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Syzygy1

Arcades in the 90s

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My friend Martha just told me about what her local arcade used to be like in the 90s.

 

"I went from 1992 to 2003, when it closed up. Its glory days were in the mid to late 90s. The lights were dim, it smelled of smoke, and of course, there were lots of games. There was a token dispenser and ticket eater at the entrance and they would give you tokens if you did well in school. There were all sorts of genres: regular arcade machines, pinball, redemption games, and what have you not. Some games I remember being there were Street Fighter II, The Simpsons, Star Wars Episode I Racer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, NARC, Bad Dudes vs. Dragon Ninja, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs, Rolling Thunder, Sonic Championship, Spider Stompin', Spider Splattin', AAAH! Real Monsters, Hydro Thunder, Arctic Thunder, Offroad Thunder, The Ocean Hunter, Mortal Kombat 4, some classic games like Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Frogger, Galaga, Donkey Kong, Mario Bros., etc., Speed Racer, SegaSonic the Hedgehog, RoadBlasters, Wacky Gator, Feed Big Bertha, Skee-Ball, PlayChoice 10 (forgot which), Mega Man: The Power Battle, Act-Fancer: Cybernetic Hyper Weapon, X-Multiply, R-Type, Life Force, Virtua Fighter, Daytona USA, Superman, Nemo, X-Men, Dance Dance Revolution, and Captain America and the Avengers. 

 

Of course, it had music. Here are some of the songs I remember playing in there:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

That's all I can remember. But it was so awesome."

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"Some more games: Marvel vs. Capcom, Marvel vs. Capcom 2, X-Men vs. Street Fighter, X-Men: Children of the Atom, Marvel Super Heroes, TMNT Turtles in Time, Marvel Super Heroes vs. Street Fighter, some redemption machines I forget the name of, House of the Dead, Time Crisis, Time Crisis 2, Crisis Zone, Pac-Mania, Tekken, Tekken 2, Tekken 3, Tekken Tag Tournament, Tekken 4, Soul Edge, Soulcalibur, lots of fighting games like that. There was a Batman kiddie ride near the kids games, it was like the Batmobile or something. I loved that as a kid who was a big fan of Batman.

 

Some more songs that I remember played there...

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Again, that's all for now."

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I was a pre-teen in the early '90s when I went to my first arcade.  My parents didn't let me go to them when I was younger because they said they had a reputation for catering to drug users and problem kids.  In the early-to-mid '90s, I remember the fighting games being the real draw:  Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct were the ones I remember most.  The other type of game that seemed to be much better in the arcades than on home systems were the beat 'em ups, especially the Ninja Turtles games.

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Arcades in the '90s were pretty much my life since I worked in them from '93 to 2000. I worked in several different arcades on the Las Vegas Strip. We would get all the latest games including rare machines like Galaxian 3 Theater which was the size of a garage and cost as much as a house. The most popular games we had were the racing games like Daytona or the Cruisin' USA & Cruisin' World. Fighting games were very popular too and I would give tips and tricks to kids. I was a pro at all the fighting games (and all the other games) and would challenge kids by playing blind folded or one handed and win. We pretty much had all the popular fighting games with all the Street Fighter games including Street Fighter The Movie and the SF: Alpha games all the way up to all the SF3 games. We also had all the Mortal Kombat games, a bunch of other Capcom fighters, Virtua Fighter 1-3, Primal Rage, etc... The older classic games we had on rotation as well as all the pinball machines.  Shooting games did well, also, like Virtua Cop and Area 51.

 

The arcades were mostly filled with tourists but there were some regulars. In the middle of the week I would do my major cleaning with the help of some kids. I would let them keep all the tokens they found in return for helping me clean. I also had some other perks like getting to watch movies being filmed on the strip like Vegas Vacation, Mars Attacks, and Con Air. I was invited to be an extra on a couple of them but turned them down. I didn't get to see any of the big stars but I did meet some of the other actors and crew when they'd come into the arcade. They'd ask for a few free games then tip me for more than what they played. It was fun times working at all those arcades. The pay wasn't the best but it was probably one of my most favorite jobs.

 

 

 

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By the late-1990s, I was largely over arcade games. I remember the few remaining establishments being dominated by redemption games and games with huge, specialized controllers that could not reasonably be ported to the home market. Dancing games were seemingly huge -- at least they were prominently placed near the entrance. 

 

One of the last arcades (other than the small handful of classic games at the Greyhound bus depot -- now closed -- and the even smaller handful still at the airport) largely transitioned into a PC game room. It lasted until about 2004 or 2005. 

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