After watching the excellent documentary King of Kong, a Fistful of Quarters (which details the world’s top players of the video game Donkey Kong), it got me thinking…is there a video game that I can dominate 99% of the people that have played that game? Remember, that even George Costanza had a 1% game (FROGGER!). So what’s mine? Before I get to that question, some background is in order…
From 1982-1994 I grew up on a campground during some of the best years arcade gaming had to offer (1979-1982 was really good too). During this time, I had the privilege of sleeping less than 100 feet from a rec. room with a dozen or so arcade games that differed every year. With a solid 6 months and countless quarters later, I had a few games mastered by the end of each camping season.
In 1997, something really cool happened. The MAME (multiple arcade machine emulator) project launched, providing a way to re-play all those old games in a near identical experience without having to leave your computer. I was instantly hooked, and worked to collect and play all of the games (ROMs).
In 2002, I built a MAME machine. This allowed me to get as close to the actual experience to having the real deal, all in one cabinet. While my MAME machine is in need of a revamp, it is still amazing what it can do. Imagine if I could take it back in time to 1985 with the few thousand games on it…
So what does it even mean to be 1%? I’m going to define it as being able to beat 99% people at the game who have at least played the game a few times. Obviously, for many games it would be easy to find 99% of people to beat if they’ve never heard of a game, so they must have some playing time under their belt. While it is probably impossible to prove, I’ll leave it at if you are the best at the game out of everyone you know, you are probably 1% at that game.
Rules established–what is my 1% game? A few candidates:
Gorf - This was my initial game I dominated, when I was 10. At the time, I could play this game almost continuously, getting to stupid-hard boards that were almost unfair. I haven’t played this game forever, but would be curious to see what kind of score I could put up.
Shanghai Kid - A fairly obscure one, this is another game that I had the high score on for 2 entire summers. It was a Karate Champ type clone but with better moves. I’d be surprised if you’d played or even heard of this game.
Double Dragon - Utilizing the elbow punch, this game was pretty easy to solve with a quarter. I’m assuming others could do this too, so hard to decide who would be better if you could solve the game without dying…
Pyros (Wardner’s Castle) - Back in the day, I can’t believe I solved this game with only 2 quarters. I played this on MAME a few years ago and after $2 worth, I was only half-way through. It’s tough!
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom - If I could pick only one, this would have to be my best 1% game. I had very a Seinfeld / Frogger-like moment when I ran into the same actual machine that we had at our campground at Beaver Dam mall about 50 miles away, years later. It was even for sale! I wish I had bought it… when I looked at the high scores, I couldn’t believe my 700,000+ high score was still intact! I played this game on the hardest level and had a pretty good pattern to snake my way through. It’s a fairly difficult game, but I can still consistently get 300k+ on it. I looked on Twin Galaxies site, and it looks like if back in the day (like 20 years ago…) if I had a referee, I would have been in the been in the top 3 worldwide.
My top 10% games:
Because I play a lot of games, I have tons of these, but some of the more popular:
Pengo - This game is fun, and I was pretty good at it. We only had it one summer, but it was a favorite of mine. For some reason there are quite a few penguin arcade games, probably more than any other animal. With MAME, the excellent and engrish ridden Penguin-Kun Wars was a lot of fun that a bunch of us played. My friend Wendy has the highest score I’ve seen on that one.
Galaga - I know people who are crazy-good at Galaga, so I would never assume I’m any better than the top 10%. I could get to the 25th or so level, but then saw my buddy Apollo roll the score over, so I’m nowhere near that elite status (totally geeky note, if you play on player 2, it actually has a 7-digit score rather than a 6-digit one!).
Commando - Good lord this game was hard. I could get to like the 3rd board and I’m sure that would put me in the top 10%. I watched people play this game and a quarter would last less than 30 seconds (the intro is like 10 of that).
Elevator Action - Simple yet fun, this game got pretty difficult later stages. Neat spy shoot-em-up.
Track & Field - I thought I was pretty good at this game, but then would see these speed freaks come in and play this game. This was a pure-skill button smashing game. My friend Cory has since become a master at this game, almost killing my MAME machine playing this.
Useful info from this post:
- King of Kong - great documentary on the best video game players. Must-see if you like classic video games.
- Twin Galaxies - From the movie, this site attempts to maintain all the high-scores, regardless of game, platform, etc. Maybe you could be on here?!
- MAMEUI - this is the version of MAME I use, and is quite easy to set up. You need this play the games.
- MAME ROMs - Doug Burton has them, and he only charges cost of the media. I get mine from him now, rather than scouring the Interwebs for them.
- How to build a MAME Machine - This was a useful book when I was working on my cabinet. Check it out!
- Matt’s MAME machine - My cabinet. I have a new computer that is waiting to put in, just need the time! I haven’t updated this site in years.
So what’s YOUR 1% game(s)? I don’t care if it’s an arcade game, Nintendo, Sega, or a PS3. Do you have a game that you may be even better than 1%, like a true Billy Mitchell? Add some comments below and let the world know!
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