Though not a complete history, herein is a list of what many would consider most of the "game" changers that made arcade experiences so powerful and nostalgic. (The list cuts off around the early 2000s, missing another 10+ years of games from the dwindling era of arcade popularity; though some still exist in specific locales.)
Midway MFG. releases Gun Fight, an adaptation of Taito's Western Gun and the first arcade video game to use a microprocessor, which the original incarnation did not use, allowing for improved graphics and smoother animation.
Dragon's Lair, the first video game to use cel-animated video instead of computer-generated graphics was advertised as the first truly 3D video game and as the meeting point of video games and animated films.
Atari brings Star Wars to the arcades in the form of a 3D vector graphics simulation of the movie's attack on the Death Star sequence and featuring digitized samples of voices from the movie.
Air Race was also planned to be released by Atari in 1985. Due to the high cost of the hardware, the game also was cancelled. If released, it would have been the first arcade racing game to use 3D polygon graphics.
NARC, by Williams is released and is the first commercially released game to use a 32-bit processor.
Namco releases Assault, which was the first game to make use of massive sprite rotation as well as sprite scaling. It also released Splatterhouse, which was the first game to get a parental advisory disclaimer.
Pit-Fighter is released by Atari Games and is the first-ever fighting game to use fully digitized graphics. Released two years before Midway's Mortal Kombat.
Galaxian³ is released by Namco as a video game Theme Park Attraction and is the first to feature 8-players. This game is a sequel to the Galaxian series and is known for combining pre-laserdisc background images and 3D Polygonal graphics. It was later released as an arcade cabinet to the public in 1994.
NAM-1975 is released by SNK and is the first game running on a Neo Geo hardware and became the standardized arcade platform throughout the 90s to the early 2000s. Many 2D fighting games like Fatal Fury, World Heroes, and Samurai Showdown ran on this hardware and was very popular in the arcades for its time.
Sega releases Virtua Racing, Sega's first 3D racer as well as Sega's first polygonal 3D game.
Mortal Kombat II is released, featuring high quality digitized graphics, and the most advanced sound system in arcades at the time, the DCS sound system which allowed for MP3 style compression to all sounds.
Killer Instinct is released, the first arcade game with a hard disk, up to that point the game with the highest quality graphics pre-rendered by a rendering program, featuring to this day the highest quality use of the movie background technique.
Rush 2049 is released, the last arcade game to bear the Atari Games logo. Atari Games in Milpitas is renamed Midway Games West, and closes its coin-op product development division.
Hydro Thunder is released by Midway Games. It is a 3D speedboat racing game and was one of the first to run on QuickSilver II hardware, a windows-based hardware setup that was less expensive to use. The game was one of Midway Games most successful arcade games to date.
^ abBill Loguidice & Matt Barton (2009), Vintage games: an insider look at the history of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the most influential games of all time, p. 197, Focal Press, ISBN0-240-81146-1