The Retro Takes Us Down Memory Lane With The Nintendo Playchoice 10
As a kid in the 90’s, the hairs underneath my mullet would stand up every time I walked past an arcade machine. It didn’t matter if it was a single machine at the local 7-11, or a grand arcade in the mall. Although I rarely had money to play any of them, every now and then I would luck out and find a few quarters in the coin return slot, or better yet take over a game that was left prematurely by a kid being dragged out by their mother.
Yes, I was that kid. And no, I didn’t care.
Gaming was in my blood, long before my sister and I received our first NES for Christmas. At that time, arcades were still the “state of the art” for graphics, out performing anything available on home consoles. It was always a treat when we were allowed to even walk through an arcade. I recall the sights and sounds of so many different machines trying to attract people over to play them.
Being the Nintendo fan I was, there was one arcade machine that always stood out whenever I saw one, no matter where it was; and that was the Nintendo Playchoice 10. That beautiful, extra tall cabinet that housed not one but TWO monitors, stacked one on top of the other. I didn’t know much about that machine at the time, except for its physical appearance and that you got a choice of games to play on it. Little did I know I would be the proud owner of one nearly 25 years later, purchased sight unseen nearly 1800 miles away (we will save that story for another time).
Released in 1986, the Playchoice 10 was the perfect promotional tool for Nintendo, allowing gamers to essentially try out new games before they purchased them for their home console. The machine was set on a timer, and you had the chance to play any of the titles listed in the machine before the time was up. Games were exact ports of what you would play on your NES console at home, and Nintendo used the Playchoice 10 to promote a lot of their upcoming releases. Pretty cool idea being able to spend a couple quarters to see if the game was worth purchasing the game.
Although the Playchoice 10 was an exact port of NES games, you couldn’t just plug in a Nintendo game cartridge into it. What was used was a special PCB that featured 10 different slots for games. Games were put onto special expansion cards with the included capability of displaying hints for each game. The only notable difference between the PC10 and the NES (besides the timed gameplay) was the PC10 displayed RGB output, making some of the color palettes different from what you would see on the NES at home.
The PC10 came in three different cabinet styles (dual monitor, single monitor, and countertop), most popular being the dual monitor version. With the dual monitor PC10, the bottom screen was the monitor that displayed the game, and the top screen featured game play tips. A few other Nintendo arcade machines used this style setup as well, such as Punch Out, Super Punch Out, and Arm Wrestling. These cabs are definitely eye catching as you come across them in an arcade.
By the time the Playchoice 10 ended its run in 1992, only 52 total games were released, not many compared to the NES library as a whole. Luckily today we have the option to play any game on the PC10 thanks to custom add-on hardware that allows you to directly plug in any NES cart into the arcade board. The PC10 was succeeded by the Nintendo Super System, as well as in my opinion paved the way for the concept of the Neo Geo using swappable game carts.
The Playchoice 10 will forever be one of the most iconic arcade cabinets I remembered as a child. I currently still own the one I purchased in Texas and had shipped here to California, along with 110 other arcade classics (another story for another time). The electronics were gone through and currently resides in a local 80’s themed establishment, where it continues to get the love it deserves.
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Kristofer Vincent is a co-owner of The Retro in Sacramento, Ca. He started back in 2008 buying and selling arcade machines, but shifted focus to operating arcade and pinball machines, as well as doing events and home rentals. Follow him on TikTok: @attheretro