While no longer the height of arcade mania, the 1990s still proved to be an exciting decade for arcade games.
Throughout the '90s, arcade machines continued to hold popular sway with gamers. Arcade machines offered large displays, high-resolutions, and lightning fast gameplay - something that home consoles still hadn’t been able to offer.
The decade also saw some tremendous arcade hits. For this reason, many gamers look back fondly at the arcades of that era. So let’s take a quick look back and revisit the top ten best arcade games of the 90s.
10. NBA Jam (1993)
The 90s were an important decade for basketball. Huge superstars like Michael Jordan helped raise the sport’s profile with their incredible on-court abilities. NBA Jam, released in 1993 by Midway, embodied the 90s fervor and excitement for the sport.
Photorealistic digitized graphics and exciting gameplay helped to make NBA Jam an instant success for arcade goers. Instead of a serious approach to the sport, the game set itself apart from others by offering players an over-the-top basketball experience.
NBA Jam allowed players to slam dunk on their opponents, drive the ball down court in aggressive displays of skill, and jockey for position under the net.
Skilled players who could sink consecutive baskets could even grace the courts dribbling an iconic flaming basketball with the ringside announcer declaring “he’s on fire!” If ever there was an arcade love letter to basketball, it was NBA Jam.
9. Crazy Taxi (1999)
Crazy Taxi, released in 1999 by Sega, was another over-the-top, fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants arcade hit. Unlike other racing games of the time, Crazy Taxi put players in the role of a taxi driver, cruising around town looking for fares.
The main objective was to pick up a fare and get them to their destination as quickly as possible. Players could wrack up additional points by weaving between cars, dodging oncoming vehicles, getting their fare to their destination under the time limit.
Its fast-paced gameplay, colorful graphics, and memorable soundtrack made Crazy Taxi a huge hit. It’s a beloved series that continues to entertain gamers today.
8. Dance Dance Revolution (1998)
Love it or hate it, there is no denying Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) was an international hit after its initial Japanese debut in the late 90s. DDR took the world by storm.
In DDR players must step on colored arrows in time to visual cues synchronized in-time with fast-paced electronic music. Despite a deceptively simple design, Dance Dance Revolution is a pulse-pounding challenge that continues to draw players to this day.
The immense popularity of the game helped to spur rhythm games into the mainstream. Today’s motion-based dance games and musical party games owe a debt of gratitude to the success of DDR.
7. Metal Slug (1996)
With a unique comedic art style and challenging side-scrolling shoot-em-up gameplay, Metal Slug is a highly regarded arcade game series. Originally developed by Nazca Corporation and released to arcades in 1996, Metal Slug provided players with a frantic run-and-gun experience.
While challenging, Metal Slug was highly regarded for its straightforward, responsive controls and unique boss fights. Alongside its gameplay, it was also praised for its graphics. Even today, the original Metal Slug is one 90s arcade game that has aged incredibly well.
As an exemplar of the shoot-em-up genre, the original game went on to spawn a number of ports and sequels. The series most recent installment, Metal Slug XX, was released in 2009.
6. Aqua Jet (1996)
More of a forgotten gem than a widely remembered arcade sensation, Namco’s Aqua Jet is nonetheless a masterpiece of 90s arcade gaming.
Its bright, early polygonal graphics, pulsing soundtrack, tight controls, and unique cabinet design make it a standout of 90s arcade machines. Aqua Jet provided players with an outstanding, immersive gaming experience. Handing players the controls of a jet ski and allowing them to cut through simulated waves at breakneck speeds, was an absolute rush.
While rarely receiving the credit or attention that it deserves, we think its stellar design and aesthetic epitomize the 90s arcade experience.
5. Daytona USA (1993)
While Sega’s hit game Out Run helped pioneer arcade racers in the 80s, Daytona USA, released in ‘93, was the next major evolution for arcade racers.
Inspired by the popularity of stock car racing, like NASCAR, Daytona USA put players in the role of a race car driver. It features incredibly realistic graphics for its time and pedal-to-the-metal racing that impressed both arcade goers and game critics.
Daytona USA has stood the test of time, with multiple publications naming it among the greatest games of all time. Despite approaching 30 years old, many gamers fondly remember the pure adrenaline racing of Daytona USA.
4. X-Men (1992)
If you were a kid in the 90s you can probably still recognize the iconic theme song from X-Men: The Animated Series. And you probably also spent a lot of time playing Konami’s arcade hit X-Men.
Released right around the same time as the debut of the cartoon, Konami’s X-Men arcade game featured the titular team battling Magneto and other mutants in bright, colorful graphics, crisp sprite work, and smooth animations.
X-Men is regarded as a standout of the beat-em-up genre of arcade games that was popular throughout the 90s. With simple controls, unique gameplay for each character, and challenging boss fights, it's still popular among fans of the series and gamers.
3. Mortal Kombat
Few games encapsulate the 90s and gaming as well as Mortal Kombat. The original entry into the long-running series was released in 1992 by Midway.
Featuring digitized graphics and gratuitous violence, Mortal Kombat was equal parts smash hit and controversy. In spite of any initial controversy, the series was a monumental success in the arcades and continues to rank among the most popular fighting video games.
With its most recent release, Mortal Kombat 11, in 2019, the series has been thrilling fans for almost three decades. And like many great gaming series, it all started in the arcade of the 90s.
2. The House of The Dead (1996)
While not the first light gun rail shooter to enter the arcades, Sega’s The House of The Dead was a quintessential 90s arcade game.
Its dark, gothic European setting, grim graphics and zombified test subjects made for a shooter experience unlike any other. Built on Sega’s Virtua Cop engine, The House of The Dead has been praised for its branching narrative, interactive environments, and challenging shooter gameplay.
Released within a few months of Capcom’s equally popular Resident Evil, The House of The Dead ushered in an era of zombie-crazed media - from books, movies, and video games - that is still shambling on today.
1. Street Fighter 2 (1991)
There is no question that the biggest arcade hit of the 90s was Capcom’s Street Fighter 2. When this game popped up in arcades in 1991, it took the world by storm.
While it wasn’t the first 2D fighting game, Street Fighter 2 quickly became the gold standard. Tight controls, expansive move lists, and reflex-heavy gameplay cemented it as an arcade staple. Oftentimes with players would form lines to play, and the best players drawing in gawking crowds.
To date, Street Fighter 2 has sold more than 200,000 arcade cabinets. Combined these cabinets are estimated to have generated around $10 billion in revenue, making Street Fighter 2 the highest grossing arcade games of all time.
As a video game series, Street Fighter has been a mainstay of gaming for decades. And the game that started it all is still a staple of any arcade.
Shop Online For 90s Arcade Games With M&P Amusement
At M&P Amusement, we have a passion for arcade games new and old. That’s why we offer a wide selection of 90s arcade games for sale. Our team of technicians carefully restore each used machine to beautiful, fully working condition.
Shopping through our selection of games you’ll find some of the biggest arcade hits of the 1990s. These games make the perfect addition to your amusement venue or home arcade.