As a kid I loved playing coin-op games. Some of my favorites were: Space Invaders, Defender, Centipede, Galaxian and Galaga, Dig Dug, Tempest, Joust, Tempest, Spy Hunter, Tron, Robotron, and I must've spent a lot on Gauntlet.
My experiences with them were mostly at where ever I could find them. From liquor shops, bowling alleys, pizza parlors to if I was lucky -- at a game center. I would spend half my day there... ok, the whole day. I was addicted.
I don't remember when I stopped going. And don't remember when they all disappeared.
I started up again during my time in Tokyo. At first since the games have changed so much I was hesitant to play. And the kids (and adults) jamming away at Taiko no Tatsujin or competing with each other in Gundam pods were a little intimidating. After overcoming my anxiety, which took a long 5 minutes, I jumped in and fell in love with them again.
The ones I enjoy playing the most are the hybrid coin operated card games, where you place physical cards on the machine's game grid and use them as controllers. When you place a card on the surface of the grid it'll register and position it within the game. Depending on the game, each card would represent something different like a mythical fantasy creature, soccer athlete, Gundam pilot and mobile suit, or a powerful war lord with an army of spearmen.
There are card dispensers next to the game where you can buy your starter pack. In most cases the pack comes with a IC card that is used to save your progression/stats and includes a set of cards. Like in physical collector card games each one has a rarity level from common cards to shinny ones, which can be found traded within Japanese auction sites. At the end of each game, the machine will spit out a new card or two.
The games are networked not only within the game center, but across multiple game centers. And for some games there's a giant screen that everyone uses to see the stats of an ongoing match for a shared experience. You can choose to play solo against the computer, one on one with another person, or join a multiplayer game.
Popular coin-op card games include:
On my recent trips to Tokyo while my wife goes shopping I would visit a geesen (ゲーセン), slang for game center in Japanese. And escape into an alternate world. And become a kid again.