Guest writer: Aelen#1442

I’m back, and this time I will be telling everyone about arcades. Unlike in a lot of other countries, arcades are really popular in Japan. These arcades of course have games like Taiko (seen below) but instead I will be talking about prize games.


I call them prize games because in all of these, you have a chance of winning some nice goodies! Four different types will be looked at for this aninspire: claw games, ufo catchers, hook games and jewel pushers. I’ll explain exactly what each game is and then I’ll give some tips on how to win and when to walk away.

If there’s one important skill when it comes to prize games, it’s knowing when to walk away.

General Information

A lot of arcades have an option where you get cheaper turns if you put in more money. Generally for 100 Yen games it’s 500 Yen for 6 tries instead of 5, 200 Yen games is 500 Yen for 3 tries instead of 600 Yen and 300 Yen games have 2 tries for 500 Yen instead of 2 tries for 600 Yen. However, it is not always smart to put in extra money for those cheaper turns.

pay prices

One of the first things you should do when you play is to test out the claw strength. This means that you put in enough for just one turn and then you check if the claw has any strength at all, because if it doesn’t, then you’ll have to wait for payout and that might be far, far into the future. So even though the turns are cheaper, you might have just wasted more money than you would have with a game with a stronger claw.

Payout is when a game is (almost) impossible to win because the claw is too weak or keeps opening. The machines are programmed in such a way that after you sink enough money into the game, the claw suddenly gets strong and it becomes easy to win. Then when the machine detects that a prize has been won the claw goes back to being weak. There are other games that are influenced by a payout rate but I’m not going to go over them in this article.

If you’re ever in an arcade in Japan then you better learn how to ask the arcade workers to reset the game. Sometimes you just make a mistake and the prize gets stuck in a position that’s impossible to win it from. At that time you can go up to an arcade worker and just ask them to reset the game to its original position. While you have to restart from scratch if you really get stuck, it’s the better option. Don’t be shy! A lot of arcade workers will actually tell you how to win the game if you ask them to.

Some prizes are set up on a platform. The exact set up depends on what kind of game it is. However you should be warned that a commonly used trick is to make these platforms sticky (literally). Depending on how sticky the platform is, prizes may be easy or impossible to move. So if you find out that the platform is too sticky and your prize stopped moving at all, don’t keep trying and just walk away. Chances are that you’re not making any mistakes but that the platform is just too sticky.

Claw Games

These are the most common and what people are most familiar with. While payout is a real thing, there are actually some tips that might make it possible for you to win even without payout.

Depending on the prize, the game might make the claw get stuck. That way, even if it tries to open on you the prize will not drop. This is easiest to do with prizes like backpacks or plushies where some parts (like arms or a heart) are stitched to stay in a certain position. This is why in some arcades you might see backpacks being wrapped in plastic to avoid easy access to all those easy to hook parts.

Another option is to try and drag the prize over and into the chute. However with this method just skill won’t be enough, you’ll also need a bit of luck on your side. Maybe you’ll get lucky and while falling, the prize will bounce into the chute. it might also bounce back all the way to the side and then you can start all over again.

That’s why I don’t really recommend claw games but if you really want the prize go ahead and try your luck.

3 claw game

UFO Catchers

Now let’s move on to the UFO catchers. Unlike the claw games, UFO catchers only have two prongs attached to a base. There are some exceptions with three prongs but those mechanics lie closer to the claw games than to the ufo catchers as I’ll be talking about them. There are two common types of UFO catchers that I’ll be talking about.

UFO catcher

Bar games is where you are most likely to find arcade-exclusive anime figurines. These have a special note on the box that says “Arcade prize only” which means that you won’t be able to find them for sale anywhere else. A lot of the bar UFO catchers will have a dominant claw, which is something you should always test for.

A box will be put on 2 or 4 bars (if it’s 4 then it’ll be 2 on each side). You will have to move it so the box is on it’s side, and then you will have to tilt the box upwards so it is properly between the bars. (Normally the claws in these games are not strong enough to actually pick up the box.)

What happens next depends on the set up. Some boxes may just fall in and others will need to be pushed down. You do this by stabbing with one of the claws or the base on the box to make it go down bit by bit. However, you have to get it properly between the bars before you can start doing this.

Just be careful when you try the method described above because some machines are pressure sensitive. This means that whenever a claw or the base stabs the box, the claws will start closing and stop going down, ending your turn there.

stabbing game

Stabbing games are all about stabbing a prize that is set up in a winnable position down into the chute. These might be plushies that you will have to squish between 2 bars or boxes on a platform that you have to slowly move downwards by stabbing them.

Most of the time these games are all about either finding the perfect point to push down on and thus making your prize fall, or just trying time and time again to squish/move your prize downwards. If your prize is not falling at all, look for any parts that might be stuck. Something as small as a hard nose or a tag that got stuck might be what’s keeping you from winning the prize. At that time it’s all up to your judgement to either keep going, reset the game or just walk away.

Hook Games

And we’ve already arrived at the hook games. Once again there are a few variations on this one, namely the single hook game, the multi hook game and the water hook game.

The single and multi hook games are of course very similar, however a single hook game has only one hook and only a few prizes in there while a multi hook game has multiple hooks and is often filled with lots of different prizes. While accuracy is necessary in these games most of the time, it also depends on luck because they make it so the hooks swing a lot so you need to be lucky that it swings the right way. Some hook games have the option to stop the hooks from going down further which might come in handy at times.

Then we have the water hook game. This is what I call them simply because you have a bowl filled with water and a lot of rings. Sometimes all of them are a big prize like a figurine and sometimes only 1 ring is a big prize and the others are small prizes like snacks. This game is really hard because as soon as your hook enters the water it will start creating ripples which make the rings move away. In my opinion it’s the hardest out of all the hook games.

Jewel Pushers

Jewel Pusher

Most of the time these are filled with jewels and keychains, but sometimes you might find other things like chocolate. Most of them also have main prizes in there. These are put on a platform and a pink bangle is put on the platform. If you manage to push it off the platform the bigger ‘main’ prizes will drop. However a lot of arcades make these platforms really sticky which makes it hard to get the bangle to fall. The jewels and keychains you use to push and try to win are gotten from a circle that rotates inside the machine.

There are 2 different ways that these machines work. You can put in a coin and you get one scoop for said coin. The scoops will always go to the exact same spot so you have no control over it except timing for when the machine scoops. In this case it is recommended to wait for either a big pile of jewels or bigger keychains to help push everything on top of the platform.

Another way is that you put in a coin and you get a certain amount of time to scoop before your turn is over. Here it is better not to wait for a really good scoop and just scoop as many times as possible within your time limit. Not long after your turn is over the chute will close and all prizes that drop will then drop back into the rotating circle. So if something that you really want is close to falling it is better to put in a coin just to be sure. This keeps the chute open, but this also makes it so you keep playing so if you don’t really want whatever is close to falling off it is recommended to just stop playing.

Obviously there are a lot of other prize games like keymaster and barber cut but I think those are less common and are best experienced rather than read about!

Sources and Further Reading

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