Stuck in the mire of the 1984 video game market crash, Nintendo knew it needed a hook to draw gamers back into the arcades. Their solution was the VS. system – a series of arcade games designed to bring out the competitive nature of gaming fans.
Over 30 games passed through the VS. system during its seven-year lifespan, each one perfect for one-on-one (or even two-on-two) contests.
Almost since the beginning, arcade games had been offered in “conversion kits” allowing arcade owners to use older machines for newer games, but the VS. series took the concept to new levels.
In 1984 alone, 10 games were produced for the system, including player favourites like Duck Hunt (a light gun shooting game complete with a hunting dog companion) and Nintendo’s version of Baseball.
The VS. games were available in the standard upright cabinet (with two sets of controls for true one-on-one “vs.” play), but the more eye-catching “VS. DualSystem” housed two separate monitors, placed at an angle to each other with two control sets on each.
This four-player configuration allowed complete doubles matches on Tennis, but it also permitted two separate games to be played at once.
Over the years, the system housed games of all types, many licensed from other companies like Atari and Konami. Even a brief sample shows how versatile the system was:
- Sports – Baseball, Tennis, 10-Yard Fight, Golf, Soccer, Volleyball, Slalom, RBI Baseball
- Shooters – Duck Hunt, Hogan’s Alley, Wild Gunman, Gumshoe, Freedom Force
- Action – Balloon Fight, Sky Kid, Raid on Bungeling Bay, Gradius, Top Gun, Platoon
- Platform – Ice Climber, Wrecking Crew, Super Mario Bros.
- Adventure – The Goonies, Castlevania, Trojan
- Racing – Excitebike, Mach Rider
- Fighting – Urban Champion
- Puzzle/maze – Clu Clu Land, Dr Mario
And even a video version of Pinball.
Nearly every game on the system was released either before or after as a cartridge for the Nintendo Entertainment System, serving a twofold purpose – kids who had an NES were able to sample games before buying them, and those poor souls without an NES (or an NES-owning friend) still got to join in the fun.
The controls were essentially the same as the NES as well, using the A and B buttons but substituting a stubby joystick for the standard four-way control pad.
Dr Mario was the last game released on the VS. hardware, bringing the series to a close with a riff on the hugely popular Tetris formula.
NES titles continued to hit the arcade in the multi-game PlayChoice 10 machine, but the era of two-screen Nintendo competition was over.
1984 – VS. Balloon Fight
1984 – VS. Baseball
1984 – VS. Duck Hunt
1984 – VS. Excitebike
1984 – VS. Hogan’s Alley
1984 – VS. Ice Climber
1984 – VS. Pinball
1984 – VS. Stroke and Match Golf
1984 – VS. Tennis
1984 – VS. Urban Champion
1984 – VS. Wild Gunman
1985 – VS. 10-Yard Fight
1985 – VS. Clu Clu Land
1985 – VS. Ladies’ Golf
1985 – VS. Mach Rider
1985 – VS. Raid on Bungeling Bay
1985 – VS. Sky Kid
1985 – VS. The Goonies
1985 – VS. Urban Champion
1986 – VS. Gradius
1986 – VS. Gumshoe
1986 – VS. Slalom
1986 – VS. Soccer
1986 – VS. Super Mario Bros.
1986 – VS. Volleyball
1987 – VS. Castlevania
1987 – VS. RBI Baseball
1987 – VS. Top Gun
1987 – VS. Trojan
1988 – VS. Freedom Force
1988 – VS. Platoon
1990 – VS. Dr. Mario