Outside of very specific cases, you’d be hard-pressed to find a genre of video game that hasn’t seen great releases in 2017. From shooters to strategy to 1930s platformers, it seems like gamers of all stripes have something great to dig into this year. As we near the end of the year and begin to recover from the intense hype and discussion surrounding monster games like Call of Duty and Super Mario, I thought it’d be appropriate to look at a group of six games that might have flown under the radar. These hidden arcade gems are linked solely by their fast-paced action gameplay and their old-school presentation. After dipping into each title, I can say one thing for certain. If you’re a quarter junkie, these games will be right up your neon-lit alley.
Super Hydorah is the latest release from the wonderfully retro mind of Locomalito. A full remake and upgrade of his 2010 freeware release, Super Hydorah lists influences ranging from Gradius and Turrican to Space Manbow and Hellfire. Indeed, it’s a shoot ’em up that feels like a direct continuation of that arcade legacy.
Of course, because quarters are no longer an option, Super Hydorah demands perfect play by holding your score hostage. Just like Super Meat Boy, you can try each level as many times as you want, but your continues keep adding up and your score resets after each set of lives is completed. On top of all that, your ship is one unshielded hit away from a fiery crash, so you have to swiftly dodge bullets and collect power-ups at the right time to stay alive and reach the boss. As with most side-scrolling shooters, I can’t say I’m great at this game, but the drum beats of the soundtrack and the pixel explosions kept me drawn to it anyway.
Sometimes, you just want an old-fashioned platforming challenge. You don’t want to go on an adventure, you don’t want to collect 100 of anything, you just want to time your jumps and reach your goal. There have been a few games that have scratched this specific itch for me, but none have done it with such flair as Fist’s Elimination Tower.
Play as a group of lucky (?) contestants running through a gauntlet of crushing fists and robots that are just begging to be hopped on. Mechanics build as you climb the tower, as does your understanding of the game’s precise controls and its unique sense of humor. Nothing here is a cakewalk, but the game keeps up the pace with quick respawns and quicker timers that demand precision play.
Once I got into the zone, Fist’s Elimination Tower reminded me a lot of WarioWare. I didn’t know what jumps I’d have to make around the next bend, and I’d probably die horribly a few times before figuring it out, but nothing ever lasted long enough to let me wallow in my failure. Like its hyperactive host, the game is brimming with good vibes that just make you want to keep climbing.
Spawned from the minds behind Crimsonland and set in the world of Neon Chrome, JYDGE is a futuristic top-down shooter from the fine folks at 10tons. Forgoing the randomized nature of its predecessor, JYDGE instead takes mechanics from Hotline Miami and flips them to the other side of the law. You are a lethal supercop sporting customizable weapons, and your aim is to mow down perps, rescue tax paying civilians, and restore order to the people of Edenbyrg.
Being described as a roguehate by the developers, gameplay consists of bite-sized missions meant to be played over and over with different customizations. Your Gavel is a rifle that can be outfitted with ballistics ranging from plasma bolts to a rocket launcher, and each new firing mode changes up how you play considerably. Adding on to that are cybernetic perks that shift your characters effectiveness. Do you want your JYDGE to be a stealthy killer or a technical wizard that works alongside a fully armed drone? Each and every combination is viable once you get a handle on it.
This all works extremely well, especially if you invested some time in Neon Chrome already. The repeating missions can get a bit tiresome, especially if you’re just looking to get a new upgrade and change up your style, but there’s still a lot of fun to be had bringing down your own swift jystice.
Whether you know it as Pang or Buster Bros. , the classic balloon popping arcade game is a sometimes forgotten classic that is ripe for reinvention. While 2016 did see a new official entry in the series, it’s often the case that the best innovations come from outside voices. Juanito Arcade Mayhem takes the basic Pang gameplay and mixes in mechanics from a slew of other classics, making this an arcade mashup worth queuing up for.
Despite my reduced expectations upon looking at the game initially, Arcade Mayhem really shines once you load it up. Every character looks and feels buttery smooth, making the game’s roots as an animated feature film that much more apparent. The soundtrack is filled with fun remixes of favorite retro tunes. The gameplay strikes that perfect balance of challenge that avoids sharp spikes in difficulty by pushing players forward naturally. The theming for each world is unique, adding mechanics appropriate to the game you’re jumping into as well as clever nods to history whenever possible.
At the very beginning of 2017, I played through Rise & Shine, a game with similarly heavy ties to gaming nostalgia. Unlike with Rise, Arcade Mayhem‘s references aren’t skin deep, and there’s a true love for the material evident in every new joke and gameplay twist. The past isn’t used as a crutch, it’s a tool that has crafted a fresh and dynamic high score game that’s well worth your time.
The venerable beat ’em up genre has been through a lot of ups and downs. Despite some valiant attempts in recent times, the mere structure of these simplistic brawlers holds them back. Still, if you’re down for a side-scrolling game where a lone warrior can take on thousands of mutated gang members across exotic locales, Fight’n Rage is a game to look into.
If you can get past the bouncing bosoms of the female hero, you’ll find a complete suite of moves and a killer soundtrack that really compliment each other. There’s plenty to unlock too, ranging from playable mook characters to extra modes to alternate costumes for everyone. There are also a ton of endings to unlock, although you might not get that far since the game does get punishing towards the end even on lower difficulties.
Created by a one-man team in South America (along with a second working on the soundtrack), Fight’n Rage is an impressive package that successfully pays homage the classic formula of Streets of Rage and Double Dragon. It even features a fake bootup screen, because it knows exactly what type of game it is. While there’s more than enough fan service to go around, the game underneath is a solid addition to anyone’s MAME collection.
It’s sad for someone as old as me to think about, but some gamers think of Xbox Live Arcade rather than the local mall when they hear talk of arcade classics. The service brought bite-sized quarter munchers back into fashion, and one of the first to be revived was Smash TV. Since then, we’ve seen a slew of dual-stick shooters keeping the dream alive on all manner of platforms. When It Hits The Fan has the look, gameplay, and ridiculous story chops to be a rightful bearer of that torch.
Now, most top-down shooters would be satisfied with a single enemy force. Smash TV has mutants, Robotron has the robots who hunt the last human family, and so on. When It Hits The Fan knows that games in 2017 have had to step up their game, so they’re bringing everything. Do you want to shotgun zombies? We got ’em. Giant roaches? Indeed sir. Alien tanks? How about on the first level? They even have some sort of unidentifiable frog monster that ribbits as it leaps toward you.
Various enemies aside, you’ll find a standard assortment of weapons to wield here. You die in one hit, but your ammo is unlimited and you have plenty of maneuverability to get around any foe you face. It may be getting repetitive at this point in the list, but the game also features a rocking soundtrack that fits the tone the game is going for without getting in the way. When It Hits The Fan isn’t going to win any awards for originality, but it does deliver an engaging shooting experience that feels at home in the far-off future of 1999.
What are your favorite arcade games of 2017? What games did we miss on this edition of the Raptor 6? Let us know in the comments below, and let’s look forward to more new arcade classics in 2018!