Arcade basketball games – my top 5

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College basketball game

If you are a basketball enthusiast, there are certain instances during your life, when you experience an irresistible craving to indulge in the sports greatest retro arcade games the genre has to offer. This occurs regardless of how mature you have become, or how much you were supposed to have grown out of playing video games.

Just recently I provided an outline of my top 10 arcade sports games with a limit of one game per sport. Since there were many legendary titles snubbed off such a list, I decided to compose a top 5 rankings list for each sport that was included in the initial top 10 list.

I have limited this particular list to only one game per series allowed to be included (hence the reason you will not see Run and Gun here, despite it being an amazing sports title).

The top 10 arcade sports games collection of rankings will get tipped off with my top 5 arcade basketball games.

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5. Punk Shot (developed and published by Konami in 1990)

Punk Shot for the arcade

Fun fact: just like U.S. Championship V’Ball, you cannot beat this game with one coin

Ready to lace em’ up and shoot some hoops? Konami’s Punk Shot is a 2-on-2 street-ball competition set in New York City that was released in 1990. It is particularly similar to the arcade smash hit Arch Rivals from the year before. Think you got what it takes? Do not get punked!

As you prepare to slam, jam, and cram some clowns, you will get to choose between three settings to be your primary environment to play in. You can start downtown, in the park, or at the harbor. After choosing your team, a hot blonde will tip-off the action at center court.

Punk Shot is a silly basketball simulation. If you do not possess the ball, you can beat up the other team through jabs, kicks, and piledrivers. You will encounter obstacles on your path to bragging rights. There are cones, potholes, falling crates, and annoying characters to challenge you.

The game consists of only two teams (the Scramblers and Ramblers). A couple of the game’s best qualities are the sound effects and its personality. As you sky to the goal for a monster dunk, players will sometimes shout “Geronimo! Winners are handsomely rewarded at the end, while losers hang their heads in shame.

4. NBA Play-by-Play (developed and published by Konami in 1998)

NBA Play by Play for the arcade

Unfortunately, the slow demise of arcades had already begun, when Konami released this title. By no means a masterpiece, but definitely a nice try. It stayed a one-off. Shame, I would have loved to see more sports sim games

Another production from Konami, NBA Play-by-Play made its debut in 1998. No. 4 on my list is a simulation of 5-on-5 NBA Playoff basketball. Of course, you have the opportunity to select any of the 29 NBA teams the league had during the 1997-98 season complete with authentic rosters. The lone absence of the 30 teams the NBA currently has is the New Orleans Pelicans, who did not enter the league until years later.

NBA Play-by-Play is one of the few titles here that make a genuine attempt at supplying gamers with as realistic of an NBA experience as possible. While it is true there are no fouls and the ball does not go out of bounds, if there was ever an arcade impersonation of NBA Live 95, this was it.

The game features awesome instant replays of top highlights, giving players the feel of being part of a real playoff game. It is not possible to push opponents down and collect infinite steals like some of the others. You can make your presence felt, however, with aggressive hand checking and blatant offensive charges that make for a physical postseason encounter.

3. Street Slam (developed and published by Data East in 1994)

Street Hoop arcade version

Not a fan of Hip Hop, but SL’s soundtrack rocks! One of the best ever for an arcade game

If you take a stroll long enough down memory lane, you might remember Data East’s title, which hit the arcades in 1994. Street Slam has a similar feel and style to it as the next entry on this list, albeit with a few distinct differences. Instead of being a 2-on-2 competition, it features a wide array of 3-on-3 teams to choose from. What helps to make the game fun, comical even, is there are only characters from the street who band together to do basketball battle on blacktops.

The game does not bother naming any of the players (apparently if you needed them to have a name you are encouraged to use your imagination). You choose a 3-player team representing a specific city or country (depending on which version you are playing). Data East released three versions of Street Slam consisting of American, European, and Japanese versions.

The American version has 10 teams representing 10 U.S. cities, while both the European and Japanese versions have 10 teams representing 10 countries for players to choose from. To help you make your decision on which squad to run with, the game displays only the overall team’s ratings. If three-point shooting is most important to you, you would select a team with one of the higher ratings in that category, and so on.

The courts provided to you to hoop on are pretty cool There are a couple of Rucker Park style courts, one that makes you feel like you are Billy Hoyle in the White Men Can’t Jump tournament championship, just a regular old park, and another in a back alley with graffiti sprayed all over the walls around you. There are not any sports commentators allowed here, only old-school hip hop blaring in the background.

2. NBA JAM (developed and published by Midway in 1993)

NBA Jam for the arcade

Quite simply, the sports game that made the 2 vs 2 mode popular…

The o.g. of bringing the excitement and drama of the NBA to an insane new level and into every real arcade in the world, NBA JAM established itself as the most popular basketball video game. With players soaring ten feet above the rim to perform gravity-defying jams, the giant success enjoyed by the title is still relevant even to this day.

Gamers feverishly competed with a few of their favorite NBA team’s best players. All bets were off following the opening tip, as a sharp right shift of a greased up joystick from your third slice of pizza coupled with the turbo button could send the opponent tumbling to the hardwood and losing possession of the ball.

The maneuver would prove to be challenging occasionally, as a poorly aimed or mistimed melee would result in a humiliating dunk on the other end. Of course, the game became most famous for every player’s ability to catch fire.

Following the achievement of making three consecutive baskets, the ball would engulf in flames as soon as that player took possession. Upon a player being on fire, their attempts on the goal became nearly unstoppable. Acrobatic tricks involving ally-oops between teammates with good chemistry also made the game a blast.

Honorable mention:

3-on-3 Dunk Madness (developed and published by Video System in 1997)

3 on 3 Dunk Madness for the arcade

In case you did not notice, I love Chicago Bulls… 😀

A Harlem Globetrotter feeling is what you start to sense when taking the court for a game of 3-on-3 Dunk Madness. Players of your control are marked with shining stars, and the games happen in massive arenas in front of sold-out to capacity crowds.

A feature that made this one stand out was the impressive dunks players could execute. Dunkers do not scrape the rafters during attempts within 3-on-3 DM. Characters in this game perform normal ones, except they can do the J.R. Rider “East Bay Funk Dunk” and even shatter the backboard.

1. Run and Gun 2 (developed and published by Konami in 1996)

Run and Gun 2 for the arcade

Yeah, no fouls on-screen, so sometimes we had to resort to giving each other an ass-bash out of our stools, lol… Those were the days!

Drum roll please, and “the greatest of all” goes to Konami’s Run and Gun 2. In my own humble opinion, it is the most fun and entertaining option available in the genre. What made the game the most unique and engaging to play was the arcade cabinet allowing four players to compete in pairs creating an epic duel of teammates that had their own screen in a 5-on-5 hoops simulation.

This title featured essentially generic NBA teams that mirrored real-life stars of the association to take the floor with. There were no fouls, but the ball would occasionally fly out of bounds. There was nothing more satisfying than bating a defender into the perfect position near midcourt and performing a spin move to create a 5-on-4 opportunity on offense in the halfcourt.

But there is more to that: Run and Gun 2 was one of the games that defined my ’96 Summer. Pizza & Soda and noisy, late-evening tournaments with my best friends at our local arcade were the rule. We knew all too well that was our last “carefree” time together (college and adult life awaited us), so we had to make the most of it.
I will never forget that Summer, and I will always smile when I think of this glorious basketball video game.

So, retro folks, the above titles contributed significantly to many positive memories of my teenage years. Was it the same for you? What arcade basketball game resonates most with you? Which was your favorite? Have I unfairly left a more worthy title off this list? Please do not forget to leave a comment below, in the dedicated section.

Last but not least, a special shoutout to the FeedSpot blog for naming us one of the top 75 retro gaming blogs on the web! You can check them out by clicking here.

Till next arcade sports game list!


About Andrew A.

Andrew is the founder and owner of RetroGamingLoft. He considers himself a natural-born gamer and is on a mission to keep our gaming memories alive through the medium of Retro Stories. His event recount includes hopes, dreams, broken joysticks, magic, nostalgia and another final boss defeated.

2 thoughts on “Arcade basketball games – my top 5

  1. Stephanie

    This took me down to my childhood. Growing up, I was in a basketball team throughout most of my adolescence years and I remember begging my grandma to get me the NBA Play-by-Play! I played that game non-stop for about 2 months. I absolutely loved this list, 2 out of those games I didn’t even knew existed. This is so nice to know.

    1. Andrew A. Post author

      Hello Stephanie, so glad to have you here on my retro gaming blog. I love bringing back memories and it is great when my readers share their own stories here. And as you may have read, I perfectly know what playing an NBA game non-stop for two months or more means, lol.
      Thanks again for your comment, hope you stay tuned for my next arcade sports game lists!


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