The 7 Best Arcade Basketball Games
We spent 45 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top choices for this wiki. If you're looking for a fun alternative form of entertainment for your family to get them out from in front of their screens, try one of these arcade basketball games. Perfect for playing indoors on rainy days, they are available in a wide range of designs, including some that are good for actual shooting practice and others for tabletop enjoyment. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best arcade basketball game on Amazon.
A Brief History Of Arcade Basketball Games
If you didn't make at least seven, you were likely loudly mocked and ridiculed.
It all started with a heart condition.
If you've ever played an arcade basketball game, this may not surprise you. After all, they can certainly place a lot of pressure on your ticker, thanks to all the flashing lights and the menacing countdown. It's hard not to take failure personally.
But in 1981, it was the game's creator, Ken Cochran, who was the one recovering from a faulty valve when he was struck by a life-changing idea. After days of being stuck in a hospital bed with nothing to do after emergency surgery, the college hoops coach noticed he'd grown somewhat addicted to a gift he'd been given to pass the time: a desktop mini-basketball game.
As soon as he left the hospital, he devised a larger, more challenging version of the same game. His contraption had three rims with side-by-side backboards, and a volleyball net to return balls to shooters. He took his new machine to one of his hoops camps and set it up, charging campers a buck for ten shots. If you made at least seven, you got a free t-shirt. If you didn't make at least seven, you were likely loudly mocked and ridiculed.
Cochran's game was an instant hit. Unfortunately, the bulky device was too large to transport easily, so he streamlined it, eliminating two of the baskets. He also added a scoring collar to track point totals, replaced the volleyball net with a fiberglass ramp, and, most importantly, he placed his machine in local bars.
Heavy drinkers always relish a chance to prove their coordination and dexterity, and Cochran's game — now called Pop-A-Shot — was an even bigger smash among the general public than it was with hoops campers. Soon, competitors sprung up, and all sorts of new bells and whistles — like moving backboards, three-pointers, and a veritable flood of basketballs — were added to spice up the game.
As a result, Pop-A-Shot moved to manufacturing personal machines for home use — but they still found ample competition even there. Today, there are a variety of companies making arcade basketball games, and some are better at it than others.
Choosing The Right One for You
If you're addicted enough to the game to buy your very own home version, there are a few things to consider before you pull the trigger.
The first thing to think about is what features you want the game to have. Do you want just a basic shooting challenge, or do you like the vibrating baskets and flashing lights? Is one hoop enough, or do you want to be able to entertain multiple shooters at one time?
Some of these machines are truly massive — and the really big ones can be more fun, but whether that's worth giving up half of your living room is up to you.
Once you've got that figured out, the next thing is to decide how much space you're willing to sacrifice in order to fit the thing in your home. Some of these machines are truly massive — and the really big ones can be more fun, but whether that's worth giving up half of your living room is up to you. A few models are easy to fold up, so you may be able to get the best of both worlds.
Some are fully enclosed, while others have open tops. This is extremely important, because if you like to take high-arcing rainbow jumpers, you'll likely be frustrated with an enclosed model. That said, you might be better off altering your shot for the machine anyway (more on this later — although if you really want to work on your form, you may be better off buying a portable hoop).
Ultimately, though, the best machine for you is whichever one seems the most fun — and whichever one makes it the easiest to hustle your friends out of their sweet, sweet laundry quarters.
Tips For Getting That Elusive High Score
One of the big selling points of the game is that it doesn't actually require a ton of athleticism, or even basketball skill. In fact, elite hoops players often struggle with these games, which can give you a leg up (and help you win a few bar bets).
You'll need to sacrifice your desire to be a glory boy when you play these games. You know that satisfying, nothing-but-net "swish" sound you love to hear? Forget about it. You're listening for "thunks" now.
This can put users with large hands at a disadvantage, but it's also better for balancing the ball on the tips of your fingers.
In most of these games, hitting the backboard straight on is your best bet for racking up a high score. The rims are often a little loose, so trying to bounce one in off the iron will likely prove frustrating. If they hang down in the front, however, that just gives you more real estate to work with when you bank it off the glass.
Try to use fundamentally sound technique, as well. Many players believe in under-handing it, but that slows you down and can be disastrous on a closed-in machine. Some of the top competitors shoot one-handed, which allows them to really focus on their follow-through while using their non-dominant hand to corral basketballs.
Speaking of which, many arcade balls are smaller than their regulation counterparts. This can put users with large hands at a disadvantage, but it's also better for balancing the ball on the tips of your fingers. Use a light touch, and resist the urge to finger-roll.
Your rhythm may be the most powerful weapon you have. If you can set and maintain a steady pace, it can make the difference between reaching the bonus round and being forced to sheepishly slink away in shame. A proper rhythm means keeping your eyes on the hoop at all times, while your hands work deftly on ball transfer.
Once you get your technique down, all it takes is practice. With a little time and hard work, you'll soon be able to master the most important skill of all: the ability to humiliate your friends and family on demand.
Statistics and Editorial Log