Not many things beat a girls’ night in. Whether that means pizza and Netflix, drinking and chatting, or even a good old-fashioned game night, there’s just something timeless and wonderful about getting your best girlfriends together at home and worrying about absolutely nothing else.
Still, there’s also something to be said for a girls’ night out, particularly in a way that encourages bonding rather than just dancing and drinking in a crowded club. Specifically, hitting up an old-school bar with an arcade corner can be about the best night you can have with your friends, particularly if it’s a group that appreciates some retro entertainment. Sure, you can order in to someone’s home and break out Mario Kart, but every now and then going the arcade route is a great change of pace.
It’s not always easy to find bars these days that still have old arcade machines, but when you find them, you’re in for a treat. Keeping that in mind, I wanted to take a look back at five awesome retro arcade machines to keep an eye out for. Frankly, this generation of gaming was just about flawless across the board, but these are some of the machines that stand out the most years later.
1. The Simpsons Arcade Game
Was there ever a better video game than Konami’s original The Simpsons Arcade Game? Functionally this was a side-scrolling multi-player beat-em-up game, like so many other arcade experiences of its time. But its use of Simpsons characters and settings, particularly in the early-’90s heyday of the show, was absolutely flawless. We’re talking about a game in which Homer Simpson’s best attack was lifting Bart over his head to use as a weapon, and Bart, in turn, can whack people with his skateboard. It was just a delightful, playful twist on the genre. The game was actually brought to Xbox Live and Playstation Network a few years ago, and after a relatively unsuccessful mobile adaptation, a new Electronic Arts app brought a different kind of Simpsons gaming to our favorite devices. But none of these new twists and extensions top the actual arcade version.
2. Jurassic Park Pinball
The Jurassic Park saga got new life in 2015, when Jurassic World was one of the highest-grossing movies of the summer. Sure enough, that’s led to hopes for a sequel, as well as an amusing LEGO Jurassic World game for those who are into that sort of thing. But as the ’90s knew best, sometimes a themed pinball machine is every bit as good as a full-fledged game. Accordingly, the Jurassic Park pinball machine released just after the original film in 1993 was a blast. I’ll never figure out how a pinball machine captured a cinematic atmosphere so well probably some combination of sound effects and the ability to “feed” the T-Rex but I know I’ll play this one whenever I stumble across it.
3. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
You remember this one. Running roughly in line with the story of the film, this game put you in the role of a reprogrammed T-800 unit and equipped you with massive guns that moved as if they were situated on top of joysticks. Indeed, unlike later arcade games like Time Crisis II, Terminator 2: Judgment Day’s guns were fixed, which almost forced you to lean in over the machine and engage more intimately with the environment. I won’t say it felt like virtual reality, but it did kind of flirt with it particularly given that it came out in 1991, and 25 years later we’re only just dipping into virtual reality gaming!
4. Draw Poker
This one is a little harder to find, and actually dates back to the ’70s. The Draw Poker arcade machine was one of the first examples of video poker, and helped to spark a movement in casino gaming that’s still underway today. From arcade machines like this one, real casinos developed numerous versions of video poker, and from there the transition to online gaming was only natural. Now the industry is coming out with new innovations all the time. Gala Casino’s platform has helped lead the way of late with a never-ending stream of promotions and new tournament offerings that effectively result in an entire online community of poker players. And it’s all based on some old arcade video poker machines. As for me, I kind of like the no-frills origins better than the latest online poker rooms (though those are entertaining as well). This is a great machine for some casual entertainment while you drink with the ladies.
5. Donkey Kong
In most cases, even fans of retro games can admit that newer versions tend to be better in a few ways. For instance, fans of old Street Fighter games might still prefer the classic quality of the originals, but it’s hard to refute a claim that graphics and gameplay have gotten sharper and smoother over the years. Personal preference aside, the newer games are objectively better made, but I’m not so sure that’s the case with Donkey Kong. The original Nintendo arcade machine was just an absolute masterpiece, despite being released all the way back in 1981. A climbing platformer in which your job was simply to avoid the barrels Donkey Kong was hurling your way, it was addictive, amusing, and challenging all at once. No adaptation of Donkey Kong since including the absolutely shameless Banana Kong ripoff has topped this one.
I’m not saying it’s easy to come across any of these old classics in the bar around the corner. But if you happen to find one, or even if you know about an old arcade or bowling alley that serves drinks, you may have a new favorite option for a night with the girls.
This is a guest post by Jenn Langley, a freelance writer living in New York who probably has an addiction to old-school arcade cabinets. If she’s not chucking quarters into The Simpsons, she’s searching for the next best pinball table.