The 11 Best Arcade Documentaries (Ranked)

Born in the ’70s, arcade games like Pong and Space Invaders became cultural landmarks. In 1981, Donkey Kong alone racked up $280 million in quarters, highlighting the craze.

Arcades served as social hubs, a realm where high scores became a rite of passage.

These coin-operated machines are not just games; they’re pieces of interactive history.

It was the beginning of a video game revolution!

Here are my top-ranked documentaries on arcades.

If you like my article below, you might check out The 5 Best Atari Documentaries I wrote.


1) The King of Kong : Fistful of Quarters

“The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters” (2007), directed by Seth Gordon (known for “Freakonomics”), pits Steve Wiebe against Billy Mitchell in a battle for Donkey Kong supremacy.

Mitchell, arcade champ since the ’80s, faces Wiebe, a teacher looking for glory. Wiebe’s initial high score gets dismissed—technicalities. The doc digs deep into the tension, capturing pivotal moments like Wiebe’s live re-attempt at glory.

Characters pop. Mitchell exudes bravado; his American-flag tie screams confidence. Wiebe is the underdog—earnest, likable. Their heated exchanges tell the tale.

MITCHELL: “No matter what I say, it draws controversy. Sort of like the abortion issue.”
WIEBE: “I’m not a person who’s a quitter. I’ve never been.”

Real-world comparison? Think Rocky Balboa vs. Apollo Creed but in arcades. Top reason you’ll enjoy it? The doc unearths a surprisingly intense subculture around an arcade game some see as trivial.

Watch it for free on YouTube at

You can also rent it on Apple TV, YouTube, Amazon, etc. — see for details.

Note: I loved King of Kong so much I wrote a more in-depth review of it including my favorite parts!:

2) High Score

“High Score” (2020), directed by France Costrel, is a Netflix 6-part docuseries that captures the essence of video game history.

Episode 1, “Boom & Bust,” dives into the origins of arcade games, featuring Space Invaders and its creator, Tomohiro Nishikado. This episode is a love letter to the ’80s arcade culture. Unforgettable faces pop up. Nolan Bushnell, Atari’s founder featured in Episode 1, ignited the arcade boom with Pong. Quirky trivia abounds—Space Invaders caused a Japanese yen shortage. Pac-Man is also featured.

Episode 2 includes the introduction of Nintendo into America after the 1983 crash through the arcade game Donkey Kong.

Episode 3, “Role Players,” takes a detour into the world of arcade RPGs, highlighting classics like Dungeons & Dragons. This episode explores how arcade gaming influenced the RPG genre.

The other 3 episodes cover the post-arcade days (consoles, PCs, etc.)

Music? Think ’80s synth-pop. The doc feels like “Ready Player One” crossed with “The Social Network.” Why watch? The arcade episodes reconnect you with gaming’s vibrant, competitive roots, offering both nostalgia and education.

Watch High Score on Netflix at

3) Cain’s Arcade

“Caine’s Arcade” (2012) is a short doc (11 minutes) directed by Nirvan Mullick. It chronicles 9-year-old Caine Monroy’s cardboard arcade in his dad’s auto shop. I loved this doc so much I wrote a deeper review of it here:

Caine’s creativity and perseverance shine as he waits for customers who rarely come.

Intriguing elements? Caine’s security system—a calculator that verifies Fun Passes. It’s his ingenuity that catches Mullick’s attention, leading to a flash mob that changes Caine’s life.

Think “Boyhood” meets “Big Hero 6.”

Why you’ll love it? Caine embodies the pure, untainted creativity that often gets lost in adulthood.

Watch Cain’s Arcade for free on YouTube at (same as clicking the video above)

4) Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest

“Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest” (2021) follows Kim Cannon Arm, an arcade veteran, aiming to break a Gyruss world record.

Directed by Mads Hedegaard, it’s not just about games; it’s a tribute to the arcade community.

Kim, aged 56, gears up for a final marathon session, surrounded by friends and pixelated nostalgia.

Details? One scene shows Kim’s rigorous physical and mental preparation. He even employs special techniques to endure hours of gameplay.

KIM: “You need to control the chaos around you.”
FRIEND: “How’s your wrist?”
KIM: “It’s holding up… barely.”

Why watch? It’s a deep dive into dedication, friendship, and the quirks of arcade subculture.

Apple TV was showing “Cannon Arm and the Arcade Quest” but they took it down. Check back at for streaming options.

5) Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler

“Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler” (2015) puts you in the midst of a retro arcade rivalry.

Directed by Tim Kinzy and Andrew Seklir, the 93 minute doc focuses on Tim McVey (no, not that one), the first man to score one billion points in Nibbler. It’s 44.5 hours of continuous play!

Decades later, an Italian challenger appears, forcing McVey out of retirement.

Highlights? A climactic moment where McVey faces equipment malfunctions.

The stress peaks, and so does the tension.

TIM: “I’ve lost games and coins, but never hope.”
WIFE: “You’ve got this, just breathe.”

You can watch “Man vs Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler” by checking out (though it might be DVD and Blu-ray only at times). Make sure to check out for streaming options if they become available.

6) Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade

Arcade kings. Time-capsule. 90 minutes.

“Chasing Ghosts: Beyond the Arcade” (2007) dives into arcade history for 90 gripping minutes.

Directed by Lincoln Ruchti, it gathers legends like Billy Mitchell and Walter Day for a retrospective.

These figures, mostly in their 40s and 50s, discuss the highs and lows of their arcade heyday.

Unforgettable moment? The old rivals reunite at Twin Galaxies, their original stomping ground. The air is thick with nostalgia and unspoken rivalry.

WALTER: “We were rockstars in that moment.”
BILLY: “Yeah, moments fade, don’t they?”

Imagine “The King of Kong” crossed with a high school reunion. Why watch? It’s a sincere homage to the unsung heroes of the golden arcade era.

Watch Chasing Ghosts for free on YouTube at

You can also stream it by renting it through Apple TV, Amazon, Vudu, Google Play, etc — check out for the options.

7) Insert Coin

Retro arcade. Midway Games. 101 minutes.

“Insert Coin” (2020) serves a hearty dose of ’90s nostalgia in 101 minutes. Directed by Joshua Tsui, the doc spotlights Midway Games, the company behind arcade classics like Mortal Kombat and NBA Jam. Tsui, an insider, gives us an unfiltered look at Midway’s chaotic, innovative culture.

Key players? Mark Turmell, the mastermind behind NBA Jam, and Ed Boon, co-creator of Mortal Kombat. They’re the rebels of the gaming world.
MARK: “We didn’t know the rules, so we broke them.”
ED: “And created new ones.”

Why watch? “Insert Coin” is like diving into a treasure chest of ’90s gaming. It chronicles not just games but the audacity and quirks of a bygone era in gaming.

Watch Insert Coin for free on Kanopy (with library or university card) at Other streaming options (like Tubi, Fubo, Amazon, Apple TV) can be found at

8) The Lost Arcade

Chinatown Fair. Arcade haven. 79 minutes.

“The Lost Arcade” (2015) is a love letter to Chinatown Fair, a legendary New York City arcade.

Directed by Kurt Vincent, the 79-minute doc is more than a eulogy—it’s a resurrection. Vincent captures the arcade’s waning years and its hopeful rebirth.

Standout moments? Interviews with long-time patrons and owners.

Each shares a piece of the arcade’s soul.

OWNER: “This place is not just games. It’s community.”
PATRON: “When the doors closed, we lost our second home.”

Why you’ll watch? It’s not just about gaming; it’s about community and belonging. The doc connects the dots between a cultural relic and its undying fan base.

Watch The Lost Arcade at Night Flight (requires subscription) or rent it on Apple TV, YouTube, Vudu Fandango and Google Play. See all options here:

9) 100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience

Japan’s pulse. Arcade culture.

“100 Yen: The Japanese Arcade Experience” (2012) is a 68-minute journey into Japan’s vibrant arcade scene.

Directed by Brad Crawford, it unveils the unique gaming culture thriving in Japanese arcades, known as “Game Centers.”

It’s where Street Fighter clashes with Pachinko. And the guy behind Space Invaders (Tomohiro Nishikado, a designer with Taito) is here. Space Invaders is often credited as the first shoot ’em up game in video arcades.

The doc gets philosophic. Daigo Umehara, a professional gamer, offers deep insights:

DAIGO: “Arcades are like temples here.”
CRAWFORD: “And you are one of its monks.”

Top reason to watch? This doc provides a foreign lens on gaming—less about competition, more about community. It serves as a cultural exchange, a window into how Japan breathes life into arcades in ways the West can’t fathom.

Watch 100 Yen for free on YouTube here: There are no other streaming options for it right now but check out just in case.

10) The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time

“The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time” (2012) is an 85-minute nostalgia trip.

Directed by Jeff Von Ward, this doc digs into the personal collections of arcade game enthusiasts. From garages to customized home arcades, it showcases their devotion to preserving arcade history.

Noteworthy? An interview with a collector who owns over 400 machines.

COLLECTOR: “It’s not just games; it’s a time capsule.”
WARD: “And you are its curator?”

If you ever quarter-fed an arcade machine, this is your sentimental journey back. The doc encapsulates the passion behind every joystick move and button mash.

Watch The Space Invaders: In Search of Lost Time on Amazon/Freevee at

Check out for more options.

11) The King of Arcades

“The King of Arcades” (2014) is a 100-minute deep dive into the world of arcade restoration and retro gaming.

Directed by Sean Tiedeman, it features Richie Knucklez, an arcade owner with a mission to revive the vintage games of the ’80s.

His dedication turns his arcade into a mecca for gamers.

Key scenes? Richie’s encounter with Walter Day, the founder of Twin Galaxies.
RICHIE: “You started it all.”
WALTER: “And you’re keeping it alive.”

Why you’ll press play? The doc pulls you into the allure of pixelated screens and 8-bit sounds.

Richie Knucklez brings the charm and charisma, making the doc more than just a history lesson—it’s a tribute.

Watch The King of Arcades on Tubni and Filmzie and rent it on Amazon and Apple TV. Full streaming options are here:

Thank you for reading!

-Rob Kelly