If you could own just one arcade cabinet, which one would it be?

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I came of age during the arcade scene resurgence of the early 90s brought on by the likes of Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and the other games that helped birth the fighting game genre we all love today. For many years, I didn’t have access to a lot of arcade machines outside of the seedy pizza shop downtown and the huge Alfy’s in the next town over. When an actual arcade opened up a 20-minute bus ride away from me, I would go every chance I got. It’s where I first got my hands on Mortal Kombat II, Time Crisis, and that old VS Super Mario Bros. cabinet.

But the Alfy’s is where I have my absolute favorite arcade experience. This pizza parlor/buffet was the happening spot after church or for birthday parties. It had roughly six arcade games, including a four-player Ivan “Ironman” Stewart’s Super Off Road cabinet. This was “the” game to play anytime you were at Alfy’s. I’m surprised the machine didn’t break more because there wasn’t a visit to the joint where the machine wasn’t constantly in use. It was my favorite, until “it” arrived.

Destructoid has written about Ninja Baseball Bat Man before. It’s an extremely rare arcade machine with less than 50 being sold in the US. How my local shop ended up with one of them I’ll never know but I’m so glad it did because Ninja Baseball Bat Man is the best arcade game I’ve ever laid my hands on.

Created by Americans with a Japanese eye for visuals, Ninja Baseball Bat Man lets up to four players control baseball players as they work together to recover artifacts stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame. It’s a splendidly dumb ’90s game concept modern games could learn a lesson from. Nothing in this game makes sense. Jose, Roger, Straw and Ryno — and I was always Ryno — are all baseball players, but America’s most boring profession sport isn’t the theme of the game. Anything goes in NBBM as you fight guys with pumpkins for heads, an emaciated dog, a possessed violin, a sentient slot machine and whatever other magic mushroom-induced enemies that manifested in the minds of Irem’s US developers. It’s balls to the window to the wall crazy and I want it.

With so few cabinets in existence, I will probably never get a chance to own one or even see one in the flesh again. But damn, if I had the opportunity to own just one arcade cabinet, this would be it.


Charlotte Cutts

Picture the scene: a grotty town in the arse end of nowhere. A bowling alley. Bright blue “slush puppies” that turned your tongue blue. A sub-par Wimpy burger bar shoved in a corner. What is this description missing? A House of the Dead arcade cabinet, of course.

My only real knowledge of arcade cabinets growing up was the Dancing Stage/DDR cabinets and The House of the Dead, and the latter was instantly made more alluring to me by the fact that it was only for the older kids and it was pretty flippin’ scary. Now, it’s schlocky fun that makes even Resident Evil seem cerebral in comparison. But if I were to own only one arcade cabinet, it would have to 1) involve light guns, ‘cos those are just a really fun time, and 2) be something completely memorable and over the top. 

The “insert coin” footage for The House of the Dead was quite creepy, if memory served correctly, so I’m not sure I’d have this cabinet plugged into the mains and looping through the video for a long period of time. But once I get my gaming room set up, when I have my own place, a HoTD cabinet would be the jewel in the crown.

Chris Moyse

I’ve been fortunate enough to have owned arcade and pinball machines in the past. There are numerous pinball games I still can’t rest until I’ve have pass through my humble abode (Bram Stoker’s Dracula being top of the list) but the one arcade cab I’d love to have is Taito’s 1988 classic, Chase H.Q.

Chase H.Q. isn’t my favourite game or even my favourite arcade, but as a kid, I loved the dedicated stand-up cab for the high-speed, road-ramming epic. It had a chunky steering wheel and pedals, plus a gear shift that pops with a satisfying clunk, complete with side-mounted “Turbo” button. With cool Miami Vice rip-off artwork, and even flashing sirens on top of the unit, it just felt badass.

As a wee nipper I thought it was “just like real driving” so I guess back then I believed you saw your own car in third-person… Huh. Ah, who cares? There are bad dudes to catch. Let’s Go, Mr. Driver.

Occams Electric Toothbrush

Being a child of the arcade generation, it’s difficult for me to pick just one. I have so many memories, so many moments built around certain games. Beat ‘em up games like The Simpsons and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will always invoke the comfortable weight of a pocket full of tokens and dull roar of dozens of cabinets singing their discordant symphony. But if I had to pick one that I hold nearest and dearest, its Marvel vs Capcom.

Marvel came along right towards the end the arcade era. Oh, they were still popular, but the writing was on the wall by that point. Marvel (and by extension, the whole Vs series up to that point) helped me say goodbye to that time and place. Hell, it helped me say goodbye to my childhood. And what a swan song to go out on. Even now when I am fortunate enough to come across a cabinet and all the buttons work, I still have that muscle memory for Wolverine and Strider. I’m doing the button combos in my head as I type this. And it makes me smile and appreciate those moments and the fact that I was able to say goodbye.

Dan Roemer

Lately, I can’t even find the room on my shelving for Switch games, never mind finding a spot somewhere in my room for an arcade cabinet. However, when I do think to the future and maybe one day having my own place, I can definitely see myself saving a spot somewhere for a certain cabinet. That cabinet is one I’ve always dreamed of owning since I first set eyes on it as a small child walking past the arcade in my local mall. That cabinet is Crazy Taxi.

Crazy Taxi is a game that means a hell of a lot to me. It’s one of the first games I got for my Dreamcast and between playing it and the Tony Hawk games — it also introduced me to my love of punk and pop-punk music. Hearing Bad Religion’s Ten in 2010 and All I Want from The Offspring instantly sends me back to my childhood playing the game on my Dreamcast or sitting in the chair of the arcade cabinet at the mall.

Sadly, that arcade no longer exists. Hopefully one day — if I ever do have my own place — I can set aside enough money and find the perfect spot somewhere for a Crazy Taxi cabinet and revisit some old childhood memories. Until then, thankfully, I still have my copy of the Dreamcast game and the disc always ready to go in the tray.

Chris Seto

If money and space were no object (I would have likely sold my common sense to pay for this anyway) then I would definitely like to own the full-scale Ridge Racer arcade machine. Seeing a full-sized car attached as an arcade game controller will never be boring!

More realistically though, I would like to own a more reasonably sized yet still unique machine in my house, which is why I would like to own a cabinet of Gunslinger Stratos. Sure, there are plenty of arcade games that shaped my gaming history. From ones I discovered during the arcade heyday such as Aliens Vs Predator or Soul Edge to ones I discovered much later like Denjin Makai 2 or Mahou Daisakusen but those all used a standard universal button system & layout. For Gunslinger Stratos, the unique control system is the draw and I would love to look both hella cool and insanely stupid at the same time while playing it. Yes, I would only ever be able to play one game on the cab, but it’s a hell of a game!!

Peter Glagowski

Check it out now, check it out. Yo check it out now, 3rd Strike. Yo Yo, I know ya got your options. So pick the right bid. Some choices to make and mad ruckus to bring. Just hooked on it. Da bodies, who want it. I don’t know where you got your skills from. Jump off it. Bring it on, any opponent or contender. No one can stop this, with guns or objects. As far as I’m concerned, yo, it’s only one topic. Join the Street Fighters from bare hands to toxic. If you’re an average warrior, I be the master. I could teach you how to fight and move faster. One false move kid, that’d be disaster. I’ll beat you endless and continue the day after. Street Fighter III, that’s right, the third chapter. This game’s for real, no blonds and no actors. Pick your character, know one to represent your life. We’re stompin’ anybody so make the choice right.

(Let’s get it on now) Select to make your first pick (Let’s get it on Yo) 10, 9, 8, 7, 6 (Let’s get it on Yo) Choose and pick the best one (Let’s get it on now) 5, 4, 3, 2, 1.

One box could leave you messed up and fractured. Block these uppercuts, they made me the captured. May the best fighter win, and win again. Battle to the top until his life ends. But if his life ends and he starts to decay. May one of us street soldiers finish things. See ya talkin’ to the game couldn’t be talkin’ to me. I got enough to beat and more soldiers to bury. You know, we just clicked in and made you realize. This game is twice as hard, you see that with your own eyes. You’re on the way to choose your type of life cause ya gotta. I tell you from now, which fighter will be the hotter. I don’t think you’ve won this one, just practice. Just challenge me when you’re ready, weight your tactics. High punches, spin-kicks, watch your back-split. I see you in the air when I make you back-flip. 

The rest is the same.

Jonathan Holmes

This is a tough one. Like Peter, I’d love to have a 3rd Strike cabinet in my home, ideally sitting alongside Metal Slug 3, Jr. Pac-Man and that weird sort-of-terrible FMV hologram game about a horny cowboy. That said, I can probably find an actual arcade within a four-hour drive from my home that has all four of them, so if ever feel the desperate need to get my hands on any of them again, it’s still within my power to do so. 

Less close to home is the special Rhythm Heaven arcade edition which, as far as I know, never left Japan. I saw it in real life back in 2010 when I was covering TGS for this very weblog. It’s largely based on the original GBA game, which in many ways is still my favorite, and it even has new 2-player competitive modes that are unique to this arcade port.  

While nothing would be better than to see the rumors proven untrue with the announcement of an all-new Rhythm Heaven game by the original development team, managing to score this full-sized arcade cab for my living room is a close second. 

Rich Meister

Arcades are a dying breed, and it’s a damn shame. If you can picture it a young Rich Meister would run himself down to the local Nathan’s hot dog joint that happened to have an arcade attached and spend hours looking at these huge cabinets whether he had quarters to play them or not.

By the time I was finishing middle school the place had been torn down, but none of the cabinets left a bigger impression on me than that clunky MKII cabinet. Sure, I’d played Mortal Kombat on console before, but nothing beats playing a good fighting game in an arcade. 

In a perfect future where I have space and money, MKII will most definitely be the first arcade cabinet in my collection. In a strange twist of fate, the spot that where that arcade once stood is now a bar, where I spend time for entirely different reasons. If only they would add a few arcade machines.

Kevin Mersereau

I’ve never actually seen one of the six-player X-Men arcade machines in person — EDITOR’S NOTE: I have. Suck it, Kevin! — but I’ve stared lustfully at them from the safety of a computer screen for many moons now. In every single arcade I visited, they only had the basic model, but I put a small fortune into those things as a kid. Having the option to get drunk and throw down with five of my friends, as an adult, would be goddamn wonderful. I’m sure it would constantly devolve into curses over who’d get to play as Nightcrawler, but, unlike exorbitant the cost for this freakish monstrosity, that’s a price I’m actually capable of paying.

Josh Tolentino

I don’t have an especially strong connection to arcades and arcade cabinets, mainly because arcades weren’t really a thing where I grew up until I was in high school when Australian amusement chain Timezone set up in various malls in and around metropolitan Manila. Even then, the games were pretty darned expensive, though I did love playing Silent Scope and Time Crisis before the controllers inevitably were broken.

As such, owning an arcade experience for me is more aspirational than nostalgic, and that’s why I’d like to have a Gundam: Bonds of the Battlefield pod in my home. I tried this last year on vacation to Tokyo, and though the underlying game is quite old, it’s very fun thanks to the paddles-and-HOTAS control setup. And if you’re with a friend, the friend can even peer at your screen through the open door like any number of inadvertent Mobile Suit passengers over the years and years of Gundam

Mike Sounders

Were you really expecting anything else?

When I was growing up, there weren’t really any arcades around me. I would see the occasional machine at a movie theater or laser tag place, such as a random Marvel vs Capcom 2 machine that I saw twice before it vanished. However, the machines never consumed my quarters like they did for many others. As a result, I have no fond memories of arcade machines that many others do.

That being said, I would love to have the opportunity to own a Gundam Extreme VS. Maxi Boost ON cabinet if I had the chance. With an extensive roster of over 150 characters and excellent gameplay to boot, it is a wet dream for any Gundam fan. Given I still boot up the recent console release to this day, clearly I wouldn’t have problems getting the most out of the cabinet. Although with a sequel inbound for arcades this year, perhaps it would be best to wait for that one instead.

Pixie The Fairy

There are so many arcade cabinets from the 80s and 90s I’d love to have. So many fond memories. I remember my first night in an arcade basically turning me into a gamer for life with Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Galaga all capturing my imagination. I remember the summers at a Water Country plunking quarter after quarter into Quartet and that time me and my sister basically plunked our entire weekend allowance into Double Dragon.

She also sucker punched me at the end as Jimmy and walked away with Marion’s love. I’ve never forgiven her for that. 

But it’s an arcade cabinet from the early 2000s where my love really lies and looking back on it, Namco must have made at least $3k off m on it when all was said and done, and most of it in tokens. That game was Soulcalibur II.

Some of my fondness is sentimental, more of it based around gameplay and just enjoying shredding people as a Victorian-era dominatrix with a whipsword. Ivy was my main there, though I do love Kilik and Xianghua as well.

I loved Soulcalibur II and the games before it for the focus on weapon-based combat, how you had to think about spacing and range, getting in close and getting out. You did have combos, but not to an absurd degree. But what I also liked about this version was you could train a personal AI to fight like you in Conquest Mode and affiliate with one of three factions.

It took a little time investment for the AI to begin to emulate your playstyle with a character, but once you trained it enough it could serve as a viable, thinking practice dummy for friends in other factions who might end up facing your AI.

It was also just fun to walk into the arcade and watch my AI Ivy shred friends and visitors alike. My style favored buffering Summon Suffering into grabs, mid-to-long range mind games and luring people into ring-outs.

The feature created this cool bond with other players and rivalries as well. It helped you want to improve alongside your friends, compete and continue training when they were away. It’s kind of a shame Project Soul has never thought to put that feature into another entry. It was honestly better than lame gimmicky characters like Link, Spawn, and Heihachi.

It’s because of these things each installment since has felt lacking. Since that time the series been more focused on gimmicks, gimmick characters, ultimate attacks and longer combo strings and that really isn’t good for the series.

Hopefully, Soulcalibur VI can change things back. While Geralt of Rivia of Witcher fame is in this interaction, at least he is appearing in all versions and was considered early on so he won’t throw the balance of the game off.

But yeah, Soulcalibur II  would be the cabinet I’d want in my living room. I still wonder if my AI Ivy is still out there beating someone into submission…

Darren Nakamura

Nobody wrote about Boong-Ga Boong-Ga?


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Image of CJ Andriessen
CJ Andriessen
Editor-at-Large – CJ has been a contributor to Destructoid since 2015, originally writing satirical news pieces before transitioning into general news, features, and other coverage that was less likely to get this website sued.