"Because six heads are better than two..."
X-Men: The Arcade Game
Platforms: Arcade | Genre: Action
Publisher: Konami | Developer: Konami | Released: 1992

The early 1990s were the last great gasp for arcades. At the time, the multiplayer beat-'em-ups were ruling the gaming floor, with titles like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Arcade Game, The Simpsons, and Final Fight claiming the most quarters. In 1992, Konami added another arcade beat-'em-up to the fray with X-Men: The Arcade Game. Though the game was specifically designed to capitalize on the popularity of Fox's animated X-Men cartoon series, the game didn't really mimic the style or even necessarily feature all of the characters from the cartoon. Instead, it much more closely modeled itself after the long-running X-Men comic book. The game's action was fast-paced and addictive, and the game cabinet allowed a whopping six players to play at once, thus making for one of the most frenetic and unique cooperative beat-'em-up experiences ever brought to arcades.

X-Men made available for play six of the world's most popular mutant superheroes, including Cyclops, Wolverine, Nightcrawler, Storm, Colossus, and Dazzler. Each mutant had some basic combo and jump attacks, as well as a specific mutant power attack, which dished plenty of damage to your foes but also took a bit of life from you as well. Mutant powers were fairly representative of their characters, so Cyclops had his eye blast, Storm could attack with tornadoes, and Wolverine would go crazy with his claws. During your journey through the game's levels, you'd encounter a host of evil mutant boss characters, including the morbidly obese The Blob, the insidious shape-shifter Mystique, the unstoppable Juggernaut, and, of course, the evil mutant to end all other evil mutants, Magneto, the master of magnetism. The story, like with most beat-'em-ups, was fairly incidental and revolved around you rescuing Professor X and Kitty Pryde from Magneto's clutches. However, the game's action was so furiously paced that it never really gave you much time to worry about things like plot development.

Though there was a four-player version of the X-Men arcade cabinet, the truest of true ways to play the game was with six people at once. On the six-player cabinet, each character was assigned to a specific joystick, and, often, half the game's challenge came from trying to duke it out with other players over who got to play as whose favorite character. During the game, a certain level of cooperative strategy was required to effectively play with six people. Because life, mutant powers, and quarters were always limited, players would need to conserve their special attacks for the direst of situations. In boss fights, the best strategy would often be to have one player go in with a mutant power attack and then have the rest of the party converge on the boss while he or she was stunned. Attempting to keep order during the game was no small task, but when achieved, it was immensely fun.

Adding to all of this was the game's great presentational style. As we mentioned before, X-Men: The Arcade Game looked far more like a representation of the X-Men comic than did the cartoon series, and this was by no means a bad thing. Each and every character was represented beautifully by some well-designed sprites and equally polished animation. The game wasn't shy about throwing a bevy of grunt bad guys onscreen at once, yet the technical performance of the game never suffered for it. The music and audio were also really excellent, and, save for a few unintentionally hysterical Japanese-to-English dialogue translations (such as the ever-famous "Welcome to Die!"), the whole thing was exceptionally well produced.

Some might argue that X-Men was just another dumb, simplistic beat-'em-up arcade game that was just like every other dumb, simplistic beat-'em-up arcade game out there--except for the addition of its whole six-player thing. However, listening to these people would be an absolute detriment to any lover of the beat-'em-up genre, because X-Men: The Arcade Game was in many ways the epitome of what nearly every game of its type ought to have been. It was extremely polished, provided plenty of nonstop action, emulated its license quite well, and--dammit--six people could play at the same time! It is for these reasons that we proudly induct X-Men: The Arcade Game as one of the Greatest Games of All Time.

Back in the days of 1992, I was just another arcade-obsessed preteen with too many quarters and too much free time. X-Men: The Arcade Game swallowed more of these quarters than any other game of its type. Not only did I go out of my way to head down to the local miniature golf emporium to play nearly every weekend but I actually found myself in the company of other X-Men fans who were just like me. In fact, I actually ended up befriending a few of them. I can't recall a game anywhere in my previous experiences that brought me that sort of camaraderie at the arcades, and I haven't seen anything like it since.