Monday, May 20, 2013

Retro Gaming in the Boston Area

Two of my favorite activities are slowly dying out: Going to arcades and collecting old video games from local yard sales/used stores. Arcades still exist but are absolutely tiny in number compared to what was around only ten years ago, and as time goes by, it's becoming harder and harder for me to find old games at local sales. Gamestop has recently stopped carrying any console games older than the Xbox 360, Funcoland (my store of choice for NES/SNES games during the early 2000's) folded into the Gamestop umbrella long ago, and even reliable places like the Salvation Army and Goodwill almost never have video games in my area these days.

Of course, it's easy to find any old game on Ebay or Amazon if you're willing to pay the price. Same goes for arcade games too, though those prices are quite out of my range. Ordering a game off of Ebay really isn't quite the same as browsing a selection in person, though. I want to take a moment to spotlight some of the businesses that are keeping these nerd dreams alive.

I'm focusing only on my favorite arcades/shops reasonably close to the Boston area. If anyone would like to contribute a guest article for their own area, contact me!

Funspot - Laconia, NH

Certified by Guinness as the Largest Arcade in the World, Funspot's one of my all-time favorite places. Most games are still a quarter, and they've got hundreds of them, as well as plenty of pinball machines, a full-size bowling alley, both a pub and a snack area, a whole area of ticket games, a minigolf course, one of the most fair claw machines I've ever played, and more. There's a ton to do here, even if you just limit yourself to the video games. Their focus is on games of the 80's and earlier and there's a constant, wonderful stream of 80's pop music playing in the main game room. Along the way, there are signs talking about the history of some of these games, whether it be a specific unit or the game in general, and there's a display case with some hilariously ugly Pac-Man merchandise in it.
Pac-Man merchandise and more, 2009

The 2007 documentary King of Kong was shot here, bringing some additional national attention to this fantastic place. One of the more notable machines here is Computer Space, a 1971 title recognized as the first arcade game ever sold. They've also got a working Crazy Kong. There's a ton of history here, well worth checking out for any fan of old games.

Photo from Funspot's official page

Pinball Wizard - Pelham, NH

A relatively new arcade, Pinball Wizard is growing fast and currently has 172 video games,113 pinball machines, and 33 ticket games. They also have a couple of nice pool tables. This place isn't as massive as Funspot, but it's still one of the best places to find classic games in the area, and it's clean and features well-maintained machines. While the majority of games here are old school, there are plenty of more modern titles available too ("modern" being mid 90's and newer), and several fighting games, something Funspot distinctly lacks. There are a couple versions of King of Fighters, several Street Fighters, the complete Mortal Kombat set, BlazBlue Continuum Shift, and Capcom vs. SNK 2, one of my all time favorites. I haven't had a chance to check the game out yet, but Pinball Wizard also has Namco's new multiplayer Pac-Man, Pac-Man Battle Royale, and I'm pretty pumped to try it out. The walls are kind of sparse, so it doesn't have the same level of warmness as Funspot, but Pinball Wizard is still fantastic.

Photo from Pinball Wizard's official page
Core Gaming - Salem, NH

Core Gaming opened up in October of 2011 and is one of the more impressive retro gaming stores I've been to. They've got plenty of games and hardware, including some titles that are harder to find, at reasonable prices. Great customer service; if anything's wrong with a purchase, these guys are very helpful in replacing your item with a working one. This store has a lot of fun gaming themed decorations around and carries modern titles as well as retro games. I love that they have a wall of game console boxes, some of which most customers have likely never seen before. Prices on newer games tend to be at or below Gamestop prices, which is always a plus.

Photo from Core Gaming's Facebook page

High Energy Vintage - Somerville, MA

Opened as a physical location in November 2012, High Energy Vintage (formerly Disco Vision Vintage) offers a variety of retro goods, from clothing to records to video games. It's a small building, but packed with quality merchandise. This place actually seems to have the best prices on classic games of any retro store I've visited, generally selling at or below what you'd pay used on Amazon or Ebay after shipping. They don't carry modern games, but that's totally fine; with a location of this size, it makes the most sense to specialize, and they do it well. As a small business, their hours are understandably limited, but if you can get to Somerville when the store's open it's absolutely worth checking out. As with Core Gaming, the staff is friendly and helpful.

Photo from High Energy Vintage's Facebook page

That's the best of the best for now. If anyone has any other recommendations, be sure to let me know, and again, if you'd like to submit a guest post about stores in your region, let's talk.

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