80s, 90s, Quick Lists, Video Games — September 4, 2013 1:01 pm

8 Strange Arcades

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Sometimes, in those dark bowling alleys, movie theatre lobbies, or hologram shops, we find some unusual arcades. Maybe you’ve played some of these, or maybe you’ve only heard of their lore. Either way, here are some strange ones. I really want to include the Konix Multi-System on this list, but that was designed to be a home system and it was never released. But know that my thoughts are with you, Konix.

8 – Battlezone

battlezoneHere, just stick your face into this radioactive arcade cabinet…

Battlezone’s cabinet was unusual—you had your standard upright arcade cabinet, but with a periscope-type viewfinder. Innocent bystanders could also be sucked in to the nerdery, as the game can be seen from the sides of the viewfinder. The periscope was neat, but I’m sure the ergonomically unfriendly device contributed to a bunch of hunchbacked teenagers. If you desire to play this game without developing your own hunchback, you can crank up those old consoles like the C64 and Atari 2600. If you don’t have a classic console, get one, or just get Microsoft’s Game Room download service for the XBOX 360 or PC.

7 – FunHouse

rudyNo… just no.

In 1990, Williams unleashed the ultimate terror—FunHouse. I’m sure you can already guess this, but the theme of this pinball game is a fun house or amusement park. That’s hardly noticeable once you see this thing—what you immediately notice and what will give you nightmares for years to come is Rudy, a talking doll head that wants to eat your soul. This doll head lets you know about bonuses, and that’s super nice, but he also taunts you and wants to murder children, so don’t let that lull you into a false sense of security. If you don’t believe me, and don’t have access to a FunHouse machine, it is available as a part of a couple pinball compilations for various current systems and PC (The Pinball Arcade and Pinball Hall of Fame: The Williams Collection) but the 2D environment will never instil that fear that the real Rudy does.

6 – Galaxian 3

galagaroomI want to go to there.

Have you ever wanted to live inside Galaga? Well, here’s your chance. Galaxian 3 is a Galaga sequel and this particular arcade was a theme park attraction where up to 28 (or sometimes up to 16 if you were at a budget theme park) could play. You were surrounded by Galaga with 27 (or 15) others in a room that’s bigger than my house. You can still play Galaxian 3, as it was ported to the PSX in 1995, it just won’t be as exciting unless you have 30 TVs in your basement.

5 – The Tablecloth Hour

the_tablecloth_hourHow is this a video game?

While not retro (it was released in 2010 by Taito, the Bubble Bobble people) and not available in North America, The Tablecloth Hour is quite fascinating. This arcade, set up in Japan, is the video game version of the old “pull the tablecloth out from under these dishes and OH GOD MY FINE CHINA!” Since I can’t read Japanese, I cannot verify if this game takes a full hour, but I’ll bet that it does.

4 – Maneater

maneater_flyer“Oooh-oooh here she comes, boy she likes her processed meat… She’s a SPAM eater.” Hah.

This arcade really blew the competition out of the water (hah) with its shark cabinet. Released in 1975, this arcade either pays homage to or blatantly rips off JAWS, whatever makes you feel better and gets us sued less. As I’m sure you’ve already assessed, the point of the game is to not be eaten by a shark.

3 – Ninja Baseball Bat Man

nbbm001This is… the 90s.

Upon first hearing this arcade’s name, I assumed it was some weird Batman bootleg. That is not the case. At all. Published by Irem in 1993, this is a beat ‘em up where players must recover items stolen from the Baseball Hall of Fame. Also, you’re a ninja. This isn’t weird in the “oh wow, what the hell is up with that cabinet?” way, but more like a “…what did I just play?” way. The game’s name is translated to “Baseball Hand-to-Hand Fighting League Man” in Japanese, but it may as well be “Dumb American Stereotype Fun Time Now”.

2 – Computer Space

computerspace…and this was supposed to be the future.

Computer Space is famous for being the first commercially sold arcade, and for being a shiny console from Star Trek. The game was housed in a fibreglass cabinet that was either blue, red, white, yellow, or green and packed with glitter. The 70s were a crazy time. The game didn’t do so well, the reason being it’s too complicated. That didn’t stop it from making cameos in 1973’s Soylent Green and 1975’s Jaws.

1 – Hologram Time Traveler


Heeey-eeey-eyyy it’s laundry day!

This particular arcade has a special place in my heart. I had the pleasure of encountering it in 2003 or so at Reva’s Holograms in Frankenmuth, Mich. As far as I can tell it’s been gone since 2007, which is really too bad. Reva’s shop was all holograms, from those 90s eyeglasses to portraits to waterfalls. They also had what I thought was a washing machine in the front of their store, but it was really Hologram Time Traveler. I became enamoured with it—it was so strange! The game itself isn’t all that exciting. It’s American Western meets sci-fi, but not in the cool Firefly way. By using a concave mirror and a CRT TV, developers were able to create a holographic effect. For some reason, the arcade had little wooden shapes that sat in front of where the actors would appear. I guess for more 3D action. If you’re really itching to play, you can grab the 2001 DVD release of the game and a pair of old timey red and blue 3D glasses. Sounds not too exciting, but it does come with bonus features like interviews with game creator Rick Dyer and some behind-the-scenes footage. I don’t know where the arcade ended up after Reva’s closed, but I’d trade my GE energystar washer for it any day.

Have you ever encountered any of these, or any other strange arcade? Leave us a comment below!

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