Taito has a reputation for being a pioneer in arcade video games since the 1970s, even before this time they were known for their electro-mechanical games in the 1960s, so have a genuine heritage in the gaming industry.
Whilst Taito began its dominance in the 1970s, for me, Taito was at its absolute peak in the 1980s, producing classic after classic. Games such as Bubble Bobble, Chase H.Q., The Ninja Warriors, Darius & so many more.
In this list, I take a look at some of the best Taito arcade games over the years.
Wild Western (1982)
We start our list off with Wild Western. A vertical scrolling shoot ’em up where you take control of the sheriff on your trusty horse to protect the steam train in the centre of the screen.
Enemy bandits will be trying to take you out alongside the train whilst you have to also avoid objects along the landscape.
There are some great gameplay elements like bandits jumping aboard the train, which sees you having to do the same in order to be able to shoot him.
Like many games of the time, graphically it’s not much to look at, but it’s packed with charm and has great gameplay.
The Legend Of Kage (1985)
A side-scrolling (and vertical-scrolling!) hack and slash/platform game. The Legend Of Kage was a hit in arcades back in 1985.
The plot is pretty standard in that you take control of Kage, a ninja on a mission to rescue Princess Kiri. Armed with your shortsword and shuriken, you leap around taking out enemies spread over five levels.
You work through a number of levels battling through a forest, through water and climbing up and into buildings, through changing weather conditions ultimately to beat the main boss and rescue the princess.
A really simple game, but one which is really still loved to this day.
The Ninja Warriors (1987)
The Ninja Warriors is a side-scrolling arcade beat ’em up and is peak-era Taito.
With a superb soundtrack and a unique wide triple screen effect in the arcade cab, The Ninja Warriors is a classic single or two-player game.
As with the best arcade games, it has really simple controls, the joystick moves your character around, with two fire buttons controlling a short-range attack and along range shuriken attack.
In a very 1980s storyline, the president of the USA has declared martial law and a group of ‘anarchist scientists’ decide to revolt. To battle them, the scientists created two ninja androids, who you take control of, to bring down the president! I do miss a good extreme storyline!
Regardless of the plot, The Ninja Warriors is another classic Taito arcade game.
Another Taito game that utilises the triple screen set up to create a panoramic playfield, Darius was one of the most popular arcade games around when released in 1987.
Darius is a single or two-player horizontal shooter where players battle through levels simultaneously to defeat enemies whilst powering up their starships that are released from destroyed enemies.
The graphics and sharp and detailed and the soundtrack is gripping, Darius is a classic shooter and has all of the mechanics that would come to be utilised in many more games over the decades.
Once you proceed through each level, you will be presented with a boss battle which requires the usual decent hand-to-eye coordination to avoid bullets whilst hitting the bosses in the right spots.
The game has branching paths as you proceed after defeating the bosses, you can choose which direction to take.
Space Invaders (1978)
No need for any introductions here. Taito earned their arcade credentials early on, but Space Invaders immortalised them as gurus in the industry.
Space Invaders plays out on a single screen, with the player controlling a cannon across the bottom of the screen, protected by 4 bases. The aliens then move left to right, and down a row every time they reach the edge of the screen.
The alien’s pace increases the more of them you kill, making it much harder to take out the remaining few with then zooming left and right at high speed!
You can be defeated by the aliens simply by being shot by them, or if they reach the bottom of the screen.
Space Invaders is such an all-time classic, you can argue that better versions were released following the original, but you have to really have the original game in this list to acknowledge its greatness and how it inspired games for decades on.
Bubble Bobble (1986)
One of Taito’s most valuable franchises as well as being one of their best games, Bubble Bobble remains a favourite with arcade fans.
A single or two-player game, Bubble Bobble sees you jumping around firing bubbles from your mouth, to trap enemies, then popping them by jumping at or on them, it’s as simple as that!
Like all the best classic arcade games, the genius is in the simple play mechanics and deviant level design. You’ll find yourself wanting to jump in and go to trap enemies as quickly as possible, but sometimes it pays to be more patient.
Aside from being one of the best two-player arcade games and its excellent gameplay, Bubble Bobble has one of the best-known soundtracks ever! it’s also one of the shortest tunes that loops on repeat, but for some reason, it never grows tired, for me at least!
Not always the most popular games in the arcades, decent football games are few and far between.
Football Champ is a good balance of classic football game mechanics, but with a bit of violence and arcade action thrown in for good measure!
It actually looks pretty good for the time, with some nice scaling effects with the camera zooming in and out of the action. You get to play as one of eight national teams, with a win needed against each team to process to the next match where the difficulty increases.
If you’re not up for playing fair, then utilise punches, flying kicks and even shirt pulling to literally battle your way to a victory instead!
Final Blow (1988)
Quite possibly following the success of the NES classic, Punch-Out! as well as boxing hitting a new high in popularity thanks to the likes of Mike Tyson, Final Blow was launched at the right time to capitalise on this.
With its huge sprites, Final Blow sees one or two players battle the CPU or each other to quite literally the ‘Final Blow’, where players can time a final punch which can be the KO blow to opponents.
You can either win by points or by a straight KO before the timer runs out.
Final Blow was a real step up in visual fidelity for Taito, utilising their new F2 arcade hardware.
Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh (1987)
Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh is the official sequel to the original Arkanoid, which was a really popular Taito game from 1986.
Essentially a Breakout clone with a plot, the Arkanoid games are one of the better versions of the Breakout genre, with Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh.
You control the ‘Vaus’ craft once again battling your enemy known as Doh (not related to the Homer Simpson quote!), who has returned to seek revenge on ‘Vaus’ which saved the day previously when Doh decided to attack the starship ‘Arkanoid’.
The game itself is pretty straightforward, destroy all of the coloured blocks on each level. But the real fun comes from the power-ups that some blocks drop when destroyed.
Arkanoid: Revenge Of Doh introduces warp gates which allow the player can choose to exit the level to the left or right, resulting in a different level rather than just progressing in a linear fashion.
Really addictive, this is a great game for pursuing high scores.
Continental Circus (1987)
Continental Circus is a chase view arcade racer in the same vein as Pole Position.
The arcade game came in two versions, a sit-down and upright versions, both utilising a unique 3D overlay that sits in front of the player’s head, creating a 3D depth effect to the game.
The game itself involves you having to qualify above a specific position to progress to the next race. With each race you progress to, the qualifying bar is raised too, meaning you have to finish each race in a higher position to carry on the game.
There are some great dynamics to the game such as extreme crashes at high speed when colliding with other cars. As a result of collisions with other cars, your car will begin to smoke and eventually catch fire meaning you will need to pit as soon as possible to be repaired or face your car exploding!
it also includes changing weather conditions meaning you will also have to pit to change tires, which is a nice touch.
All in all, Continental Circus is a fast-paced, intense racer, well worth a place in this best Taito arcade games list.
Operation Wolf (1987)
Operation Wolf was a giant when released and received ports to pretty much most home computers and consoles of the time.
Highly popular at the time, light gun games were very much the order of the day when Operation Wolf arrived.
But one thing that made this stand out was the arcade cab with its metal Uzi 9mm that players had to use to blast their way through levels, single-handedly destroying armies! The gun also has a button on the side to launch grenades too, as bullets alone will not win you this battle!
You shoot your way through six missions in total ultimately completing the getaway mission, protecting hostages as they run to enter a taxiing aircraft on a runway.
A very intense game which is extremely difficult, you had to make sure you had plenty of coins for this one!
Chase H.Q. (1988)
Let’s go, Mr Driver!
A quote heard repeatedly in many arcades back in the day! Chase H.Q. is a driving game with a difference.
You race along OutRun style avoiding other cards and obstacles, but rather than being in a race purely against the clock, you are chasing suspects and have to ram them off the road, destroying their vehicle in order to make the arrest.
Full of fast gameplay, super fast and smooth visuals and a great soundtrack with plenty of sampled speech, Chase H.Q. just screams high-energy excitement.
The arcade game boasted a sit-down and stand-up cabinet, but complete with the steering wheel, pedals as well as a gear shifter with a turbo button as if the car wasn’t going fast enough already!
This is peak Taito at its absolute best, in the best era of arcade gaming.
The New Zealand Story (1988)
Another thing that Taito was very good at, was cutesy platform games and The New Zealand Story is one of the best.
Players have to navigate each level to the goal to rescue their chick friends who have been kidnapped by a leopard seal!
Along the way, you pick up numerous weapons to help you on your way, from starting with a basic bow and arrow to bombs and lasers.
As well as progressing through levels on foot, Tiki the Kiwi chick can navigate using things such as tiny hot air balloons.
The New Zealand Story has a memorable cute soundtrack as well as other classic Taito mechanics shared with other games, such as getting an extra life by collecting letters to spell out ‘EXTEND’, also seen in Bubble Bobble.
Fans of Bubble Bobble will likely love The New Zealand Story as well.
Puzzle Bobble (1994)
Also known as Bust-a-Move, Puzzle Bobble utilises Taito’s favourite dragon-based characters, Bub and Bob.
Instead of running around in a platform game, this time they are launching various coloured bubbles in order to match colours and clear all of the bubbles to progress to the next level.
Sounds simple enough, but the panic sets in when the bubbles begin to drop down a row at a time with every few shots you take, meaning you face more pressure to get those bubbles gone!
Puzzle Bobble also sports an excellent two-player mode where you go head to head against each other, with the first to clear the stage winning.
Another puzzle-styled game from Taito, Puzznic is a strategic puzzle game which is very similar to Taito’s own Plotting game.
With Puzznic, players use a cursor to shift around blocks, matching the patterns of the blocks alongside each other.
Easy enough? However, its difficulty soon ramps up when you find that you have to be very forward thinking and strategic as you can soon trap yourself and make completion impossible!
A bit more of a low-key title, but one that was still extremely popular worldwide.
Also known as Rastan Saga, Rastan is a side-scrolling hack and slash game where you control a classic barbarian warrior, fighting his way across lands to defeat a dragon.
You progress through levels with your trusty sword defeating enemies with each swing. You can also smash your way through objects downwards, giving access to caves and other parts of each level.
You can collect other weapons including a mace, an axe and a sword that can shoot fireballs as well as other items such as armour to help you on your quest.
Rastan arrived before the likes of Golden Axe, which are firm favourites where Barbarian battlers are concerned, but Rastan still remains a favourite with arcade fans today.
Elevator Action (1983)
An oldie, but a goldie! Elevator Action is an absolute classic where you have to navigate a 30-floor building locating documents and then escape the building via the basement.
Primarily a platform shooter game, Elevator Action has specific requirements in that you must ensure you collect each of the documents hidden on each level before you attempt to escape, if you miss any, you are placed back higher up the building to collect them.
If that’s not tricky enough, some floors have no lights on, so enemies can jump out at you in a more sneaky fashion!
It’s not quite a puzzle game, but Elevator Action can have you frustrated in the same way as if you are playing one!
Double Dragon (1987)
Another classic Taito game when they were operating at their peak, wasn’t developed by Taito, just published by them. But what a great game!
Double Dragon is a single or two-player side-scrolling beat ’em up which sees you fighting the gang who kidnapped your girlfriend, Marian.
Taking control of Billy and Jimmy Lee (in two-player mode), you’ll work through levels fighting different types of enemy and boss battles. it’s all pretty rudimentary stuff now, but it really did set the standard for two-player side-scrolling beat ’em ups at the time, with its co-op gameplay.
Also, in a classic movie-style plot twist, if playing in two-player mode, Billy & Jimmy Lee have to battle each other to see who ultimately takes Marian. It is not clear whether Marian gets a say in the matter though!
Rambo III (1989)
Rambo III is an on-rails shooter where you can take control of John Rambo himself or Sam Trautman.
In classic Rambo style, it is pretty much you vs. literally armies!
Similar to Operation Wolf in its gameplay, Rambo III is played out using a joystick and two fire buttons. You simply move the crosshair around the screen, with which your character moves around with it, blasting away enemies and vehicles with whatever weapons you can get your hands on.
Another game which is a bit of a coin guzzler, but its super intense gun battling satisfies that 80s action film itch!
Special Criminal Investigation (1989)
The sequel to Chase H.Q., Special Criminal Investigation (or S.C.I.) is more of the same criminal chasing, but ramped up a few notches with the introduction of weapons!
No longer driving the classic black Porsche 928, Tony Gibson and Detective Ramond Broady and sporting another suitably 80s classic, the Nissan 300ZX.
The big difference here is that whilst racing along trying to catch up to your suspect, your co-driver can stand up and shoot out of the roof of the car.
This is to stop other enemies on screen from stopping you reach your suspect. Whether it’s motorbikes or other road users, you can blast them out of your way. You can even get rocket launchers dropped to you by support helicopters.
A superb sequel to the already great Chase H.Q.
A lifelong avid gamer and computing enthusiast, Matt has decades of experience in the field, so producing retro orientated content for How To Retro comes is second nature to him. Now over 40 years old, Matt now even considers himself retro, but fortunately, nobody has developed a Matt emulator (not yet at least!).