Crazy Taxi is my favorite arcade game of all time. But I didn't play it much at arcades, instead, it— and its NYC-based sequel—were staples of my beloved Dreamcast.
It's a driving game that wears its pure risk vs. reward intentions on its sleeve. You are a bananas taxi driver, and need to take fares on in order to keep surviving in the world. Some are easy: red and orange jobs that never ask you to go too far, with wide, forgiving circles.
Others are much tougher: greens and, in the sequel, blues that require you to make tough timetables, driving through long stretches of the city to get a happy customer to their destination. And what a city—the San Francisco of the original, and Big Apple of the sequel—are bustling and bursting with life. There are vistas, landmarks, foot and vehicle traffic. These cities, as cartoonish as they are, felt like places.
That level of activity fed brilliantly into its sense of risk and reward, because driving like a maniac—but never crashing—netted you more money. You have to thrill your passengers, see? The bigger the stunts, the better the money, and the bigger risk that you'd crash and burn.
I love that in an arcade experience: where the game allows me to really see what's at stake, and the means to accomplish my goals are always frantic and, in a very uncomplicated way, fun.