What’s vintage arcade gaming?

Print anything with Printful

Vintage arcade games, including pinball machines, shooting galleries, and first-generation video games, were popular in amusement parks and arcades. Some have been revamped for private use, while others are valued for their aesthetics. Some vintage arcade games were modified to fit popular culture during wartime. Pinball machines and early video games such as Pong and Pac-Man are highly regarded by collectors and enthusiasts for their nostalgia.

The term vintage arcade games covers a broad spectrum of mechanical and electronic devices popularized in amusement parks and street arcades. Pinball machines, Skee-Ball arcades, shooting galleries, fortune machines, and even first-generation video games all qualify as vintage arcade games for collectors. Some vintage arcade games have been revamped for use in private homes or offices, while others are valued more for their story or aesthetics than their gameplay. Some are still in active use in arcades around the world.

Some vintage arcade games aren’t games at all, but more like novelty toys. Fortune machines with early animatronics provided users with a printed fortune card and a few minutes of charm as the mechanical gypsy blinked and breathed as she moved her head and hands. Other machines tested the user’s strength or sex appeal through a series of lights and levers.

Other vintage arcade games duplicated the actions of popular sports like bowling or golf. A player could slide a metal disc down a simulated bowling alley and cause the pins to fall through contact with sensors hidden under the pins. Golf games were usually more mechanical, allowing players to manipulate their putting positions and insert a ball bearing into selected holes. Other vintage arcade games allowed players to control boxers in a ring or race horses around a track. Car racing was also a popular theme, using scrolling tracks to simulate motion.

Since many of these vintage arcade games were popular in wartime, manufacturers occasionally modified their themes to fit popular culture. During World War II, for example, some aerial shooting games incorporated anti-Japanese artwork and titles. Some of these games have been retired or destroyed, making surviving examples highly collectable. Other vintage arcade games were ordered destroyed by state legislators who called them gambling devices, not legal games of skill.

Perhaps the best known vintage arcade games are pinball machines. From their first appearance in the 1920s to their nadir in the 1970s and 1980s, original pinball machines have been a source of fascination for gamers and collectors. Once maligned as gaming machines, pinball machines survived the ups and downs of public interest until the introduction of the first generation of arcade video games. In fact, many of the video games that replaced pinball machines are now considered vintage arcade games.

First and second generation video games with titles such as Pong, Galaxian, Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Galaga are now highly regarded vintage arcade games. Many collectors of the baboom and early decades of Generation X recall playing these arcade games as teenagers or young adults. While many of these first and second generation video game titles are available for home gaming systems, some collectors and enthusiasts still prefer the ambiance and nostalgia surrounding the original vintage arcade games of their youth.

Protect your devices with Threat Protection by NordVPN

Skip to content