The arcade pockets of the internet went crazy this past Friday, when Raw Thrills posted a teaser for a new basketball arcade game to their social media. It appeared to just be called “Super Star,” which then transpired to be a slight head fake. Some images of the game soon leaked out online, but I wanted to hold off from posting about it until I had the official blessing of Raw Thrills. Turns out that this came sooner than expected too, so now that it’s out there officially, we can say that NBA Superstars is the real name of the next game that is coming to us from Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills. Read on to find out more.

NBA Superstars – Trailer

So just what is NBA Superstars?

Getting the obvious out of the way first, it should go without saying that this new basketball game is a clear spiritual successor of NBA Jam, one of the biggest arcade hits of the 1990s by Midway. Its fondly-remembered legacy has endured over the years to the extent that there have been books written about it. But, none of its sequels managed to reproduce the same level of success. After the arcade market decline of the early 2000s, sports video games became somewhat rare in our business, outside of Golden Tee and the occasional bowling game. Although arcade basketball machines – where you shoot real hoops – have been great earners, and a few have video backboards. So we’ve had nothing like NBA Jam in quite a long time – until now…

Play Mechanix notably employs a few people who worked at Midway back in the ’90s, including PM President George Petro. They were around when NBA Jam was created – although if you want the full story on that, I’d recommend you grab the aforementioned NBA Jam – The Book.

NBA Superstars – The Cabinet

The new NBA Superstars cabinet takes the concept behind NBA Jam and adds the contemporary upgrades you would expect from Raw Thrills. That cab comes in a design reminiscent of Minecraft Dungeons Arcade, supporting up to four players and sporting a larger 75″ HD monitor. It uses joystick controls with three buttons; it does not vend cards. There’s a sub-marquee that uses micro LEDs, looking something like an LED billboard you’d see in a sports arena – not the first time the idea has been used in arcades, but it is a nice little touch.

NBA Superstars game cabinet by Play Mechanix and Raw Thrills

On the controls, it uses an analog joystick then three buttons: Yellow is Turbo if held, then Juke/Elbow/Push or steal/push/air push if tapped; Blue is Shoot/Block (dunk is activated if you hold yellow down); White is Pass ball or swap player when in single player.

NBA Superstars game cabinet

Here is the game’s flyer:

NBA Superstars flyer

NBA Superstars – The Game

As you can see from the trailer above, NBA Superstars is an officially licensed product that comes with all 30 current NBA teams and up to 120 players. These include LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Giannis Antetokounmpo and many more – although unfortunately there are no secret/hidden characters.

Before I get into more game details though, I think it’s important to note that Tim Kitzrow is back for commentary! If you don’t know who that is, he was the original commentator for NBA Jam, coming up with iconic lines like “BOOMSHAKALAKA!” and “He’s on fire!”.


For how the game operates, pick your team, then your players, difficulty, and game length. The game length can be adjusted by the operator; Players can also play a single quarter or pay more and play the “full game”. Note that this has an online player tracking account, which is not handled by an app, but by the website. All you need is a phone with a QR code scanner and you’re good to go. There will also be other updates such as team roster updates and more. All online connectivity is free.

NBA Superstars

In-game, it employs 3v3 team events, whereas NBA Jam featured 2v2 teams. There are no fouls, so be as big a jerk as you want to be 😛 Also available is a “Superstar Meter” that fills as you play. Once full and activated, you can perform stunts that can give you a quick advantage. After a game is over, there are post-game stats, where it looks like you can also earn achievements (“awards”) if you play this with a player account.

When will this game be available?

The game will begin shipping out in “late July”. That is when the first production run should begin shipping out to locations who have ordered one. The game will also be at the International Bowl Expo in Aurora, CO at the beginning of July. Pricing will vary between distributors, but it should be in the same realm as Minecraft Dungeons Arcade.

Note that I will be doing an interview with Play Mechanix’s George Petro on video here soon, so stay tuned for that.

Personally, I think a new arcade game of this type has been a long time coming now. I find it past due, in that sports games didn’t just stop being viable because the 90s passed… but it always is a challenge to make a joystick game work compared to other forms of arcade controls. If successful, I could see this rejuvenating the video sports scene beyond basketball games with video screens. I do wish there were hidden unlockable characters, though I imagine they’ll include roster updates via the online portion.

Of course as an op, I do wonder about a console port – they’ve done that with Cruis’n Blast and TMNT now, although it is nice that they waited several years before doing the ports, as opposed to just a few months away. I imagine it’ll happen now, just it will be a wait of several years (hopefully, for us ops).

Still, it’s quite cool to see an effort like this. What other sports games of the past would you like to see get updated/remade like this? I’m really surprised we haven’t seen such a thing for soccer yet, given how popular that sport is worldwide… plus if this is a success, a new NFL Blitz could be cool.

And what do you think about NBA Superstars overall? Would you like to see it at a location near you soon?

About the author: arcadehero View all posts by

I’m a lifelong fan of video games and I have been operating my own arcade, Arcade Galactic in West Valley City, Utah since 2008. Soft spots in my heart for Atari, Sega, and Nintendo.




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