An Arcade game (or coin-op) is a coin-operated entertainment machine, usually installed in public businesses, such as restaurants, bars, and particularly amusement arcades.
Most arcade games are video games, pinball machines, electro-mechanical games, redemption games, and merchandisers (such as claw cranes).
The golden age of arcade video games lasted from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s.
While arcade games were still relatively popular during the late 1990s, the entertainment medium saw a continuous decline in popularity in the Western hemisphere when home-based video game consoles made the transition from 2D graphics to 3D graphics. Despite this, arcades remain popular in many parts of Asia as late as the early 2010s.
The term "arcade game" is also, in recent times, used to refer to a video game that was designed to play similarly to an arcade game with frantic, addicting gameplay.
The first popular "arcade games" were early amusement park midway games such as shooting galleries, ball toss games, and the earliest coin-operated machines, such as those that claim to tell a person their fortune or played mechanical music.
The old midways of 1920s-era amusement parks (such as Coney Island in New York) provided the inspiration and atmosphere of later arcade games.
In the 1930s, the first coin-operated pinball machines were made. These early amusement machines were distinct from their later electronic cousins in that they were made of wood, also they did not have plungers or lit-up bonus surfaces on the playing field, and used mechanical instead of electronic scoring readouts. By around 1977, most pinball machines in production switched to using solid state electronics for both operation and scoring.
Arcade games often have short levels, simple and intuitive control schemes, and rapidly increasing difficulty. This is due to the environment of the Arcade, where the player is essentially renting the game for as long as their in-game avatar can stay alive (or until they run out of tokens).
Games on consoles or PCs can be referred to as "arcade games" if they share these qualities or are direct ports of arcade titles. Many independent developers are now producing games in the arcade genre that are designed specifically for use on the Internet. These games are usually designed with Flash/Java/DHTML and run directly in web-browsers.
Arcade racing games have a simplified physics engine and do not require much learning time when compared with racing simulators. Cars can turn sharply without braking or understeer, and the AI rivals are sometimes programmed so they are always near the player (rubberband effect).
Arcade flight games also use simplified physics and controls in comparison to flight simulators. These are meant to have an easy learning curve, in order to preserve their action component. Increasing numbers of console flight video games, from Crimson Skies to Ace Combat and Secret Weapons Over Normandy indicate the falling of manual-heavy flight sim popularity in favor of instant arcade flight action.
Other types of arcade-style games include fighting games (often played with an arcade controller), beat 'em up games (including fast-paced hack and slash games), light gun rail shooters and "bullet hell" shooters (intuitive controls and rapidly increasing difficulty), music games (particularly rhythm games), and mobile/casual games (intuitive controls and often played in short sessions).
In the Western world, the arcade video game industry still exists today but in a greatly reduced form. Video arcade game hardware is often based on home game consoles to facilitate porting a video arcade game to a home system; there are video arcade versions of Dreamcast (NAOMI, Atomiswave), PlayStation 2 (System 246), Nintendo GameCube (Triforce), and Microsoft Xbox (Chihiro) home consoles. Some arcades have survived by expanding into ticket-based prize redemption and more physical games with no home console equivalent, such as skee ball and whack-a-mole. Some genres, particularly dancing and rhythm games (such as Konami's Dance Dance Revolution), continue to be popular in arcades.