Guides & editorial

Rediscover classic arcade games on PS4 and PS5 

These ground-breaking games might pre-date PlayStation, but they're all playable on PS4 & PS5. Take a step back in time to discover classic titles that helped shape the games you love today.

Shooters to thrill

From deep-space dog fights, to overground skirmishes, fighting fire with fire never goes out of style.

Galaga (1981)

Like its predecessor Galaxian, Galaga is a ‘fixed shooter’ that owes a huge debt to Space Invaders, while also improving on it in every way. Galaga is notable for the Dual Fighter power-up mode that doubles your firepower. This simple idea, of being able to upgrade your weapon to even the odds, remains an integral element of the genre.

1942 (1984)

Capcom’s second foray into arcades is a top-down scrolling shooter set during World War II. Designed by Yoshiki Okamoto, who later developed Street Fighter II, 1942 is the first game to feature an evade button, which gives you limited chances to roll away from enemy fire. If you’ve ever dodged your way out of trouble in a shooter, now you know who to thank.

Commando (1985)

Running and gunning? Now you’re talking. Having mastered aerial shooting, Capcom went terra firma for its next arcade game. No relation to the Arnold Schwarzenegger film of the same name, Commando is where the ‘one-man army’ school of shoot ‘em up began. Run a DNA test on Call of Duty and you’ll find traces of this gun-toting, grenade-lobbing classic.

Available as part of Capcom Arcade Stadium.

Gradius (1985)

Konami forever transformed the genre with side-scrolling space shooter Gradius, which gave players control over which power-ups to deploy and when. Do you use up your power orb to speed up your craft, or save them up to upgrade to a laser? It’s a brilliant layer of strategy that can still be felt by anyone who’s agonised over spending points on a skill tree.

Contra (1987)

Konami’s side-scrolling run ‘n gunner is largely remembered for being punishingly hard, and its two protagonists’ uncanny resemblance to two major ‘80s action stars, but it has plenty more going for it. Multi-directional fire, shooting while prone and - perhaps its most underrated innovation - pseudo-3D levels from which modern third-person shooters evolved.

When was the first arcade machine created?

It's generally agreed that Ted Dabney and Nolan Bushell's 'Computer Space' constituted the world's first commercial video game - and fitted inside its own coin-operated, fibre glass cabinet, the first ever arcade machine too. The pair would go on to found Atari the following year - the rest, as they say, is history.

Action innovators

There’s never a dull moment with this lot.

Ghosts n' Goblins (1985)

Is it tenuous to draw a line between Capcom’s fantasy-inspired action-platformer and the likes of Dark Souls? Let’s see. Punishing difficulty, where every enemy, no matter how minor, is a threat? Check. Environmental hazards that kill without warning? Check. Secrets with zero signposting? Check. Weapons that are either essential or a liability? Check. Consider the line drawn.

Available as part of Capcom Arcade Stadium.

Double Dragon (1987)

The spiritual successor to Technōs Japan’s Renegade shares a lot of its characteristics, not to mention its animations. Double Dragon innovates in a number of areas, from its scrolling, multi-level stages, to its collectible weapons and co-op gameplay (which memorably transforms into competitive for its finale). It’s an irresistible formula that continues to be polished, not changed, 35 years later.

Vs. Castlevania (1987)

Unusual in that it’s a port of a console game, Vs. Castlevania kickstarted the vampire-hunting series that would ultimately lead to the wildly influential Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. While it lacks that game’s non-linear exploration, it can still lay claim to introducing the notion of a sub-weapon. Simon Belmont walked so gaming’s modern action heroes could run (despite carrying loads of heavy gadgets).

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game (1989)

Finally available on PlayStation consoles as part of TMNT: The Cowabunga Collection, this game was a revelation to fans of the original cartoon. Konami expertly captured the tone and the energy of the show in this manic, coin-guzzling fighter that, for the first time in the genre, supported four players. While not particularly innovative, it set a new standard for licensed games, simply by respecting the source material.

Available as part of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Cowabunga Collection.

Are classic arcades games really that hard?

There's no getting around it: classic arcade games are not for the faint of heart. Most were designed to keep the player coming back - tough challenges that would be satisfying, but would keep you feeding coins into the cabinet. Not to worry, on PlayStation, many of these games have save states, so you don't have to start over when you fail and starting over won't cost you a thing.

Cute and creative

An eclectic selection of adorable and inventive classics.

Frogger (1981)

Frogger’s premise is as straightforward as they come: don’t let your frogs croak as they cross a busy highway and perilous river on their way home.  With no end to speak of, and success measured by how long you can stay alive before the inevitable Game Over screen, Frogger’s closest modern analogue is probably the survival genre.

Dig Dug (1982)

One of the most beloved maze arcade games that isn’t Pac-Man stars a hero who loves to either inflate his enemies until they pop, or crush them with rocks. Questionable methods aside, Dig Dug is a great early example of a player-manipulated environment with risk-reward elements to match. It’s a concept that games like Spelunky and its sequel have run with to impressively imaginative effect.

Pac-Land (1984)

While the honour of first side-scrolling platform game goes to 1981’s Jump Bug, this is the game that really laid the groundwork for modern platformers. Once you’ve got over the novelty of Pac-Man with limbs and a face, you’ll discover an underrated gem that introduced genre staples like momentum-based movement and secret items concealed in the environment.

Bubble Bobble (1986)

Ingeniously, the bubbles blown by draconic duo Bub and Bob act as both a means of capturing enemies and a handy mobile platform - if you have the skill. Taito’s timeless platformer is known for its obscure secrets and co-op play, but it should also be remembered as one of the first games to feature multiple endings. The conditions for the ‘true’ ending are demanding, particularly for a coin-op.

When was the 'Arcade Golden Age'?

It really depends on who you ask, but many consider the late '70s (following the launch of the hugely influential Space Invaders) through the mid-'80s to be most significant period for arcade gaming. It was a time of huge commercial expansion, innovation and recognition in the mainstream as a vibrant, emerging culture.

Sporting legends

Games that walked so we didn’t have to run.

Track & Field (1983)

The first multi-discipline sports game still warrants a place on the podium to this day. It’s the game that both invented and made an art of button-mashing, reportedly costing arcade owners a fortune in replacements. With Track & Field, Konami not only created a genre, but left an indelible mark on it.

Karate Champ (1984)

Technōs Japan, creators of the first scrolling beat ‘em up, also developed the first one-on-one fighter. The twin-stick controls provide a wide range of attacks, and each round is determined by just a single hit which makes bouts fast and tense. It’s also the first fighter to feature bonus games; while you can’t smash up a car, you can roundhouse kick a charging bull.

10-Yard Fight (1984)

This peculiar hybrid of American football and high-score challenge skips the playbook altogether. There’s just one play with several options: run with the quarterback, or pass to your running back or sole receiver. It’s a race against the clock to score a touchdown for a non-regulation 5,000 points. It’s no Madden, but it was a huge leap forward for virtual sports at the time.

Mat Mania (1985)

Technōs Japan also released the first pro wrestling game: 1983’s Tag-Team Wrestling. This, its superior successor, puts you in the lace-up boots of Dynamite Tommy as you battle through bootleg versions of famous wrestlers of the era. Technōs later released the very first WWE (then WWF) coin-op, opening the floodgates for licensed wrestling games for decades to come.

Super Sidekicks (1992)

There’s very little to separate most football arcade games from the early 1990s, but SNK’s Super Sidekicks series for Neo Geo is a standout. The accessible two-button controls, ‘Ace’ player system and cinematic celebration animations make for a breathless, knockabout interpretation of the sport that’s still a ton of fun. FIFA International Soccer would follow on consoles a year later, and the rest is history.