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The PlayChoice-10 is a cartridge-based arcade cabinet developed by Nintendo and first sold in 1986. The arcade cabinet's motherboard contained 10 slots and games could be purchased by arcade owners and placed into the slots. The games were slightly modified NES cartridges with a couple added features to take advantage of the PlayChoice-10's features. Unlike Nintendo's earlier VS. System, where players could play the game until they lost all their lives, on the PlayChoice-10 players bought a set length of time to play, and could switch between games at their leisure. This made the PlayChoice-10 more of an advertiser than a traditional arcade game.

As a child, I occasionally saw the PlayChoice-10 in arcades, but I never played on one. I rarely had the money to play in the arcade, and, when I did, I usually played more impressive looking 16-bit games. I have played a couple of the games using MAME, but, since they're mostly just slightly-modified NES games, I haven't spent much time on them.


A PlayChoice-10 motherboard loaded with games.

The cabinet's internal hardware is very similar to the NES featuring the same Ricoh 2A03 CPU (a modified MOS 6502), however, it uses a slightly different PPU chip which outputs to RGB rather than the NES's luminance-chrominance system. This allows the system to use RGB monitors resulting in a crisper display than an NES attached to a TV. The cabinet has two sets of controls, each with an 8-way joysticks and a B and A button. It also features an optional light gun which could be added if the arcade owner bought one of the three games which needed it. There are a couple other buttons on the front of the cabinet which allow the player to select a game, start a game, and reset back to the game menu. Game boards were very similar to their NES counterparts, but included an additional 8 KB ROM chip which housed the game information. The game ROMs were often identical to the NES games.

The PlayChoice-10 and NES were so similar in their technical design that a lot of the parts can be swapped between them. For example, the PlayChoice-10's RGB PPU can be taken off the mother board and put into an NES giving the console true RGB output. Also, many of EPROMs can be removed from PlayChoice-10 boards and swapped out with NES EPROMs, and, provided the mappers are the same, you can even replace the EPROMs with different games!


At least four models of PlayChoice-10 cabinets were designed. The original model used a typical upright arcade cabinet with two large monitors stacked on top of each other. Top top monitor displayed information and the lower monitor displayed the game. The PlayChoice-10 "Super de-luxe" used a smaller monitor on top. A single monitor upright cabinet called simply the "PlayChoice" was also made which included a button that would toggle the monitor between game and information display. The first PlayChoice-10 cabinet model contained two monitors. The main monitor showed the game, while a smaller monitor above gave instructions and hints for the game. A later cost-reduced cabinet had only a single monitor, and players could press a button to switch between the game display and the information display.

The cabinets all use a similar red, black, and white color scheme with a line-thickness gradient which I find to be pretty dull. I can only assume the graphic designers didn't want to make the cabinets too complex looking to distract from the wide variety of cardboard toppers that could be added to the cabinet.


A PlayChoice-10 game board.

In total, 52 games were released for the PlayChoice-10, most of which were released by Nintendo, but a fair amount of third-party games were released as well. Unlike NES games which had protective plastic shells, games were sold as PCBs with all the ROM chips visible. Some games came with toppers, small graphics printed on cardboard, which could be used to decorate the cabinet and advertise the game. To save money, Nintendo put the male end of the connector on the board and the female end on the cartridge, which is the opposite of how NES cartridges work.

The top five companies to release games on the PlayChoice-10, in order of game count, are: Nintendo (20), Konami (10), Capcom (5), Tecmo (5), Rare (4).

Title Year Developer Notes
1942 1986 Capcom
Balloon Fight 1986 Nintendo
Baseball 1986 Nintendo
Baseball Stars 1989 SNK
Captain Skyhawk 1990 Rare
Castlevania 1987 Konami
Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers 1990 Capcom
Contra 1988 Konami
Double Dragon 1988 Technos
Double Dribble 1987 Konami
Dr. Mario 1990 Nintendo A prototype version also exists.
Duck Hunt 1986 Nintendo Requires light gun.
Excitebike 1986 Nintendo
Fester's Quest 1989 Sunsoft
Gauntlet 1988 Atari
Golf 1986 Nintendo
The Goonies 1986 Konami
Gradius 1986 Konami
Hogan's Alley 1986 Nintendo Requires light gun.
Kung Fu 1986 Nintendo
Mario Bros. 1986 Nintendo
Mario's Open Golf 1991 Nintendo
Mega Man III 1990 Capcom
Metroid 1986 Nintendo
Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! 1987 Nintendo Has different music.
Ninja Gaiden 1989 Tecmo
Ninja Gaiden II: The Dark Sword of Chaos 1990 Tecmo
Ninja Gaiden III: The Ancient Ship of Doom 1991 Tecmo
Nintendo World Cup 1990 Nintendo
Pin*Bot 1990 Rare
Power Blade 1991 Taito
Pro Wrestling 1987 Nintendo
Rad Racer 1987 Square
Rad Racer II 1990 Square
R.C. Pro-Am 1988 Rare
Rockin' Kats 1991 Atlus
Rush'n Attack 1987 Konami
Rygar 1987 Tecmo
Solar Jetman: Hunt for the Golden Warpship 1990 Rare
Super C 1990 Konami
Super Mario Bros. 1986 Nintendo
Super Mario Bros. 2 1988 Nintendo
Super Mario Bros. 3 1990 Nintendo
Tecmo Bowl 1989 Tecmo
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1989 Konami
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Arcade Game 1990 Konami
Tennis 1986 Nintendo
Track & Field 1987 Konami
Trojan 1987 Capcom
Volleyball 1987 Nintendo
Wild Gunman 1986 Nintendo Requires light gun.
Yo! Noid 1990 Now Production, Capcom




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