When it comes to sports games, few are as fun as hockey. It’s fast-paced, fun, and certain to have your pulse quickening with each crisp pass of the puck.

Today’s next generation video games do an incredible job of harnessing the latest technology to really immerse players in the experience with EA Sports leading the way. However, as impressive as these games are, there is still something truly charming about the ones that came before.

With that thought in mind, and with the NHL Season just a few months away, I thought this would be the perfect time to look back on some of the best hockey games ever. More specifically, those that dominated the arcade scene of the 1990s – an exciting time that saw some of the most memorable and imaginative interpretations of Canada’s pastime descend upon an industry on the cusp of change. Here is a look back at

The Five Best Hockey Arcade Games Of The 1990s

Blades Of Steel

While most will remember this one from its run on the Nintendo Entertainment System, Konami’s Blades Of Steel was also a staple of 1990s arcades that enjoyed some serious staying power in North America and Japan well into the latter half of the decade.

Blades Of Steel Arcade

Praised for its fast-paced gameplay and advanced fight mechanics, Blades Of Steel allowed up to two players to take part and offered three levels of difficulty when playing against the computer.

Yes, as it was first published in 1987, this one is technically an 80s game. However, it was in the 1990s that Blades Of Steel really seemed to find its stride with audiences.

Additionally, having aged far better than most of its retro contemporaries, it continues to be regarded by many as one of the best-looking titles of the time.

Slap Shot

Released to arcades by SEGA in 1990, Slap Shot plays very similar to other arcade-style hockey video games of the period but sets itself apart with a unique “Shot Cam Replay” option, as well as allowing players to decide whether to take part in either a tournament or exhibition game mode.

Slap Shot Hockey Video Game

Featuring a total of 24 teams spread across three pools that were loosely based upon the IIHF World Championship divisions of the time, Slap Shot also featured strong graphics, true to life audio, and smooth sprite animation that quickly allowed it to become one of the most popular sports titles of the day!

And no, contrary to popular belief, it has absolutely nothing to do with the 1977 George Hill film of the same name.

Hit The Ice

With a slightly more cartoony look than other games on this list, Taito’s Hit The Ice arrived at arcades in 1990 with an emphasis on unsportsmanlike conduct. Yes, while other games looked to penalize tripping and checking, Hit The Ice actually encouraged it – even going so far as to decrease the speed of any player who came out on the losing end of a scuffle.

Hit the Ice The Video Hockey League

Featuring a 3 on 3 layout and giving players the ability to execute a “super shot” slapshot, the game was a massive hit upon its release in the United States – with weekly coin drops averaging close to $200 during its first two months in circulation alone.

Featuring a roster of colorful characters and a host of special power-ups, Hit The Ice is far from your average hockey game. However, it is definitely one of the most entertaining!

2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge

Rolling into arcades from Midway in 1995, 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge features comically exaggerated gameplay that is oftentimes compared to the design and feel of NBA Jam.

2 on 2 Open Ice Challenge

Praised by critics for its full NHL licensing and player rosters, the game features included commentary, an engaging two-on-two competition mode, and an overall depth of play that was almost unheard of in sports games at the time – especially when it came to hockey. 

Sharp graphics, fluid animation, and a host of amusing Easter Eggs throughout, 2 On 2 Open Ice Challenge continued to prove why Midway belonged at the top of the arcade sports market and was even placed on display in the Hockey Hall Of Fame in 1996.

Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey

Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey

Published by Atari in 1996, Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey strayed away from the realistic ice hockey simulations of the day in favor of slightly more exaggerated arcade-style gameplay. This resulted in a number of over-the-top special abilities ranging from Power Saves to Power Shots in addition to high scoring games and some seriously elaborate fights that were becoming less and less common with developers more interested in pushing the boundaries of technology.

Regardless, this addictive Wayne Gretzky classic would go on to become somewhat of an industry standard, with many feeling Atari’s efforts yielded exactly what one would expect from an arcade-style game at the time.

Sure, most will agree that there are far more realistic, finer-tuned hockey gaming experiences out there. However, this one continues to remain the perfect cabinet for the more action-hungry hockey gamers.