Supposedly, the home console killed the arcade. Well, these proprietors either didn’t get the memo, or they tossed it right to the trash bin. Perhaps you pine for the days when one of these joints was always around the corner. Maybe you miss the thrilling rush of gaming against strangers, face to face. Don’t fret! The arcade experience is still within grasp. These establishments have preserved it perfectly, and even updated it to be better than it was. Now, let’s press start.
The Galloping Ghost
There’s a Shambalah for gamers, and it’s in Brookfield, Illinois. The Galloping Ghost is the single largest arcade in America, with nearly 450 individual cabinets. If you played a game once, it’s very likely there (along with the sequel you probably never heard of, too). Seriously, the place has Primal Rage II–even though it was never officially released to arcades!
The Galloping Ghost is no simple repository for video games. It’s a shrine to them. Consider the Mortal Kombat section, which not only houses every MK installment ever, but also exclusive memorabilia personalized by the original kombatants. How’d they get that stuff? Well, the Galloping Ghost reunited the whole cast (kast?) for “Shang Tsung’s Fight Night,” one of many special events they put on regularly. Other occasions have included a tournament for the ultra rare fighting game, the Outfoxies, and a discussion with the developers of the original NARC. If you can wrap your head around the notion of a Cinefamily or Brattle Theater for video games, you’re close to comprehending the Galloping Ghost’s grandeur.
However, if you all care about is playing King of Fighters ’95, the GG offers a nice deal that cleverly does away with that pesky need to always be keeping quarters at ready. No coins. No tokens. Everything’s set to “free play.” Just drop $15 at the door, then play as many titles as you want, for as long as you’d like.
Here’s a cool answer to that pesky “Am I getting too old to be here?” question that’s gnawed at every adult gamer’s heart, at least once. Indeed, Brewcade boasts that it’s “reminiscent of that childhood hangout your parents thought would ruin your life.” Located off Market St. in sunny San Francisco, it’s a 21+ establishment with an impressive collection of classic cabinets and an eclectic menu of adult beverages.
It’s an arcade with beer on tap! Or it’s a bar with games on hand? Maybe more the latter. In contrast to the Galloping Ghost’s game-focused programming, Brewcade’s events often tie into the release of new drinks and blacklight dance parties. Still, the game selection rolls quite deep, with choice cuts from the 80s and 90s. You can go straight from playing Paper Boy and Ms. Pac-Man to Rush 2049 and WrestleFest in just a couple steps.
Family Amusement Arcade
These other arcades are awesome, but they’re modernized updates. For an arcade experience truly authentic to ’91, search for one delightfully ominous marque on Vermont Ave in Hollywood. (It’s probably just as authentic to ’81, by the way. It’s been there for 40 years!). Housed beside the headquarters of the appropriately family-owned Family Amusement Corporation, this spot retains all the slightly-dangerous Mos Eisely Cantina atmosphere of the true old school.
The best attractions are rare, direct-from-Japan imports. Test your machismo on the demanding physical gauntlet that is the Fist of the North Star punching game. Furrow your brow while attempting to identify (or even understand) the menagerie of weirdos in Capcom vs. Tatsunoku. Or brave the “tournament edition” of Street Fighter IV, which links four cabinets together and forces you to challenge the hardcore gamers in residence.
And if you want to bring the arcade experience home, or to your own business, the Corp’s offices are right there. Rent or buy everything from jukeboxes to air hockey tables. Selections are surprisingly up-to-date (Avatar had a pinball game? Go figure).
Do any other rare midways deserve acclaim? Who’s keeping the classic arcade experience alive? Who’s updating it for 2016? Fill out the talkback below like it’s a leaderboard!
Featured Image Credit: the Galloping Ghost