15 addictive video game picks from the Internet Archive’s new arcade

Kiss your productivity goodbye, and kiss your sense of nostalgia hello with these classics of the video arcade, thanks to the Internet Archive.

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No quarter given! (Nor any required.)

Yes, it’s true – the Internet Archive, stalwart home of the Wayback Machine, now has a special section for the video games of yesteryear, in the Internet Arcade. There are 902 titles available, according to the site, running on a specialized Java emulator known as JSMAME. While not all of them are working quite right yet, there’s already an impressive selection available for you to play right in your browser window. Here are some of the highlights.

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The game that did possibly more than, well, Breakout to popularize the breakout formula is first on the list. Given the difficulty standards of the era, this is an unsurprisingly tricky version of the age-old brick-breaker, with the ball speeding unforgivingly past the ends of your small paddle. (Also, did you know there was a plot? I didn’t know there was a plot.) Obviously, the breakout action is fun, but there are plenty of slicker, slightly more forgiving options available online.

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This one has some engaging Frogger-esque action, set to jaunty can-can music. Unfortunately, it’s handicapped a bit by finicky controls and yes I did include this solely based on the name, which I am choosing to pronounce “ZIZZ-ix.”

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I’m trying to hit at least a few lesser-known titles here, but I couldn’t in good conscience leave Galaga off of the list. Chances are, you already know whether you like it or not, but on the off chance, this is the evolved, more frenetic version of Space Invaders. Beware, your co-workers will almost certainly notice your maniacal mashing of the control key.

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Golden Axe

The side-scrolling brawler stuck with us long after the arcade’s heyday was over, and Golden Axe is part of the reason why. I have zero idea what the story here is, but there’s apparently a village on the back of a giant turtle, and the bad guy’s name is Death Adder. Work your way through waves of sprite-art baddies as one of the three fantasy archetypes, including hyper-buff guy, scantily clad woman, and axe-wielding dwarf.

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Yie Ar Kung Fu

Speaking of fighting games, this curious little entry has some elements reminiscent of Kung-Fu Master and Karate Champ. Lots of high-jumping action, with a wide variety of possible moves make this a worthy time-waster.

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Admit it, you saw this movie, and then you got excited when you saw this game in the arcade. It’s an arcade game about a movie about a guy who’s good at arcade games getting sucked into a computer and having to play arcade games. Kind of. Be warned, the default controls are kind of a mess.

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I mean, obviously. Unfortunately, Pac-Man doesn’t really work right on a PC – it’s functional and everything, but the whole idea was always to rack up as many points as possible on a single quarter. Playing it on your computer, with unlimited continues, seems like it defeats the purpose.

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Paperboy is a sadistic, cruel game. It’s like an early entrée into the working world for impressionable kids: GET BLAMED! For stuff that isn’t your fault! CRASH! Into negligent commuters! If I ever have a kid that says “gee, Dad, I want to play a game that will get me used to throwing up my hands at the unfairness of the world,” I’ll let him or her play Paperboy.

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Street Fighter II

OK, yes, it’s still around in one of its innumerable modern guises. Which, yes, means you could probably have a more satisfying experience than one that requires bashing away at awkward keyboard controls. But it’s Street Fighter II – the first fighting game that I can remember causing competitive young nerds to nearly come to real-life blows.

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Great Swordsman

An absorbing little game of cut and thrust, across three different styles of swordsmanship. It’s a little bit like recent (albeit retro) indie darling Nidhogg, with the simplified, yet complex interrelation of high, medium and low lines in fencing. It’s not an all-time classic by any means, but just try not to enjoy the ending bit where the loser gets poked in the head by a flying foil.

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Space Harrier

There’s some proto-Star Fox DNA in Space Harrier, a kinetic rail shooter with engaging, if not terribly inventive action. Personally, I’m curious about what kind of invisible jetpack this guy has, where he can run as fast as he flies. I suppose it’s not really important. Some good elements, but it’s not particularly challenging.

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Burger Time

If you don’t get a little nostalgic when you hear the jaunty music from Burger Time, you might want to have a doctor look at your nostalgia bone. Nothing quite like the noble quest of a burger chef to walk all over his food and tame unruly ingredients with pepper. It’s addictive, tricky and fun.

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Bull Fight

Ah, a light-hearted take on the barbaric “sport” of bullfighting. This actually comes off pretty well, since the graphics aren’t very good, the gameplay is tricky, and there’s a satisfyingly lengthy mauling animation for when you screw up. Think of it as a prequel to Burger Time.

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Green Beret

I knew this one primarily as a console title (Get it? Rush ‘n Attack?), but this pre-Contra side-scrolling shooter retains much of the finicky hit detection and frenetic pace of the 1987 classic without the lurid, overpowered weapons and weird alien foes. Just go find a Flash port of Contra, really.


Out Run

OK, this version might not be the best one out there, but just think – would we have ever gotten Final Lap without Out Run? Or F-Zero? Or, for heaven’s sake, Crazy Taxi? I think not! Kudos, Out Run. Kudos.