I recently had the pleasure of visiting Arcade Club, a place I had been wanting to visit for a couple of years. It’s sadly too far away for me to visit regularly, being located up north in Bury, just outside Manchester, but we had a special reason to visit it on this particular date. More on that later.

I had heard from many of my retrogaming friends just how amazing Arcade Club was. I wasn’t let down. This place is incredible. It all started originally as Andy Palmer’s collection of arcade machines. As the collection grew he started housing them in a building that he could open up to the public. And now, a couple of years ago, he has moved into new premises and is expanding all the time.

Let’s cut to the chase. This place has over 250 arcade machines. Just take that in for a second. It’s the biggest arcade in Europe. I don’t know even know how many arcades in the UK had that many machines back in the 80s! Funspot and Galloping Ghosts in the US are definitely much bigger but this is still pretty massive for the UK. I obviously won’t list all the machines here but what I will do is list all the ones I can think of off the top of my head without taking a breath…

Out Run, Star Wars, Missile Command, Pole Position, Track & Field, Hyper Sports, Battlezone, Operation Wolf, Operation Thunderbolt, Joust, Centipede, Point Blank, Defender, Space Invaders, Pac Man, Donkey Kong, 720, NBA Jam, After Burner, Gauntlet, Galaga, Paperboy, WWF Wrestlefest, Arakanoid, Golden Axe, Frogger, R-Type… I could go on and on.

And that’s just on Floor 1. That’s the original floor that has all the classic games, but they have recently opened up a Floor 2 which has pinball machines, modern PC gaming LANs, Virtual Reality and some very cool and obscure modern-ish Japanese arcade machines. So they’re certainly trying to cater for all gamers. You pay £15 for an adult to get access to both floors and both floors have a licensed bar selling hot food. It is extremely well run by Andy and his fantastic team. They totally get what gamers want, they continually add great games to the collection and they obviously know how to take care of these old machines well. I really can’t say enough good things about it.

The reason we went up on this particular date was because it was a special night. It was the annual meetup of the UK VAC forum and also the UK reveal of the Sky Skipper project (which I will be writing a post about too very soon). And furthermore it was also the Saturday night of the Manchester Play Expo which was only a few miles away. So basically it was a very busy night, but a great night to experience Arcade Club in the presence of so many gamers, including several world champions and personalities of the retrogaming online community.

I had the pleasure of travelling up with @theretrohunter, @bazpatts and @mrretrorob. The whole trip was great fun and we were like a bunch of giddy school kids the whole way up. In terms of the machines, I was most excited about seeing the sit down Out Run and sit down Star Wars cabinets. These machines just epitomise 80s arcade gaming to me, and the sit down versions are just so special. The Star Wars cockpit makes you really feel like you’re flying an X-Wing, and it lets you hear the speech sound effects much clearer. And the sit down Out Run not only has speakers right behind your head to hear the incredible music but the whole unit actually moves as you move the steering wheel.

As I now have my own home made MAME arcade machine I have the luxury of being able to play lots of the standard arcade games any time I want, but there are a lot of machines and experiences that I can’t replicate at home. Obviously the aforementioned sit down cabinets are one big example of that, but also other ones that use trackballs or different controls like yokes, guns, steering wheels and even handlebars (looking at you, Paperboy). But it’s not just about playing individual cabs like that. There’s just something special about being in a room with dozens and dozens of arcade machines all blasting away their digital sounds. It’s a very special experience for anyone who feels any sort of love or nostalgia for retrogaming. Everyone in the place was having an absolute blast, whether they were a 40-something retro fanatic like myself or a young child discovering these games for the first time.

If you’re ever in the Bury area I urge you to go and check out Andy’s little piece of heaven. Go to Arcade Club. You will not regret it. To find out more visit https://www.arcadeclub.co.uk/

I didn’t manage to do a proper walkthrough video myself so I’m going to insert a video already published by Mr OLI.

And here’s a recent interview with the owner Andy.

Keep up the awesome work, Andy! You’re doing something truly special. Can’t wait to come back.