Updated: Mar 27, 2020
In the first Stuck in the Arcade, we took a look back at some of those arcade classics that never left the arcades, failing to secure a home conversion of any description. Continuing the theme, Antstream Arcade presents another select band of games that were left behind in the arcades. If you enjoy this article, please check out our Facebook page and join our mailing list to get more great retro game content, as well as to be first in line for news about Antstream Arcade, the world's first streaming retro gaming service.
Red Alert – Irem, 1981
Fuelled by the ongoing cold war, Irem’s Red Alert presents a stark kill-or-be-killed vision of the Eighties that inevitably embraces the shoot-‘em-up genre. The player takes on the role of a valiant defender of various European cities, destroying enemy jets, helicopters and bombers within a strict time limit, the latter inside an evocative night mission. Failure to eliminate the attackers in time and the lethal MIRV is deployed, raising the threat of nuclear destruction to a pant-wetting Def Con 1. Matthew Broderick had it easy.
Zoo Keeper – Taito, 1982
On a more peaceful note, Taito brought us this little gem a year after Red Alert, and Zoo Keeper features three distinct stages. Firstly, our brave custodian must maintain a brick wall in order to keep the animals fenced in, while escapees can be bashed back into their cages (not very friendly). Then, there’s a sparse platform level reminiscent of Mario Bros and also Donkey Kong. Rescue your love at the top of the screen and after a few more wall-building levels, it’s a bizarre scene where the keeper must leapfrog over errant creatures in order to nip up some escalators and rescue his girl once more. All a bit odd, and unsurprisingly the closest Zoo Keeper came to a home conversion was an aborted Atari 2600 port.
Domino Man – Midway/Marvin Glass Associates, 1983
We’ve all watched those world record domino rally attempts, right? Well, Domino Man taps into the fascination with lining up hundreds of small pieces of plastic, only to knock them all over, and shoehorns the concept into this obscure arcade game from Midway and Marvin Glass. Each screen opens with a series of dots stretching across it; run over these with your little character and a domino is raised. Complete the chain before the local bully knocks them over and the rally is yours to start, unless you want to link it up to the next screen for a mega bonus that is…
Kamikaze Cabbie / Yellow Cab – Data East, 1984
Ever wonder where Sega got the idea for Crazy Taxi from? Look no (allegedly) further than Data East and Kamikaze Cabbie where the player must pick up passengers and take them to their preferred destination, as quickly and dangerously as possible. Portrayed in a top-down perspective, Kamikaze Cabbie’s graphics have a quaint charm as the yellow taxi negotiates ponderous steam rollers and speeding police cars, and it manages to contain all the frantic playability of the Sega classic, only 15 years earlier.
The Three Stooges in Brides is Brides – Mylstar Electronics, 1984
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of this adaptation of the famous comedy trio is its speech, which capably helps replicate the madcap atmosphere of the films. Otherwise, it’s an uncomplicated one-screen style game. Taking on the role of one of the eponymous pranksters, the player must avoid their stooge friends and truncheon-twirling policeman while collecting keys and hurling custard pies, with rescuing the threesome’s brides the ultimate objective. It’s daft fun, and unrelated to the Cinemaware game released three years later.
Angel Kids – Sega, 1988
Released only in Japan by Sega, this is another oddity that relies on a unique concept, coupled with some cute and cloying main characters. The player controls two kids holding a rope while a third child bounces haphazardly above. By manipulating the length of the rope the happy bouncer can spring higher and higher until – presumably – the top of the green beanstalk is reached. Other than colourful balloons that can be popped to reveal items, there’s not much more to Angel Kids, although it’s concept is enough to give any half-decent health and safety officer a whole month’s worth of springy nightmares.
Downtown – Seta, 1989
In the first Stuck in the Arcade, we highlighted an unusual brawler, Avenger, which portrayed the fist-fuelled action from above rather than the traditional side-on view. Downtown repeats the trick, with improved graphics and a weird control system that requires a rotary-style joystick, most famously used in the run ‘n’ gunner Ikari Warriors.
Tecmo Knight – Tecmo, 1989
Arcade games don’t come much bloodier than Tecmo Knight, a crimson-laden brawler that Tecmo were sufficiently pleased with to add their own name into the title. Set in a fantasy word of ogres, Minotaurs and dragons, Tecmo Knight is not a game for the faint-hearted. Lots of patience and perseverance are required as enemies rain down on the hero, who can niftily hop from the towering Smokeman to an impressive tiger, each with their own individual attacks. Best of all, gather enough skulls and the hero can transform into a dragon, reducing the ugly denizens of the game into bloody chunks of flesh. Eek.