The Best Claw Machines In Gaming
From minigames to entire titles based on claw machines, this arcade staple of prize grabbing fun has made many appearances in videogames and beyond!
It is hard to believe, but the arcade staple of the eye catching, plushie-winning claw machine is coming up on its 100th birthday. Invented in the 1930s by carnival operator William Bartlett, claw machines have an especially robust presence in Japan. Over the years they found their way to increased popularity in other countries as well, with mobile apps like Winner Winner bringing the prize-grabbing fun to anybody with a smartphone.
Video games are always seeking new ways of taking existing real-life games and turning them into digital experiences, so it is no surprise that claw machines have been adapted in various ways over the years. Let's take a look at some of the most innovative and memorable ones that have caught our eye:
1. The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening (Switch / GB / GBC)
If you aren't going for the Yoshi Doll first, I don't think we can be friends.
The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening is a really special game for me, and I'd bet the same could be said for most gamers that experienced the original Game Boy version (standard or DX). The game was, and to this day still is, a master class in creating a robust world full of adventure while adhering to the storage limitation of a small cartridge. Link's Awakening felt huge, and a big part of that was the small activities and side quests that you could find scattered throughout Koholint Island.
If you wanted to start the very lengthy trading side quest that was necessary to obtain the Boomerang, your journey started at this delightful house that just happens to be an entire freaking claw machine. Called the "Trendy Game", gameplay was pretty simple, with multiple prizes up for grabs. From a spare Hylian Shield to a heart container piece, there was plenty to entice Link to play - but the Yoshi Doll certainly stood out for most! Indeed, this entry in the Legend of Zelda franchise included some rare Nintendo crossover cameos, like enemies resembling Goombas and even Kirby himself.
Also, a very cool easter egg happened later in the game when you meet up with Marin and have her follow you. If you take her to the Trendy Game, she will excitedly attempt to play - only to accidentally pick up the owner and get them both kicked out!
2. Kirby's Adventure (NES)
If you aren't grabbing the biggest Kirby in that machine, why are you even here?
Oh man, did I play the ever-loving heck out of Kirby's Adventure. After having beaten the original Kirby's Dream Land on my Game Boy countless times, this game upped the ante with colorful graphics, a much larger game, and most importantly, the ability to copy powers! This game is a must play for Kirby fans and is so popular that it ended up getting a remake on the GBA with Kirby: Nightmare in Dream Land. (But that version removed the claw machine, so I'm not including it here!)
Sub-games are a staple part of many Kirby titles, offering a fun changeup of the simple, relaxing platforming we know and love from the lil' pink puffball. Kirby's Adventure offered Crane Fever, which tasked players with using a handful of credits to snag as many Kirby plushies as possible. Smaller ones were less risky and awarded a 1-Up, while the big ones proved trickier to catch, netting you a 2-Up for your trouble. This was a pretty straightforward sub-game but was still very memorable to me. And of course, when I found out Winner Winner has a real claw machine based on this, I tried it right away!
3. Part Time UFO (Switch, Mobile)
Precariously stacking Kirby merchandise has never been so nerve-wracking - or fun!
When this game graced my television screen during a Nintendo Indie World presentation, I literally couldn't purchase it fast enough. I simply love crane games, and while the above examples of claw machine mini games are certainly fun little one-off experiences, Part Time UFO takes the concept to the next level and builds an entire game out of it!
Developed and published by HAL Laboratory, Part Time UFO follows the adventures of, well, a UFO (who is based on the enemy from the Kirby series that grants UFO powers when copied). The little floating guy has a knack for catching things with his trusty claw and is looking for part time work to pay the bills.
And that's exactly what you'll do - from helping load up a farm delivery truck to going fishing, just about every conceivable scenario of grabbing and stacking items is up for grabs, with some especially absurd ones - like helping create a pyramid of cheerleaders!
The game manages to pack a lot of content into a small price tag, and a whole lot of charm to boot. The theme song is quite the earworm, and each stage manages to remix it in a different way to keep things fresh. If you love Kirby games, puzzle/physics games, and especially if you love claw machines, this is one title you'll have to grab!
4. Winner Winner Arcade (Mobile)
Why settle for digital claw machines when you can get the real thing, anywhere and anytime?
Fans of the classic arcade experience have no doubt over the years watched some of their favorite local spots get shuttered over the years. Truth be told, depending on where you live it can be very difficult to nearly impossible to run into a claw machine anymore, with non-arcade staple locations like malls becoming increasingly less common as well. Outside of Japan, one might have thought that claw machines would become a thing of the past, or at least exceedingly rare, like encountering a brand-new pinball machine.
A fantastic trend that has emerged over the last several years is the concept of a live arcade smartphone app. And while there are plenty of options, having played them all my favorite is easily the Winner Winner Arcade app.
First of all, the variety of machines is incredible. Plenty of familiar characters and themes are awaiting, each with their own challenges to master and prizes to win. And perhaps the coolest part of the app is that anything you win can be converted to tickets, which can then be redeemed in the Winner's Circle for any prize you like. So, you can play a favorite machine regardless of the prizes available and exchange them for just about anything!
Golf, ice hockey, cup pong and many more unique themed machines are awaiting!
And when I say anything, I mean it - from plushies to accessories, collectibles, jewelry and even gift cards, there is simply something for everybody on the app. And unlike most claw machines, Winner Winner's games are 100% skill based, meaning the claw grip strength never changes from game to game. You can win prizes on your first try - and I have done exactly that on several occasions! And once you make any in-app purchase (as low as just a few dollars), shipping for all prizes is free for life. Yes - you read that correctly!
Want to experience the excitement? Download Winner Winner today and play for free until your first win! Plus, if you recharge your tokens on Winner Winner's paysite and use promo code QTB, they will give you a 30% token bonus on your next purchase!
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