The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (2024)

Highlights

  • Arcade games in the '90s reached new levels of popularity with titles like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. These games set the stage for some of the best arcade games of all time.
  • Alpha Mission 2 is a solid vertical shooter with great visuals and music. It may not stand out among other shoot 'em ups, but it's a good representative of the genre.
  • The Punisher is a forgotten beat 'em up masterpiece by Capcom, offering vibrant visuals, addictive gameplay, and a faithful adaptation of the source material. It may not be as well-known as other Marvel games, but it deserves recognition.

Arcade games have a long history that dates back roughly half a century. From Pong to Pac-Man, the '70s and '80s pioneered the games that would eventually become console classics. Games like Donkey Kong predated the successful juggernaut the series would become on Nintendo consoles only a decade later.

With that being said, the '90s took arcade gaming to a new level. Thanks to the popularity of titles like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, fighting games had a spot alongside the beat 'em ups like Konami's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The '90s heralded not only some new impressive classic games but several featured titles that would become among the best arcade games of all time.

Updated January 9, 2024 by Mark Sammut: The specifications have been added for every included '90s arcade game.

24 Alpha Mission 2 (1991)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.51/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (1)
Alpha Mission 2

Released
March 25, 1991

Developer(s)
SNK

Genre(s)
Shoot 'em Up

Alpha Mission 2 is a lesser entry in SNK's arcade catalog, but that has more to do with the developer's proficiency than any perceived lack of quality concerning the vertical shooter. When it comes to shoot 'em ups, this 1991 title does not do anything too out of the ordinary, and it should strike a chord with most fans of the genre.

Boasting great visuals and music, Alpha Mission 2 was a looker back in the day, and age has done little to hamper the game's presentation. Gameplay-wise, SNK's release offers a satisfying selection of weapons and an upgrade system that rewards skill. As these types of games can be inescapable to newcomers, Alpha Mission 2 is somewhat of an acquired taste, but the game is a good representative of the shmup genre.

23 X-Men: Children Of The Atom (1995)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.93/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (2)
X-Men: Children of the Atom

Released
January 5, 1995

Developer
Capcom, Rutubo Games, Probe Entertainmen

Genre(s)
Fighting

Capcom's first Arcade Marvel title introduced the gameplay later seen in the VS. series. This X-Men title featured gorgeous animation, memorable music, and the X-Men taking on Magneto & the Brotherhood. Children of the Atom introduced the launcher combos, high jumps, and flashy action that would set the tone for the sequels.

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Several of the X-Men would later appear in various crossover titles until Marvel vs. Capcom 2 brought them together once again. Even so, Children of the Atom maintained a significant legacy as even Sentinel would get his theme remixed in 2011's Marvel vs. Capcom 3.

22 The Punisher (1993)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.02/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (4)
The Punisher (1993)

Released
April 22, 1993

Developer
Capcom, Sculptured Software

Genre(s)
Beat 'Em Up

A somewhat forgotten beat 'em up masterpiece by Capcom, The Punisher might just rank as the anti-hero's best video game adaptation, and Frank Castle has actually starred in a few decent titles. Even though overshadowed by their fighting games, Capcom's beat 'em up '90s catalog is fantastic, especially their licensed games. X-Men: Mutant Apocalypse is a must-play for Marvel fans, and it is fondly remembered in general; however, The Punisher deserves a mention since it is slightly more obscure. A big reason for that is that the game was only ever ported to the Genesis, and that version is undoubtedly inferior to the arcade original.

Boasting gorgeous visuals that have aged splendidly, The Punisher is vibrant, vicious, and addictive. The game does a surprisingly good job of capturing the spirit of the source material, including reflecting Castle's willingness to straight-up slaughter enemies. While the combat system is fairly straightforward, the slick animation, varied weapon selection, combos, and colorful backdrops help elevate it to new heights.

21 Ninja Baseball Bat Man (1993)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.03/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (5)
Ninja Baseball Bat Man

Released
1993-09-00

Developer(s)
Irem

Genre(s)
Beat 'Em Up

An underappreciated gem that didn't make much of a splash in Western arcades, Ninja Baseball Bat Man is silliness captured in video game form. A beat 'em up about four robot heroes striving to retrieve a statue of Babe Ruth, Ninja Baseball Bat Man takes players on camp-fueled adventures with accessible combat, unforgettable villains, and charming visuals.

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In a decade overstacked with beat 'em ups, Ninja Baseball Bat Man struggled to stand out; however, the game has aged better than most of its contemporaries. It is simply fun.

20 Windjammers (1994)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.09/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (7)
Windjammers

Released
1994-03-00

Developer
Data East
Genre(s)
Sports

A contender for the most surprising '90s game to be revived more than two decades following its release, Windjammers was ported to the PS4 in 2017 and even received a sequel in 2022. The sports game challenges players to win an intense match of frisbee; yet, frisbee. On the surface, that might not sound particularly exciting, however, Windjammers hides an impressive amount of depth.

Windjammers is a delight whether played in arcades or on home consoles. Players have their pick of six characters, all of which come with unique stats and special throws. Matches are quite straightforward – two players battle it out to see who can score 12 points first – but the shots come with little tricks that make a huge difference in bouts.

19 The House Of The Dead 2 (1998)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.69/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (8)
The House of the Dead 2

Released
September 9, 1999

Developer
Wow Entertainment

Genre(s)
Light Gun Shooter

Locking and loading with a light gun shooter is almost a requirement when visiting '90s-era arcades. While there's no shortage of games in the genre, Sega's famedHouse of the Dead series remains the pinnacle for many. This is especially true with the series' '98 sequel, which leans on the appealing traits of its predecessor while refining and fleshing out some areas.

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The game ramps up the action, difficulty, and mechanics while polishing the graphics, improving the narrative, and adding nuance to the unique system of branching paths. This series would serve as the foundation and inspiration that would help spawn various other action-packed zombie romps.

18 Alien Vs. Predator (1994)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.05/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (10)
Alien vs. Predator (1994)

Released
May 20, 1994
Developer(s)
Capcom

Genre(s)
Beat 'Em Up

Capcom produces some of the best 1990s beat 'em up games, and Alien vs. Predator stands alongside the developer's crowning achievements. Not to be confused with the SNES project with the same title, this 1994 classic has never been released on consoles, dooming it to obscurity. This is a shame as Alien vs. Predator hits the bullseye in almost every area, be it gameplay, graphics, or sound design.

Set in the midst of a Xenomorph invasion of Earth, players can pick between two cyber soldiers and two Predators, all of whom come with unique weapons. Blending melee and long-range options, Alien vs. Predator offers tight and weighty combat that compares favorably to most of the genre's other projects. Nowadays, this game is very hard to come by, but it is worth seeking out if someone can find it.

17 Smash TV (1990)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.79/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (11)
Smash TV

Released
1990-04-00

Developer
Williams, Beam Soft.
Genre(s)
Arcade , Shooter

A dual-stick shooter that used to soak up all of someone's coins, Smash TV was painfully difficult to put down once the mayhem started to flow. Split into levels that throw wave after wave of enemies at the player, Smash TV descends into pure chaos almost immediately, creating an action-packed experience with no dull moments.

Power-ups, thousands of disposable foes, and cheesy announcements are all things that define Smash TV's legacy. The game's console versions are not quite as good as the arcade title, but they are still decent fun.

16 Tekken (1994)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.54/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (12)
Tekken

Released
May 12, 1995

Developer(s)
Namco

Genre(s)
Fighting

The 3D fighting game became one of Namco's treasured masterpieces. This fighting game consists of fighters from around the world who compete using different martial arts styles. The 3D fighting system included side-stepping mechanics as well as a heavy emphasis on juggling.

Tekken would later be followed by six sequels and two Tag Tournament spin-offs. The roster would expand dramatically over time. Later Tekken sequels even included a bench to go with the arcade cabinet, so players could sit down while playing together.

Tekken 3 is the better overall game, but the arcade version never made it out of Japan. That said, Tekken 2's arcade iteration was released in North America.

15 Cruis'n World (1996)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.88/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (13)
Cruis'n World

Released
1996-11-00

Developer(s)
Midway Games , Eurocom

Genre(s)
Racing

A distinct charm of '90s arcade games is the sense of immersion experienced by interacting with more tactile, true-to-form control devices. This is the case in this classic racer from the mid-'90s, which lets gamers literally take the wheel and put the pedal to the metal. Even beyond this fun setup, however, Cruis'n World decks out and revs things up on the gameplay front, building on the '94 hit Cruisn' USA.

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As the game's title indicates, a greater diversity of new, colorful landscapes can be traversed this time, including Australia, Africa, Egypt, Mexico, and Japan. Not only this, but the game fleshes things out with new stunt mechanics that reward players with extra seconds of time. And in this fast, exhilarating racer, every second counts. Like its predecessor, Cruis'n World proved influential, as racers like Forza Horizon would further roll with this concept of flashy, stunt-focused racing.

14 Gauntlet Legends (1998)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.91/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (15)
Gauntlet Legends

Released
October 1, 1998
Developer(s)
Midway Games , Midway Home Entertainment , Atari
Genre(s)
Hack and Slash , RPG , Adventure , Fighting , Shooter

Arcade romps are often known for their entertaining co-op gameplay that allows multiple players to huddle up on a single cabinet. This was particularly the case in the '90s, as machines grew more robust and advanced. Gamers often point to Gauntlet Legends as one of the best examples of a cooperative game that's both rich and enjoyable.

On the one hand, the game adheres to a "pick-up-and-play" style of hack and slash excitement, enticing players to grind away and slay countless baddies. But on the other hand, Legends offers a surprising amount of depth with its RPG-esque gameplay and rewarding progression. It even implements a unique system of passwords and savable characters. This neat feature encourages prolonged dungeon-crawling rather than regularly starting over.

13 X-Men: The Arcade Game (1992)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.92/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (16)
X-Men The Arcade Game

Released
1992-03-00
Developer(s)
Konami

Genre(s)
Beat 'Em Up

During the '90s, Marvel fans had quite a few memorable arcade games to pick from, and the X-Men had a habit of taking center stage in most of them. 1992's X-Men is a beat 'em up that does pretty much everything competently, although its value will be determined by someone's love for the license.

X-Men's sprites are detailed, vibrant, and lovingly capture the look and feel of the comics. Although the combat is quite basic, the game makes up for it with six playable characters and multiplayer support. For those who love a good beat 'em up and are intimately familiar with Marvel's mutants, X-Men is not a game to skip. Yes, even all these years later.

12 Crazy Taxi (1999)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.11/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (17)
Crazy Taxi

Released
February 12, 1999

Developer(s)
HitMaker

Genre(s)
Racing

There are few more enticing coin or card-burning '90s arcade games than this chaotic racer from Hitmaker and Sega. As an exhilarating blend of speed-racing and score-attack madness, Crazy Taxi tasks players with carting as many paying customers from A to B as possible. The bustling streets of hilly San Francisco make the experience even more intense and thrilling, producing the feel of an extreme sports game more than a racer.

Its expansive scale and relatively sleek visuals give it a feel that's both retro and modern. Still, Crazy Taxi taps into that fundamentally appealing trait of classic arcades; where players must grind out high scores while racing against the clock.

11 SoulCalibur (1998)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.87/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (18)
Soulcalibur

Released
July 30, 1998

Developer(s)
Namco

Genre(s)
Fighting

Namco's SoulCalibur refined the 3D fighting engine from Soul Edge with better-balanced mechanics. Introducing more characters to the mold, the game brought a heavy emphasis on aesthetic detail. The gorgeous models and character designs looked ahead of their time, while the music transcended most contemporary video game soundtracks thanks to its orchestral arrangements.

The Dreamcast port of SoulCalibur added the single-player Mission Mode as well as several extras for players to unlock. These include art pieces, lore, and others. SoulCalibur is not just a successful, revolutionary 3D game that spawned multiple sequels but one of the best arcade games ever.

Soul Edge was also great.

10 NBA Jam (1993)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.1/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (19)
NBA Jam

Released
1993-00-00

Developer(s)
Midway Games
Genre(s)
Sports

There will always be a market for the more nuanced brand of sims and flashier, grander basketball games. Still, the simpler, arcade-style variants – which include hits like NBA Hangtime and NBA Jam – have an addictive quality and distinct charm that's rarely matched. Arguably the pinnacle of this subgenre, Midway's NBA Jam proved this thrilling sport could be enjoyed in brief, chaotic stints of just a few minutes.

The game's fast pace, two-on-two gameplay, and exhilarating "on fire" mode ensure non-stop action throughout. Fouls, free throws, and the general laws of physics need not apply here. While the series has carried on in some form since the '90s, this breakout hit from '93 remains the basketball champ for many arcade players.

9 Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 (1995)

Gamefaqs Score: 3.89/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (20)
Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3

Released
October 6, 1995

Developer(s)
Midway Games

Genre(s)
Fighting

Mortal Kombat was one of several games that set off a fighting game boom in the '90s. Unlike Street Fighter's competitive balance and tournament approach, Mortal Kombat was more about the style. The martial arts tale grabbed major references from movies such as Bruce Lee's Enter the Dragon.

Besides the brutal, bloody Fatalities, Mortal Kombat contributed several arcade sequels and many memorable characters that appear in numerous sequels including the recent Mortal Kombat 11. Among them include Sub-Zero, Scorpion, Liu Kang, Jax, Kitana, and powerful entities such as Raiden and Shao Kahn. The series also introduced intricate lore and mythos stronger than its contemporaries. To this day, the Mortal Kombat series is hailed for having among the best storytelling of fighting games.

8 Time Crisis 2 (1997)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.02/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (21)
Time Crisis 2

Released
December 13, 1997

Developer(s)
Namco

Genre(s)
Light Gun Shooter

Building on the momentum of 1995's Time Crisis, the sequel's core gameplay isn't all that different from its predecessor. While there are some neat changes, Time Crisis 2 still comes down to timing: pick the right moments to step out of cover to score a few shots. Like most entries in the series, Time Crisis 2 plays out like an over-the-top action movie, and it does a splendid job aping that style.

The one thing that puts Time Crisis 2 above the original game is the inclusion of co-op. This addition brought a whole other dimension to the light gun experience.

7 Killer Instinct (1994)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.12/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (22)
Killer Instinct

Released
October 28, 1994
Developer(s)
Rare

Genre(s)
Fighting

Striking something of a middle-ground between Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat, Killer Instinct is a very solid fighter, even if it hasn't quite aged as well as its most highly regarded contemporaries. The 1994 game brought its share of innovations to the genre, and it had a combo system (including the landscape-changing combo breakers) that was a step above the competition at the time of Killer Instinct's release.

The fighter delivers fast-paced gameplay, satisfying finishing moves, impressive visuals for its era, and a brilliant soundtrack. Even today, the arcade version of Killer Instinct is still fun to play.

6 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time (1991)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.02/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (23)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time

Released
1991-00-00
Developer(s)
Konami

Genre(s)
Beat 'Em Up

Heralded as one of the greatest beat 'em ups of all time, Turtles in Time perfected a formula that began in the 80s. Succeeding The Arcade Game, which came to the NES, Turtles in Time featured a more robust system. Hit detection, controls, and combos felt much more fluid and improved.

Turtles in Time later came to the SNES as an improved port featuring more stages. While Konami stripped the co-op from 4-player to 2-player, the console classic was perhaps the best on the system. Turtles in Time also received a similar version of the game, largely reskinned on Genesis, as The Hyperstone Heist.

5 Street Fighter Alpha 3 (1998)

Gamefaqs Score: 4.17/5

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (24)
Street Fighter Alpha 3

Released
May 29, 1999
Developer(s)
Capcom

Genre(s)
Fighting

What separates Street Fighter Alpha 3 from the rest involves several factors. For one, it's much more oriented on juggle combos in the air. Players can block in mid-air as well as juggle their enemies who can, in turn, ukemi or recover from combos. Furthermore, the game also allowed different modes for specials including the V-ism custom combos.

Alpha 3 followed the prequel Street Fighter Alpha titles and told the story before Street Fighter 2. What made Alpha 3 impressive was not only the popular fighting system or the guard crush mechanic. The console ports later received multiple game modes, two handheld ports (GBA and PSP), and even introduced new characters, like Ingrid.

The Best Arcade Games From The 1990s (2024)
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