I’ve done quite a few lists rounding up what I think are the best games in Hamster’s ridiculously large catalog of Arcade Archives games, often breaking them down by genre. I’m doing something a little different this time. New year, new approach. Thanks to its weekly release schedule, Hamster released more than fifty new games in the line last year on Nintendo Switch and Sony PlayStation 4. Buying all of them would cost a good chunk of change, even at the very reasonable price Hamster charges per game. I’ve decided to help you out by picking what I think are the ten best Arcade Archives games from 2023. In no particular order, of course. This was already difficult enough. On to the games!
Cosmo Gang the Video ($7.99)
I’m going to start with an unusual pick. I’m a big fan of Bandai Namco’s Galaxian series of fixed-screen shooters, and Galaga is the first game I have real memories of playing. Arcade Archives has given us a bounty on this front, including this sort-of entry that I didn’t even know much about. Cosmo Gang the Video uses characters based on a prize redemption game Namco had kicking around in the early 90s, but the gameplay is definitely jumping off of the likes of Galaga ’88. It’s a fun, colorful spin on the Galaga concept, and one worth picking up for fans of the franchise.
Don’t worry, I won’t make a whole list of Bandai Namco shooters, even if I want to. But I do want to mention Phelios, a really cool vertical shooter with fun gameplay and style to burn. The interesting part of this game comes from the balance between fending off enemies with regular shots and charging up your sword for a heavy strike. You have to learn which approach to take at any given point if you hope to survive up to the end. It’s probably more well-known for its rather good Genesis/Mega Drive port, but if you’ve ever wanted to play the arcade original, here it is.
The NewZealand Story ($7.99)
This was a hugely popular game in some regions back in the day thanks to it being ported to just about every console or computer that could run it. It’s a cute but extremely difficult platformer about a little bird trying to save its family. I think the standout element of this game, beyond its rather colorful and appealing presentation, is in how much variety there is to the gameplay. This is something Taito often did very well with, and it’s on full display here. There are a lot of enemies, gimmicks, and hazards to keep things lively as you make your way through the game. With an infinite number of virtual credits in your pocket, you just might make it to the end.
Tetris The Absolute The Grand Master 2 Plus ($7.99)
Okay, you’ve played Tetris. You probably own at least a few versions of Tetris. But if you think you really know Tetris, then you should give this version a try. Tetris the Grand Master has always been a series aimed at the very skilled players, and it’s a lot of fun to see exactly what that means. TGM2 (not typing that full title again) adds in a Normal mode in case you want a more beginner-friendly take on the game, which is quite welcome after the absolute thrashing the other modes offer. There are a handful of different modes to choose from, and it’s satisfying to try to improve your grade in the Master mode.
If there’s one thing most of us can agree on, it’s that animal poachers suck. Taito may not be known for its beat-em-up games the way some publishers are, but Growl is a very unique and enjoyable spin on the genre. You get the usual brawling action, some absolutely wild scenarios, a variety of interesting weapons, and a little support from time to time from the animals you’re rescuing. The voice clips are also absolutely hilarious in that way only games of this era could get away with.
Here’s another Taito classic, and one that is probably more familiar to those who haunted arcades in the 1980s. It’s about as close to an action-RPG as you can get from an arcade game, and it’s a game that always felt a little out of place in the arcades. Playing it at home with unlimited credits is definitely a better experience, and it’s where the game’s many qualities truly shine through. Pick your favorite character and battle your way through various quests in order to do the important thing. What is the important thing? That’s part of the mystery of Cadash.
One more Bandai Namco shooter, but it’s different from the others. Bosconian gets skipped over often when the publisher does its various collections, and that’s too bad. It’s a top-down space shooter where each level allows you to roam freely within it. Your aim is to take out all of the space stations on each map while avoiding the many defenses set up to stop you. The presentation might not impress many these days, but it carries itself quite well for its age. Most importantly, the gameplay is a ton of fun and the score attacking works really well with the online leaderboards that every Arcade Archives release packs in.
Darius II ($7.99)
This is a Taito shooter! That’s a totally different thing! Darius II is a very cool game, and you can only get the ultra-wide version of the game via the Arcade Archives release or the associated Taito Milestones 2 set. This is another tough game, and it’s loaded to the mechanical gills with stages to play and things to see. The soundtrack is great, and you get that amazing line about tuna sashimi to get you pumped up for a good run. This is one of the best horizontal shooters in the Arcade Archives line, and it’s well worth owning.
Pole Position II ($7.99)
This is a special release in a lot of ways. Not only does it bring Bandai Namco’s seminal racing game to modern consoles, but it also does so with all of its licensed tracks intact. That doesn’t happen often, friends. The relatively realistic controls, strong presentation, and variety of courses makes this one a winner as far as arcade racers go. Another game that provides a lot of entertainment if you opt to go jostling with others on the online leaderboards.
Mystic Warriors ($7.99)
Many people know Konami’s Sunset Riders, a Western themed run-and-gun with personality to burn. Fewer people know about Mystic Warriors, which is essentially a spiritual sequel to that game. The Western theme is gone, but Mystic Warriors has plenty of style all of its own. Most importantly, it’s an incredibly fun action game from a legendary company that was arguably at the peak of its powers. If you’ve never played Mystic Warriors before, this is a rare chance to do so.
That’s the list, friends. The nice thing about the Arcade Archives line is that even the, er, less good games have some charm to them. But money is not infinite, especially these days, so I hope this list helps you find some great ones to play. What are your favorite Arcade Archives games? Feel free to comment below with your suggestions. Thanks for reading!