Last month, Free Play Arcade announced what pinball fans have been waiting to hear since the day the video game arcade almost died.
The local arcade's fourth franchise location, in Oak Cliff, will be a pinball bar that will cater to the whims of the most hardcore silver ball slingers. The Dallas Pinball Project, as it's tentatively called, will be filled with new and classic titles.
Free Play is still a ways away from opening its dream pinball place, thanks to the challenging rezoning and renovating efforts needed to open it. Here are some of the best places where you can get your pinball fix in the meantime.
Free Play Arcade
400 E. South St. in Arlington, freeplayarlington.com
The local arcade chain that started in Richardson and opened its second location in Arlington built its massive following by committing to the retro arcade concept. The first Free Play location set up a space for pinball machines, but the small area only left room for a handful of games along a back wall. The Arlington location's much larger space allows Free Play to dedicate a long wall to pinball machines offering a fine mix of old-school favorites such as Williams' Bride of Pinbot alongside newer titles such as Stern's addictive Batman '66. Free Play also does a good job of swapping out machines from its massive collection of arcade titles, so you're bound to play something new almost every time you visit.
2777 Irving Blvd., No. 200, cidercade.com
The Bishop Cider Co. in Dallas has been keeping the local arcade competition pretty fierce with its concept that opened near the end of 2016. The Cidercade has made some big strides with its pinball collection. There aren't as many classic machines as there are at Free Play, but there is an impressive lineup of modern machines from the remaining pinball powerhouses, including Stern, with titles such as Batman '66, AC/DC, Aerosmith, Guardians of the Galaxy, Star Wars and the re-released Williams' classic Attack from Mars. Cidercade has reached out to some newer companies that are reviving the almost-lost art of pinball by revamping it for the technology age with games like the modern masterpiece Houdini: Master of Mystery from American Pinball.
Collin Creek Mall, 811 N. Central Expressway in Plano, versusgameplay.com
Collin Creek Mall still has an arcade tucked away on the second floor that can fill the Plano shopping center with the familiar sound of beeps, boops and 6-year-old children raging at cold, uncaring machines. Versus Gameplay gives gamers access to modern consoles and multiplayer gaming in the back of its space, but the front is filled with new and classic arcade machines. You'll also find a variety of pinball games on one side of the arcade, including the pro version of Stern's Aerosmith-themed machine, Williams' carnival classic Cyclone and Bally's pinball remake of the Alec Baldwin cinematic bomb The Shadow, which works a lot better as a pinball machine than a movie for a major film star. "What makes our place unique is that we have machines from every era — the electro-mechanical, the solid state and modern," co-owner Mike Mahnich says. Versus has a good relationship with local pinball enthusiasts, and with their help is able to rotate different machines in and out, so players get a new experience every time they drop by, he says. Versus also hosts International Flipper Pinball Association-sanctioned tournaments.
2750 Interstate 635 in Irving, pinstackbowl.com
Not all kids who went to bowling alleys in the '80s and '90s were there to bowl. Some went for the arcades. This high-class bowling joint and family entertainment center in Irving hasn't forgotten this staple of bowling's past. The arcade area is stocked with an impressive collection of modern Stern titles, such as Game of Thrones, Ghostbusters, Wrestlemania, The Walking Dead and the vault edition of Spider-Man. You'll spend so much time trying to defeat these modern marvels of gravity and skill that you'll forget about bowling.
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1238 Belt Line Road in Garland, nickelrama.com
Remember when arcade games used to cost a quarter to play? Hell, remember when arcade games required legal tender to play? This beloved Garland institution has preserved the feeling of a family arcade with video games and pinball machines and has even kept the prices to a nostalgic level. You can pick from a long line of modern releases such as Stern's Batman '66 and Star Trek; Jersey Jack's groundbreaking titles based on movies like The Wizard of Oz and The Hobbit; and Dialed In, designed by pinball legend Pat Lawlor. No matter which pinball machine you choose, it will only cost you a small admission fee and 5 cents per game. You'll be able to enjoy classic pinball action and still have enough change left in your pocket to put toward your student loans. Sure, it takes longer to pay off your student loans in nickels, but it's more satisfying to make your lender work harder for its evil deeds.
1424 Brown Trail in Bedford, quarter-lounge.com
If you've got the time to take a 20-mile drive to Bedford, it's worth the gas you'll burn for this video game and pinball arcade halfway between Fort Worth and Dallas. This arcade is serious about going retro. There are classic machines such as Donkey Kong, Double Dragon and Galaga. It's also got a nice collection of uncommon pinball games, like Bally's 1977 gem Mata Hari and its ode to TV's Gilligan's Island, as well as Williams' Fish Tales. Bally pinball machines such as Star Wars: Episode I and Revenge from Mars use the Pinball 2000 hardware scheme, which incorporates a video game screen into the action on the pinball machines' play fields. It's one of the few good things that ever came out of a Star Wars prequel.