Gaming machines provoke an undisputed sense of nostalgia among gamers of a certain age today. However, there is an entire generation of gamers that never experienced the thrill of retro gaming machines when they were at their peak.
It was the golden age of gaming for many older enthusiasts, with arcades and casino floors brimming with mechanical and electrical gaming machines that enticed people from far and wide out of their homes to immerse and amuse themselves.
Which machines and cabinets are still revered around the world for their simplistic yet engaging gameplay? We explore five of the best types of retro gaming machines that may still be doing the rounds in a city near you.
NAMCO’s Pac-Man is undoubtedly one of the most successful retro arcade games of all time. Released in 1980, this game sold approximately 400,000 arcade cabinets worldwide. Within five years of its release, Pac-Man had generated gaming revenue of $3.5bn. In today’s money, with adjustments for inflation, that equates to almost $8bn. It’s now one of the longest-running gaming franchises of all time.
On the face of it, Pac-Man’s gameplay is almost so simplistic that it should be boring. That couldn’t be further from the truth, though, as you weave your way around the maze, helping Pac-Man to snaffle up pellets and rack up points as he goes. Pac-Man also paved the way for more women to get into retro gaming, becoming the number-one cabinet played by women.
Mechanical penny slot machines are even older than the most retro of arcade gaming cabinets. They first reared their head in the bars of New York City in the late 19th century, with patrons able to spin the reels in search of free drinks or cigars, all for the cost of a nickel per spin.
Nowadays, penny slots are still some of the most popular reel-based slot games due to their economical nature. Games can be played from as little as a penny per payline. If you don't know how to play penny slots, it’s important to take the return to player (RTP) percentage into consideration. Look out for penny slots that have an RTP of at least 95%. This means that the game is programmed to return £95 for every £100 wagered over the long term.
Taito’s Space Invaders gaming cabinet follows hot on the heels of Pac-Man as one of the most influential arcade games of all time. NASA even released their own space-themed game recently, modelled on the iconic Space Invaders franchise. Launched in 1978, this game is inspired by outer space and alien invasions of planet Earth. It’s a 2D shooter, which sees you take control of laser cannons, firing lasers to eliminate invading aliens from above.
It’s your job to move the cannons into the correct position to hit the aliens before they overrun your screen. A mystery spaceship also appears at random, bagging you additional bonus points when you blast it from the top of the screen.
Saddle up and experience life as a horseracing jockey in Final Furlong. This active horseracing arcade game is one that is guaranteed to put your thighs to the test. Released in 1997, Final Furlong sees you come up against computer-controlled horses in a one-player race or against another human-controlled horse in a two-player race.
It’s a game that really makes you appreciate how physically fit horseracing jockeys need to be. The harder you rock your plastic horse back and forth, the faster they will go on the screen. However, if you burn out yourself and your trusty steed, then you could comfortably finish the race in last place.
Asteroids was yet another space-themed arcade game which characterised the retro arcade gaming scene of the late 1970s and early 80s. Atari developed Asteroids in 1979 and promptly sold over 100,000 gaming cabinets worldwide. It was dubbed the second-best video game in the 70s by the Guardian. By 1991, this game had raked in $800m in revenue, which equates to $1.43bn today in real terms.
Unlike several other space-themed arcade games, Asteroids allows you to take full control of a spaceship, with 360-degree access, meaning you can rotate left and right and move forward towards enemy targets. Each player gets three lives, with additional lives added to your tally for every 10,000 points scored.
With retro arcade gaming becoming increasingly in vogue once again, there is every chance a town or city near you will house some of these vintage cabinets or machines for you to reminisce over, or experience what your elders considered to be the pinnacle of gaming at the time.