The Evolution of Arcade Games

It’s amazing to look at how much arcade games have changed over the years! From Skee ball’s debut in the early 1900’s to the surround sound, 4-D experiences of the present day, there have been countless developments. Arcade games are an ideal way to escape reality and be transported to a completely different world. They allow you to race cars, hunt wild game, and fight each other with no consequences. Let’s be honest though; without the evolution, they would just be games and not what they are today: completely immersive experiences. Let’s explore how arcade games have been improved upon throughout their lifetime.

The Original Arcade Game

Do you remember going to Chuck E. Cheese’s when you were younger and having a blast playing the various games there? For some reason, the one that sticks out to me the most is Skee Ball. It’s a simple concept that takes a bit of skill to get your ball into the slots that award you the most points. You may not have known this but Skee Ball was the original arcade game. It was introduced in 1909 and the alleys at first measured at 36 feet long and then were reduced to 14 feet. Surprisingly, the original games required a lot more strength to play.

Pinball Machines

A few years after the introduction of Skee Ball came pinball machines which sparked controversy since they were considered games of chance, or gambling. In fact, they were banned in certain places for this very reason. An interesting side note is that these machines were mostly found in bars or porn shops at that time. Some years later, they began to be designed with flippers to hit the ball in order to make it appear as more of a game of skill than a game of chance.

Coin-Operated Arcade Games

In the 1970’s, the very first coin-operated arcade game, Galaxy Game, was installed at Stanford University. At that time, it cost a dime for one game and a quarter for three. Then, Atari released Pong and it became the first ever commercially successful coin-operated video game. Because of its popularity, Pong led the way to video games replacing pinball machines. Atari went on to produce other highly successful games such as Tempest and Asteroids.


Pac-Man was released in 1980 and it became the most successful video game of all time. It appealed to all kinds of gamers including both males and females. It became a pop culture phenomenon and is still so easily recognizable today. Other popular games released around the same time were Frogger, Donkey Kong, and Tron. It almost seems like it was the golden age of the arcade gaming world.

Alternative Games

After the industry started to slow down, fighting games brought a second wind to the industry. Games like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat forced arcades to switch their focus. Then, along came Dance Dance Revolution which was feared to be too weird for the audience but it turned out to be a huge success. This release and other types of alternative games like Guitar Hero and Mario Kart helped to recharge the arcade industry.

Present Day Gaming

Today, games are more advanced than ever. You can have a completely immersive experience and technology is at its peak. For instance, Nintendo added built in cameras to take a photo to be used in the game while playing Mario Kart Arcade GP, Dead Heat Street Racing introduced sharing scores through social media, and Big Buck Hunter HD came out and allowed gamers to compete for cash prizes. Last year, 4-D gaming came in with a game called Dark Escape 4D which combines 3D glasses, surround sound, vibrations, heart rate monitor, and blasts of air. Who knows what they will come up with next but I’m excited for arcade games to become even more advanced. Game over.