Around 900 games from console arcades are now available to play online in your browser. It’s a fun diversion, but the man behind it points out that performance is unpredictable at best.
The release of the games at the Internet Archive site brings together work from two different projects. The games are largely the result of the MAME project that already allowed users to play arcade games through standalone emulators.
The man who’s brought the two together, Jason Scott, says arcade games in the browser hadn’t been a priority in the past as most people who wanted to play the games seemed happy to run standalone software. However, he was curious about the complexity involved in bringing the two projects together and discovered it was “very, very easy.”
Of the roughly 900 arcade games (yes, nine hundred arcade games) up there, some are in pretty weird shape – vector games are an issue, scaling is broken for some, and some have control mechanisms that are just not going to translate to a keyboard or even a joypad. But damn if so many are good enough. More than good enough. In the right browser, on a speedy machine, it almost feels perfect.
Of the games that I’ve checked out, most feel like faithful translations of the originals and are great for nostalgia. As so often with emulation, there’s a lot of guesswork involved in the controls: on a PC, the arrow keys stand in for any joysticks on the original arcade console, while the buttons are covered by some combination of Ctrl, Alt and the spacebar. Gamepads may work, but don’t always map the controls directly.
The main problem I’ve found, again familiar from emulation, is speed issues affecting gameplay. For example, Track and Field didn’t offer much in the way of sophistication beyond furiously pounding buttons, but here a casual repetitive tapping of the spacebar seems enough for a Bolt-like performance. It may be a case where games that originally had relatively complex controls are more engaging in this form.