The Top 20 Arcade Games in the 1980s


In the early days of video gaming, arcade games reigned supreme. These games were designed for one purpose – to eat up your quarters as quickly as possible. While a few home console games managed to make an impact in the 80s, the arcade scene was where it was. If you were looking for a truly immersive gaming experience, you had to go to the arcade to play the greatest arcade games. Here are 20 of the best arcade games from the 80s!

Classic Arcade Games in the 80s and the Golden Age of Gaming

One of the things that made arcade games so great in the 80s was the sense of community that came along with playing them. You would go to your local arcade with your friends and try to beat each other’s scores. There was a real sense of camaraderie among gamers back then which was encouraged by the arcade game companies.

Another thing that made 80’s arcade games so great was the fact that they were challenging. They required skill and precision to beat and featured a variety of controls such as guns, steering wheels, pedals, trackball games, spinners, and joysticks, just to name a few. This made them much more engaging and addicting than a console game could hope to achieve.

If you want to experience the true Golden Age of Gaming, there’s no better way than to play some classic 80s arcade games. You’ll be transported back to a time when gaming was truly pure and simple. 

Best Video Arcade Games of the 80s

The below list of arcade video games is purely subjective and is in no way the definitive list. The arcade game industry was nothing if composed of a wide range of arcade game companies and titles that appealed to almost anyone. We chose our arcade games 80s list based on enjoyment from our time playing and those we have spoken with about their favorite arcade games of that time.

Related: The Best Arcade Games of the 90s

Ms. Pac-Man

Ms. Pac-Man is one of the most popular video games of the 1980s. The game was released in 1981 by Namco and published in North America by Midway Games. Ms. Pac-Man is an extension of the original Pac-Man game, which was released in 1980. In Ms. Pac-Man, the titular character is a female version of Pac-Man. The game was very popular, selling over 115,000 arcade cabinets and is widely regarded as the best of the golden age arcade games. Ms. Pac-Man is often credited with being one of the first video games to feature a female protagonist. The game was also notable for its innovative gameplay mechanics, including adding four different maze designs and introducing power-ups. Ms. Pac-Man was inducted into the World Video Game Hall of Fame in 2016.

Spy Hunter

Spy Hunter was an arcade game released in 1983 by Bally Midway. The game was developed by Eugene Jarvis, the creator of Defender, and Dona Bailey. Spy Hunter was a hit with gamers, selling over 60,000 units in its first year. The objective of Spy Hunter is to drive your car, the Interceptor, through a series of levels while destroying enemy vehicles and avoiding civilian traffic. The Interceptor is equipped with a variety of weapons, including machine guns and missiles, which can be used to take out enemies.

Spy Hunter was one of the first games to feature Mission-Based gameplay, where the player must complete a series of objectives in order to progress to the next level. This was a departure from the traditional arcade games of the time, which typically featured high scores as the primary goal. Spy Hunter was also one of the first games to feature an in-game soundtrack, with songs like “Peter Gunn” and “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” playing as you drove.


Rastan was developed by Taito and published by Sega. Rastan was released in arcades in July 1987. The game is a scrolling platformer where the player controls the titular character, Rastan, who must battle through five stages to defeat the evil wizard Saruin.

Rastan was well-received upon its release. In Japan, the game received a score of 30 out of 40 from Famitsu magazine. In North America, Rastan was awarded Best Graphic Design and Best Arcade-Style Game of 1987 by Electronic Games magazine. The game has been praised for its smooth controls, detailed graphics, and challenging gameplay.

Black Tiger

Black Tiger is not only an excellent example of an early scrolling platformer but also a great example of how difficulty should be implemented in games. Black Tiger was one of the first games to use scrolling graphics, and it did so flawlessly which made it one of the most addictive arcade games. The player controls a nameless character who is on a quest to rescue a princess from an evil wizard. Along the way, the player must battle through six stages, each with its own unique boss. The game is difficult but fair, and it’s definitely worth checking out if you’re a fan of retro gaming. 

Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator

Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator was developed by Taito and published by Paramount Pictures in 1982. The game is set in the Star Trek universe and allows players to take control of Federation ships and engage in combat with the Klingons.

The game features excellent graphics for its time, as well as a great soundtrack. It also features strategic gameplay that is both challenging and rewarding as you deftly manage shields, weapons, and boosters. Overall, Star Trek: Strategic Operations Simulator is an excellent game that is well worth playing.

Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

The second Star Wars arcade game from Atari, this one put players in the middle of the Battle of Hoth as they fought to defend the Rebel base from Imperial attack. With its advanced graphics and sound for the time, plus its engaging gameplay, this was one of the best games of the early 80s.

Donkey Kong

The arcade game Donkey Kong was one of the first video games to really capture people’s imaginations. One of the earliest and most well-known video games of all time, Donkey Kong put players in the role of Jumpman (later renamed Mario, yes that Mario) as he tried to rescue a damsel in distress from the evil ape, Donkey Kong. The game was simple but addictive and it spawned video game franchises of sequels and spin-offs (maybe you’ve heard of the arcade game Mario Bros). Donkey Kong is one of the most iconic video game characters of all time and he remains hugely popular to this day.

Time Pilot

Time Pilot is one of the earliest examples of a scrolling shooter game, and it popularized the genre. In the game, players control a fighter jet as it travels through different time periods, engaging in dogfights with enemy aircraft. The game was praised for its innovative gameplay, tight controls, and challenging difficulty.


Zaxxon is one of the best games of the 80s for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was one of the first games to use isometric graphics, which gave it a unique look that other games didn’t have. Secondly, it was one of the first video arcade games to feature enemy fire that could be dodged by flying under it, which added a layer of strategy to the game. Finally, it had a great soundtrack that really added to the game’s atmosphere. Overall, Zaxxon is a classic game that any true gamer should check out.

Golden Axe

A true classic of the arcade era, Golden Axe was a fantasy-themed action game that had players hacking and slashing their way through hordes of enemies on their quest to save the kingdom. Golden Axe was ahead of its time in terms of graphics and gameplay. Secondly, it had a great soundtrack which added to the overall atmosphere of the game. Finally, it was just an all-round fun game to play.

Dig Dug

One of the earliest examples of a puzzle game, Dig Dug task players with digging their way through the earth, avoiding or defeating enemies along the way. The player controls the titular character, who must clear each stage by defeating all of the monsters. Dig Dug is notable for its use of a pump as a weapon, which allows the player to inflate and eventually burst enemies.

While it may not be as well-known as some other games from the 80s, Dig Dug is one of the best examples of the early puzzle genre. With its simple but addictive gameplay, Dig Dug is a game that can be enjoyed by players of all ages. If you’re looking for a fun and challenging game to play, be sure to check out Dig Dug!


A true classic of the arcade era, Tron was a cutting-edge game that featured cutting-edge graphics and gameplay that were ahead of its time. The movie tie-in game was one of the first to successfully capture the look and feel of the film it was based on, and its light cycle gameplay is as addictive and challenging as ever. While it may not be as well-known as some of its contemporaries, Tron is a true classic that deserves to be remembered.

Pole Position

One of the earliest examples of a racing game, Pole Position put players behind the wheel of a Formula One race car as they raced to beat the clock around a virtual track. The game was so popular that it spawned a number of sequels over the years. Why was Pole Position so popular? For one, it was one of the first racing games to feature realistic graphics. At a time when most video games were still made up of simple pixelated sprites, Pole Position’s track and cars looked like they could have been pulled straight from a television broadcast.

In addition to its cutting-edge graphics, Pole Position also featured a unique gameplay mechanic that allowed players to “qualify” for the main race by completing a lap in a certain amount of time. This added an extra layer of challenge and excitement to the game, as players had to not only race against the clock but also their opponents.

Pole Position is often cited as one of the best games of the 1980s, and it’s easy to see why. With its groundbreaking graphics and gameplay, Pole Position set the standard for racing games that would come after it.


Tetris is a tile-matching puzzle video game originally designed and programmed by Soviet game designer Alexey Pajitnov in 1984. It was released in June 1985, while he was working for the Dorodnicyn Computing Centre of the Academy of Science of the USSR in Moscow. The first commercially available game version was published by Spectrum HoloByte for the Commodore 64 and IBM PC in 1986. The game is a popular electronic game of the 1980s and was one of the earliest arcade video games as well as one of the most popular video games of all time.


was released in 1980 by Atari and is one of the earliest examples of a vertically scrolling shooter. The player controls a spaceship at the bottom of the screen, shooting at enemies that come down from the top. The titular centipede is made up of many smaller creatures, each worth a different number of points.

The game was revolutionary for its time, and its simple gameplay is still addictive today. The player must carefully maneuver their ship to avoid enemies and shoot them down before they reach the bottom of the screen. Centipede is one of the most fondly remembered games of the early 80s, and it’s easy to see why.

Double Dragon

Double Dragon is a classic beat-em-up game that features two brothers, Billy and Jimmy Lee, as they fight their way through the streets of New York to save Marian, Jimmy’s girlfriend who has been kidnapped by the Black Warriors gang. The game was released in 1987 and became an instant classic. It was one of the first games to feature co-operative multiplayer, allowing two players to team up and fight through the game together. Double Dragon is an essential part of any 80s gamer’s collection and is still just as fun to play today as it was back then.

Robotron: 2084

Robotron: 2084 set the stage for hits such as Smash TV and Super Smash TV. For numerous reasons, it paved the way for these hectic shooters and became an instant hit. Firstly, it is an incredibly fast-paced and intense game that requires quick reflexes and sharp shooting. Secondly, the game is set in a post-apocalyptic world that is unlike anything else at the time. Thirdly, the soundtrack is absolutely fantastic and really helps to set the mood and atmosphere of the game. Finally, it is just an incredibly fun game to play and is still enjoyable today.


Joust is an arcade game released in 1982 by Williams Electronics. It is a platform game that features two-dimensional graphics. The player controls a yellow knight on a flying ostrich or pegasus and uses a lance to joust with opponents. Joust was one of the first games to use scrolling hardware, allowing for background graphics to scroll independently of the foreground. This allowed for a more immersive gaming experience and helped Joust to stand out from other games of the time. The game was incredibly popular in the early 1980s, selling over 60,000 units. It has since been ported to numerous platforms, including home consoles and computers.

Dragon’s Lair

Dragon’s Lair was one of the first games to use laserdisc technology. The game was created by Don Bluth, who was an animator for Disney (coincidentally, there was also an animated television series). The game’s animation is amazing for its time, and it is considered a classic by many gamers. Dragons Lair is a great game for anyone who loves classic arcade games or wants to experience something new.


Tempest was one of the first vector graphics arcade video games and one of the first games to use color vector graphics. The game was released in 1981 by Atari, and it was one of the most popular games of the early 1980s. Tempest is a shoot-em-up game where the player controls a spaceship that is trying to destroy enemy ships. The game is set on a three-dimensional surface, and the player can move the ship around the surface to avoid enemy fire.

The player can also use power-ups to help destroy the enemy ships. Tempest was one of the first games to use multiple levels, and it was also one of the first games to allow the player to continue from a previous game. The game was very popular, and it was ported to many different platforms. Tempest is one of the best games of the early 1980s, and it is still a great game today.

Ikari Warriors

Ikari Warriors was released in 1986 and was an instant hit. The game features two players working together to progress through various stages, each with their own unique challenges. The graphics and soundtrack are amazing for the time, and the game is just as challenging and fun today as it was back then. Ikari Warriors was one of the first games to feature two-player cooperative play, and it was an absolute blast to play with a friend. Even today, Ikari Warriors is considered one of the best games ever made.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (TMNT) is widely considered one of the most recognizable games of the 80s. The game was released in 1989 by Konami and was an instant hit with gamers. The game is set in New York City and follows the adventures of four teenage mutant ninja turtles as they fight crime and battle evil forces. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game is a side-scrolling action game that allows players to control one of the four turtles. Each turtle has its own unique weapons and abilities. The game is divided into levels, each with its own objective. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game was a huge success when it was released and is still considered one of the best games of the 80s.


Outrun is one of the best arcade driving games of the 80s for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it was one of the first driving games to offer true freedom of choice. Rather than being confined to a set track, players could choose their own route through each stage. This gave Outrun an unparalleled sense of exploration, making it feel like a truly open-world game.

Secondly, Outrun featured some of the best music of any game at the time. The catchy synth-pop tunes perfectly captured the feeling of cruising down the open road, and are still just as catchy today. Finally, Outrun was simply a blast to play. Its arcade-style gameplay was easy to pick up but hard to master, and its colorful visuals and tight controls made it a joy to play from start to finish.

Operation Wolf

Operation Wolf is a rail shooter arcade game released by Taito in 1987. The player takes control of a special forces operative who must rescue hostages from a jungle prison camp. The game is notable for its use of live-action footage, which was used to create a realistic and immersive experience. Operation Wolf was one of the first games to use this technique and was highly successful. The game was so popular that it spawned a number of sequels and ports to other platforms. Operation Wolf is one of the best games of the 80s and is still fondly remembered by gamers today.


These are just a few of the best games the arcade game industry produced in the 80s. While there are many other great games, these twenty really stand out as classics that any gamer should check out. So head to your local arcade (or your home arcade!), because it’s time to relive some of the best gaming experiences of the 80s! Thanks