Arcade cabinet game art is what attracted players over to a game, and Atari nailed it! Atari was one of the main contenders back in the 80’s, producing some of the most popular titles and most innovative gameplay in the arcades. And not only did you have the sounds of the attract modes calling out to you, but you also had the most eye popping game art calling to you as well.
Hands down, Atari arcade games are among my favorite games to collect, and I am always excited to add a new title to the line up! For me, Atari had the whole package; amazing gameplay, great sounds, and some of the most beautiful cabinet game art to package it all together. So lets take a look at Game Art: 11 Best Atari Arcade Cabs!
(In no particular order)
1. Crystal Castles
How I would love to add one of these to my collection of games! The cabinet alone is a work of art, and according to The History of Crystal Castles on YouTube, the art was inspired by MC Escher, which happens to be one of my favorite artists! Very little cabinet space was wasted, everywhere you look is beautiful; I mean come on, just look at the castle and all the little details on the marquee, control panel, around the coin door. Crystal Castles did very well when it was released back in 1983, and I am going to go out on a limb to say the art played a part in that success.
I’ve owned a few Tempest machines over the years, and the art definitely makes this list. Space shooter themed games were big back in the early 80’s, and Tempest falls right into this category. Released in 1981, Tempest was not only popular due to gameplay, but also caught players attention with its triangular cabinet shape. There was a cocktail version as well as a cabaret version, but those lacked a lot of the art (as do most cocktail and cabaret machines).
Moving right along we have Atari’s Centipede, which in my opinion is one of their most recognizable and popular titles. Centipede had a very unisex appeal to it, maybe due to the fact its creator was a woman. Very interesting game as you shoot through mushrooms at a giant centipede descending towards you. I absolutely love the detail of the giant centipede on the side of the cabinet, along with the color scheme in general.
4. Black Widow
Although this is one game I haven’t had much game time on, I sure do appreciate the cabinet game art. In Black Widow, you play as a spider circling around your web, firing at enemies. Released in 1982, Black Widow did not disappoint when it came to unique game concepts, which was an ongoing theme at Atari. The cabinet game art always looked psychedelic to me, especially when looking from the side art to the control panel.
5. Food Fight
Food Fight has got to be one of the coolest concepts for an arcade game; you have a food fight with four chefs chasing you around. The cabinet itself has a very unique shape, most notably the top front of the cab has a pie shape. Released in 1983, Food Fight features not only game art on the sides of the cabinet, but also on the front of the cab, giving it a beautiful all around aesthetic. How could you not like that giant ice cream cone on the side?
6. Star Wars
Back in 1983, Atari released one of the most recognizable titles for the time; that game was Star Wars! And that cab was a beauty! Another extremely unique looking cab which made you feel like you were in the cockpit of an X-Wing Fighter. Almost every part of this cab was covered with art, even custom molded plastic pieces.
Xevious was always an interesting one for me because the art always reminded me of Star Wars. Released a year prior to Star Wars in 1982, Xevious had the look of being inside a spaceship. I always loved the look of this cabinet, but wished they had done something around the coin door. Extremely colorful and fun to look at.
I always felt that the game art on this cabinet fit perfectly with the name. Another 1982 release, Quantum is an extremely addictive game as you race through using a trackball trying to circle particles on screen. To my knowledge not many of these cabs were built, for whatever reason, which in turn makes it pretty collectable. Quantum’s beautiful vector graphics was the perfect complement to its gorgeous cabinet game art.
A bit of an odd cabinet and not the traditional style Atari was know for up until this point, Gauntlet was released in 1985. Its unique style definitely stood out from the crowd, as does its art. This is one of the only upright games I can think of that didn’t come with glass to cover the monitor area, but operators covered it with a darker plexi to hide the burn on the monitor.
One I don’t see too often but always stood out when I do see it is Atari’s Arabian. I think its the theme that does it for me along with the typical full Atari side art; always reminded me of Aladdin. I can’t say gameplay is amazing but the cabinet game art is definitely eye candy. Another release in 1983, we welcome Arabian to our list.
And now to round out our list, but certainly not a dud by any means is Asteroids. Released in 1979, most would consider this Atari’s first major hit. Going along with the space theme that was popular for the time, Asteroids was groundbreaking in its day. And I absolutely loved the game art printed directly on the control panel.
Well I hope you have enjoyed going back through time as we round up Game Art: 11 Best Atari Arcade Cabs. If you enjoyed this article and want to see more incredible Atari game art, I highly recommend checking out the book Art of Atari by Tim Lapetino. I bought this book a couple years ago and every time I open it I notice something new I didn’t see before. Great conversation piece on the coffee table for sure!
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