The UK Arcade Scene

By Mean Machines Staff - 13 Aug, 2014

Classic arcade games

Classic arcade games

Do you remember the good old days of arcade gaming in the 80s and the 90s? Most towns would have several arcade joints, sometimes in dedicated buildings, sometimes in the halls of taxi ranks or fast food outlets. As kids it was your mission to find them all.

A great arcade would have an hydraulic Out Run or Space Harrier machine, if you found one of them you knew that you were in for a good time. Sometimes you’d spot a rare machine like Sega’s Dynamite Dux and have a bash with a mate rolling up the punches.

Arcades at the time were mostly 10p to play, but the really good ones like Street Fighter 2 would be 20p. If you were good at it you could play for ages, battling through the likes of Ken, Guile and Chun Li. Before taking on the mighty Balrog, Vega, Sagat and M Bison. One arcade we used to go to had an original Street Fighter 1 machine, rather than having 6 buttons for the punches and kicks – it just had two giant punch pads which could sense pressure. Anyway you could pretty much defeat any opponent by just landing 3 fireballs. It wasn’t the greatest.

Another rare treat was New Zealand Story. Remember guiding that loveable kiwi around all those spikes? Stealing a hot air balloon from a walrus and getting swallowed by a whale? They were the good old times, lots of creativity in platforms games at the time. Taito could do no wrong. Bubble Bobble was ace too.

Midnight Resistance was an interesting arcade game. Not many people got to play it but you had these weird octadirectional joysticks which you could twist around to choose the angle which you wanted to shoot in. It was a pretty cool game. By the time the Super Nintendo came out arcades were getting a bit stale, you could just stay home and play Contra IV and get a better experience. You just needed to hold down the R button to lock your direction in that game, perhaps the arcade controller for Midnight Resistance was a bit overkill?

Splatterhouse was a great arcade. Playing a lookalike of Jason Voorhese you would roam around spooky environments such as a sewer or the woods and punch the living daylights out of ghouls. Sometimes you’d pick up a pole and splat them against the screen with a satisfying thud. The sound effects in this game were so cool. Annoyingly it never did get ported to the Mega Drive or SNES. Yeah the PC Engine got a version of the game, but who had one of those in the UK?

Perhaps you remember playing Strider on the arcades? Remember the thrill of making Hiyru run down the hill with all those exploding mines? The mighty centipede or sliding under a door Indiana Jones style to take on a giant steel gorilla? The Mega Drive had a great conversion of this game. Aside from some pretty bad flickering in places, it felt arcade perfect at the time.

They were great times, but over the years all of these arcade joints began to close one by one. The ones that did stay open ended up having mostly fruit machines to sustain their income. Even fruit machines have gone out of fashion these days. Why bother when you can just stay at home and play on a UK gambling site? Yes things have truly changed.

If you are feeling nostalgic you can still relive the good old days of the arcades however. There’s a joint in London called The Heart of Gaming were you pay £5 to get in and can play classic games such as King Of Fighters 98, Street Fighter Alpha 2 and 3, Super Street Fighter 2 Turbo and Street Fighter 3: 3rd Strike to your hearts content. Somehow people always find a way to keep the hobby alive. Even if the UK arcade scene is pretty much dead these days.

Peter - 20 Aug 2014, 23:59 GMT

I totally agree! I loved the arcade as a kid, and think a vital part of gaming has been lost with the demise of the arcades. I remember the sheer joy and excitement (the kind of which as an adult I have never felt) at seeing your favourite arcade game coming out on your console. I mean sure, Final Fight had no two player, and one of the characters was missing, but I could play it in my room! Bliss!

As a child I used to go to Blackpool in the summer holidays, and maybe one of the other holidays, a fair bit as a child. I never bothered with the rides, they seemed pointless to me! I always went for the arcades. It seemed like a never ending sea of awesomeness. Going from one arcade to the next and never finding the same machines in each one.

Imagine my disappointment when I went back there a few months ago, at the grand old age of 35, expecting to still find this oasis of nostalgia with Street Fighter 2, Simpsons, Outrun, After Burner, Alien Storm, Final Fight, Golden Axe,Mortal Kombat, Star Wars, Ghosts and Goblins, Robocop, 1942, Burger Time, Galaga, etc etc. Only to find the only games were some racing game and Terminator Salvation. Those two games in EVERY arcade, along with a sea of fruit machines and ticket machines.
A little part of me died, to see what was once a absolute Mecca to my childhood arcade experience, now is just awash with people who can't figure out how to gamble online, so they still need to go to an arcade.

It forced me to go on the rides! Just to distract from how gutted I was I couldn't play Street Fighter 2 on an arcade machine! But, then I guess times change, and I can play those games I love at home, even on a hand held device (11 year old me would have died of a heart attack from excitement if I'd seen Final Fight on a hand held device). But you don't get the smell, the sounds, the excitement, or moving from one machine with amazing art work on to the next.

I guess times change, and kids change. Which makes me think of a relevant quote: "Why, there are no children here at the 4H club, either! Am I so out of touch? No, it's the children who are wrong." - Principal Seymour Skinner

And I think we, as guys in our 30s, can agree, that it is indeed the children who are wrong!

M Arnold - 11 Sep 2014, 08:19 GMT

I agree with the above. I went to the sea front at sunny Southend to check out the arcades, they are awash with fruit machines, however I found one called Happidrome(Spelling intended) I think which had track and field, Ms Pacman, Simpson's and a working Daytona to name a few. No sign of Street Fighter or Out Run, the search continues...

Martin Arnold - 23 Dec 2014, 09:02 GMT

Update to previous comment, I found Astro City in Southend, they have retro arcades which include Street Fighter II and Donkey Kong I think.

Shane - 07 Jan 2015, 18:09 GMT

I grew up in Southend. My uncle used to fix the machines at the arcades and would take me in there as a toddler (34 now). I havent been back home for about 4 years but last time I was there the seafront was not the same.
Back in the 90s you could even go into the cafes and restaurants and find a Street fight 2 machine or Bubble bobble machine. I miss those days.
I lived around the corner from the arcades as a kid and would sneak down to the arcades at 10 years old to play Pac Man and Ghost and Goblins.
I remember going to my mates mums place of work at a cafe called cottage cafe and the old ladies giving us 10p's to play bubble bobble as well.
At college in the 90s we would bunk of down to the Happidrome to play Daytona.
Do they still have the two machines Martin? We would go in a group and race each other.They also used to have a 4 player simpsons and teenage mutant ninja turtle machine as well.
Where is Astro City Martin?

Love this site. I used to read Machine machines as a kid and stumbled across it by accident in a round about way after reading about the attacks in Paris today (Saw an Asterix cartoon remembered a mega drive game, ended up here).
Had forgotten all about the magazine.
Mean Machines should be relaunched as an online web pulication! Im a web designer and would be interested in doing that! :)

I remembed playing a splatter house game on my mega drive. Back when we also used to have video rental guys who would knock door to door, did you guys have them? I just remember my nan coming to stay and being upset as she didnt see me the entire time as I had rented that game and wouldn't get off it.

Martin Arnold - 15 Apr 2015, 12:49 GMT

Astro City is off the High Street at the top end nearly opposite Victoria Shoes. They have Daytona there with the 2 seats for competitive play. They also have a few versions of Street Fighter, Gauntlet and Gauntlet Legends. They have a good selection of cabinets and pool etc.
Happidrome did have the 2 seat version of Daytona but I think it's being refurbished.

Martin - 02 Jun 2015, 15:36 GMT

Happidrome Southend refurbished. Has Daytona and they now have Super Mario Bros. Ice cream available too. Nice.

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