Games within a game? *HEAD EXPLODES*
You know what its like. Youre playing a video game and your character is running around smashing stuff up and then they stumble into an amusement arcade. And there are video games in there. Games inside a game. Amaze.
I've written a few articles recently lamenting the death of arcades and pointing out some of the amazing games that you could find in them. So let's see how games celebrate them too, eh? So come on, stick 10p in your computer's disc slot, find a ruler, spend 20 minutes getting it out again, then click on to slide 2.
Streets of Rage II (Mega Drive/Genesis, 1992)
So its the second level in Streets of Rage II and youve slugged through the streets, brawled in the bar and had a ruckus in the rain. Time for abusements in the amusements, eh? Eh? Oh, suit yourself. Anyway, here is an arcade complete with Bare Knuckle machines.
Why Bare Knuckle? Because thats what Streets of Rage is called in Japan. Yes, now it makes sense! It's the same game. Or at least its predecessor. That's pretty awesome. Also awesome because you can chuck Galsia and his cronies into the cabinets and pick up the money left behind. Well, money and apples. To be honest, I doubt they trigger the credit mechanism.
Duke Nukem Forever (Multi, 2011)
The game begins with Duke playing as himself in his own video game, so its clear self-referential gaming nods are a goer here. Its no surprise then, that you make it to an actual arcade and its full of nothing but Duke Nukem arcade games. Well, thats not strictly true. It also has Duke Nukem pinball tables. Called 'Duke Nukem: Balls of Steel'. Hmmm.
It's hard to enjoy this particular arcade because you reach it while shrunk down to the size of a small kitten. Ironic, really. Playing with a small kitten would be infinitely more fun than playing Duke Nukem Forever. Oooooh! Zing!
Shenmue (Dreamcast, 2000)
Ah, the Game YOU arcade. How much of Ine-sans money did we waste playing Space Harrier and Super Hang-On for hours on end? I suppose it's better that Ryo-san spends her money there than go off chasing gangs of bikers and getting killed via the shiny end of a metal pipe. But it still takes the mick quite a bit. "Ine-san's always there for me" says Ryo, happily taking his allowance, knowing full well it'll be in the Game YOU arcade's till by sundown. What a git.
But it's still one of the best arcades ever to grace a video game. Not only are the two main games themselves real, but theyre real classics. They even have Shenmue-related graphics added to them, which is cute. But you also get prizes for winning at them, including miniature models of the cabinets themselves. Maybe I should get another indeed!
Lollipop Chainsaw (Xbox 360/PS3, 2012)
The Fulci Fun Center is where all the cool kids at San Romero go after school to play video games. In fact, it's where the zombies go too. Bless 'em. They even say things like 'hit the button faster' and 'I need to level up', just like real arcade-goers don't.
It soon goes a bit Tron and so Juliet (who I am a little bit in love with, if I'm honest) gets sucked into the game world and runs around in 'Commodore 64' fashion for a bit. No, it isn't very good. But still... SPARKLE HUNTING! Feel better? See, I learned from Lollipop Chainsaw that 'SPARKLE HUNTING' elevates any bad situation back into the good times for a few moments, after which... well, you can always use it again. SPARKLE HUNTING! See? Feel free to use that.
The House of the Dead Overkill (Wii/PS3, 2009)
The Carny level in HotD Overkill is a good 'un. Clowns at the funfair are pretty nightmarish in my book and I haven't even seen Steven King's 'It'. Apparently it has a clown in it. Ugh. But anyway, halfway through the level, you get to blast your way through an amusement arcade filled with classic Sega arcade machines.
Now, I would say: "Interestingly, the arcade machines differ between the Wii and PS3 versions", but to be honest, that isn't interesting to anyone. Although perhaps it is interesting that the Wii version has an arcade cabinet of Space Harrier II. Which (as I think you'll find everyone including your gran knows), was a launch game for the Mega Drive in Japan and never appeared in coin-op form. What a mistaka to make-a? Nah, we're getting granular. Erm... SPARKLE HUNTING?
The Last of Us: Left Behind (PS3, 2014)
The 'Left Behind' DLC for The Last of Us is predictably bittersweet when it comes to walking through an arcade. The power's still on, but the game Ellie really wants to play (The Turning) is broken. By the sounds of things, it was a Mortal Kombat rip-off with gory finishing moves and a Virtua Fighter-esque button setup.
Ellie may only have to imagine the game she's playing as her friend describes the action that would've been playing out on the screen, but it hits hard from the player's perspective. Having to respond to on-screen prompts to play the imaginary bout is both challenging yet strangely reminiscent of a real arcade. It's an ode to arcade gaming. And sadly, Ellie's feelings are familiar to anyone who misses arcades. Meh. It's OK, I'll just close my eyes and press some microswitches... (sniff)
Yakuza 5 (PS3, 2012)
Yakuza games have always had arcades in them. And it turns out virtual UFO catchers are just as annoying in a virtual arcade as they are in real life. Funny, that. But Yakuza 5 on PS3 has to win the prize for most realistic-looking arcade in a game. I mean, just look at it! It could be a photograph!
Ah, but its beauty is more than just skin-deep. Not only is there a drum-banging rhythm-action title (apparently by Namco?!), but there's a fully-functional Virtua Fighter 2 coin-op as well. Only one of the best beat-em-ups ever made. Who was it I was supposed to rescue from kidnappers? Whatever. They'll be fine. There's still time for another credit to try and beat Lion Rafale. Praying Mantis style my ass...
Pokemon series (Multi, 1996-)
Game Corner looks completely innocuous, doesn't it? Sure, there are people sat at the machines who never seem to move from their spot, inexorably pumping coins into slots, hoping for a jackpot that never comes. Sound like gambling? Yes, it does, rather. Which is why Game Corner is badass.
What do I mean? Well, look at it this way. European ratings board PEGI freaked out over the similarities between Game Corner and real gambling, forcing Game Freak to remove Game Corner from Pokemon Platinum. That means the act of frequenting an existing Game Corner and hanging out there is a rebellious statement the nanny state disapproves of. Rebellious youths? Wasting time and money? That makes it the most authentic arcade of all! Oh, and you can even find money on the undoubtedly sticky floor. Game Corner FTW.
Got a favourite haunt?
There were several games that almost made the list, but didn't. Games like GTA: San Andreas, or Catherine. You know, the kind of game that has the odd arcade machine in it that you can play, but not actually proper amusement arcades. I could have put them in, sure. But then the content wouldn't fit the headline and you'd accuse me of not knowing what an arcade is, which would undermine everything I've been trying to say in these articles.
This surely concludes our little look-back at arcades (at least for the time-being), but if you missed them (the articles, not the arcades, though that will help too), do check out Where have all the arcade racers gone? and The best arcade games that never got ported to home consoles.