Everyone knows NBA Jam. It’s perhaps the most popular arcade game of all time. It’s certainly the most popular arcade sports game out there, and for good reason. The mix of basketball, insane slam dunks, and that iconic announcer made one of the best arcade games ever.
But no one really mentions Midway’s other basketball game Arch Rivals. Don’t get me wrong: if I had to choose the better basketball game (and really arcade game overall) I would pick NBA Jam. But that doesn’t mean Arch Rivals should be forgotten altogether.
Released in arcades around 1989, Arch Rivals allowed you to play 2-on-2 basketball with a friend. It also allowed you to straight up punch your opponent to steal the ball. Oh, and you had to avoid all the trash the “Fans” would throw on the court too. It’s wacky, silly, and absolutely a Midway video game.
Arch Rivals had these point transitions that would play after a team scored. They were kind of like the “End Zone” dances you’d see in football games at the time, but they were very comical. I remember seeing them in the game growing up and thinking they were so neat! It’s the small touches that make the difference, you know?
The actual Arch Rivals cabinet is pretty cool. There are newspapers on the screen overlay with absurd headlines. The control panel has that 90’s aesthetic, with word bubbles and arrows pointing at buttons (like we didn’t know what they were talking about?). I appreciate when care is put into the production of a cabinet to make it stand out. I was not alive when arcades were truly huge, but I can imagine the attraction one would have to a cabinet such as this!
Definitely not living in history like NBA Jam, Arch Rivals is still worth playing at least once. If for no other reason than to see just how far the basketball genre has come.
*Played at Galloping Ghost Arcade, Brookfield IL 2019