The PlayChoice-10 is a cartridge-based arcade cabinet developed by Nintendo and sold from 1986 to 1991. 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.
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. Since the games are essentially NES games, the cabinet had to duplicate the NES controller which is does with two sets of controls, each with an 8-way joysticks and a B and A button. The equivalent of the start and select buttons are at the top of the control panel, as is an equivalent of the NES reset button. The cabinet also used a Zilog 80 CPU for internal processing.
An optional light gun can be added to the system to play one of the three games which require it. The light gun is shaped to look similar to a .357 Magnum. The original model is molded in black plastic, but later models were molded in bright orange plastic.
The PlayChoice-10's RGB PPU is similar enough to the NES PPU that the two can be swapped out for each system giving an NES true RGB output or a PlayChoice-10 luminance-chrominance output. However, the process is quite difficult and requires a lot of soldering and de-soldering.
Games were shipped in protective Styrofoam cases inside cardboard boxes. Games were sold as PCBs with all the ROM chips visible, unlike NES games which had protective plastic shells, but, since the games were housed inside the cabinets, the protective shells weren't really necessary. Game boards were similar to their NES counterparts, but included an additional 8 KB ROM chip which housed the game information and used a 96-pin connector to attach to the motherboard. The actual game ROMs were often identical to those used on the NES.
The games are so similar that many of ROMs can be removed from PlayChoice-10 game boards and swapped out with their NES ROMs, and the system will work perfectly. You can even swap out the ROMs of PlayChoice-10 game boards with completely different NES game ROMs and, provided the mappers are the same, the game will play properly. Adapter hardware has also been created which allows you to attach an NES game cartridge to a PlayChoice-10 board to play NES games directly on the PlayChoice-10.
The PlayChoice-10 has its own standard light-up marquee which just featured its logo, but the cabinet also had space to add up to three toppers. A topper for the PlayChoice-10 is an L-shaped aluminum bracket which can be screwed onto the top of the cabinet. Onto these brackets, you could stick title cards that came with the games to advertise some of the titles in the cabinet. Nearly all of these brackets have a face which is 7 3/8" wide x 3 3/4" tall, however, the game Double Dragon used a unique plate which was much larger.
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.
In total, 52 games were released for the PlayChoice-10, all of which were also released on the NES. Most of the games released on the PlayChoice-10 were developed by Nintendo, but a little over half of the games were developed by third-parties. 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). Much like with the NES, Konami and Capcom were early third-party adopters, and then various other developers began showing up in the later years.
The years in the table below are based on the copyright year shown in each game's title screen, not when the games themselves were made available for sale (a date which is not well known). Since the cabinet wasn't released until 1986, those games with a 1985 copyright year wouldn't have been sold until 1986. The 1985 copyright year is most likely based on when the original NES cartridge was released, and were simply leaft as-is when the title was ported to the PlayChoice-10. The game count released in each year are: 1986 (15), 1987 (10), 1988 (5), 1989 (5), 1990 (13), 1991 (4). Nintendo published the bulk of its games in the first couple years of the cabinet's release, and then relied predominately on third-party publishers to keep the system going. 1990 was a bit of an outlier showing a large influx of titles after three years of declining releases.
Nintendo Power article.