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Gamest Ten Year Best Selection

Before Arcadia, Gamest was Japan’s leading arcade-game magazine, back when people still went to arcades. In 1996 they did a 10-year retrospective, looking back on their back issues and discussing where they’d been, and (probably) where they’re going.

They also included a list of the noteworthy games covered each year, and I think it’s a fascinating look over the most interesting ten years of arcade gaming. The transition from one genre to the next is particularly interesting, and remarkably abrupt.

For your reading pleasure I’ll be listing each year here, starting with 1986. The list every year is not presented in any particular order.

Gamest’s 1987 Best Selection
Afterburner – Sega
R-Type – Irem
Outrun – Sega
Dragon Spirit – Namco
Genpei Toumaden (源平討魔伝) – Namco
Street Fighter – Capcom
Shadow Land (妖怪道中記) – Namco
1943 – Capcom
Ninja Kid 2 (忍者くん阿修羅ノ章) – UPL

There are a couple of interesting entries in this list. What the hell is Genpei Toumaden doing there? People liked that? When I played this game all I really felt was a disjointed, slow side-scrolling sword-swinging tech-demo. Where’s the fun?

It’s interesting to see AfterBurner in that list – who’s ever actually played it? It was rare and only out for a limited time before the superior, tweaked AfterBurner II was released.

Street Fighter? Please. The only reason it should be in anyone’s list is ’cause it spawned Street Fighter II, a game which didn’t suck in any of the ways this one did.

Actually, about half of this year’s games suck. It was a rough time for arcades, as they transitioned from the rawest hardware and game concepts to a new generation of games on hardware designed for the task.

They nailed R-Type though, and Outrun was fun. Dragon Spirit was good too, and 1943 is a classic. I’m a bit torn on Darius, aside from great graphics in level 1 and awesome 3-screen action it was, basically, ass.

8 thoughts on “Gamest Ten Year Best Selection

  1. Gamest’s 1988 top 10 (11 this year, actually) Best Selection is pretty solid, with only one real stinker and one iffy game. The rest are pretty decent across the board.

    Gamest’s 1988 Best Selection
    Gradius II – Konami
    Forgotten Worlds (ロストワールド) – Capcom
    Bravoman (超絶倫人 ベラボーマン) – Namco
    Ninja Warriors – Taito
    Power Drift – Sega
    Ordyne – Namco
    A-Jax – Konami
    Syvalion – Taito
    Galaxy Force 2 – Sega
    Ninja Spirit (最後の忍道) – Irem
    Final Lap – Namco

    Definitely a good year. While I don’t personally care for Gradius (It’s better than Darius at least) I can understand it being included. Lost World was a lot more fun in the arcade with its paddle controller than at home with three buttons… Ninja Warriors, I guess it’s fun with three screens to play on, and Ninja Spirit is pure gold…

    But Syvalion (Cyber Lion?)? is a weird choice. I don’t have any idea why this one’s so popular in Japan, maybe the novelty of a trackball controller made it worth playing? And I’m not a huge fan of A-Jax or Bravoman, but meh.

  2. On to 1989. There are some stellar choices in here, but once again the Japanese tastes differ a little from mine, and indeed from most right-minded people.

    Gamest’s 1989 Best Selection
    Tetris – Sega
    Legend of Valkyrie (ワルキューレの伝説) – Namco
    Darius 2 – Taito
    Strider (ストライダー飛竜) – Capcom
    Gain Ground – Sega
    Dynasty Wars (天地を食らう) – Capcom
    U.N. Squadron (Area 88 / エリア88) – Capcom
    Night Striker – Taito
    Image Fight – Irem
    Ghouls n Ghosts (大魔界村) – Capcom

    These were definitely Capcom’s golden years. Ghouls n Ghosts was a beautiful, hard-as-nails platformer, and Strider set the standard for graphical excess for a long time. The other companies tried hard, but couldn’t really match Capcom’s output. I mean, who remembers Tetris? Sega did do good with Gain Ground, a game so excellent most arcade operators took the machine home for their personal enjoyment as soon as it was paid for.

    Darius totally sucks, especially the two-monitor’d Darius 2. And Legend of Valkyrie? Another cutesy but terrible game from Namco. And Night Striker… Why the Japanese like this game is beyond me. It’s everything wrong with Thunder Blade and Space Harrier rolled into one (admittedly good looking) game.

    I wish I could like Irem’s Image Fight, but it sucks.

  3. 1990 was a good year for gamers, though as usual some of Gamest’s selections are questionable.

    Gamest’s 1990 Best Selection
    Final Fight – Capcom
    Parodius Da – Konami
    Gradius 3 – Konami
    Magic Sword – Capcom
    Marvel Land – Namco
    Columns – Sega
    Cameltry – Taito
    Raiden (雷電) – Seibu Kaihatsu
    G-LOC – Sega
    Gate of Doom (Dark Seal) – Data East

    This year means a lot to me, ’cause Raiden was released. This vertical shooter from Seibu Kaihatsu set the standard for the genre for a long time. Taito also made me happy with their strange, rotating spinner-controlled Cameltry.

    Capcom was moving right along as the kings of scrolly beaters with Final Fight and Magic Sword while Konami released both a Gradius sequel, and a Gradius parody: Parodius Da. Sega was playing it safe with Columns, a crappy variation of last year’s Tetris, at the same time they were pushing the envelope with G-LOC, a smooth-moving flight sim with a fairly exciting 360-degree rotating cabinet.

    Namco, meanwhile, was sucking hard with the execrable Marvel Land, and Data East brings up the rear with Dark Seal (Gate of Doom).

  4. 1991 was a great year for shooters. Gamest’s picks were, as usual, mostly excellent.

    Gamest’s 1991 Best Selection
    Street Fighter 2 – Capcom
    Dragon Saber – Namco
    Detana!! Twinbee – Konami
    Starblade – Namco
    Cotton – Success/Sega
    Edward Randy – Data East
    Gun Frontier – Taito
    Steel Gunner – Namco
    Carrier Air Wing (U.S. Navy) – Capcom
    Three Wonders (Roosters) – Capcom

    1991 marks the start of Capcom’s world-beating Street Fighter series, and really kicked off the shift from shooters (What shooters? Cotton, Gun Frontier, Twinbee, Dragon Saber, Carrier Air Wing, Starblade, Steel Gunner, and, to a limited extent, Three Wonders, all in this year’s list!) to fighters.

    Edward Randy, meanwhile, is a platform game, the only non-shooter this year besides Street Fighter and (sort of) Three Wonders. Randy‘s very much a mix of Indiana Jones and Capcom’s Strider, and packs a serious whallop for fans of both.

    Three Wonders was a bit odd, with three half-assed games rolled into one: a shooter, a platformer, and a puzzler. Strange.

  5. Gamest’s 1992 Best Selection
    Street Fighter 2 Champion Edition (SF2 Dash) – Capcom
    Wolf Fang – Data East
    Undercover Cops – Irem
    Xexex – Konami
    Art of Fighting (竜虎の券 / Fist of Dragon and Tiger) – SNK
    Metal Black – Taito
    Captain Commando – Capcom
    Aero Fighters (Sonic Wings) – Video System
    World Heroes – ADK
    Fatal Fury (餓狼伝説) – SNK

    The fighting-game days were well and truly underway now, with most of the list representing the genre (Captain Commando, Street Fighter 2 Dash, Undercover Cops, Wolf Fang, Fatal Fury, World Heroes, Art of Fighting). Street Fighter 2 received its first of many annual sequels, while SNK burst onto the stage with the first Fatal Fury and the first Art of Fighting, along with ADK’s World Heroes, all released on SNK’s NeoGeo system.

    Video System launched the first Sonic Wings, from which sprang Psikyo, who went on to many big things.

    The speed of this shift from shooters to fighters was astonishing. In one short year the top-ten list went from being dominated by shmups (8/10), to fighters (7/10). I should remind the reader however that this list represents the Gamest editors picks, not any kind of sales- or popularity-based numbers.

  6. Gamest’s 1993 Best Selection
    Samurai Showdown (Samurai Spirits)- SNK
    Fatal Fury Special – SNK
    Super Street Fighter 2 – Capcom
    Fatal Fury 2 – SNK
    Puyo Puyo – Compile / Sega
    Street Fighter 2 Dash Turbo – Capcom
    World Heroes 2 – ADK
    Outrunners – Sega
    Gaiapolis – Konami
    Warriors of Fate (Tenchi o Kurau 2) – Capcom

    Just in case anyone doubted that fighters were the new big thing in arcades, 1993 put that to rest as handily as 1992. Seven of the top ten were again fighting games, and Gaiapolis too was a top-down beat-em-up. Of the last two games neither was particularly original, despite being very popular: PuyoPuyo was another Tetris wannabe, and Outrunners was the third release in the Outrun series.

    Capcom and SNK dominated the arcades again this year, both companies releasing two sequels to an existing franchise (Fatal Fury 2 and Special, Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Super Street Fighter 2). If you were a fighting fan, it was a good year, but for everyone else it kind of sucked.

  7. Gamest’s 1994 Best Selection
    The King of Fighters ’94 – SNK
    Darkstalkers (Vampire) – Capcom
    Virtua Fighter – Sega
    Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo (SSF2 X) – Capcom
    Rayforce – Taito
    Fantastic Parodius (Gokujou Parodius / 極上パロディウス) – Konami
    Darius Gaiden – Taito
    Daytona USA – Sega
    Power Instinct 2 – Atlus
    Ridge Racer – Namco

    Finally, the old guard was able to knock that upstart SNK out of the top ten for a while. Almost. Only the first King of Fighters game made the cut this year, with no other NeoGeo releases for the company. Capcom, Konami. Taito and Namco got a chance to be a little more creative, and in the eyes of Gamest, it paid off.

    Sega’s Virtua Fighter was a whole new take on the fighting genre, featuring some solid gameplay to match its very advanced hardware and amazingly smooth 3D graphics.

    Namco launched a new long-running series with Ridge Racer. It helped to propel Sony’s Playstation console to its lofty heights when an nearly-arcade-perfect port was brought home.

    The age of 3D had arrived in the arcades. Game companies had long faked it, but with Virtua Fighter and Ridge Racer, it was here for real.

  8. Gamest’s 1995 Best Selection
    Virtua Fighter 2 – Sega
    Night Warriors: Darkstalkers’ Revenge (Vampire Hunter 2) – Capcom
    King of Fighters 95 – SNK
    Street Fighter Zero – Capcom
    Samurai Shodown 2 – SNK
    Tekken 2 – Namco
    Cyberbots – Capcom
    X-Men – Capcom
    Fatal Fury 3 – SNK
    Far East of Eden: – Hudson

    Fighting games continued their domination of the arcades in 1995. Every single game was a brawler this year.

    With only three exceptions, they were all sequels.


    Yes, it’s a ten-year retrospective with only 9 top-ten lists. I don’t know why.

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