Only 92 games this year, but man was this a fun year. 4 out of 5 of my picks this year are games that I could literally play again and again and again. I would argue they are some of my all time favorite arcade games, period. Should be pretty obvious what they are as I go into it, but yeah. And actually, there were a fairly decent amount of cool runner ups this year, so it more than makes up for the whimper that was 1997.
#5 – Gauntlet Legends
This game is a blast to play both in the arcades and on the home ports, especially with 4 player co-op. The 3D graphics are kinda basic, but the character selection has great and definitive strengths and weaknesses, the atmosphere for each stage is on point, and you can actually level up, which is a nice treat. I still think Gauntlet 2 is my fave, but this was a great attempt to revive a classic that it itself became a classic as well.
#4 – King of Fighters ’98 – The Slugfest
This is one of my all time favorite fighters. There have been so many ports, remakes, and so on, but the original is my personal favorite. Everything is nicely balanced, the animations and graphics are wonderful, the stages are cool, the music and sounds are awesome…it IS the spirit of KoF. If you play no other King of Fighters games EVER, at least play this one. I don’t think there’s been a better one since to be completely honest.
#3 – House of the Dead 2
The original HotD is a treat to come back to again and again and the sequel capitalizes on everything that made the original great, making it 10 times better. Not only are the graphics, animations, enemy variety, locales, and so on tweaked, but the branching paths are harder to find and that much more interesting. Seriously, this is a rail shooter you could play with a walkthrough! I’ve shelled who knows how many quarters into this sucker and every time I see it, I’m compelled to spend that much more on it.
#2 – Shock Troopers – 2nd Squad
You know how Metal Slug is like Contra on crack? Well, this is like Total Carnage on crack. So yes, it’s an adrenaline filled, ridiculously over the top, overhead shooting masterpiece taken to the nth degree. This game is fucking amazing and literally every aspect of it is dripping in style. It’s also a criminally overlooked shooter as most people associate shooter + neo geo with Metal Slug and very little else.
#1 – Dance Dance Revolution
2 years after the original DDR surfaced in Japan, I discovered my first cabinet in Easton, Ohio. This game literally changed my life. I would watch clips to get better, play around with the Stepmania trainer, work out…all just to get better at the game. It’s what turned me on to dancing and in general rhythm games altogether. DDR was and still is one of my all time favorite arcade games that I still find an excuse to play from time to time if anything just to get in some good exercise.
Nah, I’m not as good as the DDRers in the video (though I was pretty close once upon a time), however it’s a game you absolutely must play, even if you’re an uncoordinated fuck. Maybe you’ll hate it, but maybe you’ll find something you like about it and it will encourage you to get in shape like it did with me. And hey, even if you hate it, there are always the other entries in the top 5 to play if you get winded.
There are a lot of great shooters this year and most of them are bullet hell titles, which started becoming more popular around this time in gaming history. You’ll also see a definite rise in music/rhythm games as time goes on, probably because of the immense popularity of DDR. What you’ll also see, unfortunately, is a drop in sprite-based games as developers start flocking toward 3D-based games which, while not necessarily a bad thing, aren’t always executed well, especially by developers that aren’t well trained in 3D tech.
Area 51 – Site 4
Armed Police Batrider
Asura Blade – Sword of Dynasty
Battle Flip Shot
Beast Busters – Second Nightmare
BeatMania 2nd Mix
BeatMania 3rd Mix
Billiard Academy Real Break
Bloody Roar 2 – Bringer of the New Age
Cotton Boomerang – Magical Night Dreams
Cyber Troopers Virtual-On – Oratorio Tangram
Cyvern – The Dragon Weapons
Daraku Tenshi – The Fallen Angels
Daytona USA 2
Dead or Alive ++
Fighting Vipers 2
Fisherman’s Bait – Marlin Challenge
Golden Tee ‘98
Kosodate Quiz My Angel 3
L.A. Machineguns – Rage of the Machines
Last Blade 2
Mahjong Reach Ippatsu
Marvel vs. Capcom – Clash of the Super Heroes
Metal Slug 2
Nagano Winter Olympics ‘98
NBA Play by Play
Neo Geo Cup ’98 – The Road to the Victory
NFL Blitz ‘99
Paca Paca Passion
Pachinko Sexy Reaction
Plasma Sword – Nightmare of Bilstein
Psychic Force 2012
Quake – Arcade Tournament Edition
Raiden Fighters Jet
Real Bout Fatal Fury 2 – The Newcomers
Sea Bass Fishing
Sega Rally 2 Championship
Sen Jin – Guardian Storm
Star Wars Trilogy Arcade
Steep Slope Sliders
Street Fighter Alpha 3
Street Fighter EX 2
Super World Stadium ‘98
Taisen Hot Gimmick Kairakuten
Tetris – The Grand Master
Virtua Striker 2 Version ‘98
Zero Point 2