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Where to find classic arcade games in DFW

Caroline Toomey (age 10) on a vintage Galaga video game at Tornado Terry’s in Keller, a long-time video game arcade.
Caroline Toomey (age 10) on a vintage Galaga video game at Tornado Terry’s in Keller, a long-time video game arcade. Star-Telegram

A number of standalone venues in the Dallas/Fort Worth area try to replicate the look and feel of the entertainment centers of old.

If the National Videogame Museum makes you nostalgic for the blips, bloops and bleeps of the 1980s, check out these retro arcades:

Tornado Terry’s

4530 Keller Hicks Road, Keller, 817-431-6121; www.tornadoterrys.com

Admission: Free to enter the snack bar and Token Zone, where you pay to play ticket-redemption games; $13.50 to enter the Free Zone, which has more than 70 machines set on free play.

Tornado Terry’s owner Terry Bell has been munching dots, grabbing power-ups and shooting aliens since the late 1970s.

“When I first started gaming, Asteroids and Space Invaders were a big deal,” he said. “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I thought, ‘This is what I want to do with the rest of my life.’ 

Bell opened Tornado Terry’s in Richland Hills 35 years ago, when he was fresh out of high school. Shortly after, he moved to a bigger space in Keller, and then the current location, which has been in place for 25 years. More than a random assortment of arcade cabs and ticket-redemption attractions, the arcade has a carefully considered selection of games, including such time-tested favorites as Galaga, Ms. Pac-Man and Q*bert.

“I like to get a good game and keep it,” Bell said. “I don’t trade it in like other arcades. For me, a game has to suck you in right off the bat, hold your attention and keep you interested for years to come.”

Bell takes pride in the selection his arcade offers, especially the classics.

“We have games no one else has,” he said. “We have a custom Dragon’s Lair with a widescreen high-def monitor. We have games like Mortal Kombat and Killer Instinct that I bought when they first came out.”

An alcohol-free, family-friendly arcade, Tornado Terry’s has new titles as well, including such technical marvels as Jurassic Park, The Fast and the Furious and Super Bikes 2. There are also two air hockey machines and three billiard tables.

Free Play Arcade

1730 E. Belt Line Road, Richardson; freeplayrichardson.com

Admission: $10 gives you access to approximately 70 games set on free play.

Walking into Richardson’s newest entertainment attraction is like entering a time warp.

At the Free Play Arcade, joystick jockeys can relive the golden age of video arcades by playing such classics as Centipede, Donkey Kong, Pole Position, Zaxxon and Atari’s original Star Wars.

“Our target date for games is nothing newer than 1995,” said Free Play co-owner and president Corey Hyden. “Although we do make the occasional exception for super cool games, such as OutRun 2,” a slick racer produced by Sega in 2003.

Hyden grew up haunting the original Dave & Buster’s, which opened in Dallas in 1982.

“I probably spent 200-300 hours there every summer,” he said. “A few months back, I actually purchased a Discs of Tron that used to be in Dave & Buster’s. Can you imagine a time when D&B had a Discs of Tron? Insane!”

Hyden misses the “insane” arcades of yore, where you could hang out with friends, have some snacks and play a variety of simple, colorful, approachable games, so he decided to re-create that excitement for a new generation.

“A few years ago, I bought an arcade cabinet and had a blast with it,” he said. “Next thing I knew, I was taking it apart, buying more, fixing them and amassing a collection that quickly outgrew the house. As I introduced my friends to the games, it became obvious to me that there was still a huge market for these things.

“Once I had a couple hundred games, it was time to figure out a way to get them to the masses in a sustainable, awesome format.”

Free Play is geared toward an older crowd. As such, it has a nice variety of craft beers, plus a rotating selection of wine. If pushing all those buttons and jerking all those joysticks makes you hungry, you can order an appetizer and one of several pressed sandwiches at what Hyden calls his “adult snack bar.”

Versus Gameplay Arcade

Walnut Street Mall, 9750 Walnut St., Suite 194, Dallas, 469-643-4263; versusgameplay.com

Admission: $9.99 gives you access to more than 50 games set on free play; $29.99 for a one-month pass; additional $5 to enter tournaments.

Versus Gameplay Arcade offers retro gaming with a twist. As with other arcades of its type, you pay a cover fee to play a variety of machines again and again for free — no quarters necessary. However, the emphasis is on competitive gaming, a global phenomenon commonly known as “e-sports.”

“We are the only place in the Dallas-Fort Worth area that brings a retro arcade experience to those who also competitively game,” said co-owner Mike Mahnich. “VG Arcade merges the rise of community gaming with a new age of competition to bring casual fans and hardcore gamers together.”

As such, the VGA, which features a rotating lineup of classic arcade games and newer titles, hosts daily tournaments, with winners receiving such prizes as cash, video-game-related items or gift cards.

“Weekly leagues, live streaming and consoling gaming add to the fun,” Mahnich said. “The best competitive gamers in DFW come to VGA to play and coach others. But the retro games make it fun for everyone from kids to moms and dads. Snacks and drinks are available in a family-friendly, no-alcohol environment. It’s a great place for birthday parties!”

Currently, Versus Gameplay Arcade has the following vintage games: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, Tempest, Centipede, Millipede, Asteroids, Donkey Kong, Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Windjammers, Bust-a-Move, Samurai Shodown II and Aero Fighters 2.

Barcadia Bar & Grill

816 Matisse Drive, Fort Worth, 817-348-8606; barcadiabars.com/barcadiafortworth

Admission: Free; games 25 cents per play; on Tuesday, most of the games are set on free play.

Chaz Hawkins lives in Lewisville, but he makes the drive to Barcadia in Fort Worth as often as he can, especially on the weekends.

“I’ve been going to Barcadia for about a year now, as my friend is the DJ there on Saturday nights,” he said.

But it’s more than just friendship and music that keeps Hawkins coming back for more.

“The atmosphere is cool,” said the 25-year-old coin-op enthusiast, who has 20 arcade cabinets in his personal collection. “The old-school games from the ’80s really set it off. They’ve done a good job providing a ‘garage arcade’ feel while also keeping trendy with modern times.”

Of the 15 arcade cabs at Barcadia, including such favorites as BurgerTime, Donkey Kong Jr. and Tron, most are older than Hawkins, but this suits him just fine.

“I started playing video games ever since I can remember,” he said. “It started off as console gaming, but as soon as I was able to walk, my father began taking me to the arcade.”

In addition to a row of retro video games, Barcadia has billiards, air hockey, pinball and skee ball, plus a wide variety of draft, bottle and canned beers. The food menu is extensive, offering everything from falafel and Frito pie to burgers and brisket sliders. Adventurous eaters can indulge in the fried Oreos and fried peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

“The food is amazing,” Hawkins said. “Especially for bar food.”

Barcadia Bar & Grill

1917 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas, 214-821-7300; barcadiabars.com/barcadiadallas

Admission: Free; games 25 cents per play; on Tuesday, most of the games are set on free play.

Dallas resident and frequent Barcadia customer Michael Beltran began playing video games when he was 5 or 6 years old.

“We started with the Odyssey2 and then transitioned to Atari and Nintendo,” the Gen-Xer said. “The arcade I grew up in was Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle in the old Red Bird Mall. This was during the mid- to late 1980s.”

Beltran enjoys Barcadia because “it is like the adult version of the arcades, where I can still be a kid playing games but in an adult atmosphere. I’ve even had a couple of birthday celebrations there.”

Barcadia Dallas boasts approximately 20 coin-op classics, including Asteroids Deluxe, Phoenix, Dig Dug and Spy Hunter. There’s skee ball and a multicade as well.

When Beltran visits Barcadia, he likes to “warm up with some Frogger and Track & Field,” then “take a dive into the multicade with some Donkey Kong Jr., Pac-Man or 1942.”

While he enjoys a variety of games, Beltran’s must-play titles are Q*bert and Pac-Man.

“I usually aim to set high scores on them,” he said. “Although my friends sometimes don’t like it when I play Pac-Man because they know they will have a couple of rounds at the bar waiting for me to finish playing it.”

Like Barcadia Fort Worth, the Dallas location has an impressive food and drink menu. However, it shares a dubious distinction with the Fort Worth bar as well: The games are sometimes in less-than-ideal condition, with loose joysticks and unresponsive buttons.

“You’ve got to remember, Barcadia is a bar, and drinking guests can do an unbelievable amount of damage to the machines,” said Greg Higginbotham, who maintains and repairs the games at both locations. “Just recently, I had to re-weld the Paperboy control panel back on.”

Fortunately, Higginbotham is equal to the task. “Once a week, we play every game and repair any issues we find,” he said. “Sometimes the parts have to be ordered, which delays the repair. On any given day, the majority of the machines work pretty well.”

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