Internet Archive brings 900 classic arcade games to your browser

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ate last year the Internet Archive branched out into video games, adding a section of the site called the Console Living Room that backed up early console games. What started with five systems—the Atari 2600 and 7800, the Magnavox Odyssey, the ColecoVision, and the Astrocade—has since expanded to include everything from classics like the Sega Genesis to weird also-rans like the Watara SuperVision.

And as of this week, it now also includes arcade games. Yet another branch of the ever-expanding Internet Archive, the new Internet Arcade brings over 900 classic arcade cabinets to your browser.

Like the Console Living Room, the Internet Arcade is an effort to archive and present these games through JSMESS, a project to emulate various computer systems through JavaScript. The benefit? The games can run right in your browser and thus don’t require any third-party software (like a standalone MAME emulator).

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The spearhead behind the Internet Arcade, Jason Scott, writes, “Obviously, a lot of people are going to migrate to games they recognize and ones that they may not have played in years. They’ll do a few rounds, probably get their asses kicked, smile, and go back to their news sites.

“A few more, I hope, will go towards games they’ve never heard of, with rules they have to suss out, and maybe more people will play some of these arcades in the coming months than the games ever saw in their ‘real’ lifetimes,” he continues. “And my hope is that a handful, a probably tiny percentage, will begin plotting out ways to use this stuff in research, in writing, and remixing these old games into understanding their contexts. Time will tell.”

Like standalone MAME, a fair number of these games had control schemes that don’t map well to a keyboard and mouse, so keep that in mind. Most games default to using the Arrow Keys and Left Shift/Alt/Ctrl for actions, with “5” adding credits and “1” starting a game. Or hit Tab to change key bindings.

But imagine trying to play a game like the original Tron cabinet, with its paddlewheel, on a keyboard. It’s a nightmare.

And there are bugs—some games have glitchy sound or no sound, and gamepad support is somewhat spotty, plus the Fullscreen button forces everything into widescreen rather than native 4:3. If you’re looking to waste some time the way you wasted your misspent youth, though, there’s no better time.

Royce Christyn
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