Arcades may be a (mostly) dead remnant of the ’80s and ’90s, but that doesn’t mean arcade cabinets aren’t an incredible way to game with your friends. If you’ve ever been to a barcade, or even a Dave and Busters, then you know the simple joys that the best retro arcade cabinets can bring as you huddle around a screen with your friends and talk loads of trash.
When it comes to buying the best arcade cabinets, there are a few routes you can take. The most expensive is to find an original arcade cabinet on eBay. While many of these cabinets promise to be working, you will be spending at least $1,000 to get your hands on one in most cases and there will almost certainly be some maintenance required in the future. But this is the most faithful and authentic way to relive the glory of your favorite classic games.
Another great option is to get a replica cabinet from a brand such as Arcade 1Up, and we’ve listed some of those below. While these are not actual machines that were used 30 years ago, they are officially licensed products that have been updated with more modern technology, but still promise the same look and gameplay you know. The best part? They’re much cheaper than hunting down a used machine.
So whatever you’re looking for, keep scrolling to check out some of the best retro arcade cabinets you can buy right now.
1. Street Fighter II 3-in-1 Arcade Cabinet
There are plenty of arcade games that could make a legitimate claim to being the greatest arcade game ever, but if you took a survey, we feel like Street Fighter II Champion Edition complete with a dazzling, physics-defying array of punches, kicks and fireballs, would be the one that topped people’s lists more often than not. After all, this is the classic that gave birth to an entire fighting game scene, and 30 years later, this game is still going strong (which is not surprising considering there are few ‘90s throwbacks bigger than the epic 1v1 battles between Ken and Ryu.) And to sweeten the deal, this cabinet also includes the arcade versions of Super Street Fighter II and Super Street Fighter II Turbo.
2. NBA Jam Classic 3-in-1 Arcade Cabinet
While NBA Jam may not have given birth to arcade sports games, it certainly perfected the concept and NBA Jam is every bit as iconic as Street Fighter II for those old enough to remember going to an arcade in the mid-’90s. Whether it was regularly hitting a three from the opposite end of the court, doing a triple flip before throwing down a dunk, playing as Bill Clinton or literally turning the ball into fire, this game was wildly over the top and you could argue that the only arcade sports game to dethrone it was the sequel, NBA JAM: Tournament Edition (which is also included here).
3. Ms. Pac-Man Vintage Arcade Cocktail Table
Gen Xers and late Millenials may have memories of going to a pizza spot or a burger joint and sitting at a table that also doubled as a Pac-Man arcade machine. You probably also have memories of begging for quarters so that you could play a few rounds as your dinner went cold. This Ms. Pac-Man arcade cocktail cabinet is not only an authentic, vintage machine from that era, but Ms. Pac-Man also happens to be the best version of the entire Pac-Man franchise thanks to the extra mazes and more difficult AI. This is absolutely a splurge and may require some upkeep over time, but if the CRT screen, analog sound effects and working coin slots don’t have you flashing back to your childhood, we’re not sure what will.
4. Pac-Man’s Pixel Bash
OK, so you’ve decided that if you’re going to throw down on an arcade cabinet, you’re going to need more than one game (or even a few games). How about one with 20 certifiable classics? And truth be told, Pac-Man’s Pixel Bash, which comes loaded with classic ‘80s Namco titles including four different Pac-Man games, Galaga, Dig Dug, Dragon Spirit and more, will probably give you more bang for the buck over the long term.
5. Rampage Original Vintage Arcade Cabinet
Despite the fact that it has enjoyed multiple sequels and a blockbuster movie starring The Rock, the Rampage franchise has always been more of a cult classic compared to the others on the list (a game for the connoisseurs, if you will). Developed by the legendary Midway Games in 1986, this game was designed around improvisation as you assumed the identity of a monster, scaled a few towers and punched out all the windows however you saw fit. And like the best arcade games, Rampage was also explicitly created to empty your pockets of all those precious quarters and tokens, leaving you to mutter “just one more continue” before dropping 25 more cents into the machine. This cabinet, which is an authentic piece from the golden era of arcades, can be yours via eBay.
6. Golden Tee Classic 4-in-1 Arcade Cabinet
The golf arcade game Golden Tee has long been a favorite amongst club-wielding, bar-dwelling bros, but its fandom has grown beyond its obvious target demographic. Thanks to the extremely intuitive trackball ball controller, which you use to line up your shot and then hit the ball, Golden Tee is even a hit with those types who “never play video games.” Incorporating one of these into your setup will be a hit regardless of who’s visiting.
7. Big Buck Hunter Classic 5-in-1 Arcade Cabinet
Like Golden Tee, Big Buck Hunter was initially created with a certain type in mind, but before the pandemic struck, there were plenty of bars fostering a Big Buck Hunter arcade machine that you would never expect to. The concept is simple, and that’s what makes it so enticing. Armed with a light-activated gun, you move through the game world and try to shoot wild game as it moves past. The more animals you successfully hunt, the more points you get.
8. Mortal Kombat II Original Vintage Arcade Cabinet
If the phrase “GET OVER HERE” doesn’t trigger that terrifying moment where you first fought Scorpion in a round of Mortal Kombat at the arcade, it will only take one encounter on this 1UP arcade machine before you’ll be able to relate to the rest of us. By ‘90s standards, Mortal Kombat was the hyper-violent counterpart to Street Fighter II, and its notorious fatalities helped to set off a wave of attempts to censor violence in video games throughout the 90s. But modern standards, many of the fatalities are tame and even funny. And this campiness alone is why it’s worth it to own a Mortal Kombat cabinet.