What’s your top 1% video game?

Posted by matt on May 20, 2008

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007)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.

MAME LogoIn 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).

lowerhell-MAME-Custom-Arcade-cabinet-by-Matt-AppsIn 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:

GORFGorf – 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 doomIndiana 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!

Posted under tech gadgets, Video Games
  1. nemolian Said,

    I thought Unreal would have been on your list.

    Over the years I’ve invested a considerable amount of money into video games, not so much on the arcade or PC end, but I’ve had almost every counsel there is. I’ve bought what must be hundreds of games, spent thousands of dollars, and I don’t think I ever really got that good at any of them–not compaired to people that are truely gifted anyway–Halo 3 online and The King of Kong (available thru NetFlix’s watchnow service) tought me that.

    One game I feel pretty good at is Mario Kart Double Dash for the Gamecube, but that game is set up to reward people that suck, so I still loose from time to time.

    Another game I fancied myself a pro at was Mario Golf, also for the Gamecube (I’m not too bad at the GBA version either). I haven’t played in a while but I had a pretty good short game in my day.

    When all is said and done, Super Mario World (I’m sensing a pattern here) is my game hands down, so much so that I had beaten the game, by way of finding, opening, then careful re-wrapping my Super Nintendo, long before I got it for Christmas. Of course I’ve since played it through again in emulation, then on the DS, and even busted out the old SNES and played it that way again. Best Game Ever!

    Great post, I can still smell those campfires smoldering…wait is that smoke!!? Gotta go.

  2. matt Said,

    Unreal like Unreal Tournament? I was probably a better Quake 2 player, but I doubt 1% in either of those games. While I’ve played many computer games, they didn’t quite pack the competitive punch that an arcade game does. There is a strange in-person competitiveness in an arcade that didn’t happen for me online.

  3. Bradd Piontek Said,

    Awesome post, Matt. Brought back a lot of memories of hanging out at the “Gold Mine” in port plaza mall. Unfortunately, I don’t think I could claim to have a 1% Video Game. While I played enough, I didn’t have anywhere near the roll of quarters to be get good enough. I’m sure I have some 10% games: (BTW: Loved the Gorf reference. I haven’t though of that game in a while, but loved when I could find it)

    1. Xevious – Really enjoyed this game with the multi-button firing, the sounds were excellent, and it got to be very addictive.

    2. Burgertime – Love this game. It is the only ROM I currently have (sadly, lost all mine in a computer switch 10 years ago). I’m sure I’m no whiz at this one but I do enjoy playing it. The music is quite addictive as well.

    3. Donkey Kong Jr. Sure, we’ve all played Donkey Kong, but I really loved this game with its twist of having vines and what nots. When a friend got this for Colecovision, it was a very good substitute for the arcade version. I’ve since discovered a love for Donkey Kong 3 via MAME, but don’t recall seeing this in the arcade growing up.

    Games I loved to ‘watch” (as said above, I spent a lot of time in the arcade, but had precious few quarters)

    1. 360 – I wasn’t really good at this one, but man I used to love to watch people play this game “SKATE OR DIE”. I’ve played this on MAME but it just isn’t the same without arcade ‘joystick’ it had.

    2. Dragon’s Lair. Kinda dumb game, but I loved the graphics on the laser disk (I’ve often thought about getting this on DVD and playing with my remote.

  4. matt Said,

    Hey Brad– Burgertime… spent a lot of time with that too. Controls are terrible, and the creators of that one must have been doing some serious paranoia drugs to have people getting chased around by eggs.

    360–I think you mean 720, and I can’t believe I left that off my list! That’s a 10% one for me for sure… Great game! Being a skater, I was required to learn that one.

    Dragons Lair is a classic of a different sense. I remember ‘watching’ a similar laser disc game called Astron Belt which I tried to get for our game room–but found out it cost upwards of $5,000 so it wasn’t a very popular game.

  5. Bradd Piontek Said,

    yes, 720. That is what I get for commenting before 7am :) I was a skater too (until my neck surgery in 1989) , but it cost $.50 I believe. No, I wasn’t poor, just didn’t have lots of pocket money.

    As for ‘weird’ games, I remember some hologram based game called Time Bandits or something. was hilarious to watch. I miss the days of Showbiz Pizza being chuck full of video game machines (2-4 of each type). Baby pac-man was a fav.

    This all reminds me that I need a Mike Tyson’s Punchout for my NES.

  6. Sunspot Mike Said,

    Rastan, baby! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rastan_Saga

    I was awesome at that game and second to none at its C64 port (which was never that impressive anyway, because there was a bug in it that never let you finish the game!)

  7. matt Said,

    In Rastan, that downward sword kill move was sweet, but the music was even cooler.

  8. Ziggy Said,

    I had a strong feeling “Indiana Jones” would be your top one. You said that when that ROM came out for MAME, you’d be so excited you’d throw yourself down the stairs.

    …and that’s exactly what happened.

    Do I have a “1%”? I got good at a handful of those old games, not when they were new, but when I had “unlimited quarters” with MAME.

    I found an old “Tron” machine at a store in the Fremont district of Seattle in 2000. After playing what I thought was an excellent game, I didn’t even get into the top 100 high scores. I looked back at the guy working there, and he said, “Yeah, I have been playing that a lot.”

    That being said, “Police Trainer” I could finish on one quarter.

  9. John Vieth Said,

    Robotron! That’s my game! If you know someone who has scored higher than 285,000 I’d like to shake their hand. Because that’s my high score.

    I also enjoy Ms PacMan, Rampart, Super Off Road, and Track-n-Field.

    – V Daddy

  10. Tim Said,

    I remember in 6th grade (1990 or so) right around the time “The Wizard” came out – http://youtube.com/watch?v=NT6zfPC3sDk – there was an actual Nintendo tournament-type thingy at the Mecca Center in Milwaukee. – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qd12G5Bp9J4&feature=related – You had to beat the first level in Rad Racer, get 50 coins in Super Mario Bros, and then play Tetris until your fingers fell off. I was pretty good at Tetris (closest to a 1% that I can recall, but probably nowhere near) and got past the trial round. Then I got to play ON STAGE next to 2 other kids while my friends watched. Just like in the movie. It was freakin’ awesome. The announcer was all like “And now Tim looks like he’s going for a Tetris and.. he did it!” haha.. cheers all around. Your story of being an ace gamer at a campground reminds me of “The Last Starfighter.” Ever been picked up by aliens because of your skillz?

  11. Tenny Said,

    Great question and nice back story. I must confess that I was usually the guy at the losing end of all the games.

    But if I think about games that I could get into a zone and play for what seemed like hours I would have to say

    Contra – My brothers would hate me cause I would starting playing and they would die early and burn through all of their money before I finished my first quarter. It wasn’t long before they stopped playing 2 player mode with me.

    1080 snowboarding – I knew every single shortcut and dominate in versus mode

    As for more obscure games I would have to say I used to put the world of hurt down in Tetris Attack for the N64. I would play for hours and hours on end never losing my seat in play until you lose battles. My eyes would burn each time I beat someone cause I would go the entire match without blinking.

  12. GoldCoaster Said,

    My 1% is an Intellivision game – Night Stalker, I loved it. And would just love finding an old Intellivision somewhere to buy! Who had an Intellivision And for the Arcades – Berzerk , that computer/ robot voice wow amazing!!

    10% … I still remember when Pong came out – all the machines at the airport .

  13. How to play old arcade games with a MAME machine » mattapps.com Said,

    […] arcade games.  Last summer, I posted my “What’s your top 1% video game“, and it got me thinking that I haven’t played too many games […]

  14. Cory Dzbinski Said,

    I would have to think about the arcade game. I would say Track & Field although there is a highly competitive field of players for this. Overall though i’m hands down the undisputed #1 player ever to play Sierra’s “Viper Racing”. We even had a casting call around the world for players and no one could ever come close. 10’s of thousands of hours into that game lol. I should put the old website back up.

    – Cory