Arcades, guys. They ain't what they used to be. Now that every young whippersnapper has one of them newfangled game consoles in their bedroom, why would they ever leave the room and venture into a poorly lit room full of bleeping noises, armed only with every quarter they could find in the couch and knowledge of the maneuver necessary to do a fireball with Ken or Ryu in Streetfighter II? Down, forward and down, forward, punch, a combination that I still try and do in Soul Calibur IV to no appreciable end whatsoever, despite my cries of "HADOUKEN!"
Nevertheless, there are some places in Dallas you can visit to recall the good old days when you weren't doing some weird form of advanced gambling for tickets using indecipherable monetary units, and any minor who could memorize the button combo for a Mortal Kombat fatality was immediately promoted to "king of all children."
So. Here they are.
Kung Fu Saloon (above) 2911 Routh St., Dallas Type of arcade: One entirely surrounded by cut-price alcohol that the staff will attempt to funnel down you and, if you go by the Google reviews, a questionable "dress code" that has resulted in several, shall we say, mishaps. Kind of a sports bar with arcade machines inside. Arcade gems: Mortal Kombat III, Cruis'n USA, Super Mario Bros., Double Dragon. Actual Double Dragon. This is second on my list of side-scrolling beat-em-ups that were frustratingly impossible to complete after Golden Axe, and before Final Fight. Things to do as if those games weren't enough for you: Drink, obviously, to forget the fact that Mortal Kombat III isn't very good, and there's even some food that will come in handy for throwing at the machine when another Double Dragon boss eats your 18th continue for breakfast. Free play on Sundays. Quarters otherwise.
Barcadia 1917 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas
Type of arcade: A hip drinking establishment on North Henderson Avenue, Barcadia is within easy shouting distance of Beauty Bar and the Slip Inn, so you can yell at people who didn't spend their whole childhoods playing video games and spent that time doing something constructive, making them now attractive, successful, hip adults who don't hang out in a glorified video game arcade.
Arcade gems: Streetfighter II, Mortal Kombat, Galaga, Out Run, Ms. Pac-Man. Controversial, but Ms. Pac Man is far superior to her husband's stab at the I'm-a-yellow-head-and-ghosts-are-after-me genre. Do you know why? Because the ghosts' movement is partially randomized, thus making it impossible to just memorize patterns and beat the game.
Things to do as if those games weren't enough for you: Drink, yell, play Giant Jenga, weep as M. Bison fucking levitates for the 100th time and then just straight out flies into your head, killing you. Free play night is Tuesdays. Again, quarters necessary.
Dave and Buster's 9450 N. Central Expressway, Dallas
Type of arcade: One that is relatively unwilling to constantly pass you alcohol all the time, and that focuses mainly on arcade gaming rather than being a drinking establishment with video games, in an effort to pull in the wandering nostalgic twentysomething. However, to make up for this, they have seen fit to employ some form of legalized gambling involving a ticket system and some largely shitty prizes.
Arcade gems: Deadstorm Pirates (all the kids love it, but if you ask me it makes House of the Dead look like Goldeneye or something); something where you have to land a plane; racing games that aren't Out Run or Cruis'n USA and are thus uncontrollable, skiddy pieces of crap.
Things to do as if those games weren't enough for you: GAMBLE. How can children gamble, I hear you cry? Well, they can ask their parents to "invest" in a card that you swipe in each machine, taking away a set number of "points" from the card that, considering there is no way to decipher the D&B Exchange Rate without a calculator, means that it must be very expensive. Thankfully, though, you can get discounted cards by buying some not-very-good food, for some reason.
Type of arcade: One where the word "arcade" simply wasn't enough, and they've instead gone for "every possible kind of entertainment you can even begin to imagine all in one place for a massively inflated price." That was too wordy, though, so they just stuck with Main Event. There's still alcohol, thankfully, because you'll need it to cope with the overexcited kids.
Arcade gems: Again, like Dave and Buster's, Main Event eschews good games in favor of games made by no-name producers in the last couple of years. As such, you get oddities like "Max Flight: Design your own virtual roller coaster and experience your creation with a full 360 degree, 2 axis motion platform." How about I just play Streetfighter II? No. I could not win tickets doing that, and thus it is relatively unprofitable. Also, they couldn't charge me over $1 a play. The robbers.
Things to do as if those games weren't enough for you: Bowling, laser tag, karaoke, billiards and, if you feel like this is a professional and respectable place to take clients, there's even a meeting room. Nothing says "invest" like holding your yearly AGM in the midst of a hundred screaming children wielding bowling balls.
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NickelRama: 1238 Belt Line Rd., Garland
Type of arcade: Honest to God, it's an arcade. An actual arcade. It's not a millionaire's attempt to push children into gambling or a bar with expensive accessories.
Arcade gems: Space Invaders, Ms. Pac Man and Tekken, the mysterious beat-em-up which I could never master no matter how many times I tried. I thus declare it inferior to Streetfighter and Mortal Kombat, simply because I don't have the skills to do whatever it is New Jack can do with his boots that one guy showed me once.
Things to do as if those games weren't enough for you: Nothing. Focus on the games. Call me a purist, but that's for the best. There are a lot of ticket-win-a-prize machines here, but if anything those will just entrap the children as they begin their rapid descent into betting thousands of dollars on the Kentucky Derby, while you can relax into paying just 5 cents per game. 5 cents! You're an adult now! That's barely 8 percent of your weekly wage! Admittedly, the game selection isn't great, but maybe if you give them more nickels they'll get Golden Axe. Let's hope.