It's all about the 80's Arcade Machines at 17 Below

Not only are the arcade machines at 17 Below free but they are also absolute bloody classics.

By Ben Brown | 11 September 2018

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So you’re not going to be wasting your time slogging away on some obscure 1981 Soviet Bear Wrestling simulator, you’ll have one of these to contend with…

Space Invaders
One of the earliest shooting games to ever exist, Space Invaders is so entrenched in our society that even when the aliens are recreated using tiles and are dotted all over the NQ – people barely even notice.

Everyone knows the score, there’s a gang of rigid dick head aliens attacking, and your task is to shoot the little shits down, while only being able to move just left and right and hide behind buildings.

The game is the bestselling video game of all time, making $7.5 billion since it came out in 1978. The guy who made it, Tomohiro Nishikado, cites his inspiration coming from a fucked up dream he had about some Japanese school children who were waiting for Santa Claus who are then attacked by aliens.

After then reading about Star Wars and giving War of the Worlds a revisit – he designed the game (and aliens) that we know and love today.

If you’ve played this recently on an arcade machine you’ll be able to recollect that it’s actually really, really hard and it’s no wonder that John Conner sacks it off in Terminator 2 for the much easier Missile Command. Try not to get too frustrated with it like I did.


For something that was designed by a Japanese man, 1942 is a little bit of an oddity in terms of gaming and indeed history itself.

It’s a vertical scrolling shoot ’em up where you take control of a WWII plane and you need to shoot down enemy planes and dodge their bullets and rockets and all that. My main problem with it though is that you play an American plane – shooting down Japanese pilots with the ultimate goal being to get to Tokyo, bomb the shit out of it and shoot down a massive boss. Weird that innit?

Anyways, 1942 will be pretty recognisable to anyone who’s played any of these kinds of games before, except this one is much simpler and I must say – much harder. You’re rather limited in your ability to dodge the other planes or their shots, mostly because your plane is slow as shit and they’re not as choreographed as in future iterations.

The game managed to spawn loads of sequels but in my opinion they were a bit too easy – if you can manage to even get past the first couple of bosses on 1942 – you’re a genius in my eyes.


Track + Field
Probably the main cause of hand cramp in the early to mid-80’s – Track + Field is probably one of the most difficult and frustratingly annoying games in existence, much like the actual sports that it looks to recreate actually.

Released in the arcades in 1983 and really hitting its stride (yes!) by the 1984 LA Olympics, Track + Field features 6 Olympic events where the player must alternate between pressing two buttons really bloody fast at the right time.

I’m not going to lie to you – I could never (ever) get it and I hate this game. No matter how much Daly Thompson likes to pretend that he plays it – it’s definitely not for me.

One person who it is for though is LA nerd Héctor Rodriguez who, in 2008 got the world record of 95,350 points, beating the old world record that was set in 1985 by another complete loser. Both of them must genuinely be robots or something.


Donkey Kong
Talking of difficult games – Donkey Kong is actually much, much harder than I ever remembered – resulting in me screaming, shouting and then subsequently sulking into my cocktail while everyone else had a good time.

The world’s first introduction to that fella Mario, Donkey Kong was created by Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto and features ‘Jumpman’ aiming to get his fat arse up a load of scaffolding to save his bird while a big fucking monkey throws barrels at him from above.

Like most of these games the concept is so bloody simple that even a 2-year-old could grasp it but actually playing the thing and trying to win – is proper hard.

Anyone who has seen the documentary The King of Kong will know that there’s a load of controversy and drama revolving around many of the highest score attempts through the years, with the likes of Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe pretty much getting so close to actually killing each other that I’m surprised one of them hasn’t kidnapped the others wife and started throwing flaming barrels at the other one yet. What am I saying? These two don’t have wives. Obviously.


Here we go – now we’re getting to the good stuff. Pac Man is probably the only game on this list that I’m shit hot at – mostly because I spent the long hot summer of 1992 playing it constantly in a Pontins in Prestatyn while all the other boys were outside getting fresh air, exercise and conversing with girls.

A little yellow ball that lives in a maze and eats little pills? Check. Actual fucking ghosts that chase you? Check. Eating fruit to become an all-powerful entity that can actually kill ghosts? Of course. None of this makes any sense but it doesn’t need to – all it’s got to do is be entertaining and my word – it totally is.

Although I must admit that the original Pac-Man isn’t as good as the later Ms. Pac Man, it’s still a classic and something everyone should play at least once in their life. The highest score ever was once again claimed by long-haired goon Billy Mitchell (of Kong fame) with a perfect game of 3,333,360 points.

Although there is another little fella, Jeffrey R. Yee who is actually claimed to have got over 6 million points in the early 80’s but it all gets a bit political and complicated from here so I’ll bow out. Just enjoy playing the bloody game.


Double Dragon
A slightly later addition to the gaming world (when compared to the other machines), Double Dragon came out in 1987 and will be fondly remembered by many as something that they tackled on their Sega Master System or NES on Christmas Day in 1988 just after they were sick due to all of the excitement.

The game is a side scrolling beat ’em up where you can play one of the Lee brothers, who have seemingly done something to irk everyone around them because all they want to do is batter the living daylights out of them both – either using fists, knives, chains and broken bottles.

If it wasn’t for Double Dragon we would never have had one of the best arcade games ever – Aliens vs Predator, or indeed one of the best games ever – Turtles in Time on the SNES, so thanks for that. It’s a perfect two player game to crack on with while you’re having some bevvies and to be fair, it’s not that difficult really.

There is also a machine playing Street Fighter II up in Dogs ‘n’ Dough and if you want to win at that every time – check this out…

17 Below, inside Dogs ‘n’ Dough, 17 Bow Ln, Manchester M2 4FW
0161 834 3996