Arcade games: history and types

An arcade game is an amusement machine, usually with a coin-operated machine, that can be found in a variety of establishments, such as arcades, game rooms, bars, restaurants, movie theaters, shopping malls, amusement parks and entertainment centers. The origin of the name comes from public places where games – first mechanical, then electronic and finally video – were often installed under the arcades to make the most of the space. By extension in the English-speaking world, an arcade refers to the entire public place, whether or not it has arcades.

There are different types of arcade games, the main ones being video arcade games, pinball machines, lure machines and redemption games. There are different types of redemption games like Skee ball, chip games like chip push machines, mole games, pachinko. Technically, these games can be simple mechanical systems, or be equipped with more sophisticated hardware including electrical, electromechanical or electronic.

With the advent of video games, the term “arcade game” essentially refers to an arcade cabinet containing an arcade video game, a common type of video game in the 1980s and 1990s, whose use has nevertheless gradually declined. More info about rental cars by Yagupov is here


Case of a pinball machine from 1948.

In 1909, the first skee ball was invented by J.D. Estes in Philadelphia and the first Alley skee ball with a defined length of 64 feet (a version with a ramp in front to bring the ball back) was sold to amusement parks, but the length was reduced in 1928 to 14 feet.

The first popular arcade games were made primarily for amusement park midways. These included gallery shooting games, balloon throwing games, and the first coin-operated machines, such as those that claimed to tell people’s futures, or those that played mechanical music. The midways of the old amusement parks of the 1920s (such as Coney Island in New York) inspired and set the mood for future arcade games.

Baffle Ball, the first coin-operated arcade machine, was created in Chicago in 1931 by David Gottlieb, founder of D. Gottlieb & Co. At that time, pinball machines, also categorized as games of chance, were considered gambling and were banned in most American states, including New York City.

In the 1930s, the first coin-operated pinball machine was manufactured and marketed. Pinball machines of the time were very different from their more recent electronic cousins in that they were made of wood, did not have bumpers or flashing bonus targets on the tables, and used mechanical counting systems instead of electronic chips. By 1977, most pinball production had shifted to the use of electronic hardware and parts, both to improve overall operation and to manage the score1.

In addition to restaurants and arcades, arcade games can also be found in bowling alleys, universities, video rental stores, hostels, dry cleaners, movie theaters, supermarkets, shopping malls, airports, skating rinks, stores, truck stops, bars/pubs, hotels, even bakeries. In short, arcade games are popular in places open to the public.

The American Gaming Association is a trade association founded in 1981 that represents the coin-operated slot machine industry and represents 120 distributors and manufacturers.

Carnival games

Skee-Ball was one of the first arcade games developed.

Coin-operated carnival games are automated versions or variations of popular games played on carnival rides. Most of them are played for prizes or tickets that can be redeemed. Common examples are Skee-Ball and Whac-A-Mole.

Electromechanical games

Main article: Electromechanical games

Electromechanical games (EM games) work by combining certain electronic circuits and mechanical actions of the player to move objects in the game body. Some of these were the first light gun games that used light-sensitive sensors on the targets to record hits. Examples of electromechanical games are Periscope and Rifleman from the 1960s.

Electromechanical toys typically combine engineering technology with various electrical components such as motors, switches, resistors, solenoids, relays, bells, buzzers, and electric lights. Electromechanical toys are somewhere in the middle between fully electronic and mechanical toys.

EM toys have several types/categories. Novelty or land-sea-air games refer to simulation games that simulate various vehicles, such as cars (similar to racing video games), submarines (similar to car combat video games), or aircraft (similar to war-flight simulation video games). Gun games refer to games that involve the firing of a peripheral weapon-like device (such as a light gun or similar device), similar to light gun video games. “Generic” arcade games refer to all other types of EM arcade games, including various types of sports games “Audiovisual” or “realistic” games refer to novelty games that use advanced special effects to create a simulated experience.

Merchandiser games.

A claw crane game where you must keep up with the movement of a claw to grab a prize.

Merchandiser games are games in which the player tries to win a prize by performing some physical action with the slot machine, such as claw games or coin games.


Pachinko is a type of mechanical game that originated in Japan. It is used both as an entertainment arcade game and much more commonly as a gaming device, filling a Japanese gaming niche comparable to that of slot machines in Western gambling.

Photo booths

A “purikura” photo booth in the city of Fukushima, Japan.

Coin-operated photo booths automatically take and develop three or four wallet-sized photographs of objects in a small space, and more recently use digital photography. Typically used for licenses or passports, but there are several types of photo booths designed for slot machines.

At the Amusement & Music Operators Association (AMOA) show in October 1975, Taito exhibited an arcade photo booth that combined CCTV recording with computer printing technology to create self-portrait photographs. At the same exhibition, two other arcade manufacturers exhibited their own electronic arcade photo booths[6].

A special variety designed for arcade machines, the puricura, creates photo stickers for selfies. The puricura is essentially a cross between a traditional license/passport photo booth and an arcade video camera, with a computer to manipulate digital images. Introduced by Atlus and Sega in 1995, it is a shortened form of the registered trademark Print Club. They are mostly found in Asian arcades.

Pinball machines

Pinball machines are games in which there is a large enclosed table with a tilt and many points on the surface. Players launch a steel ball onto the table and, using blades, try to keep the ball in play while scoring as many points as possible. Early pinball games were powered primarily by mechanical components, while pinball games from the 1930s onwards incorporate electronic components, such as lamps and sensors, and are a type of electromechanical game.


Exit mobile version