iconic characters that people still remember for years to come.

For some, it could be hard to comprehend how games with simple graphics could draw so much attention. But the truth is they were in fact advanced for that specific time period.

Arcade games marked fundamental growth in video game graphics. That’s what made people from around the world got on board with the technology. Vibrant graphics were introduced, color monitors made their debut, and games were becoming more sophisticated with their characters and plots.

Besides, consoles started to gain worldwide recognition. They were the pioneers of modern consoles we see today. So, what are the best arcade games of the 90s?

Here’s The Best Arcade Games of The 90s


1. Street Fighter II

Most of 90s kids should be familiar with this game. It debuted in 1991 and earned immense success throughout the world. It quickly became an arcade phenomenon and a favorite console game at that time. If you’re wondering about the history of one-on-one fighting games that are common today, this is the answer.

The game initiated a revolution in the arcade scene that had gamers in the feelings of fervor. This game has a selection of 8 characters. They all have their own fighting styles and moves. The player needs to win against the other characters before he gets the chance to meet the 4 bosses.

They are M. Bison, Sagat, Vega, and Balrog. Compared to the original, the characters on this game appear more colorful. Besides, they also have smoother animation. Street Fighter remains one of the most impactful games in the fighting genre.

It has spawned a lot of copycats, but none of them come close to the experience this game offers. It’s not just the awesome characters, but the sound effects are also memorable. They will linger in your head even when you’re no longer playing the game. There’s something addictive about it that’s hard to point out.

2. Metal Slug

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Metal Slug is another iconic game that defined the 90s. Who can’t forget this action-packed game? The game might just be in 2D, but it doesn’t stop it from having an exciting gameplay.

The story took place in 2028. A group named Peregrin Falcons was on a mission to prevent an evil organization from creating new world power. It’s General Donald Morden who became the main antagonist in this game. He was originally a nice person, but somehow turned into an evil person after his son got killed in Central Park. He then planned on establishing his own army to conquer the world.

Meanwhile, the main protagonist of this game is Marco. This lead character has showed up in all versions of the game. Metal Slug is highly addictive because it has an amazing gameplay. The player is equipped with only a handgun and a couple of grenades at the start.

Throughout the mission, you can kill the enemies and steal their weapons to advance yours. There are a lot of guns and vehicles you’ll find along the way. One of the guns is rocket launchers. They fire slow moving rockets, but have a huge impact. They work best to decimate groups of enemies.

Another powerful weapon is the laser weapon. These guns fire a laser beam to eliminate the enemies quickly. Aside from guns, the player will come across a few vehicles, like SV-O01 that looks like a tank and camel slugs.

3. Daytona USA

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Daytona USA remains one of the most memorable classics of the 90s. The game was ported to arcades in 1994 and it still becomes a buzzword among retro game enthusiasts. Part of the appeal is because the game can be played in linked arcade cabinets, which allows up to 8 players racing for the top position.

The game made its way back to Sega a year later on the Sega Saturn. However, it received mixed reviews from fans. Some complained about the poor frame rate, while others weren’t too happy with the lack of multiplayer options. Basically, there weren’t significant changes that made them distinguishable from the arcade version.

Sega came back a few years later with Daytona USA: Championship Circuit Edition. This version of the game came with elements that weren’t present in the previous game. Besides a better frame rate, the game also offered a 2 player mode.

With all the viewpoints that the player can choose, it’s not hard to see why people get so hooked with the game. This gives you an idea of how it feels to drive a race car. It allows you to drift, accelerate, and control the braking.

4. Mortal Kombat II

Mortal Kombat II was released right after the 1992 original. The game has more fighters as well as better graphics compared to the predecessor. Anyone who can win in two rounds will come out as the winner. The loser will be dazed at some point, in which the opponent can take advantage of by doing a finishing move.

There are also changes in the fighting style in this version. For example, the fighting moves have improved. Meanwhile, the roundhouse kick has more power to it. It’s powerful enough to make the opponent fly across the screen. Some of the old characters are back and they fight better than ever with some new moves.

Another thing that made the sequel interesting is the introduction of multiple fatalities. The original have them included, but they are more diverse and unique in this game.

Additionally, new characters also made their appearance, including Kung Lao, Mileena, and Kitana. The game’s enormous success was undisputable, but although it’s favored by critics, it was mired in controversy mainly due to having violent content.

5. Marvel vs. Capcom

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Isn’t it exciting to see our favorite characters cross paths and fight against each other? This is what the game is all about. After the lukewarm reception of the Marvel Super Heroes Vs Street Fighter, Capcom came up with an idea to put together heroes from both universes in one game.

They also listened to critics that slammed the use of old characters. This prompted the company to develop more. Some cool characters joined the lineup, such as Jin and Venom. There are things that make this game even more exciting to play, like the change modes assigned to some of the characters.

For instance, Ryu is given the ability to imitate the special moves of Akuma. The game has like 15 characters, but they don’t include others that appear in mode switches. And combined with the secret ones, you can play with up to 23 characters.

Another fun feature of the game is the assist system. You’re allowed to choose an assist that will fight against the enemies during the battles. There are 22 characters, which gives so much room to explore different moves and abilities.

6. Virtua Racing

Virtua Racing means a lot to the development of 3D graphics. It has cars that take on polygonal shapes. While the concept wasn’t new at the time of release, the game took it to the next level. The result was a game with a smooth animation and incredible fluidity.

Many tried to imitate that degree of complexity but they failed. The game has been ported onto different systems throughout the years. On this game, the player can view 4 separate angles. It also has a multiplayer mode, but the trackside detail is cut down to allow for a clearer view.

The game doesn’t rely on catchy sound effects. You can hear some here and there, but overall aren’t too distracting. Or they could be if you’re used to listening to fancy sound effects. Surprisingly, the lack of music isn’t bothering because the game requires a lot of focus.

As far as gameplay is concerned, Virtua Racing is just perfect. Every aspect of it is done tastefully. The handling feels right and the track design is also superb. There’s a lot of challenging turns that the car drives through.

FAQs – 90s Arcade Games Online Resources


1. Can I play multiple arcade games in one console?

Yes, you can play retro games on official systems. SNES has multiple games that you can play freely by buying the console. An emulator is also an option although you may find that the games aren’t the original ones.

They are instead copies of the famous titles. Basically, the best way to play official retro classics is by getting them through the manufacturer.

2. What’s the cost of an arcade machine?

It’s not a must to play an arcade game on an actual arcade machine since many games have been ported onto different systems. But if you want to own an arcade machine, prices vary considerably. It could cost from less than a thousand to a few thousand dollars.

There are a few things that affect price, the number of games is one of them. If a machine has multiple games in it, it would cost more. The popularity of the games is also a factor to consider. Some games are more popular than others, so it costs more to license them.

3. Do I need coins to play?

Coin-operated machines are still produced, but they are no longer the only option for operating these machines. In newer units, coin slots are often added only for decorative purposes to make them as close as the original design.

Although they’re deactivated, you can still play because these machines usually have a free-play option. Some machines also replace coins with reloadable play cards.

4. What games are included?

There is a variety of arcade games available, such as sports, racing, driving, action, fighting, and much more.

It’s imperative to decide what you want to be included in a machine before buying. Please make sure all your favorite titles have been preloaded onto the device.

Summary – Most Popular Arcade Games of The 90s


At some point, arcade games were the most fascinating trend in the video game history. They were the talk of the town in their prime. None could escape them because they were everywhere.

Although most have become the things of the past, the impact they have on the gaming industry is undeniable. To play against complete strangers was what made the experience unforgettable.

The best arcade games of the 90s were just as diverse as today’s videos games. Although they lagged behind in terms of graphic quality, strong gameplays and memorable characters made up for it. Arcade machines could be found in a lot of places and people had the opportunity to choose games they wanted to play.

Each game had unique controls and style. Despite the variety of games, it’s still difficult to master one especially in a multiplayer mode. The chances of finding someone who were more skilled at playing a specific game were high. And when we’re good at playing, it would give us the street cred because everyone would know about it.

The 90s also birthed super heroes that have been worshipped to this day. It became a commonplace for video game designers to release superheroes in arcades because the demand for such characters was at an all time high.

Some of people’s favorite characters had their own games and as a promotional tool, they were just as effective as featuring them on movies like what they’re doing currently.

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