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A History of the Golden Age of Arcade Games

Sonic the Hedgehog originally appeared in the world in 1995, during the acid house era. But it's been nearly 40 years since the first arcade games appeared.

Since then, the world has changed, and so has the gaming business. Arcade games have come and gone, handheld consoles have appeared, died out, and then reappeared, and now mobile phones have monopolized the gaming market.

Let's take a long detailed look at where it all started and see where the games we've all grown to love came from.

Where It Started

Video games first became popular in the 1950s, but it wasn't until the 1970s that they became more ubiquitous. Coin-slot arcade games became increasingly popular when video arcade games and consoles became available. The majority of these games were shooting or racing-themed, such as Sega's Periscope and Chicago Coin's Speedway.

Between 1978 and 1982, the golden era of arcade games occurred, marking the start of the gaming console boom, with Japan creating some of the first and best video games of the time. Early video games were primarily educational and research programs, but they began to include popular board games and puzzles into the technological realm as time went on.

Rise In Popularity

Due to technological advancements and quick popularity, the Golden Age of Arcade Games is commonly recognized as the pinnacle of the arcade game business. Although the exact dates of this era are unknown, many analysts agree that it took place between 1978 and 1982.

The visuals and technology used in arcade games during the Golden Age were rather primitive than the video games we play today. The games concentrated on engaging gameplay, narratives, and memorable characters rather than spectacular graphics, music, and controls.

The arcade game business had significant revenue and popularity development between the late 70s and early 80s. These early era games are loved so much that people still want to play vintage arcade games today

In 1980, for example, the industry's total revenue had tripled to around $2.8 billion. In addition, between 1980 and 1983, the number of arcades around the world doubled.

What Made Arcade Games Successful?

What caused the rise in the popularity of arcade games during the Golden Age? Many people attribute the rapid growth of video arcades across North America, Europe, and Asia to technological advancements. Despite being primitive in comparison to today's technology, the industry's developments at the time drove gamers away from popular pinball machines and onto interactive arcade games.

The following are examples of advancements in the arcade game industry:

  • Graphics that pop
  • Color Monitors Make Their Debut
  • Innovations in Digital Audio
  • Alternative control features: trackball, buttons, joystick
  • Characters and plots

The characters and storylines in video games were one of the most significant reasons for its appeal. The well-known characters and plots drew an enormous audience of people of all ages and genders.

Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Q*Bert, and other arcade games swiftly became part of popular culture, with TV series, products, movies, and more. In addition, arcade game characters garnered a worldwide following of fans who remain devoted to their favorite characters and games to this day.

Game Play

An arcade game during the golden age had to be simple to comprehend, entertaining, and have just the perfect amount of intricacy to be successful. For example, if a game was too simple to play and players could always win, they would lose interest due to a lack of challenge.

On the other hand, if a game is challenging to comprehend and operate, players will quickly abandon it and move on to another game. During this period, many arcade games struck that perfect balance, including:

  • Pac-Man
  • Space Invaders
  • BurgerTime
  • Q*Bert
  • Mario Bros
  • Donkey Kong
  • Frogger


While developers had previously utilized color monitors in racing video games (such as Indy 800 and Speed Race Twin), it was at this time that RGB color graphics became famous, thanks to the introduction of Galaxian in 1979.

Compared to the earlier frame buffer system utilized by Space Invaders, Galaxian featured a tile-based video game graphics system that lowered processing and memory needs by up to 64 times.

The new graphic design allowed Galaxian to produce multi-color sprites that animated over a scrolling starfield backdrop, laying the groundwork for Nintendo's hardware for arcade games like Radar Scope (1980) and Donkey Kong as well as the Nintendo Entertainment System.

During the Golden Age, developers experimented with vector displays, which provided fine lines that raster displays couldn't match. Asteroids from 1979, Battlezone and Tempest from 1980, and Atari's Star Wars from 1983 were just a handful of these vector games that became massive hits.

However, due to the expensive expense of repairing vector displays, vector technology went out of favor with arcade game producers.

The Golden Age of Arcade Games spawned a slew of cultural icons, profitable businesses, a booming industry, and devoted followers, laying the groundwork for today's video games.