The 10 Best Arcade Basketball Games
This wiki has been updated 19 times since it was first published in December of 2016. Many of us have fond memories of shooting at mini-hoops with our friends, but alas, there aren't as many carnival midways as there used to be, and it's probably best not to bring the kids to those sports bars where you got so good. Consider one of these indoor basketball arcades, which provide fun for the whole family as you desperately try to prove you could've gone pro if not for that bum ankle. When users buy our independently chosen editorial recommendations, we may earn commissions to help fund the Wiki.
October 26, 2020:
The list may seem more homogenous this time around, and that's not an accident. There are a lot of quality machines out there, and most of them follow the same basic design. Options like the EastPoint 3-in-1 have been removed because, though it offers football and baseball games in addition to the standard basketball one, it is not one of the ten best picks if what you're after is an arcade basketball game.
Along that same line of thinking, if we're strictly talking about the best here, then it's no surprise that two-player games dominate the list, as they allow for simultaneous competition - two players are better than one. However, one-player units take up less space and are generally less expensive while still being plenty of fun, which is why the Redline Alley-Oop and the Pop-a-Shot Home Single have been included, with the Pop-a-Shot Home Single the clear top choice for single-basket games.
The Pop-a-Shot brand maintains its domination of the category with three selections, including the Pop-A-Shot Home Dual, which continues its reign in the top spot. It's a recognizable brand name for a reason: the company offers multiple types of high-quality machines, meaning there's probably a worthwhile model that's the perfect size for your garage.
June 21, 2019:
You might purchase one of these thinking it's a great gift for your child; you might also end up tossing shots up in quick succession trying to get a better score than last time, and doing it for far longer than you planned to. They're just that fun. Of course, if you want the authentic experience, Pop-A-Shot makes a few models that are readily available to the general public. The Home line comes in 1- and 2-player versions, and they're not incredibly expensive. The Classic and Pro are much more faithful to what you'd find in an actual arcade, but they do cost a whole lot. You don't have to spend a ton on a good one though. Lifetime's offering is less expensive than the Pop-A-Shot Home Dual, and the ESPN, Redline, and Nova even less so. Do be aware, though, that as you move down in price, they do tend to get a little flimsier.
Aside from those traditionally-styled options, the EastPoint switches it up by letting you practice passing a football and pitching a baseball. Then there's the MD Sports 12-in-1, and while some of its games (especially the basketball) may be too small for adults to enjoy, it has a number of board games that the whole family can play. It won't last forever, and it definitely won't stand up to any major temper tantrums, but you'll just have to make Dad promise not to get upset when he loses, and it should hold up for a year or two of frequent use.
Smart Industries Shoot to Win While most of the units on our list are for the home, those setting up an arcade can afford to think bigger. The Shoot to Win supports up to four players on a single unit, and up to 16 machines can be linked together to provide major coin-operated fun. smartind.com
Pop-A-Shot Custom If you're a college basketball fan, you want to show off your school pride at every opportunity. Industry leader Pop-A-Shot gives you the ability to order an officially-licensed backboard with the logo of your favorite NCAA team, so it'll fit nicely with all the other memorabilia in your rec room. popashot.net
A Brief History Of Arcade Basketball Games
Unfortunately, the bulky device was too large to transport easily, so he streamlined it, eliminating two of the baskets.
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?
A few models are easy to fold up, so you may be able to get the best of both worlds.
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.
Once you get your technique down, all it takes is practice.
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.