If you’ve been reading this blog for some time, you’re well aware I love me some arcade games. Before I was writing about them here on DownStab, I was writing about them exclusively on Tumblr, collecting photographs from arcades I’d visit, posting about games, talking with folks about games, and in general celebrating arcade gaming. With the migration from Tumblr some 5’ish years back, I’ve collected all things DownStab to this one blog, which makes sense logistically.
What doesn’t make sense to me though are the
dozens hundreds thousands of games seemingly stuck in the arcades that never saw a home port. We’re not talking games that had an arcade port to things like the SNES that weren’t nearly as good as the arcade version (I’m looking at you SNES Final Fight). We’re also not talking about the games that had an eventual port in a compilation game; those are actually awesome and I wish we’d see more publishers do this, except without the money grubbing greediness of releasing a 30 year old arcade game for like $10 a pop.
What we’re talking about today are arcade games that never saw a release outside of the arcade. Games you could only have played (legitimately) if you found a huge cabinet of it somewhere in the world, like your favorite pizza place or shopping mall. Some of these are games that didn’t even see an official release at all, only staying in a prototype that never saw any release, arcade or otherwise. And lastly, while I’m sure there are plenty of more worthy or deserving games needing a port, these are the games I would personally love to play that I simply cannot. So here we go!
Alien vs. Predator (Capcom – 1994)
We’re going to talk about a lot of beat’em ups here, and that really shouldn’t surprise anyone. The early 90s were well known for the genre, and that’s right when I was growing up and playing games. As someone who loved the likes of X-Men and Final Fight, you bet I was excited to see a Capcom developed Aliens vs. Predators game that even let you be a freaking Predator fighting against the Xenomorph armies. Traditional Capcom side scrolling gameplay and pristine visual stylings made this one an arcade favorite.
Sadly, we’re also going to see a lot of reasoning behind games not being ported likely due to distribution rights. And though Capcom, the Alien franchise, and the Predator franchise are all chugging along near 30 years later, the idea of this collaboration and crossover title being re-released is very unlikely.
Primal Rage II (Atari – 1997*)
Adding an asterisk to this one, as although the game never saw an official release, there is technically a playable arcade prototype out there over at Galloping Ghost. And seeing as that’s likely where that’s going to stay for the foreseeable future, we’re likely not going to get this one at all. With that in mind, I feel pretty blessed to have even been able to play it!
Primal Rage II is a fighting game, just like the first game, but instead of playing as dinosaurs and giant apes, you’re playing as avatars that represent these deities. The changing landscape at the time of release (around 1995/1996) combined with other factors to keep this one from coming out. And honestly, seeing the gameplay, and removing the dinosaurs, which made the original game stand out, wasn’t the right choice in my mind. Still though, I’d love to see this one fully fleshed out, and in the hands of players.
Virtua Cop 3 (Sega – 2003)
While writing a collection post over on Instagram, I stumbled across Sega’s third Virtua Cop game that never left arcades. I was pretty shocked, considering the light-gun shooting series is fairly synonymous with Sega’s brand, and even saw significant representation and success on the Sega Saturn home console. Yet Virtua Cop 3 stayed in arcades. And it’s in the company of others on this list that I haven’t had the fortune of ever playing: I’ve never even seen this game in arcades, at least that I can recall, and cannot talk about the quality. It seems like the visuals improved from the release of the first game, and I’d like to assume the gameplay quality remained high too. Maybe one of these days we’ll see a Switch port as part of the Virtua Cop Collection. One can dream.
Jurassic Park (Sega – 1993)
Keeping things with Sega but taking a step back 10 years we’re looking at Jurassic Park. This one is somewhat confusing, as there are simply put a ton of games called plainly “Jurassic Park”. There’s even a couple arcade games called Jurassic Park. But we’re not talking about the Raw Thrills game or even the redemption game or the pinball game. We’re talking about the on-rails shooter, that had a sit-down cabinet variation from Sega. This one was super wild, and has you committing mass extinctions on all sorts of dinosaurs. Remember how in the movie they were worried about a dead Triceratops? Well in this game you’ll literally blast away dozens of them with no remorse. And it was awesome! And it was only in the arcades, which is a real shame, because it’s just the time of zany action I love in my video games.
Ninja Baseball Bat Man (Irem – 1993)
Speaking of zany action, let’s talk about Ninja Baseball Bat Man. Aside from having one of the best titles in video games, this side scrolling beat’em up is bright, fun, and plays well to this day. There’s a bit of notoriety to this one, so some arcades that have an owner that knows games might have this one propped up in the corner next to X-Men and The Simpsons. It looks a bit dated compared to other games of the time, but what it lacks in visuals it makes up in style. Baseball puns are everywhere, enemies are literal robot baseball gloves and bats, and you’re a, well, ninja baseball man that carries a baseball bat. It’s wacky, it’s funny, and it would be right at home as a co-op multiplayer game.
Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa (Konami – 1992)
Usually called the unknown sequel to Sunset Riders, Wild West C.O.W. Boys of Moo Mesa is an arcade adaptation of the 90s children’s TV series of the same name. Like Sunset Riders, this game has you moving (mooving?) across the screen while also aiming your gun, shooting down bad guys and defeating a large boss at the end of each stage. Unlike Sunset Riders, Moo Mesa has a much more cartoony appearance, and to me it’s so much better for it. I would assume licensing issues hurt this one’s chances of making it to a home console. Also, I don’t know how big the brand was: I only know of it because of this arcade game, and I’d assume many of you reading this now are in the same boat. Regardless, a fun game you should try to play if you see at your arcade.
Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder (Sega – 1992*)
Golden Axe is one of the most popular beat’em ups of the late 80s and early 90s, and while the series saw huge success on the Sega Genesis/Mega Drive console, it’s roots were in the arcade. That extends to the game many of us likely never played: Golden Axe: Revenge of Death Adder, a direct sequel to the original Golden Axe that never left the arcades. The Genesis did get a Golden Axe II, but that game was more like a sequel to the Genesis game and not the arcade game. Anyway, history lesson aside, Revenge of Death Adder is a wonderful improvement over the original game, visually and gameplay-wise, and is probably the best game in the series. There’s a small asterisk here though, as Arcade 1up’s recent Golden Axe release did bring home this arcade exclusive. But it’s still technically in the form of an arcade cabinet, so I’m not really sure it counts? But at least it’s something!
Cadillacs and Dinosaurs (Capcom – 1993)
Often cited as one of Capcom’s better beat’em ups that never left the arcades, Cadillacs and Dinosaurs is based off the animated series of the same name, which was itself based off the comic book series Xenozoic Tales. I never read those comics nor watched the TV series, but I did enjoy me some arcade action once. And it was just once, and even then I feel my memory might not be serving me well. Large sprites, 3-player co-op, sweet cars to drive around in, and yes, even dinosaurs: what more could you ask for? I fear, like others on this list, the game will be locked behind a distribution rights issue, meaning we won’t likely see this one ported at all. Who would be fighting over the rights for Cadillacs and Dinosaurs I have no idea, but I would bet it’s how these things go.
Tattoo Assassins (Data East – 1994*)
Sort of like Primal Rage II above, this game is also a fighting game that technically never released, but had a completely finished build released as a prototype of sorts, which even had full fledged arcade cabinets. Tattoo Assassins was touted as a Mortal Kombat inspired fighting game. It featured digitized actors, special moves, and even fatalities. Storywise the combatants would use their magical tattoos to perform special moves and the “fatalities”, but honestly the whole thing is just a giant mess. You can pretty easily find gameplay of this out there, and if you’re at Galloping Ghost you can try it there with Rage II. But a home port would be amazing. The whole controversy of the game being too raunchy would not even be a thing nowadays. I’d dare to say the game would just be laughed at for how ridiculous and silly it is. Whoever has the rights to this game should release this meme fighter upon the world.
Metamorphic Force (Konami – 1993)
Easily one of the game’s I’d like to play through most, Metamorphic Force feels like Konami’s other beat’em ups at the time, which is very high praise. Releasing in 1993 after mega hits like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, The Simpons, and X-Men, Metamorphic Force took what Konami had essentially perfect at that point and delivered to players a non-licensed brawler. The gimmick with this one is the ability to transform into your characters’ specific animal form, dealing more damage and performing new screen wiping moves. The game visually looks a lot like X-Men and plays up to four players at once. There are plenty of beat’em ups at the arcades, and Konami is damn near synonymous with the genre. I for one would love to get my hands on more of that type of game to play with friends on the couch or online.
Which games would you like to see leave the arcade? Special shoutout here to Midway’s The Grid: that be an easy one to play online with friends… but would it be good?