#1: Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
By leaps and bounds, Michael Jackson's Moonwalker
was one of the slickest arcade games to hit gamers in 1990. Every time I try to describe the movie that the game is based on, the most common phrase I use is "Michael Jackson turns into a giant robot/spaceship and kills Joe Pesci." Unlike the console and computer versions, which suffered from poor level design and weird gameplay, the arcade version was a true diamond in the rough. Played from a slanted, top-down perspective, this beat-'em-up tasked MJ with taking out gangsters and hitmen in his quest to save his kid friends from drug lord "Mr. Big".
As crazy as the premise sounded, Moonwalker had style to match the wacky theme. Michael beat down bad guys with flashy dance moves straight from his "Billie Jean" and "Smooth Criminal" steps, and he could even transform into a robotic, super version of himself when things got dangerous. By far, the best part of the game was Michael's screen-filling dance numbers, which forced every baddie on screen to dance along and get rocked by magic explosions.
I remember the first time I ever played this game, which was on a summer trip to Las Vegas with my dad, mom and my sister. We stopped in a casino for a respite from the hot summer sun, and I could faintly hear a strange version of "Smooth Criminal" coming from one of the kiddie areas. Running towards the music, I frantically searched my pocket for quarters when I saw the Moonwalker arcade cabinet, and temporarily lived out the best 10 minutes of my young life. After all these years, I still remember the game as fondly as I did when I was little.