With the upcoming release of Sega’s Daytona Championship USA and the news of an 8-unit location test, it gave me an idea that should have been covered before for those slow news days…

The 8-player arcade setup

Some modern arcade racing titles offer this as a part of their feature set but it is not very common to find a location that decides to go all out on it. This requires quite a bit of space as well as an investment that lands somewhere around the $70,000-$80,000 price range given current prices. But if you do come across one and a group of players to fill it out, the only other experience out there quite like it would be a LAN party.

Seeing games setup in such a manner is also quite impressive – something that becomes an attraction piece by itself. I rarely have found such setups locally but large FECs or theme parks often have them as a showcase piece.

So let’s take a tour down memory lane to look at those few games in the business that have offered up to eight players, pleasing crowds in arcades everywhere.

Note: Finding games under this classification is no easy task since most used networking to achieve the effect. Many arcade archive resources do not list the number of total players or they are incorrect so one has to look at each flyer to figure it out. Even then it is not a sure-fire way to discover the information. I’ve been finding out often as of late that many marketing people of the past failed at their jobs – tell me what the machine can do and make it look nice. That’s all they needed to do. Instead, it was focused on making it look nice instead of selling you on the product with features. It shouldn’t be that hard but apparently it was/is in many instances. /rant

Where I’ve looked through hundreds of game profiles and flyers and it’s probable that I missed something from a smaller company out there but this should cover the big ones. If I have missed any, please let me know in the comments.

Atari

The gaming pioneer is generally known for games like Pong, Breakout and Asteroids but among the many firsts they created, 8-player local gaming is one of them. This started with Indy 800 in 1975, using a behemoth of a cabinet that featured a steering wheel and set of foot pedals for each player (2 per side). It used a color monitor so that each racer could distinguish their car from the others; the design also featured angled mirrors so that bystanders could check out the action. The game took up 16 sq. ft. of floor space and sold for $6495 MSRP. Where most games of the time cost $600-$1300, it was a bold move but if you found one it was awesome.

Atari Indy 800 game flyer

Atari would follow-up with the design the following year in Tank 8, one of the few non-racing 8-player titles out there and again in 1977 with Sprint 8. This one would feature a clutch for each user and it also introduced AI racers to fill in empty slots so that even a single player could enjoy the action.

After that, I’m not aware of anyone producing an octo-player machine as Golden Age gaming would focus on single player experiences or in taking turns between 1-2 players.

That would change forever in 1987 when Namco and Atari Games joined forces to produce Final Lap. Set in the Pole Position ‘universe’, it was a Formula-1 racing game with great graphics for the time. Sold in Twin models, operators could purchase four twins and connect them for 8-player mayhem. Final Lap sequels (Final Lap 2,3 and R) would retain this feature although Namco would sell them on their own. Atari & Namco would also go on to do the same thing with the Namco created ATV racer Four Trax (1989), which was among the few games of the time to feature swivel seat controllers.

Final Lap has shown up a few times on the ABC TV comedy ‘The Goldbergs’

I am aware of developments that aimed to link cabinets together prior to Final Lap (such as Atari’s Tomcat in 1983 or Midway’s Predators in 1986) but since they never were released, they don’t get the glory