Updated: Mar 22, 2018
Nothing is worse to a collector of anything than thinking of all the "whatevers" you have traded or sold off during collecting. These become the war stories of any collecting subculture. Over the last 20 + or - years I have had at least 25 or more arcade games in my hands only to have to trade them, sell them, or give them away. Divorce, moving, a job that required a crazy amount of travel all factored into why these games are no longer in my hot little hands. So here is an ode to the pixel pals that hopefully someone else out there is enjoying and lovingly windexing in their collections. Maybe someday our paths will cross again. Let's make it a top 10 just for fun.
1) Playchoice Bartop Model
Originally I bought this at a thrift store full of games in the late 90's for $50. The control panel was a mess but otherwise it never really gave me a single issue. For those of you who don't know, Nintendo's Playchoice system is an arcade jukebox of sorts of classic NES games. The bartop is especially rare and desirable. There was a point you could buy just about any Playchoice for next to nothing (I remember a auction with a row of Playchoice uprights selling for around 25 dollars each). Now they command pretty decent money, and certain cartridges can go upwards of $500. With NES nostalga in full swing I don't know if I will ever be able to find a bartop version again for a price that won't give me a stroke.
2) Out Run Cabaret Cabinet
Out Run is my all time favorite game. I find most racing games age quickly; that isn't the case with Out Run. Its fun theming, amazing soundtrack (I would argure one of the best if not the best video game soundtracks of all time), ability to choose your driving path, and the inclusion of a convertible Ferrari Testarossa makes this the most 80's arcade themed game of all time. Out Run arcade games aren't very rare so I am sure another one will find its way into my home in the near future. But I have a soft spot for the cabaret model which is somewhat more difficult to find. I have seen a few recently but they are in what I would call less than ideal condition.
3) Moon Patrol
I bought this one of Craig's List for like 200 dollars about 9 years ago when I still lived in Memphis. It had been converted into a JAMMA game of some sort, but lucky for me the original Moon Patrol stenciled artwork was still under layers of flaky black paint on the sides. So some paint thinner later, and a lot of elbow grease it started to take shape again back to its former glory. Moon Patrol is a great game, but this was personally the first game I restored from a ground level back up to original. Although I did keep the JAMMA wiring and made an adapter for the Moon Patrol CPU to run off a JAMMA harness, everything else was correct again. A fun game I would have to sell soon after thanks to a job that required a crazy amount of travel. Moon Patrol I hardly knew ye
Ah Kangaroo, Atari's comeback to Donkey Kong that Atari didn't even create. Sun Electronics was the actual developer of Kangaroo, an awkward and sometimes strange climb-and-punch game in the vein of the vastly superior Donkey Kong. So it's a terrible game, why is it #4? It was my first upright (the Playchoice above was actually my first game) and a gift from my parents. It was in amazing like new condition - when I got it, the "play counter" had less than 5,000 plays on it. The cabinet is an amazing piece of pop art, and I have fond memories of playing this game when I was young. My Mom would drag me to our local Safeway where both a Kangaroo and a Star Castle lived for a long time. The day the Kangaroo was replaced with a Donkey Kong 3 (Another terrible game I actually love), my heart broke a little.
Oh Gyruss, a cross between the classics Galaga and Tempest. What a great underrated shooter with a killer looking cabinet to boot. The paint they used to make the side art on these games must have been the cheapest paint in the universe, since I have never seen one that wasn't a flaking mess. Mine had some cool bad words etched into it for extra coolness. My Gyruss was a mess... bootleg CPU... a clusterf*ck of a wire harness... the cabinet was falling apart on the bottom... it would often just not work for no good reason... but when it did, MAN what a great game.
I hope I am never dumb enough to attempt to restore another Q*Bert. Although my skill set in such areas is much stronger than 15 years ago, Q*Bert (maybe just mine, but I have a feeling most of them are just like mine) is a huge pain in the butt to keep running. Q*Bert is the equivalent of owning a 70's British convertible I think, spending more time in the garage than on the road. However it is a great great game... and the pinball knocker in the bottom of the cabinet that activated when Q*Bert fell off the maze has to be one of the all time greatest arcade design ideas. @#!$# indeed, little buddy.
Another vastly underrated game, Sega's version of the Apple II computer classic Choplifter is a game I played for hours on end with my college buddy Dale when he was living in a hotel for a bit. This example was the super rare dedicated version of the game with that glorious Sega side art. I've never seen another dedicated model that has survived, which I hope isn't the case.
8) Doctor Who Pinball
Only the 2nd pinball machine I have over owned. Photo is not of my machine. I owed this game before the revival of the series, as I had grown up watching the classic series of Doctor Who (and all of his versions) on PBS as a kid. Just a super fun pinball, and this is coming from a non pinball fan. Lots of great features including a rising playfield section that would always become misaligned and cause the game to reset. Just a beautiful machine that was well thought out and fun to play. This was maybe the most popular game I have ever owned for house guest wanting to play.
The Frogger you see to the right is somewhat of a lie. Only after I started to try to restore it to a Frogger did I figure out it was never a Frogger to begin with. I bought it at an auction for 125 bucks, converted to the classic shooter 1942. The cabinet and all the parts screamed Frogger. Every part I bought off Ebay fit perfectly. It wasn't until I started to dig around the bottom of the game and clean it out properly I discovered its true origin. Piranha, a terrible and strange Pac-Man clone by a company called GL, came in this cabinet originally. I guess either the company that made cabinets for Sega at the time made these for GL, or better money is on GL just copying the design inch for inch. Still, I miss my weird Frogger-not-really-a-Frogger.
Last but not least, Millipede by Atari, the sequel to the classic shooter Centipede. Another Craig's List find for 200 dollars when I lived in Memphis. It worked and played well but had as you can see its fair share of knocks and dents. This series of Atari cabinets are my all time favorite arcade cabinets. Art on the kickplate and matching art on the sides just really gets my motor running. Millipede doesn't quite get the props its mother Centipede gets, which is a shame. And now that I have a Centipede in my collection, I hate to say the chance of me adding a Millipede into my stash now is pretty low.
Well there you have it, and I could go on and on. Like the Nintendo VS. "Red Tent" two screen cocktail I should never have gotten rid of... a very nice Dig Dug upright... a sitdown version of Space Harrier (which actually my daughter still owns)... but collecting everything is in the hunt. And I guess if you really love something you have to let it go, right? No, that doesn't sound right.... Happy hunting.