namco_pacman.jpg

The golden era of videogames is a hot topic among gamers, mainly because many game enthusiasts don't agree when the gaming utopia took place.

Some feel that it occurred in the mid to late 80s with the introduction and domination of the NES. Others found the 16-bit epoch to be their own personal Shangri-La. Younger gamers feel that this current “next-gen” period we find ourselves in, with its online capabilities and cutting-edge graphics, is the pinnacle of gaming paradise.

Everyone feels differently because everyone has a different collection games that define them and their age bracket. But when bringing up the topic of arcades and the era in which they thrived, there is little room for debate. The golden era took place in the 80s and the king of the cabinets was Namco.

Like many other videogame companies, Namco's early beginnings can be found in business completely unrelated to the gaming industry. Started in the 1950s, the company scraped up its capital by selling mechanical rocking horses and kiddy rides. Namco first started making videogames in 1974 after they snatched the Japanese division of Atari. A few early games followed, but they were all just a preamble to the bomb that would be dropped in 1980.

pacman_arcade.jpgApparently inspired by a pizza pie (sans one slice) by Toru Iwatani, Pac-Man would arguably become the most famous videogame in the world. Every respectable arcade would house a Pac-Man machine.

The game would become instantly recognizable to all who heard that opening jingle, felt its battle-worn joystick, and guided that simple little sphere to strategically munch those delicious dots in a quest to tame his paranormal enemies. Pac-Man would do a lot more than build a videogame fan base the world over. It would bring videogames into the mainstream.

Having a background in amusement parks, Namco focused on developing its arcade library, which was the main vehicle to carry a gaming fix to the consumers of the day. If you were to take a stroll through a gallery displaying these works of art you would see an assortment of masterpieces.

galaga.jpgThere is Galaga, the superior sequel to 1979's Galaxian that would have kids around the world risking alien abduction in order to get a chance at doubling their firepower. Pole Position was a hugely successful racing game for the company. Dig Dug and Xevious (the world's first vertical shooter) would both be released in the same year.

Namco had a lot of “firsts” in the gaming industry, many of which have become clichés within the community. King and Balloon was the first game to use synthesized voices. Rally X was the first game to include the ever-popular bonus round. Dragon Buster introduced the idea of a life bar, and Splatterhouse was the first game to be branded with a parental advisory warning.

splatterhouse.jpg

Arcades are still Namco's territory. Like their amusement parks, they continue to make fantastic rides for people of all ages and preferences. Tekken, Soul Calibur, and Time Crisis continue to push the envelopes of their respected genres, and Ridge Racer continues its legacy on the PS3.

The transition to consoles came initially with ports of their coin-op successes, but original games like the Ace Combat series and the Xenosaga series offer a nice alternative to the frenzied action of your standard quarter cruncher.

namco_bandai.jpgNamco Cybertainment Inc. has become the largest arcade company in the world, with roughly 30,000 games in their inventory. Two years ago Namco merged with the toy manufacturing giant Bandai. They now stand as the 3rd largest videogame entity in Japan.

The merger will deliver Namco's classics to a whole slew of fresh-faced customers. By developing versions of their classics for operation on either cell phones or Xbox Live, they are guaranteeing the longevity of their product.

We will be seeing Namco for generations to come, mainly because their great videogames tap into a digital fountain of youth, preventing them from ever getting old.

Must Haves:
Pac-Man Championship Edition (Xbox Live),
Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation (Xbox 360).

Have Nots:
Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2 (PS2)
Dead to Rights (Multi)

Top Ten Developer List: 10 | 9 | 8 | 7 | 6 | 5 | 4 | 3 | 2 | 1

12 COMMENTS

  1. I have never seen a top ten list go from best to worst… I can only imagine who will take the final slot …namco …ridge racer legacy lmfao next time I need a spoiler warning something to the effect of this article may induce unstoppable laughter anyone not firmly secured in there office chairs should click the back button as reading may prove fatal.

  2. I you think that Namco at number 2 is a joke then you must be a child. You might not be playing video games today if it weren’t for Pac-Man and Galaga. Just say thank you to Namco and move on.

  3. Not a fanboy but was just thinking that wii (^_-) will have to all bow to Nintendo-sama as they of course are gonna be number 1 and looking at their track record they would deserve it as one only needs to look at their games and consoles as well as they are almost always the revolutionary force in video games. and thats not just cause of wii. ^_-

  4. Not a fanboy but was just thinking that wii (^_-) will have to all bow to Nintendo-sama as they of course are gonna be number 1 and looking at their track record they would deserve it as one only needs to look at their games and consoles as well as they are almost always the revolutionary force in video games. and thats not just cause of wii. ^_-

  5. What about Hudson, SNK, Rare, Insomniac, Incognito, Taito, Tecmo? Their success/failure is a hell of alot better than these big developers trying to cash in on movie franchises all the time. I think this top 10 list might as well made you some money under the table, because these giants don’t deserve free advertisement..

  6. i dont agree with this one becuase theres a whole lot of way better developers than this ,just because they only came up with pacman that makes them famous!….i waz xpecting rockstar or something in competition…trust me, namco today for some devellopers is not competition

  7. Ok, these lists always draw tons of heated comments and opinions are like….well you know the saying. The list has to take into consideration many factors. The major factors considered with this list were longevity, creativity, variety and overall importance in regards to the video game industry as a WHOLE. Include Rockstar? No. I love the Grand Theft Auto Series. I think it did a lot for sandbox gaming and has been a favorite of mine since the first GTA on the PC. But include a company founded in 1998 just because they made GTA series – absolutely not. Manhunt, State of Emergency (horrible game) and Bully (GTA in prep-school) aren’t important landmarks in gaming by a long run. A track record is needed to make that connotation. UBISOFT (a relatively new entry) was picked for being consistant and quality driven, despite it’s recent inception. I would love to put Epic, Bungie, Rare, Raven, Valve and a bunch of others on here but they just don’t have the catalog. Namco was picked because they are the biggest force in arcade gaming in the world, a huge reason for the success of video games at home or away, creators of so many things in gaming that we take for granted in every game we play (see above) and yes…THEY MADE PAC-MAN!!! Namco effects every game played in modern times. You don’t pick Tarantino over Kubrick and Kurosawa just because you like “Kill Bill”. So let’s stop the nasty remarks that usually plague these comment boards, have some fun and talk about what we love – games. A good way to get your opinion out there is to post your own quick top ten list right here. I’d be interested to see your choices. Thanks guys.

    -James

  8. First off I am really enjoying this top 10 of yours, good background info on developers I am both into and not. I am replying to your post about how you made the choices and even with one or two I was suprised at, I must say your method of choices see’s right on the mark. It seems to look at the history of the industry with time and context…very iportant. Its great to have these lists as it creates debate and interest in a topic I am very passionate about. So I am egarly waiting to see who makes your number 1 spot. For me, my money is on nintendo for all the consistanly fantastic games I have played over the years from the nes right up to wii, but thats just my opinion.

  9. I love this list. It generates plenty of discussion… as great as it would be to recognize current powerhouses like Rockstar, Valve, Blizzard, or Epic, or to mention important contributors like Hudson and Taito, this list is definitive because it stretches back 20-30 years to look at videogames from a historical perspective.

    Thanks for giving us Pac-Man and Ridge Racer, Namco! Let’s see what else you got going forward.

LEAVE A REPLY