Book Review: ARTCADE – The Book of Classic Arcade Game Art (Extended Edition)

Hey, wanna hit the arcade?

Throughout my thousands of trips to the arcade in my lifetime, I can recall three major sticking points from each visit – the eardrum piercing music, the vibrant glow of the monitors, and the eye-catching artwork displayed on the arcade cabinet marquees. Oh wait, a fourth sticking point is the smells… Oh, God, the funky smells!


Thankfully, Artcade: The Book of Classic Arcade Game Artwork isn’t a book on funky arcade smells. This is a gorgeous book full of tons of beautiful artwork that spans 40 plus years of arcade cabinet marquees. But that’s not all that you’ll find when you crack open this treasure box. Even the arcade cabinet side art can be found within, which is a real joy to view!  This was a real surprise considering that the sides of the cabinets were often hidden from view.


Unfortunately for most gamers, arcades (outside of Japan) are, for lack of a better word, extinct. The artwork that adorned arcade cabinets is also getting harder to find since most of these machines were destroyed. People like Tim Nicholls and other arcade enthusiasts don’t want to see that happen. These guys/gals are painstakingly scanning and restoring the art so that it can be reprinted and reapplied to cabinets. These enthusiasts are basically doing God’s work.


Let’s Get Serious

Hey arcade lovers! We’ve found the perfect coffee table book!

Back in 2015, Bitmap Books teamed up with Nicolls to create the first edition of Artcade. Since then, more enthusiasts have decided to provide their own scans to enhance the book for this second edition. Also, included with this 2nd edition is a brief interview with the legendary Larry Day.  Day’s work can be admired on several pinball machines, as well as the classic arcade game, Moon Patrol. The 2nd edition also includes a how-to guide on scanning and restoring original arcade artwork. This portion is provided by Escape Pod, who has been printing high quality graphics since 1993.


First Class Delivery


The amount of dedication that goes into Bitmap Books packaging really shows how much they love their product.


Ordering a book from Bitmap Books is an experience within itself. Their shipping team can be summed up in one word: “Amazing.” Most orders ship out within a day or so, and they ship DHL Express. This is a Godsend for people like us here at HeyPoorPlayer, who are full of anxious gamers that like to get our orders as quickly as possible. Shipping from Bitmap Books in the U.K. to us here in the U.S. only took two business days.


Books ordered directly from Bitmap Books will be shipped in a sturdy cardboard box with the Bitmap Books logo printed on one side, and some glorious Defender-like graphics on the other. One quick pull of the tear string, and you’re looking at packing material that can withstand a nuclear bomb. All four corners of their books are protected with Styrofoam that wraps nicely around all sides, providing plenty of security. The people at Bitmap Books know how much quality goes into each of their publications! They want to make sure everything comes to you without a scratch and/or dent. It’s a reassuring feeling knowing that a package that you just ordered can withstand being tossed around.


Besides being protected by sturdy shipping material, Artcade: The Book of Classic Arcade Game Artwork comes in a thick slipcase with the book’s title placed predominantly in the center. If the slipcase is in a darkened room, you’ll notice it glows! This is a nice touch that gives off the look of a dimly lit marquee. Since the book is actually the rectangular shape of an arcade marquee, its quite eye-catching, and will make any arcade lover who’s viewing it feel as though they’re being washed over with warm nostalgia. We can honestly say that the slipcase seems to have received as much love as the book itself!


Accuracy Builds Credibility


Each page is a treat and features colors that are accurate to the original artwork.


Inside the book, besides the aforementioned interviews and how-to guide, are thick glossy pages that feature marquee and side art for over 200 arcade classics. I was able to compare some of the pages with actual arcade marquees from my local bar-arcade. As expected, I found that the colors were dead on. Tapper, specifically, is perfect! Even the blueish line detail that gives the marquee a stained-glass look is perfectly represented behind the game’s title.


Included with each marquee page, you’ll find info such as the year the game was released, the publisher, and obviously the name of the game. Also, small icons are provided to inform the reader of the number of players that can play, the type of controller used (joystick, wheel, light gun, etc.), and what position the monitor should be fixed in. All this extra info is located outside of the marquee, so the original artwork is presented in its original form. The only thing missing from the page is the name of the artist who worked on the marquee. We’re not sure why this is missing.  If we’re guessing, it may have something to do with them not providing their name at the time the art was created. This was a marquee, so placing a signature on the art would have seemed out of place.


After the marquee section, you’ll find an interesting chapter that features some fantastic arcade cabinet side art. This portion of the book is full of spectacular art that many people have probably never even seen before. This was the most surprising part of the book for us and provided glimpses of highly detailed visuals that we didn’t even know existed! The Ghosts ‘N Goblins and Ghouls ‘N Ghosts artwork is worthy of a tattoo. Seriously, it’s that good.

Rediscovering the Classics


Our favorite part of the book was going through the artwork and discovering games that we’ve never played before.


Following the artwork of the marquees and side art is a review section that gives a quick synopsis of the gameplay as well as some history behind the machine (in some cases). Not really a review per se, but informative, nonetheless. This section was especially useful at times when the artwork grabbed our attention, and we wanted to know a little more about the game before firing it up on MAME (arcade emulator).


Bitmap Books, along with Tim Nicholls (and others), should be proud of what they created here. Artcade: The Book of Classic Arcade Game Artwork is a masterpiece and belongs on the coffee table of anyone who has ever experienced the joy of walking around an arcade and wondering which game they should drop their quarter into next. Make sure to order your copy here.


Final Verdict: 5/5

ARTCADE – The Book of Classic Arcade Game Art (Extended Edition), published by Tim Nicholls & Bitmap Books. It is available now. MSRP: £29.99 GBP.

Full Disclosure: This review is based on a retail copy of ARTCADE – The Book of Classic Arcade Game Art (Extended Edition)  provided by the book’s publisher.


Mike Vito has been a slave to gaming ever since playing his grandfather's Atari 2600. A collector of all things retro, his main focus is obtaining a full NES collection. Being a father has rekindled his spirit for Nintendo and he now spends most of his time teaching his daughter about the games of yesteryear. Check out his other work in Pat Contri’s Ultimate Nintendo: Guide to the SNES Library. Follow him @veryevilash on Twitter Current favorite games: Air Zonk, NHL Hitz 2003, Castlevania Symphony of the Night, & Super Dodgeball.

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