80s Arcade Experiences


The last time I went into an arcade was November 2019. I spent about an hour in there playing, mainly, versions of arcade games I loved from when I was young. There was a Space Invaders game, a Pac Man game and a couple of driving games. But they weren’t the actual games I remembered. They were “revamped” versions with shorter play times, designed to reward players with tickets.

Article by Craig A from @80sNostalgia.

I initially went in to the arcade wanting to recreate that feeling of nostalgia and play some classics but when I left, having traded in the tickets I had “won”, I had acquired a miniature replica Terminator head, a knock-off Tamagotchi and a deep feeling of regret. 

Remember when arcades were full of games, rather than full of disguised gambling machines?

Outrun Arcade Start

Every summer holiday I had during the 80s was to Blackpool.  I went there with my Grandpa, I assume because my parents needed a break from me.  We lived in the North West, so quite often nipped to Blackpool on Bank Holidays and I liked the familiarity of holidaying somewhere I knew.

 On day one we would get to the hotel in the early afternoon, unpack, possibly eat a meal, and I would head out to the arcades for a couple of hours.  I was allowed out until 7pm, on my own, every day.

If you’re thinking of travelling back to 80s Blackpool, check out my reviews of the best 80s arcades:

Coral Island

This was huge!  It seemed like there were two massive areas full of games.  Coral Island had a lot of the bigger cabinets like Afterburner and Space Harrier.  They even had one of those G Loc R360 machines that needed to be monitored by an attendant.  But at the back of the arcade there was an area with nothing but classic games, like Pac Man, Frogger, Donkey Kong and Galaxians, all set to 10p a go.  I could easily spend a few hours in there and often did.

South, Central and North Pier

Central Pier was the first place I saw Out Run.  I was amazed.  I had seen pictures of the gameplay in C&VG but I’d never seen the deluxe cab in real life.  My parents had popped along to spend the day with me, which in retrospect was a bit weird seeing as they didn’t seem to want to do the full holiday part with me, and there was a small debate as to whether I was allowed to go on Out Run.  The deluxe cab was a replica of what seemed to be a full sized car.  It was so authentic, you had to wear a seatbelt and there were gears.  But I insisted I would be ok, climbed on, buckled in and drove badly.  But I loved it.  The hydraulics, Magical Sound Shower blasting out of the stereo speakers right next to my ears… it was everything 10 year old me hoped it would be.

Lucky Star Fun Fair

This was towards the South end of Blackpool, on the way to the Pleasure Beach.  Lucky Star had two floors of gaming – one for slot machines / one arm bandits, and one for arcade games.  This was the first place I saw Dragon’s Lair.  The crisp cartoon visuals and the trailer that played during Attract Mode were enough to make me love it instantly.  It’s one of those games that people either like or dismiss as ‘not a game’, because as long as you have a good memory you can complete it.  Personally I loved it, and I still play it every time I find it anywhere.  *Not sure if I’ve mentioned this before, but I won the Dragon’s Lair tournament at Play Expo Blackpool…

Space Invaders Arcade Taito

Mr. B’s

This was filled mainly reward games, like coin pushers and claw machines, but towards the back of the arcade they ALWAYS had some classic arcade games.  They all seemed to be in generic cabinets, so you had to peer at the screen to see what the games were.  I remember seeing Wonderboy there, and Centipede.  Just the thought of the simple graphics for Centipede and the pew pew noises…..  I could listen to electronic shooting noises on repeat!

Also, most hotels had small arcade rooms.  The hotel I remember the clearest had just two games, one of which was Space Invaders, and one pinball machine, all set to 10p per play, so even when it was past my 7pm curfew, I could always head downstairs and get a small gaming fix to get me through to the next day.

Man, I miss the 80s, and I wish companies would stop cashing in on gaming IPs.  I don’t need physical rewards like tickets – I was far happier when I played so well the game wanted to recognise my achievement and allowed me to enter my initials onto the High Score board.  That was a far better reward than some cheap plastic tat.

*I’ve mentioned this every opportunity I’ve had! (Dragons Lair)

Craig A from @80sNostalgia

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