Get past the classics

California Extreme/ August 2, 2023/ Uncategorized

Underappreciated games – is there a sleeper in your future? Do yourself a favor and dig further than the typical “Top Ten”  –you might be surprised!

The Internet Pinball Database ( lists over 4700 pinball games, the KLOV site (“Killer List of Video Games”, has details on nearly as many arcade video games.  Think they’re all revered classics?  Of course not, there are certain to be some dogs in any list that large.  But if you are limiting your attention and exposure to the games that are on every discussion group’s “want-list”, you may be missing out on some real gems!  Don’t fall into the trap of “Classic-itis”, and just seek out the games that everyone else thinks are cool…make your own determination!

For example, in the pinball world the “Holy Top Ten” of most-desired games would probably be something like Twilight Zone, Indiana Jones, The Addams Family, Cirqus Voltaire, Creature from the Black Lagoon, Funhouse, Whitewater, Pin-Bot, High Speed and Star Trek: The Next Generation.  At least, to judge by the message traffic on the newsgroup, you would think that these are the top of the heap.  These games span the period from 1986 to 1993, and are only from one manufacturer…sure, they are all great games, but that isn’t all there is!

Fans of arcade video games are all familiar with legendary names like Tempest, PacMan, Galaga, Defender, Centipede, and Donkey Kong, and with good reason.  In their time they were innovative, groundbreaking and maddeningly addictive!  But a true gamer that limited his or her exposure to those titles would be seriously short-changed.

If your world of pinball begins and ends with 90’s Williams dot-matrix games, you can’t call yourself a pinball wizard!  Explore the world of electromechanical (“EM”) machines, there is a lot of history and innovation there for discovery.  Have a game or two on “Doodle Bug”, and find out that playfield toys have an earlier history than “Funhouse”.  Check out the “Bank-A-Ball” woodrail from 1950, this was one of the first pinball games to have its flippers in the position we are used to seeing (before that, they were “backwards” like the ones on the “St. Louis” woodrail).  “Jolly Joker” is making its debut at this show, give it a whirl and find out what an Add-A-Ball is all about.  EM’s have a wonderful sound all their own, so much that the sound is what they use in films and television when they show a pinball game being played, even though the actual prop may be a late solid-state game with speech and music! 

Some pinball games attract somewhat of a cult following amongst collectors, so they aren’t exactly underappreciated, but they weren’t overly popular with route operators, who are the industry’s primary customer.  See if you can find a Dirty Harry, Safecracker, or No Good Gofers to play today, you might wonder what the operators were thinking!

Some other “unloved classic-wannabes” you might find at the show today are: Rollergames, Swords of Fury, Surf n Safari, High Roller Casino, Who Dunnit, Space Jam, Baywatch, Stargate, Gilligan’s Island, Street Fighter 2 and Lethal Weapon 3.  Believe us when we say there is fun to be found!

A question for the raster-crowd: What makes a great video game?  Games like Joust, Battlezone, and Burger Time are definitely great games, and their popularity through more than two decades is testament to this fact.  However, several thousand video games have been produced through the years and when you consider games that were ported to computers and home consoles, the number is even higher!  True, some of these might best have been kept on the drawing board, but many more were terrific games that for one reason or another just never caught the gaming public’s eye all that much. Games such as Bosconian, Pooyan, Mad Planets, Black Widow, Cloak & Dagger, MouseTrap, were truly good games that were either overlooked, outgunned in the marketplace, or perhaps time has simply left them behind.

And don’t forget the unclassifiable games!  The history of amusement arcades is filled with many types of skill and fun diversions…try out “Cosmo Gang”, or “Midnight Marauders”, “Ringer” or “Prop-Cycle”.  You won’t be sorry!

We at CA Extreme feel that it is time for some of these forgotten games get some well-deserved recognition. Many will be scattered throughout the showroom floor.  You may simply have forgotten these games, or never played them because they have been trashed in discussion groups…in either case, we invite you to make up your own mind.  Try one or more of these unjustly forgotten gems.  You may just discover (or re-discover) a new old “classic!” 

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