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Top 10 Notorious Quarter Devouring Arcade Games

VO: Dan Paradis
Script written by Kurt Hvorup Before Smartphone games tried to max out your credit card, there were some arcade games that tried to empty you wallet. Join WatchMojo.com as we countdown our picks for the Top 10 Notorious Quarter Devouring Arcade Games. We'll be looking at the lengthy history of arcade games, in search of those games specifically designed to get as many of a player's quarters as possible. We're not focusing on the quality of these games as a whole, as several are otherwise good games. Rather, we're focusing on cheap difficulty, ease of messing up, the possibility of needing multiple playthroughs, and other money-motivated design choices. Special Thanks to our user "MikeyP" for suggesting this topic on our Interactive Suggestion Tool at WatchMojo.comsuggest.
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Script written by Kurt Hvorup

Top 10 Notorious Quarter Devouring Arcade Games


Before Smartphone games tried to max out your credit card, there were some arcade games that tried to empty you wallet. Join WatchMojo.com as we countdown our picks for the Top 10 Notorious Quarter Devouring Arcade Games.

We'll be looking at the lengthy history of arcade games, in search of those games specifically designed to get as many of a player's quarters as possible. We're not focusing on the quality of these games as a whole, as several are otherwise good games. Rather, we're focusing on cheap difficulty, ease of messing up, the possibility of needing multiple play-throughs, and other money-motivated design choices.

#10: “Metamorphic Force” (1993)

It's the little details that end up making the difference. As one of Konami's last arcade beat 'em ups, “Metamorphic Force” definitely stands out, especially with its focus on up to four warriors battling the forces of the undead. However, it sports a bizarre feature in its U.S. incarnation: health that decreases 1 point per 10 seconds, regardless of any other damage the player takes. Players can regain these health points with in-game items... or by spending real-world tokens. It's a subtle element, but no less fixated on arcade goers' money.

#9: “Initial D Arcade Stage” series (2001-)

Race to your heart's content, as long as you have the quarters. “Initial D Arcade Stage”, released in 2001, mixed the fun of competitive racing with role-playing elements. It used a card system to save one's progress, only needing to be renewed every 50 plays. All well and good – except you had to spend a credit per race. Assuming that a player kept up with their racing habits, the number of credits spent adds up.

#8: “Smash TV” (1990)

While certainly beloved, this classic run and gun game isn't without questionable design. Set in a game show studio that players must traverse while shooting hordes of foes, “Smash TV” is remembered for its visually distinct setting and intense action. Yet it subtly sets players up to be overwhelmed and retry the game; movement was designed to be relatively slow, at odds with the fast-paced combat. Add to that an endless onslaught of enemies, and you have a game built to claim players' quarters.

#7: “Mortal Kombat” (1992)

Similar to its counterpart “Street Fighter II”, this fighting game had more than a few cheap elements in its design. “Mortal Kombat”, known for its one-on-one tournament-style battles and gruesome Fatalities, definitely presented gamers with a challenge... sometimes by limiting their abilities. For example, player-controlled characters can't use a standing block to resist a sweep kick, but AI-controlled characters can. Similar design decisions favouring the AI ensured cheap deaths, meaning players had to spend many quarters to beat the game.

#6: “Rampage” (1986)

For all the fun of being a kaiju, there's also frustration to be found. Such is the case with developer Midway Games' “Rampage”, a one-to-three player arcade game about controlling giant monsters and, well, rampaging through each level's city before time runs out. The issue comes with how much resistance the monsters face – countless things in the game are designed to cause damage, from enemy bullets, to dynamite and explosive shells, to even attacks from other monsters. As engaging as it is, “Rampage” doesn't lack for ways to test one's patience and endurance.

#5: “Ghosts 'n Goblins” (1985)

Hang in there, Arthur. This iconic platformer starring the noble knight Arthur, on a quest to save Princess Prin Prin from Satan, is remembered fondly for its challenge and overall quality. Yet it possesses a gameplay mechanic that could be seen as questionable: a lives system based around a timer. Basically, for each level that Arthur traverses, a timer counts down; if it reaches zero, the player instantly loses a life. Much as we enjoy challenging games, this seems a bit excessive.

#4: “Sinistar” (1982)

In the realm of “twitch games” this is something of a legend – with a bit of infamy to boot. “Sinistar” has a simple enough premise: you are the pilot of a fighter ship, attempting to collect materials in order to build bombs in the fight against the titular skull-like creature. Though the game is known for its difficulty, it's the climactic appearance of Sinistar that seals it. Sinistar flies in at such an angle that it is nearly impossible to dodge, resulting in instant death... and the need to spend more quarters to try again.

#3: “Dragon's Lair” (1983)

As one of the first FMV games, naturally this set a lot of standards... including the nature of difficulty. “Dragon's Lair” follows Dirk the Daring, a knight venturing into a dragon's castle to rescue Princess Daphne. The game proper had players following on-screen commands and hitting buttons in a timely manner, to keep Dirk from succumbing to perilous traps. However, much of the game is based around trial-and-error, requiring repeated playthroughs to attain victory. Better keep those quarters handy, kids.

#2: “Gauntlet” (1985)

Being restricted in how long you can play a game doesn't seem fun – so why should that be part of a game's design? Yes, the classic dungeon crawl game “Gauntlet”, in which up to four players venture through increasingly difficult monster-filled mazes, has a time restriction built into the gameplay. Players' health bars automatically drain of their own accord, apart from any damage caused by foes. Thus, an artificial limit on one's play session exists, for those players not able to keep feeding the game tokens.

Before we get to our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions:

“Crime Fighters” (1989)
“Xexex” (1991)
“NARC” (1988)
“X-Men” (1992)

#1: “Double Dragon 3: The Rosetta Stone” (1990)

In the realm of quarter devouring arcade games, this might be the most blatant. The arcade version of “Double Dragon 3” returns the franchise to certain conventions, such as the punch-and-kick combat of the original game. However, in the North American release, it also saw quite the fascinating inclusion: an item shop. Stocked with items like power-ups and new moves, players could enjoy enhance their characters to their heart's content... for real world money. At one coin per item, this design decision highlighted a very real and very questionable interest in taking the player's money. Worse still, because the games difficulty ramps up quickly, meaning if you didn’t spend money to upgrade your character, you’re gonna have a bad time.

Do you agree with our list? What arcade games do you find to be quarter devouring? For more quarter-free top 10s published daily, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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