Raja's: An Arcade Fit for the Apocalypse
UPDATE: A very special thanks to Chance Johnson who pointed out a few games I missed! Chance worked on this episode and I appreciate the insight he shared into bringing Raja's to life.
HBO’s The Last of Us aired its seventh episode Sunday night, and the most surprising scene stealer wasn’t one of the grisly Infected wreaking havoc, but actually a nostalgic arcade in an abandoned mall.
Titled “Left Behind,” the episode was mainly a flashback to the night Ellie was bitten by an Infected, in the process learning she was immune to cordyceps infection.
What made that moment all the more heartbreaking was that she and her friend/almost girlfriend Riley just spent a night of rare youthful bliss hanging out in a deserted mall and playing video games in Raja’s Arcade, a gaming haven taken straight from the source material (in this case, an expansion to the original Last of Us game, 2013's Last of Us: Left Behind).
The games featured in the so-far brilliant HBO adaptation of the 2013 Naughty Dog game actually worked, but filming them was not as straightforward as it may have seemed. Production designer John Paino revealed that the games had to be rebuilt on LED screens because the retro games' cathode-ray tube (CRT) made the images unclear when filmed.
As is common practice in some fan circles, we decided to go through the nearly 5 minute tribute to the mall arcade and call out every game that made the final cut.
All the arcade and pinball games featured in Raja’s Arcade:
Centipede (center, left)
This 1981 arcade game was developed at Atari by Ed Logg and Dona Bailey, the latter being one of the few female game programmers at the time, and it ended up attracting a significant female player base. An appropriate welcome for Ellie and Riley.
Tetris (center, right)
The classic puzzle game was first released by Atari as an arcade game in 1988, not releasing their popular port of the game for the Nintendo until the next year.
A quick glimpse to the left in the prior shot analyzed reveals Omega Race, but more on this area of the arcade later. Omega Race, released in 1981 by Midway, was the only arcade game with vector graphics created by Midway.
(from left to right)
Atari released Warlords in 1980, a game in which 1-4 players could control the four warlords’ castles in each corner of the screen. Video game magazine Electronic Games voted Warlords as the “Best Pong Variant” in their 1982 Arcade Awards, aka the “Arkies.”
A huge game for anyone who has ever crossed a street, Frogger was developed by Konami and released by Sega in 1981, and is now considered one of the greatest video games ever made.
1982 saw the introduction of this arachnid-focused game by Atari. Its multidirectional shooting and color vector graphics helped it stand out at arcades.
Golden Tee ‘99
Using a trackball to swing a golf club, Golden Tee ‘99 - as in, released in 1999 - was produced by Incredible Technologies and let players tackle 18 holes any hour of the day.
(from left to right)
Originally released only in Japan in June 1994 by Taito, the Puzzle Bobble pictured above was released internationally by Neo Geo six months later in December, identical except for sound bites, stereo sound, and text translations.
SNK released Guerilla War in 1987, and this game about rebel commandos was successful enough to port to the Nintendo and PlayStation, among others.
Big Buck Hunter
Play Mechanix developed and Incredible Technologies published this hunting video game in 2000, and they found even more success with running local and national tournaments.
Recreating the trench flying scene from Star Wars, Space Encounters plopped players into an assault ship to take down enemies. Bally Midway released the game in 1980, and it was the first Midway game manufactured in a cabaret-sized cabinet, also known as a “mini myte.”
Midway released this classic 5-level fixed shooter arcade game in 1981. Players control a starship from the Interstellar Space Force in their quest to prevent the evil Gorfian Empire from defeating the planet Earth. Gorf is notable for being one of the first arcade games to use synthesized speech.
Attack from Mars
Bally’s 1995 Attack from Mars pinball machine received some close-up love in the episode and even played the iconic narration of “Earth being invaded by Martians from Mars.” Maybe they wanted to showcase the parallel themes of defense, or maybe they knew Brian Eddy’s design and Doug Watson’s artwork were worthy of attention.
(left to right)
Bally’s 1976 Night Rider oozes ‘70s nostalgia. Greg Kmiec’s design is known for its fun shots, snappy playing style, and plenty of drop targets and spinners.
Gottlieb released Genie in 1979 with the slogan “Gottlieb’s WIDE and Beautiful BODY.” It was their response to Bally’s super wide pinball machine Paragon. Ed Krynski’s design features five flippers, an upper mini-playfield, and stunning artwork.
Surf ‘N Safari
Gottlieb’s Surf ‘N Safari was released in 1991, with Jon Norris designing it. Featuring music and the sound of animals, Surf ‘N Safari is great for kids with its bright and colorful playfield, not to mention the whirlpool and rapids that keep the game fast and fun.
Attack from Mars
Ranked high in the pinball community’s list of machines is Williams’s Medieval Madness. Released in 1997 and again designed by Brian Eddy, players have to complete goals to unlock the wizard mode, “Battle for the Kingdom,” including Joust Champion, Catapult Ace, and Master of Trolls, to name a few. A variety of multiball modes and a classic castle bash toy only add to its awesomeness.
Side note: ask any pinhead what their favorite piece of pinball trivia is to recite to casuals, and it's almost certainly that Tina Fey was one of the voices in the game.
Make Trax (center)
Williams Electronics licensed Japan’s Crush Roller and released it as Make Trax in 1981. This puzzle game had players controlling paintbrushes and needing to paint entire mazes to move on.
Robotron: 2084 (right)
Inspired by Nineteen Eighty-Four, Berzerk, and Space Invaders, Robotron: 2084 - also referred to as Robotron - was released by Williams Electronics in 1982. It was praised for originating the high-action, reflex-based arcade game.
One of the first extreme sports arcade games, 720° was released by Atari in 1986. The speakers mounted atop the machine helped players feel like they were at the skate park as they navigated their skateboards through the neighborhood.
Daytona USA (right)
Sega released Daytona USA worldwide in 1994. The arcade magazine RePlay had Daytona USA as number one on their Player’s Choice chart for 16 months.
Developed and released by Sega in 1982, Zaxxon was the first arcade game to use axonometric projection, allowing the simulation of three dimensions from a third-person viewpoint.
A sequel to the classic Asteroids, Atari released Asteroids Deluxe in 1981. The game proved more challenging than the original since it fixed the lurking exploit players could use in Asteroids to play for a long time on one quarter.
This tank combat game was released by Atari in 1980. It used three-dimensional vector graphics, making it the first successful 3D arcade game with a first-person shooter.
Robotron: 2084 (center, right)
Inspired by Nineteen Eighty-Four, Berzerk- hey, wait a sec, this arcade game was already covered when it was pictured earlier in the list next to Make Trax. Looks like Omega Race from the earlier shot in the scene was swapped out for Robotron. Last minute changes are often made on set for reasons related to the look, lighting, etc.
Riding a flying ostrich around the screen, Joust featured a yellow knight jousting enemy knights riding on top of buzzards. Williams Electronics released this game in 1982 and ported it soon after to home systems.
Mortal Kombat II
Ellie and Riley spend the bulk of their time in the arcade playing Midway’s Mortal Kombat II. Released in 1993 before being ported to home systems, this sequel improved upon the original Mortal Kombat and was a huge commercial and critical success and a cultural phenomenon. The controversy around its violence only fueled its success with its fanbase.
Another fun fact: noted pinball designer Steve Ritchie voiced one of the characters in the game!
Final Fight (center, left)
This side-scrolling arcade game was released by Capcom in 1989. It sold 30,000 arcade units worldwide, was the highest-grossing arcade game of 1990 in Japan, and in the U.S. was the year’s highest-grossing arcade conversion kit.
Galaga (center, right)
Midway released Galaga in North America in 1981. A sequel to Galaxian, players in this fixed shooter game had to destroy Galaga forces. It turned out to be a success and surpassed the popularity of its predecessor. Galaga appeared often on American arcade charts through 1987 and is known as a classic of the golden age of arcade video games.
Taito's racing game, released in 1987, was available in both sit-down and upright models (upright featured above). With 3D glasses for players to wear, Continental Circuit was one of the earliest 3D racing games.
With all the success The Last of Us is having and the clear appreciation the show’s creators have for arcades, we’d love to see a Last of Us pinball machine down the line. Even Naughty Dog's Neil Druckmann, the co-creator, agrees! And on that subject, here are other video games fans would love to see as pinball machines.