Through The Years: The World’s Most Popular Arcade Games

Arcade machines have now been part a part of westernised society for the best part of 100 years. Arcade machines in their earliest form were first introduced in the 1920’s; and although these simple machines only performed elementary functions such as playing music or telling the user some ‘useful’ information, they certainly paved the way for arcade machines, and arcade gaming as we know it today.

Nearly 100 years on, we are now privileged enough to have easy access to thousands of classic and modern arcade games. Some of us are even lucky enough to have our very own arcade machines at home.

So with arcade gaming so readily available to all of us today, we thought it would be great to look at what have been the most popular arcade machine games through the ages.


Cabinets Sold: 400,000

Revenue by 1990: $3,500,000,000

Inflation-adjusted: $7,681,491,635

Gaming’s first major mascot, and perhaps its most recognisable and enduring character, Pac-Man burst onto the scenes in 1980 and became an overnight sensation. In an era where almost all games were space-themed shooters, Pac-Man’s non-violent, maze-chase gameplay presented something fresh and new. It also did something else few other games did at that time – and that was appeal to female gamers.

Space Invaders

Cabinets Sold: 360,000

Revenue by 1982: $2,702,000,000

Inflation adjusted: $6,612,228,000

One of video gaming’s all-time classics, Space Invaders kicked off what is now called the Golden Age of Arcades, a period of history spanning the late 70’s to the mid 80’s that saw unprecedented advances in gaming design and technology.

Street Fighter II/Champion Edition

Cabinets Sold: 200,000 (60,000 SF II, 140,000 CE)

Revenue by 1995: $2,312,000,000

Inflation adjusted: $3,582,553,228

Capcom’s sequel to its 1987 arcade hit was one of the gaming milestones of the 90’s. While the original Street Fighter introduced many of the series’ fundamental design elements, Street Fighter II evolved them a quantum leap forward, creating a benchmark fighting game design that still stands true today.

Ms. Pac-Man

Cabinets Sold: 125,000

Revenue by 1987: $1,200,000,000

Inflation adjusted: $2,494,552,816

The original Pac-Man’s largely non-violent gameplay had already proved appealing to females, so Illinois-based Midway Manufacturing corporation decided to go the whole hog and make a Pac-Man game specifically designed to attract them. The result was Ms. Pac-Man, essentially Pac-Man with a pink bow.


Cabinets Sold: 20,000

Revenue by 1994: $1,100,000,000

Inflation adjusted: $1,704,501,968

Released when arcades were having a second wind in 1993, NBA Jam follows in the footsteps of the 1989 basketball Arch Rivals, which also features 2-on-2 action. However, where Arch Rivals never really achieved truly critical mass, NBA Jam was hugely popular largely thanks to its official license enabling it to feature real team names and the digital likenesses of famous players.

Statistics from US Gamer

Despite arcade gaming introduced to us man many years ago, the industry remains extremely popular. And, with recent developments now allowing us to partake in next-generation arcade gaming; meaning we can now play our modern console games, through our beloved arcade machines.

2 thoughts on “Through The Years: The World’s Most Popular Arcade Games”

  1. Great post, I still collect old arcade machines for my online store but found that today generation doesn’t really want them unless I decorate it in fornite or StarWars!

    But I have found that over the pandemic period sales started to rise as everyone had a little more time on their hands.

    Space invaders were one and still is one of my all-time favourites!


Leave a Comment