Historically, it’s been pretty common to see beloved arcade games ported from the retro platform to consoles. From Mortal Kombat to Pac-Man, many of the definitive arcade experiences have been remade, revamped, and rejuvenated decades after their initial launch. However, countless beloved arcade titles have never been given that same treatment. Video game history might be defined by classic arcade titles, but those throwback gems haven’t always been protected and preserved.
While not all of those games are as well-known and influential on the gaming industry as the arcade’s greatest hits, they are still memorable in their own ways. It’s doubtless that there are nostalgic fans out there still hoping for a current console iteration of these releases sometime in the future. Sadly, the fact remains that none of these titles have ever received a proper console port in their original arcade forms.
15. Jurassic Park (1994)
Jurassic Park was an arcade game largely designed to promote the iconic dinosaur movie. There have been numerous gameplay experiences set within the Jurassic Park world released since this title’s debut, many of which were eventually released for multiple platforms. Yet, this rail shooter has never been ported or adapted for home consumption.
Designed to be a cooperative experience, the arcade cabinet came with moving chairs and joysticks. Players would drive their Ford Explorer XLT tour vehicle and shoot at dinosaurs that were roaming freely. Set after the events of the film, the game certainly didn’t boast a lot in the way of narrative, but it was a unique interactive way to get closer to the movie franchise. Although sequels were developed for this arcade classic, it’s hard to ignore the impact of the original. Jurassic Park might not have broken new ground or been particularly revolutionary, but it was a slightly alternative use of a well-worn system presented in the context of a much-loved franchise.
14. Violent Storm (1993)
Violent Storm probably isn’t the first game that comes to mind when you think of Konami’s arcade titles. However, the side-scrolling beat ‘em up had a lot to offer.
Set after the dust has settled from WWIII, players are given three heroes to take to the streets: Wade, Boris, and Kyle. With each character given a unique set of attributes that allow for genuinely varied gameplay, players must fight their way through 7 levels of post-apocalyptic hell. With some intelligent and humorous animations baked into combat and a vibrant (albeit somewhat garish) visual palette to dive into, a number of intriguing creative choices were made during the development of this title that make it worth revisiting. Sadly a market decline in beat ‘em ups meant that Violent Storm never made it to consoles, nor did it become the franchise it could have been. At the very least though, check out the game’s wild retro soundtrack.
13. Dolphin Blue (2003)
Developed for the Atomiswave custom arcade board system, Dolphin Blue is one of those titles those underrated titles most people wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play. While it’s seemingly pretty rare and limited to an arcade-only version, the title really broke new ground during an era that often resisted the genre.
Dolphin Blue‘s run-and-gun elements were superb, with the fast-paced and kinetic action of the gorgeously designed title bringing a sense of enthusiastic momentum. Players controlled two dolphin-surfing heroes who wage war on pirate ships, submarine tanks, and the enemies of the vast ocean that covers this futuristic planet. While there are moments of the game that force the player into a dull and dreary backdrop on foot, the best moments of Dolphin Blue are set on the crisp blue waters of the whimsical world. There’s not a lot of skill or strategy needed to complete the title, but that doesn’t detract from the fun of it all.
12. Avengers in Galactic Storm (1995)
It seems shocking to suggest that there’s a Marvel arcade title out there that has seemingly never been given a proper port. However, that’s the case with Avengers in Galactic Storm: a fighting title that took inspiration from the Avengers and Kree narrative, Operation: Galactic Storm.
With a packed roster of memorable heroes like Captain America, Black Knight, Crystal, and Thunderstrike, the game was balanced out with an array of Kree villains that have not had particularly memorable careers. With a versus and story mode widening the gameplay opportunities, Galactic Storm’s great strength was its ability to take each classic comic character and accurately reflect their power sets within the combat mechanics. As fighting games go this is a pretty standard affair complete with all the expected animations and very basic locations to wage war in. But there is something fresh about some of the risks the game took, and the narrative elements certainly work in Galactic Storm’s favor. This is one that fans of the House of Ideas will appreciate.
11. Superman (1988)
It isn’t just Marvel who has an arcade legacy that didn’t translate to consoles. In fact, DC Comics has a couple of arcade-exclusive titles in their library (such as 1990’s Batman, based on the 1989 film). This Superman game, though, is largely inspired by the comic series, although it has taken its soundtrack and visual cues from the film series that catapulted the character into the stratosphere.
The player controls the Man of Steel through five exciting levels, defending Earth against the nefarious plans of the evil Emperor Zaas. Part beat ‘em up, part shoot ‘em up, Superman is a bit of a jack-of-all-trades title. It even boasts a bizarre co-op play system that allows allies to play as a blue Superman. Some mixed reviews at the time didn’t stop Superman’s popularity from skyrocketing, as players gleefully flew through the skies, shot lasers from their eyes, and punched through alien invaders. The variety of locations throughout the title has to be commended, but the game did limit itself with attack combo options.
10. Alien vs. Predator (1994)
Alien vs. Predator was the crossover game fans of those franchises had been waiting for. Bold and brash and based on the sci-fi sagas of the same name, the beat ‘em up allowed up to three players to get on board with the bloodshed. With the players fighting back against the invading aliens, they can take on the role of Dutch, Linn, or two versions of the Predator, in an exciting array of possibilities.
With great special effects and graphics that leap from the screen, the level design really benefited from the impressive visuals as each sequence felt as if it had genuine depth. At any one time players could be completely overwhelmed by Xenomorphs, making the title especially challenging. But Alien vs. Predator doesn’t fail to deliver on its lofty expectations. The arsenal of weapons at the player’s disposal is the crowning jewel, with the sci-fi blasters making quick work of the monstrous menaces.
9. Boogie Wings (1992)
Boogie Wings is set during WWI and puts players in the pilot seat of a range of vehicles (from automobiles to biplanes) used to fight against robotic enemies. If nothing else, this old-school scrolling shooter is pretty inventive in its use of characters and enemy types.
With a varied array of level formats and a good amount of comedy driving the fun of the piece, Boogie Wings thrives when it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Although the sound design leaves a lot to be desired, the real drawback is the learning curve that players will have to encounter. Boogie Wings might be fun and bombastic but it’s also incredibly difficult. Having to manuever between bosses and their henchmen, while repeatedly shooting and dodging incoming fire takes a skilled hand. Boogie Wings is also something of a secret Christmas game thanks to the presence of mech Santas and dangerous sleighs that are sure to send festive fans home happy.
8. Willow (1989)
Willow is inspired by and adapted from the 1998 film of the same name. This run-and-gun side scroller masterfully adds layers to the fantasy landscape while staying remarkably true to the source material. Both Willow and Madmartigan are playable at different stages of the title, with players occasionally getting to choose between those heroes in certain areas.
With six levels and a range of magical upgrades to enhance Willow’s gifts, this is a fast-paced and streamlined arcade experience that is light on enemy types but heavy on memorable moments. There’s a cartoonish quality to the graphics that really works in the game’s favor, though the sound design does occasionally dampen the gameplay. It’s surprising Willow never got to be ported to console though, as it definitely wouldn’t feel out of place alongside a modern line-up of retro-style games. The best thing about Willow is that it’s welcoming to all. You don’t need to be a fan of the film to enjoy the spectacle of the throwback.
7. Ninja Baseball Bat Man (1993)
Ninja Baseball Bat Man is exactly what it says it is. It’s a game based around a set of silly baseball-themed protagonists with impressive combat skills. It tasks players with taking on beat-em-up challengers to reclaim artifacts from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Yes, seriously.
While the boss battles are tremendous, what ensures this game hits a home run is the dedication to the playable roster of characters. Captain Jose, Twinbats Ryno, Beanball Roger, and Stick Straw round out a cast of well-designed figures, each of which boasts their own combos and special moves. It’s fascinating to see the gameplay mechanics in action, with the player’s move set expanding the lower their health becomes. The best way to play is thus on the verge of a game over, upping the ante each time a player pushes through to the next level. The sheer chaos of what’s happening on screen can be overwhelming, but inventive and vividly detailed in its world-building, it’s a genuine shame that Ninja Baseball Bat Man hasn’t been allowed to have a life outside of its arcade origins.
6. Mario Kart Arcade GP (2005)
The Mario Kart Arcade GP series has never been ported to consoles, nor does it quite reflect the traditional setup of the brand. While the premise is largely the same (well-known video game characters are pitted against one another in thrilling and fast-paced races), the roster is notably different.
Alongside the playable characters from the N64 iteration, this arcade variation boasted Namco characters like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, and Blinky. The surprise crossover began a wave of other spinoffs in the Arcade GP series, with later sequels including Mametchi from Tamagotchi, Don-Chan from Master of the Drums, and a franchise first appearance from Walguii. Stellar graphics and a wacky control system elevate the Mario Kart experience in this format, and it pays plenty of homage to past releases from the Mario Kart series. This is one for the hardcore fans to hunt down.
5. Rave Racer (1995)
There are few arcade racing games that are quite as important to the history of the genre as Rave Racer. Although it was the third entry into the Ridge Racer saga, it was arguably the greatest. With a refined gameplay system thanks, in part, to the updated hardware, Rave Racer ultimately went bigger and better.
More courses, further track options within the courses, feedback steering, better handling, and grander graphics all contributed to a step up for the series. With players pushing to complete the courses within the time limit, the arcade nature of the multiplayer experience encouraged competition as fans hoped to earn the high score. The noise of the game is unlike anything else in the arcade era, thanks to a stunning soundtrack complimented by the detailed sound design of the motorsport. Hugely popular and integral to encouraging other arcade games to focus on a different kind of racing experience, Rave Racer needs to protect its legacy with a console port.
4. WWF WrestleFest (1991)
Every wrestling fan has a sense of nostalgia for a specific video game title from their past. While the likes of WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2011 or WWF No Mercy are likely to make ‘best of’ lists, WWF WrestleFest is a particularly beloved throwback which strengthened the WWF/WWE brand at the time of its release. The sequel to WWF Superstars, WrestleFest had to go above and beyond its predecessor, boasting an updated roster of superstars and a tighter gameplay system.
The title relied on a fighting style approach to its combat rather than the sim variation commonly seen today. With the option to add up to 4 players to a match, the game was prominently known for its Saturday Night’s Main Event tag team wrestling, with double moves and comebacks reflecting the tropes of the popular sport. Although it wasn’t without its flaws, WWF WrestleFest’s varied gameplay modes encouraged both competition and endless replayability. Its great strength was ultimately the unique, character-focused animations that captured the essence of the wrestlers fans had watched on screen. The poorly handled “modernized” remake of this game couldn’t come close to replicating its magic.
3. Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (1998)
SEGA AM Annex
Star Wars Trilogy Arcade is a beloved and well-known rail shooter, which continues to pop up in Barcades and retro gaming rooms across the world. A representation of the entire LucasFilm trilogy in glorious 3D detail, the game has yet to find a home on consoles probably due to the unique cabinet setup.
The cabinet’s larger built-in chair and complex joysticks emphasized the immersion of the experience. Players got to shoot their way through the Death Star run, battle against AT-ATs on Hoth, and face down Boba Fett on Tatooine in a game that tried its best to hit all the major beats from the films. It was frenetic and endlessly entertaining, albeit perhaps more challenging than first expected. With heaps of replayability and a gorgeous use of the hugely renowned musical score, this title was likely one of many young fans’ first Star Wars gaming experiences. It deserves to live on.
2. Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (1993)
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs represents one of the strangest combinations of concepts ever seen in an arcade game. The title, which is based on the comic series of the same name, is a genuine cult classic, which has stood the test of time despite never getting ported to consoles. With co-op play becoming the best way to experience the antics of the erratic game, up to three players can join in on the motor mayhem.
The four playable characters available are well-balanced, but the joy of the side-scrolling beat-em-up isn’t in the button-mashy gameplay. It’s found instead in the variety of settings, enemy types, and gameplay mechanics. One minute a player might be chasing down the enemy in a souped-up Cadillac, the next they could be kicking down a mutated, monstrous dinobeast. It’s imaginative arcade gaming at its finest and certainly of its time. With a strong narrative that naturally takes players through each level, it’s only the difficulty level that might act as a drawback for some fans.
1. Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder (1992)
Revenge of Death Adder was the sequel to the original Golden Axe game: a cult classic that has received a fair share of console ports. Revenge of Death Adder was never so lucky, remaining an arcade exclusive to this day and getting replaced on consoles with Golden Axe II which was designed for the SEGA Genesis.
With a cornucopia of playable characters such as Stern Blade the Barbarian, Goah the Giant, and Little Trix among others, Revenge of Death Adder really didn’t miss a step from its predecessor. With a killer soundtrack and inventive fantasy visuals, the beat ’em up is a good showcase of the genre’s strengths. There might have been a little tweaking to the gameplay system especially when it came to power ups, the sequel was smoother than the original and just as narratively entertaining. There’s an argument to be made that this is the best in the series, and the climatic final confrontation is certainly evidence of that.