In downtown Springfield, Missouri directly across from the YMCA lies the 1984 Arcade. On Wednesday, June 20th, my friend The Stranger and I drove from Oklahoma City to Springfield to visit this tribute to the classic arcades of the 1980’s. The 1984 Arcade opened its doors in 2005, and boasts anywhere from 50-60 classic arcade games on the floor at any given time.
The journey begins.
We were greeted at the front door by a friendly young lady who explained to us how everything worked. Admission is $5, which includes unlimited plays on every arcade game. Blue credit buttons have been added to the front of each cabinet; pressing the button adds credits to the machine. The only games not included in this deal are the pinball machines, which still cost patrons one quarter per play.
The arcade is decorated with classic retro stylings — vintage movie posters, t-shirts, and arcade-inspired decorations from glow-in-the-dark Space Invaders to a giant, wall-mounted Ms. Pac-Man. 80’s music is constantly in rotation while music videos of the 80’s are displayed on various televisions throughout the arcade. It’s almost enough to make you think you’ve travelled back in time to the 1980’s, except back then I don’t remember any arcades being quite this nice!
My head as a power pellet.
The 1984 Arcade is divided up into three separate rooms. The middle room (where visitors enter) has the most games. The room off to the left has more games, along with bar-height tables and chairs. The room to the right has even more games, a snack bar, and even a coffee bar (“Sinistarbucks.” Cute.) Each of the three rooms had small areas to sit and rest (if you were there with kids, for example). One area had an Atari Flashback hooked up for playing Atari games; another lounge area had an all-in-one Pac-Man joystick game connected to a projector which projected your game on to the front window. Neat idea!
But enough about the decor; let’s talk about games! The 1984 Arcade is stocked, baby. Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr., Galaga, Space Invaders, Battlezone, Asteroids, Centipede, Missile Command, Moon Patrol, Zaxxon, Gorf, Dig Dug, Frogger, Gauntlet 1 and 2, TRON … their collection of machines reads like a who’s who list of classic games. While no arcade will ever have ever game every patron is hoping to find, 1984’s lineup will leave very few visitors disappointed. The list of games the arcade owns hasn’t been updated in over a year, so if your happiness depends on one specific game being present and operational, I’d call first. That being said, I found the selection not only incredibly diverse but also noticably lacking in “fluff” games (SNK’s P.O.W. was probably the only one I wouldn’t consider a classic) and there wasn’t a single game there I hadn’t heard of before.
Line of classics.
Of the approximately 60 games on hand, only two were broken (Turbo and Gyruss). The condition of each game was surprisingly nice. Many of the games had new joysticks, and the cabinets (including the control panels) were all in outstanding shape. In fact, all but a couple (noticably Burgertime ) were in their original cabinets. There’s something about seeing the spray-painted stencils on the side of a Moon Patrol cabinet or the wood-grain stickers on an original Pong machine that makes the whole experience that much cooler. These are the details that are lost when playing MAME. There is no feeling quite like standing in front of a TRON cabinet, black lights glowing brightly. Games like Karate Champ with its dual-joystick control system, Tempest with its spinner or Battlezone’s tank controls simply don’t feel the same when played on a keyboard in front of a PC.
This was already old school in 1984.
One really neat thing about 1984 is the “high score wall,” where mini versions of each game’s marquees are on display along with the all-time high score from each game. Beat the score and you’ll have your initials and score immortalized in black marker (until someone comes along and breaks it). In fact, within thirty minutes of our arrival The Stranger demolished the standing Burgertime record of 79,000 with his own of 189,000. Chomp on that burger, 1984! For his efforts, The Stranger walked away with a button and a free pass for our next visit. And, oh yes, there will be another visit. I, unfortunately, was not as lucky in my quest to break a high score. Even on games that I previously thought I was good at (Shinobi, Moon Patrol, Dig Dug) I was rarely able to achieve 1/10th the posted high score. Back to arcade training camp for me.
That’s not a mirror. Gauntlet and Gauntlet II.
Summary: Anyone even remotely interested in classic arcade games should check out the 1984 Arcade. The Stranger and I drove 300 miles each way to visit the arcade and both felt the trip was entirely worth it. The staff was incredibly friendly and we chatted several times about the arcade.
Pinball wizard. There has to be a twist.
– Hours and Attendance: 1984 Arcade is open 4pm-11pm, Wednesday-Saturday. On the Wednesday we attended, there were a total of 10 people (including the two of us) throughout a four-hour span. Wednesdays and Thursdays are the arcade’s slow days, while Friday and Saturdays are busier. If you’re looking for a quiet, less crowded experience, visit during the week. If you’re looking for a party, try the weekend. Also, for the record: you must be at least 16 or accompanied by a parent; no smoking, and no drinking. We found these rules to be a big plus.
– Parking: as the arcade is located downtown, parking, especially on the weekends could be a problem. Fortunately we were able to parallel park almost directly in front of the arcade, but I could potentially see parking far away during peak hours.
– Pinball: During our visit, four of the arcade’s six pinball tables were inoperable. Neither of us are big pinball players and as such this didn’t affect our visit in the slightest. That being said, if you’re planning on a lengthy road trip in order to go play pinball, you might call or e-mail in advance.
– Why are you still reading this and not driving toward Springfield, Missouri right now???