When examining the history of video games, it’s impossible to ignore the influence of Japanese arcade games. Even though this $100 billion global genre is currently a leisurely pastime, video games were first created in labs by scientists. In 1952, British professor A.S. Douglas created the electronic game OXO for his doctoral dissertation at the University of Cambridge. This groundbreaking development was followed in 1958 by the first analog computer and connected oscilloscope screen game Tennis for Two at the Brookhaven National Laboratory. Steve Russell later invented a computer-based space combat video game in 1962 at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Once arcade games were invented, they helped video games transition away from massive university computers into more accessible venues. When Ralph Baer created the Brown Box in 1967, he accidentally sparked a gaming revolution. This multi-program video game system could be played on a TV, which was a groundbreaking development. The system was later sold to Magnavox and marketed as the Odyssey, and one of its 28 games inspired Atari’s Pong. From there the first arcade video game was born, and it eventually made its transition to home consoles in 1975.
Even though the rest is history, the epic rise in the popularity of video games can be attributed to a few arcade releases. Through resonating with entire generations, these games unintentionally set the stage for a renaissance. Out of all the cultures that played a part in this gaming revolution, none have made a more profound impact than Japan. To highlight this, we compiled a list of the most influential Japanese arcade games of all-time. These releases repeatedly set the industry standard, and helped developers see what was truly possible. There’s no denying their impact, so get an intimate look at the arcade games that paved the way for the games we love today!
Most Influential Japanese Arcade Games
Arcade Game #3: Space Invaders (1978) – When this game made its debut, the industry was never the same. On top of pioneering space-based shooters, Space Invaders showcased the power of music. When Tomohiro Nishikado sold the game through Taito, he complimented this release with it’s own soundtrack. The song “Space Invaders” became a hit, and helped consumers identify with the game. “Invader House” arcades that were dedicated exclusively to Space Invaders popped up across Japan. This popularity eventually spread to the Western world, which cemented this release in arcade history.
Arcade Game #2: Pac-Man (1980) – Equipped with a nine-man team, Toru Iwatani started developing a game in 1979 that would shake up the industry. At the time most arcade games revolved around war or sports, and Iwatani vowed to break the mold. By creating colorful characters, he successfully catered to younger players of both genders. Puckman immediately became a hit in Japan, but had to be changed to Pac-Man to discourage patrons from defacing the machines. This proved to be a wise move, since Pac-Man went on to become one of the most successful video games of all-time.
Under the guidance of Namco, Pac-Man took the world by storm. It successfully infiltrated arcades around the globe, and spawned various sequels, two TV shows and countless pieces of merchandise. By 2016, this iconic game had generated $14 billion in revenue and become the flagship icon of Bandai Namco Entertainment. Pac-Man has the highest brand awareness of any video game character in North America, and this longevity is a testament to the quality of this classic game.
Arcade Game #1: Mario Bros. (1983) – Interestingly enough, this iconic arcade game was created by two of the lead developers for Donkey Kong. Through countless experiments, Shigeru Miyamoto and Gunpei Yokoi perfected the mustached character in overalls from the original Donkey Kong game. This release had major implications, since on top of putting Nintendo on the map it singlehandedly saved the industry. Mario Bros. paved the way for the platform video game release Super Mario Bros. in 1985. The wild success of the game helped the video game industry recover from the devastating 1983 crash.
Once users were back onboard, the success of this franchise continued to grow. Super Mario Bros. sold more than 40 million physical copies and set the foundation for an empire. Today Super Mario is one of the most beloved video game franchises of all-time. It’s all thanks to one arcade release, and Nintendo salutes this iconic game by including it in Super Mario Advance and the Wii. Mario Bros. proved that arcade games could successfully transition onto home consoles, and the effects of this discovery can still be felt to this day.