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Series / Retro Game Master

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Retro Game Master, known in Japanese as GameCenter CX, is a TV series starring Shinya Arino, one half of the Japanese comedy duo Yoiko, who attempts to play through some of the most beloved (and most challenging) retro video games ever made, all to document their endings.

Arino, who is presented as a Kachō (section chief) of the fictional GameCenter CX company, is given a time limit within which he must complete the game, but he isn't the most skilled player around. When he gets stuck or needs advice, he can ask his fellow "staff" members (AD or Assistant Director) to help him out (usually in the form of playing through previous levels while Arino takes a break after losing a life, or offering a strategy for beating an enemy). Arino doesn't always complete his challenge, but he still manages to stay positive even when he's losing badly.

The first season's episodes profiled a particular company or game series and featured Arino's game challlenge as a side feature. From the second season on, the game challenge became the main focus, although the show would still cut away to show Arino doing things like visiting game arcades, interviewing developers, and so on.

A few DVD box sets have been released in Japan; these are collections of selected episodes rather than season sets. In 2011, the Arino's Challenge segments from twelve episodes were once available for US viewers to watch on gaming blog, but they since lost the rights and have taken them down. The episodes were then re-released with new subtitles from zari-gani of the SA-GCCX Team and English and Japanese language tracks for the announcer.

The show has produced a feature film called Game Center CX The Movie 1986 Mighty Bomb Jack. The show also hosts concerts with game music and had special episodes set in USA, France, Cambodia, Vietnam and Russia, where Arino plays a game live in front of hundreds of people. From 2015 Arino and Masaru Hamaguchi (another half of Yoiko) regularly appear in commercials for Wii and later Nintendo Switch games labeled "GameCenter DX", including a spin-off series called "Yoiko's Minecraft Survival Life". In May 2023 GCCX has done a series of cross-channel colabs with Hyakumantenbara Salome.

The show also has spawned two video games for the Nintendo DS and, the first of which was released in North America as Retro Game Challenge. A third game has been released for the 3DS, but it was handled by a different developer and has a completely different game structure.

This show provides examples of the following tropes:

  • A.I. Breaker: Arino calls situations where a boss can't hit the player character depending on its position "trapped in a pattern", and exploits it relentlessly.
  • All or Nothing:
    • After losing a good chunk of his allowance at a casino in the South Korea special, the staff pitches in their money for a roulette game to see if they can make enough to have a banquet. Arino puts nearly all the chips on Black... only for it to land on red, landing them nothing but instant noodles for the night.
    • Arino challenges his staff after finishing Street Fighter II and bets the challenge status on it. He fails and the whole playthrough is considered a failure.
  • Apologetic Attacker: Arino sometimes comments on high body count in games and ad-libs Boss Banter. For example from the The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time episode:
    Ganondorf: Curse you, Chief Arino!
    Arino: Hey, I'm sorry!
  • Arch-Enemy:
    • Bowser, thanks to giving him a hard time throughout the early seasons.
    • A redemption game known as Happy Clown, which has shown up from time to time in the arcade side-segments. Arino had never properly won the machine, always falling up short of the required points to win. That changed February 9, 2023, when he finally won with 315 points. Although it took him 20 years from the show's inception, he finally did it.
  • Art Shift: In the episode of Koshien, an actual sports broadcaster replaces the regular narration for in-game footage to simulate an actual baseball game on TV.
  • Asskicking Leads to Leadership: Kayfabe-wise, Arino ranks up (and down) the corporate tree according to his performance in the games he plays. Probably the most dramatic one when he got demoted from Chief to Section Chief, after failing ActRaiser (the 4th loss on a row that season), then getting demoted again to Senior Staff after failing a second go at the final boss given as a double-or-nothing. Nowadays, however, his being promoted/demoted based on his victories and losses is The Artifact, and he's stayed as a chief for a while now.
  • Audience Participation: "Arino's Ring Ring Tactics" involved the Chief calling viewers to get hints on how to beat the original Journey to the West: Super Monkey Adventures and Championship Lode Runner.
  • Awesome by Analysis:
    • Arino is in his prime at puzzle games. Naturally, the puzzle games he plays on the show tend to be high-paced action-puzzle games. Even then, episodes that feature them tend to cut a lot of stages out, as he can regularly clear many stages in a row without problems. This is Subverted in the episode on The Tower of Babel. Arino enters a difficult-looking puzzle with no clear path to the exit, and after examining the field for a few moments (having spent upwards of an hour on previous stages), he declares he has the answer. The voiceover quips, "He quickly gets an idea. In other words, failure is inevitable." Sure enough, he dies quickly, but clears it a few lives later.
    • In Detective Saburo Jinguuji, he not only correctly predicts the culprit and motive well before the end of the game, but also how the murder was done not too long after.
  • Badass Boast: Upon hearing a quote from Golgo 13 about what is needed for a successful mission, Arino shares his thoughts on the matter:
  • Bait-and-Switch: In the The Quest of Ki challenge, Arino uses warps to jump over halfway through the game (to Floor 51 of 100) in no more than 9 minutes of episode time, and it looks like an early victory. It takes him the rest of this episode, an extension episode and a NINE-HOUR long live special (six of those hours being its own extension, even) until he clears the entire game.
  • Blatant Lies: When Arino is ordered to find Mario's hat before finishing Super Mario 64, Arino runs around the Mr. Blizzard who has claimed it, trying to figure out how to beat him. Urakawa then says the Mr. Blizzard can't be defeated... moments before Arino accidentally does it by making the Mr. Blizzard fall over from the spinning.
    Arino: Why did you just lie to me?
    Urakawa: Normally you can't defeat it, but...
    Arino: Hm.
  • Book Ends: The search for the southernmost arcade game in Japan begins with a curious custom-made crane game controlled with levers and ends with another crane game which played Sonic The Hedgehog songs for some reason.
  • Boring, but Practical:
    • If Arino can clear a level with a cheap strategy, like using a Power Pad while sitting on it or using weak ranged attacks against a boss instead of defeating it faster at close range but with a risk of losing, he'll stick to it as long as it works and reliable.
    • Clearing levels in Dig Dug II by exploding each enemy instead of sinking them all spectacularly, Arino gets very annoyed at having to do it to save time.
    • In Mito Koumon, where continuing after the Game Over (as the character does not have multiple lives) is only possible by buying an expensive, one-use item, he spends 90 minutes grinding for cash to buy 99 of them, just so he doesn't have to restart from the beginning.
  • Brick Joke:
  • Butt-Monkey:
    • Nakayama, particularly during the 24-hour live special. Cameraman Abe forcibly stays overnight at his house, then makes him pay for the pricey ingredients for Arino's lunch. On top of that, he is mocked for a minor error during the previous live special.
    • Seems like Watanabe can't go one episode without Arino poking fun at her weight, not that she doesn't usually bring it upon herself.
    • MA Tanii, who is so uncharismatic that the show picks on him for his poor bowling skills and how his merchandise never sells, despite efforts from the staff. That his shirts are only available in size XL considering the overall slender build of Japanese people in general doesn't help.
  • Call-Back:
  • Catchphrase: "Game Center CX! Kachou, On!" when booting the game.
  • Continuing is Painful: Continue limitations are one of the biggest problems Arino might face in games.
    • In some cases, it is just him messing up that makes it painful. Be it by forgetting to push Select then Start to pick the option "Continue" in the main menu, or a very unreliable Continue trick that often had him say "Please!" in hope it works (Sky Kid) or that he couldn't mash hard enough (Alex Kidd In Miracle World).
    • In the arcade segment for the China Warrior episode, Arino finds a PRiZE bALL pachinko pinball and tries to win a Jibanyan plush for his daughter. The machine allows the player to continue upon failure, but only gives the bare minimum amount of chances and available points to clear the 300 score goal on top of turning most of the score gates into penalties. Arino tries either continuing or starting over several times, but the narrator says he still failed in the end.
  • Cool Old Lady: The candy shop owners are very friendly to Arino whenever he visits one. During the Umihara Kawase and Rocky Rodent episodes, an old lady plays the Metal Slug 2 arcade with him.
  • Couch Gag:
    • The intro of each episode ends with a comment from Arino about the game that he will be playing that episode, usually taken out of context.
    • The King sprite in the into has a one-line comment about the episode. In some seasons the King is replaced by another character, sometimes a Generic Doomsday Villain to give Arino the plotline to finish most challenges on a Clear similarly to the career ladder plot in the early seasons.
  • Covert Pervert: Some shops Arino visits, among common goods, sell underwar in capsules. He doesn't have an issue going for them, arguing that they technically count as gachapon games.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: Arino's comments about the darker side of his youth. It's often played for laughs, but Arino tends to sound regretful about it.
    "I played this when I was living alone. I never even drank in those days. Back then, games were my only friends. *laughs* I played this game during a dark period in my life."
  • A Day in the Limelight: The Fatal Fury Special is this for AD Nakayama. Admittedly, Fatal Fury is Nakayama's favorite game, but the episode allows him to show off while he gets Arino to the Ryo Sakazaki fight.
  • Death Glare: Producer Kan tends to peek out of his room with a powerful glare whenever Arino is playing really badly. Amusingly enough, at one point it was because Arino was loudly scolding a horse he had named after Kan. Also, while going to an arcade during the USA trip, Arino keeps stopping to look at electronic stores, causing Kan to get visibly angry at him.
  • Death Montage: When Arino dies in the same area more than 16 times, several clips are shown in a grid called "Game Over Hell" to skip repetetive footage, Dragon's Lair episodes at one point shows in a grid 20 out of 300 deaths to traps. In the Castlevania episode he asks to cut them out, only for the narrator to show two more montages right afterwards.
  • Determinator: Arino plays Nintendo Hard games from morning to evening with almost no breaks, and can push into the night if he really wants to clear the game within a day.
  • Dissonant Serenity:
    • Arino usually remains cheerful in the face of extreme difficulty and often laughs while discussing disturbing subjects. Also, whenever he fails a challenge the screen goes depressed and monochrone... while he wears an ear-to-ear smile.
    "The timer's a scary thing. The concept of time itself is scary." *laughs*
    • And in Bonk he dies to Crocket Dile in the water:
    "Whoa, I died. Oooh, so peaceful.~"
  • "Do It Yourself" Theme Tune:
    • "Last Continue", first seen in the 24-hour Lemmings special, was sung by then-AP Nakayama.
    • "GCCX MAX", a Dragon Quest-themed song done by various staff members of the show ranging from Abe to former ADs Kaga and Matsui.
  • Down to the Last Play:
    • Arino often conquers games on his last few lives, when he's run out of time to play. They even named a song "Last Continue" because of this.
    • Season 6 had this as the running plot in the main show and the Black King segments, as he had to win the last game of the season in order to count it overall as won (and return the Black King to normal in the King segments).
    • Arino clears the Castlevania on his last attempt while the staff is watching nearby by dumb luck: as he ended up getting Dracula's second form, the "Curse of Man" glitch triggered, causing Dracula to be stuck in the corner for a full minute. Even the assistant directors are taken aback by this.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness:
    • The first season showcased a particular game company or series, while Arino plays one of their most well known games in a side segment. Once season 2 rolled around, the game company profiling was removed and Arino's Challenge was made the main focus of the show.
    • Early seasons also made a focus on his position for the GameCenter CX company. If he beat a game, he got closer to getting a promotion; if he lost a game, his chances of getting promoted decreased, and losing enough games caused him to get demoted. After awhile, this plotline was dropped and he has remained a Section Chief ever since.
  • Epic Fail:
    • The cartridge of Umihara Kawase Arino plays has a replay file of an early level by an person named Aki Eria, who fails miserably within just a few seconds of gameplay. Watching it makes Arino feel better after a Game Over.
    • Arino reaches a Bonus Level in Bonk's Adventure only to immediately miss a ridiculously easy jump and die. Afterwards he looks like he's trying not to Face Desk. He later does a similar mistake in Mickey's Magical Adventure.
    • During his run in Mega Man, in Elec Man's stage, he somehow managed to fall from the first disappearing blocks room, down to the first room of the level. That's 5 screens worth of epic fail.
    • In Jogging Race, Arino is required to beat the final level with his staff as a team, exchanging places every time a player crashes on something. They soon lose focus and get pathetically struck by disaster. This doesn't keep Arino from trusting them with a second attempt — and they do succeed! ...Except Arino wasn't the one to cross the finish line.
    • In the Castlevania run, Nakayama tries to bring Arino to Dracula's second phase but fails twice. He tries a third time, saying he wants to at least beat Dracula's first form, but outright misses the stairs to the throne room and falls into the Bottomless Pit. Arino promptly sends him off while laughing.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Nakayama's first appearance is accompanied by depressing music and has him repeatedly failing parts that Arino could get through just fine.
  • Exact Words: The objective of the challenges is almost always "get to the ending". This usually involves beating the game normally (if not going the extra mile for the True Ending), but this was subverted on several occasions:
    • In SOS, Arino manages to get the bad ending early on by clearing the final area with no other survivors. He's made to restart immediately to get the True Ending by rescuing as many passengers as possible, but he ultimately fails. At the end of the episode, he's asked to make a judgment as to whether he cleared the game or not. He invokes his authority as Chief to declare the game cleared, as he still got an ending.
    • In Splatterhouse, the objective was "Find Jennifer, the kidnapped girlfriend". As with other Virtual Console challenges, he has a hard time limit of five hours. Arino gets as far as the boss battle with Jennifer where she transforms into a monster, but dies immediately after starting. At the same time, the time limit runs out, but the producer and Arino agree that although he couldn't beat Jennifer, he did at least find her per the challenge conditions.
    • In the Fire Emblem Virtual Console challenges, he's made to clear up to a certain chapter without losing any allied units. This includes units that must be recruited from enemy forces, and so when he kills one without realizing it, he's forced to reset.
  • Fatal Flaw:
    • Arino is straight up bad at Shoot 'Em Up games.
    • No matter how many times it happens, he never grasps the concept of final bosses having multiple forms, celebrates too early and gets killed by them before he figures out what happened.
    • Arino tends to forget to use the continue codes in older games that require them or forgets to press Start in the case they're timed, forcing him to start over from the beginning with his saved progress reset. This is usually to getting to attached to the controls or not noticing the timer on the continue screen. He once even manages to end the game instead of continuing even in a game that has infinite continues, doesn't need a code for it and has no countdown on the continue screen due to a combination of a surprisingly quick transition from a Game Over to the continue screen and the fact that he was pressing the down direction on the controller at that moment.
    • In all these years, there's another basic thing Arino hasn't figured out about most action games he plays: that most bosses have some form of Mercy Invincibility, causing him to waste most of his special attacks or ammo on them when it's not going to do any damage. You'd think he'd eventually learn not to attack the bosses when they're flashing for an extended amount of time in any of the newer games he plays.
  • Filler: Arino ends up clearing Ninja Spirit in two hours. One of the producers gives him a phone call telling him they don't have enough footage for a whole episode and that he should occupy the audience for a few more minutes. So we get a scene of the cast having lunch.
  • Food Porn:
    • Done in the Densha de Go! episode, where the narrator describes the five famous train station bento boxes that Arino and the ADs will compete for.
    • The Pizza Pop! challenge will definitely have you craving pizza once it's over. Not only were various pizzas from Pizza-La shown off during Arino's lunch break, but two homemade gourmet mini pizzas courtesy of Abe were given to Arino for beating a particularly tough level and the game itself, respectively.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: The show lampshades the infrequent tendency of retro games to glitch the player into a hopeless situation, which is doubly bad for the challenge.
    • A barrier near the end of Bonk's Adventure during a Boss Rush fails to raise itself, and since there's no way to kill yourself at that point nor a time limit, Arino is forced to reset the game and play through it from the beginning again.
    • The staff's attempt to give Arino a chance to finish Gimmick! (1992)'s hidden last level that requires collecting a secret item from each of the preceeding levels without getting a Game Over, a feat far beyond Arino's skills or the time allotted for the episode, also fails due to the cartridge being bumped when they switch the console to the TV Arino plays his games on, causing the game to freeze.
    • On two occasions, Arino causes this himself by nudging the cartridges for Super Mario World and The Quest of Ki, causing them to freeze. Thankfully, they manage to recover from those situations and keep the challenge going.
    • In the Famicom Detective Club episode the game freezes during a loading screen. A few days later, the staff replaces the Famicom Disk System copy he was playing with the Wii Virtual Console version and manually get him back to the point in the game he left off, most likely because the Disk Systems being notoriously fragile and they didn't want to risk having the game freeze again.
    • Possibly the most confusing one is in the Comix Zone episode, where in screen-transition, the game suddenly cut to black... only to cut to the opening splash screen. As the rest of the staff watch on, without giving the usual loud reaction, Arino only laughs. It appears he knows what happened, at first, only for footage to be shown filming him doing absolutely nothing to trigger the incident. AD Junpei Takahashi is brought in, but even he is confused, as he took the same route in the stage Arino did. Without any other explanation, the only conclusion the audience can see is that the game reset ITSELF. No explanation is achieved, and, of course, Arino has to start the game all over.
    Narrator: Is this the fate of retro games?!
    • This was subverted in Kid Dracula, where after many hours of gaming, the continue screen was suddenly filled with glitchy graphics, giving the entire room a Jump Scare. It turned out to be only a visual fluke, as the game continued normally even with the continue message being a full-screen mess, which they thought was due to the Famicom overheating; they claim to have replaced it by the next episode.
    • Subverted in Part 1 of the ''The Quest of Ki'. Arino drops the controller to cough, yanks the Famicom forward as a result and turns the cutscene screen into a mess of glitched characters. Thankfully, upon suggestion from a staff member, he hits the Reset Button and his continue data is thankfully still intact, letting him continue from the exact floor the glitch happened.
    • In Dynamite Headdy episode, when Arino finishes the first part of Stage 3, he finds he can't move Headdy at all. With no way to regain control, he begrudgingly resets the game, blaming fault on the game being bought secondhand. Upon returning to the spot he got stuck on, he notices the platforms were apparently glitched, as during the previous run, the sides of the platforms didn't load properly. Later on, Arino gets stuck in a rotating gear. When he gets free, he begins glitching up until he hits a ceiling, getting him stuck once more, forcing another reset. Finally comes to a head when Arino defeats the final boss, only for the game to freeze once more. Thankfully for him, producer Kan steps in and labels the game cleared.
  • Gratuitous English:
    • The "Barcode Gambler" segment uses correct English in the title cards for each step. It becomes deliberately gratuitous as each player declares they "Scan the Barcode", complete with a dramatic pose as they do so.
    • In the US visit special, Arino dispenses English (from flash cards) at every opportune time. For the challenge itself, it opens with and AD going "Good morning Retro Game Master. How is your condition?"
    • Slightly subverted during the Bloody Wolf challenge. Arino and the AD read off dialogue in the game which is completely in katakana, used in a fashion meant to imitate American accents.
    • The 25th season contains a segment in which Arino learns the English counterpart to various elements in some of the games he plays with the help of a translator. Hilarity Ensues.
  • Hair Flip: AD Watanabe does this while putting on a hat, much to Arino's annoyance.
    Arino: You doing this ticks me off. That's something only good-looking women do!
  • Harder Than Hard: Arino is challenged to beat Super Puyo Puyo on "Hardest" difficulty. He fails, but manages to beat it on "Hard" instead.
  • Have a Nice Death: Played with in the Oishinbo episode, where Arino gets a large number of game overs from seemingly random actions, most notably in a part where he has to prepare a monkfish; each step has many possible actions, and all but one of them ends the game immediately. As many of the bad ends are totally arbitrary, sudden, and humorous, he finds that all these "deaths" are actually part of the game's appeal. He manages to finish the game early, and is made to find the ones he missed as a reward. The staff even prepared passwords at the points just before every game over just so Arino can see them for himself in case there was time for it.
  • Hello, [Insert Name Here]: Arino has fun with this a few times, notably in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, where he named his character "Deadbeat", resulting in a deadbeat being the savior of Princess Zelda, and eventually the world.
  • Heroic Second Wind: Sometimes Arino has to take longer breaks after struggling with the difficulty. He usually wears an anti-fever cooling pad on his forehead for the rest of the episode and does a bit better than before.
  • Hidden Depths:
    • Cameraman Abe is an entire font for this. Former rebel biker turned cameraman, can also cook, is a father AND an impressively good artist, contributing his designs into the official Game Center CX Nintendo DS game. He's also the most solid reliable teammate for knowledge during quiz games, though largely centering on bikes and cars obviously.
    • In one of the quiz games, Inoko MAX demonstrates a surprising knack for figuring out riddles.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: In the Mega Man episode, Arino says that Dr. Wily seems like an alright guy.
  • Hurricane of Puns: Arino gives all the horses in the Derby Stallion episode Punny Names involving horses and/or staff members.
  • Iconic Outfit: Arino typically wears a teal "janitor"-style jumpsuit with an orange necktie, which are also featured on his SH Figuarts figure.
  • Infinite 1-Ups:
    • Arino uses a trick to get the maximum of 99 lives in the beginning of Super Mario Bros. 3. He loses all 99 repeating the same two stages in World 8.
    • Used in Donkey Kong Country. Due to the display Cap, the AD who discovered the trick thought it was really infinite lives. In reality, the counter stops at 99, and the AD finished game before he used up enough lives for the counter to start going down.
  • Lemony Narrator: At times, the narrator mocks Arino's incompetence at certain points or lampshades ironic moments by turning chief's words against him. Subverted with female narator during outside segments, who cheers Arino on at everything he does, but not without sarcasm at times.
  • Let's Play: A potential Ur-Example. Think of this as a sort of "Let's Play: The TV Series" crossed with a humiliating Japanese game show. Arino shows awareness of being "the first letsplayer" during Dragon's Lair episode.
  • Long Runner: Airs since 2003 for over 25 seasons and shows no signs of stopping.
  • Meaningful Name: The "CX" in GameCenter CX actually comes from Fuji TV's call sign, JOCX-DTV.
  • Mondegreen Gag: When playing First Samurai, Arino interpreted "Oh no, my sword!" as "Mondo!" AD Nakayama pointed this out during a short break, but Arino still said "Mondo" out of force of habit.
  • Monster Clown: In the beginning of the 18th Season, a pair of tuxedo-clad clowns transform the King into an elephant and turn his castle into a haunted circus. In each episode, they ask the King a trivia question at the beginning. At the end of the episode, the King answers; if he gets it wrong, they attack him. Eventually, after the clowns are beaten, they are revealed to be the Queen and Prince, who were apparently also cursed.
  • MST3K Mantra: Invoked hilariously in the very first episode. After Arino beats Takeshi's Challenge on the Famicom and waiting 5 minutes on the ending screen to see a post-mortem message from Takeshi himself, he finally gets one: "Why're ya taking this game so seriously?"
  • Mundane Made Awesome:
    • Arino's "Game Center CX! Kachou, on!" Catchphrase at the beginning of a challenge got a bit more dramatic over the years, with additional sound effects and camera zooms. The second videogame lampshades this by allowing you to unlock up 45+ different things for young Arino to say whenever you start one of the games.
    • Arcade trip segments are narrated by a female voiceover. In one instance, Arino and an AD play a ball-tossing game that involves throwing hollow balls at the screen to clear objectives. One of them involved destroying meteors headed to Earth, and when the action started to intensify, the show temporarily switched to the regular, dramatic male voiceover to describe the danger the Earth was in. The narration switched back at the end of the game.
  • Named After Somebody Famous: Sachiko Takahashi ended up getting the nickname "Meijin" ("Master") after Toshiyuki "Meijin" Takahashi. Later subverted when her nickname was changed to "Sensei" instead (as they figured out about her teaching license).
  • Never Mess with Granny: As F-Zero doesn't show the pilots of the racing machines ingame, Arino imagines that a reckless old lady is driving Samurai Goroh's Fire Stingray, constantly messing with him.
  • The Nicknamer: Arino often associates NPCs with celebrities and even staff members. The staff also refers to the player character by variations of Chief's name.
  • Nintendo Hard: Many of the games Arino plays. However, part of the difficulty comes from Arino playing most of these video games for the first time. Lampshaded during an interview with Satoru Iwata during Balloon Fight episode.
    Satoru Iwata: Back in the NES generation... For example, let's say everyone debugs a game after it's finished. Everyone involved in its production would spend all night playing it. And because they make games, they become good at them. So these expert gamers make the games. Saying "this is too easy". That is why you are reduced to whining and complaining as you play.
  • No Ending: Arino is supposed to reach the ending of the games he plays, but some games turn out to not have one. In those cases he or the staff may draw their own idea of an ending.
    • Dig Dug II is an Endless Game which loops after level 72. The staff apologizes for making Arino play a game that doesn't end and then draw two endings thsemselves: Taizo eating a banana and Taizo standing over an enemy, sword-drill in hand. Arino prefers the first one.
    • After finishing Umihara Kawase and finding out it only has a credits roll, Arino is told that the game forces an end-level after 30 minutes of play. If he quickly takes the fastest route to the last possible end-level, would he see a real ending? After he fails this (it is considered a draw), the staff eventually beats the route only to find out the game really doesn't have an ending at all.
  • Noodle Incident: When the staff was asked in an interview who they thought the worst AD of all time was, several named Tsuruoka, who was responsible for quite a few screw-ups during his time on the show. Abe, however, named Yamada, the very first, redacted AD, who he called a 'failure as a human being'. He didn't elaborate on exactly what Yamada did to make him think this.
  • No Fair Cheating:
    • The narrator and staff will often give Arino flack for using cheap methods to get ahead in games, even sometimes penalizing him for it. This ended up costing him the challenge in Street Fighter II. After he won the Single Player campaign mostly by spamming Yoga Fire, the staff challenged him to VS mode with the stipulation that he would lose the challenge if he lost three matches. He lost.
    • Averted when it comes to continues, if the game has a code for extra lives, the staff permits using it to avoid backtracking.
    • Due to his age, this is sometimes averted in games that require constant button mashing, in which case he is given a turbo controller.
  • Number of the Beast: Every sixth season has the King transformed into a darker form at the start of the season (the Dark King in season 6, a Fallen Warrior in season 12, the Elephant King in season 18, and the Frozen King and later Penguin King in Season 24). He is transformed back into his normal form at the end of the season (except in Season 18, when he changes back at the season's midway point).
  • Oh, Crap!: Heaven to Hell. This is the name the staff gave to the rather frequent change in facial expression when Arino first celebrates beating the final boss, then hurries back to pick up the controller as the True Final Boss starts eating away at his last life.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with two ADs named Takahashi: one male (Junpei), one female (Sachiko).
  • Porn Parody: Yep. It exists. It's called Ero-Game Center SEX, where a female version of Arino plays an erogue game. Arino has even watched it. He said it was okay.
  • P.O.V. Sequel: The Bonk's Adventure episode is split between the normal challenge and an abridged version of the live stream that had Arino beat The Quest of Ki, this time from Toujima's point of view.
  • Power-Up Letdown:
    Narrator: The magic reveals hidden treasure chests.
    Arino: Is that all it does?
  • Pun-Based Title: Some of the recurring segments are puns on Japanese pop songs. For example: "The Aces of Hardware Won't be Appearing" (Haadoweaa Eisu wa Dettekunai) was a pun off the song "The Ace of My Heart Won't Appear" (Haato no Eisu wa Dettekunai).
  • Read the Freaking Manual: Arino does not read the manual before starting a challenge and only does so when he gets stuck, usually because the manual contains information about the controls that he can't intuit on his own.
  • Real Men Wear Pink: Abe wears a bright pink and white spotted apron while making Arino lunch for his 24-hour Lemmings episode. Said apron was then given away as a special prize to a "lucky" viewer.
  • Recurring Element: A game in the Metal Slug series appears in many arcade trip segments, usually old fashioned mom-and-pop candy stores. If Metal Slug isn't available, its usually a 10-yen game where you flick a 10-yen coin around trying to land it in a certain slot to win a prize, either 50 yen worth of free candy or a redemption sticker for extra yen. Since Arino usually tries it multiple times, he ends up with less money even if he wins the extra yen.
  • Recycled Soundtrack:
    • Scenes were Arino visits a game center often have music from Azumanga Daioh in the background.
    • This YouTube Playlist has most of the music, assuming things weren't taken down yet.
    • Music from Legend of Heroes VI: Dragon Slayer is used at the end of each show where the King reveals an incantation.
    • Jack's Theme from Headhunter was used quite often on the first few seasons in narrating segments, enough so it's seen as fans as Arino's theme. Music from both games were used frequently early on.
    • The first riff from Reaching for the Stars which is used for a preview segment for various retro games.
    • The Barcode Gambler segments in season 16 use the soundtrack from Liar Game.
    • The King's theme used to contain snippets of the Kid Icarus soundtrack. The song that plays during the "King's Announcement" segments was once a piece of Warner Bros. production music, but has since become the the first movement of John Williams' American Journey.
    • The Queen's theme (later shared with the King) is a portion of the Clavier Concerto in F, H. XVIII.
    • One segment used "Topsy Turvy" and "The Bells of Notre Dame" from The Hunchback of Notre Dame.
  • Retool: The first season were produced in a documentary format in which Arino interviewed people involved during the production of a game, each episode focusing on a specific company. From Season 2 and onward, the "Arino's Challenge" segments that were originally meant to be a side-segment of the show became the main feature instead.
  • Retraux: The King/Queen/Prince (and in seasons 6 anad 12, Dark King) sequences, which resemble 16-bit RPG sprites most likely taken from Dragon Quest and serve as a Show Within a Show.
  • The Rival: Appear in many game series Arino does multiple games on. Most are simply the Big Bad of multiple games, such as Bowser, but some are enemies he has a lot of trouble with, most notably Red Arimer/Red Areemer/Firebrand and the birds.
  • Rousing Speech: Arino puts on his living shame mask to give up the Ghosts 'n Goblins challenge, only to receive a letter from a boy which encourages him to keep fighting.
  • Running Gag:
    • Inputting "SEX" on high-score tables. And when Arino visits places and shows things that have "nothing to do with videogames".
    • The staff will feed Arino ice cream whenever they spring big news on him. Exaggerated during the 17th season where Arino's ice cream got bigger and bigger every time they told him about the show's 10th anniversary projects, culminating with Arino munching on a huge tub of frozen yogurt while Producer Kan tells him that they booked Budokan for an event.
    • If Arino clears the game with Multiple Endings on a bad one, an AD in a Dramatic Deadpan tone reveals to the confused Chief that the game has a secret condition to unlock the good one, and if there's time left, asks to clear the game again.
    • Arino being surprised by a console's fast loading.
  • Sampling: Licensed games feature the original work's theme song in the eyecatches for Arino's Challenge.
  • Self-Imposed Challenge: invoked Arino plays most of Super Mario 64 without Mario's hat, despite having low defense because of it. Too bad the staff orders him to get it back before fighting the Final Boss.
  • "Shaggy Dog" Story: The 8th season featured a segment called Xevious Observation Log, where they turned on its God Mode cheat, taped both buttons down, and left it to run 24/7 for as long as possible to see what happens. Eventually, the score counter overran and began showing glitchy characters. At the end of the season, they kept it running by putting the setup under a cardboard box labeled "Keep Out". However, two seasons (more than five months) later, they return to it and find it shut off, due to a blackout that happened in the interim. Worse, the blackout was announced in advance and no one thought to check the Xevious game before then.
  • Shout-Out:
    • In the Dragon Ball episode, the narrator imitates the voiceover from the corresponding anime going in and out of commercial breaks, complete with licensed theme music.
    • The DVD box set covers resemble the Famicom; the design is used with permission from Nintendo.
  • Sidetracked by the Gold Saucer:
    • Invoked in the ActRaiser episode, where Arino spends a disproportionate amount of time in the simulation mode, despite his title as Chief being at risk in that episode should he not complete the game in time.
    • He also insisted to try to access the bonus levels in Pilotwings. At least the two times he succeeded were quite cool.
  • Snark-to-Snark Combat: If Arino can't make progress for a long time, the staff behind the camera may comment on this. The Chief always gives a lengthy passive-aggressive monologue about it in return, which may get commented on as well.
  • Spam Attack: Arino brute-forces his way through Street Fighter II's single player mode relying almost entirely on Dhalsim's Yoga Fire attack. Leads to an Oh, Crap! moment when he discovers the four Grand Masters are far harder to take down this way.
  • Special Guest: Occasionally, the show will have special guests that aren't a part of the crew for interviews or to assist in challenges, prime example being Satoru Iwata.
  • Tempting Fate: Frequently. One great example was from the bonus episode on the first DVD, when Arino played Transformers: Convoy no Nazo, he claims that it'll be easy and he'll beat it really quick. He dies about 3 seconds after hitting the start button.
  • Terrible Artist: Sensei Takahashi was known for this in her explainations on how to beat levels.
  • This Is Gonna Suck: It takes Arino mere seconds to realize what he's up against when he begins playing Nosferatu.
    Arino: ...This is gonna be a two-parter!
  • This Looks Like a Job for Aquaman: Cameraman Abe is a motorcycle enthusiast, and so when it came to choosing the "motor" category in a quiz game, the team usually breezes past it thanks to him.
  • Timed Mission: The "challenge" part in Arino's Challenge segment is to clear the game within the filming day. Arino can go a bit further if he feels confident, but at midnight the staff will literally put the wall clock on his desk and forbid using continues. Some challenges went to a second day if Arino feels like finishing it, but the staff really discourages this.
  • Unreadably Fast Text: As Arino reads games' text and dialogue out loud, sometimes this trope ensues and he misses bits of the game narration.
  • Victory Pose: Usually a raised fist. In the Street Fighter II episode he mimicks Dhalsim's dance.
  • Vignette Episode: Challenges are divided by small off-topic segments like visits to arcades, fairs, candy shops, running game-themed parodies of tv shows, and reviews of contemporary games related to the one being reviewed, averaging two of these segments per episode. In early seasons they had the same priority as Arino Challenge, but now considered as Padding and sometimes not included in episode reruns.
  • Wham Episode: The ActRaiser challenge. When the series had a gimmick with the fictional game company plot, Arino lost the challenge enough times in a row to be demoted to the lowest position in the company.
  • With Friends Like These...: Arino and some of the ADs can get extremely snarky with each other, with Arino often using Dude, Where's My Respect?.
  • You Are Fat: Endless rather crass fat jokes coming from Arino every time AD Watanabe shows up. Justified as whenever Arino offers her a bite of food, she just takes the whole thing instead.

Alternative Title(s): Game Center CX