Arcade Game of the Year – 1996

This was a really tough year to select a top 5. There were almost 15 that I had that I REALLY wanted to be in the top 5 and pruning them down was especially tough. You’re going to see a lot more 3D as the years go on, which isn’t always a good thing as you’ll find out. All the same, these top 5 are ones you especially need to check out, although there are a lot of great runner ups this year. There are 115 games this year, so let’s do this!

#5 – San Francisco Rush – Extreme Racing

Some people aren’t going to agree with this one, but I love this game. I’m not normally a huge racing fan, especially when, at first glance, it just looks like a standard racer…but oh you would be so very wrong. Rush has a ridiculous amount of physics and ludicrous shortcuts going for it, some of which you pretty much improvise as you go along. The ports and sequels were ridiculously fun as well and paved the way for more fun, open world racing games in the future.

#4 – Osman

This is the oddball and it’s here for good reason. The original creator of Strider created this both as an unofficial sequel to Strider and a big fuck you to Capcom since he had left the company. The game is crazy, over the top, lauded with all kinds of Engrish, and is an absolute joy to play. This is one of the most criminally overlooked titles that is not only an underdog, but a DAMN fine game. Definitely worth your time if you ever come across it.

#3 – Metal Slug

Metal Slug, what can you say? It’s Contra on crack. What, I need to say more? Really? This is one of the most frantic, over the top shooters you will ever play, period. And of course, it spawned a retarded amount of sequels, spin-offs, and so many other games that attempted to reduplicate its formula with limited success. The animation, graphics, sound, and music are all top notch. It is a perfect shooter.

#2 – Waku Waku 7

It was a tough call between either this or Art of Fighting 3. I ultimately stayed with this one not only because it’s more charming and has an uber-catchy vocalized track, but also because there are a lot of interesting features such as blow away moves, wall jumps, different types of recoveries, and so on. I think both titles are pretty well on point, but this is definitely the better of the two.

#1 – House of the Dead

This is an incredible rail shooter, though it was between this or Time Crisis. Though it is cool that you can hide behind stuff to reload in Time Crisis, I love how the enemies react to damage, the variety of enemies, and also the sheer amount of branching pathways in this title that add to the overall replay value. I’ve played this game again and again almost to the point of memorization and I STILL don’t think I’ve tackled every pathway possible.


Yes, a House of the Dead cabinet really was in a Children of the Corn movie, apparently. This was an excellent year. I was hoping to highlight some of the incredible bullet hell games that came out this year, but there were just too many games that were way better. I’m confident in my top 5, but I strongly encourage you to check out the runner ups as well. For a year that had over a hundred games come out, I’m surprised by how many I would recommend after only 5 minutes of playtime.

Runner Ups

This was also the first year for Dead or Alive and had another one of my all time favorite brawlers, Die Hard Arcade. There was even another Dungeons & Dragons game this year! It almost feels like too much awesome to be contained in just one year. If you know of any games I missed, it’s entirely possible they will show up on next year. That seems to be what keeps happening, anyway.

19XX – The War Against Destiny
Ace Driver – Victory Lap
Air Gallet
Air Attack
Alpine Racer 2
Alpine Surfer
Aqua Jet
Art of Fighting 3 – The Path of the Warrior
Back Street Soccer
Bal Cube
Bang Bang Ball
Batman Forever
Battle Garegga
Cleopatra Fortune
Crazy Fight
Cruis’n World
Dancing Eyes
Dead or Alive
Die Hard Arcade
Dungeons & Dragons – Shadow Over Mystara
Fighters’ Impact
Funky Head Boxers
Gals Panic 4
GTI Club
Hotdog Storm
Hyper Athlete
Karian Cross
Killer Instinct 2
King of Fighters ‘96
Kizuna Encounter – Super Tag Battle
Kosodate Quiz – My Angel
Last Bronx
Logic Pro
Lovely Pop Mahjong JangJang Shimasho
Magical Drop 2
Mahjong Dai Touyouken
Mahjong Seiryu Densetsu
Maximum Force
Mega Man 2 – The Power Fighters
Midnight Run – Road Fighter 2
Miss World ’96 Nude
NBA Hangtime
NBA Maximum Hangtime
Neo Drift Out – New Technology
Neo Mr. Do!
Neo Turf Masters
Ninja Master’s – Haō Ninpō Chō
Pleasure Goal – 5 on 5 Mini Soccer
Pocket Racer
Police Trainer
Princess Clara
Prop Cycle
Puyo Puyo Sun
Puzzle Bobble 3
Quiz Nanairo Dreams – Nijiirochō no Kiseki
Raiden Fighters
Rail Chase 2
Real Bout Fatal Fury Special
Red Earth
Run and Gun 2
Ryuusei Janshi Kirara Star
Salamander 2
Samurai Shodown 4 – Amakusa’s Revenge
Second Earth Gratia
Sega Ski Super G
Sega Touring Car Championship
Sexy Parodius
Side by Side
Skull Fang
Sonic the Fighters
Sonic Wings Limited
Soul Edge Ver. 2
Stadium Hero ‘96
Stakes Winner 2
Star Gladiator Episode 1 – The Final Crusade
Storm Blade
Street Fighter Alpha 2
Street Fighter EX
Super Bishi Bashi Champ
Super Dodge Ball
Super GT 24h
Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo
Super Real Mahjong PVI
Super World Stadium ‘96
Taisen Tokkae Dama
Tecmo World Soccer ‘96
Terra Diver
Time Crisis
Touki Denshou Angel Eyes
Twinkle Star Sprites
Ultimate 11 – SNK Football Championship
Ultra Balloon
Virtua Bowling
Virtua Fighter Kids
Wave Runner
Wave Shark
Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey
Winding Heat
X-Men vs. Street Fighter

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Filed under Arcade, GotY Series, Retro, Videogames

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