A block and a half beyond the Freemont Experience in downtown Las Vegas sits Insert Coin(s), a “Videolounge Gamebar” at 512 Fremont St. I haven’t been to every big retro arcade across the country, but I hit a lot of them while working on my book Invading Spaces and had hoped to hit Insert Coin(s) the last time I was in Vegas. Unfortunately we had the kids with us that time, which meant we ended up visiting the family-friendly Pinball Hall of Fame over the more adult-oriented Insert Coin(s). This time around, no kids meant I was able to finally swing by the arcade.
Although the walk to Insert Coin(s) from the Freemont Street Experience is a short one, those two blocks make a difference. Perhaps at other times the sidewalk is more well it and filled with revelers; at 9:45pm on a Friday night with the bright lights and crowds to our backs it was dark and kind of scary.
Outside the barcade we spoke briefly with the bouncer who informed us that after 10pm Insert Coin(s) has a cover charge — $5 for locals and $10 for out-of-towners. We arrived roughly fifteen minutes before the club started charging a cover, which was a good thing as I had three people in tow who were only there to appease my curiosity, none of whom would have dropped $10 to do so.
In stark contrast to the other retro arcades I’ve visited, including the 1984 Arcade in Missouri, the Arkadia Retrocade in Arkansas, and FunSpot in New Hampshire, Insert Coin(s) is definitely a playground for the 21 and over crowd. Those other arcades are well-lit places, full of color and children. Insert Coin(s) on the other hand is a throwback to the “darker” (and I mean that literally, not figuratively) arcades of the past. Other than the glowing monitors, marquees and televisions, the main source of light in the room comes from the room’s centerpiece, a glowing bar that changes color.
The right-hand side of the room is filled with over-sized vinyl booths that sit behind home gaming consoles hooked to flat screen televisions. According to the arcade’s website, patrons with a bar tab of $25 or more get to play those systems for free. The rear of the bar housed a DJ setup. There wasn’t a DJ there during our visit, but that didn’t stop a couple of drunk girls from dancing with one another.
The real draw for me were the sixty arcade games lined up down the left hand side of the room. The lineup of games was exactly what I was both expecting and hoping to see, with machines ranging from the classics of the early 80s to the hottest fighting games from the late 90s. Along with all the usual classics one would hope to find, a couple of less-common machines caught my eye including Star Wars Trilogy, Tapper, and 720. Other than 720, it looked to me like all the machines were turned on and had good, working monitors. (I can tell you from personal experience that 720 machines are a pain in the ass to own.)
Insert Coin(s) offers retro gamers a different side of the token to consider. With their resident DJs and omnipresent glowing bar, there’s more to Insert Coin(s) than just a large selection of classic games. And, of yeah, they have a large selection of classic games! A different business model than the other retro arcades I’ve visited results in a different experience. Although I was only able to spend a short amount of time in the arcade, I’ll be adding Insert Coin(s) on to my “must stop” list of Vegas hot spots. A quarter is bound to last me a lot longer in Donkey Kong than it will in a slot machine!