I recently attended a great gaming night at the Neon Knights arcade. What’s the Neon Knights arcade, I hear you ask? Well, let me explain. In a nutshell it’s a fantastic retro arcade in Leigh-on-Sea, near Southend-on-Sea in Essex, run by some awesome people. But there’s more to it than that…

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about The Retro Hunter’s shop, run by my good friend Ally, in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. Please do check out that article if you haven’t ready it already, and check out his shop if you manage to make it down here. Awesome guy with an awesome shop. 

Over the years I’ve been on trips with Ally, and our friends Rob and Barry, up to Arcade Club in Bury, and we’ve had us all round each other’s houses for regular arcade nights with the arcade machines that we have in our homes. 

Throughout this we always teased/pressurised Ally that he should open up an arcade of his own, and he always agreed that he would love to open up his own arcade one day! Ally then started getting a couple of machines in his shop. He had a Space Invaders and a Ms Pac-Man, and a couple of others later too. But then, enter Dave onto the scene! Dave had his own collection of cabs and he was expanding this collection at breathtaking pace. Dave really did fantastic work getting so many cabs, and really good cabs too. 

And then in 2019, they did it! Together they have opened up their own arcade literally right next door to The Retro Hunter shop. Perfect. And thus Neon Knights was born! Here’s a pic I stole from their Twitterstream, which just so happens to have their mate’s DeLorean in shot!

Currently they have over twenty cabinets in the arcade. Here is a brain dump of the ones that I can remember…

  • Track and Field x 2 (soon to get Hyper Sports too I believe)
  • Out Run
  • Daytona
  • Pac-Man
  • Ms. Pac-Man
  • Donkey Kong
  • Donkey Kong Jr
  • Zaxxon
  • Galaga
  • Sunset Riders
  • Ghosts N’ Goblins
  • WWF Wrestlefest
  • Metal Slug
  • Street Fighter II
  • Mr. Do
  • Bubble Bobble
  • Crazy Taxi
  • Smash TV
  • Point Blank
  • Mr Driller
  • Virtua Tennis 2
  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

The majority are dedicated cabs but some are generic machines that they can swap other PCB game boards in and out of. Check out some photos of the cabs.

Not only this but they have high score leagues AND retro sweets and snacks! Check out the great selection in this photos, including Wham Bars, Wagon Wheels, Chewits, Opal Fruits (ok, Starburst), Space Raiders, Monster Munch and more! I mean what more could you want whilst playing games from the 80s and 90s. Beer, you say? Well, good news. They’re now fully licensed too!

If you head down to Neon Knights you will be greeted extremely warmly by Dave or Ally, or the awesome Rob who works behind the bar some days. Tell them Mikey from Retromash sent you! They are all obviously massively into retro gaming, and love chatting to customers about their favourite games or giving out tips for how to get higher scores on games like Out Run etc. It’s open from Thursday to Sunday and at the time of writing this post you pay a maximum of £10 for adults, and £5 for children for unlimited play. It’s also available for private parties, which sounds pretty cool. All details are on their website.

They’re really starting to generate a great community vibe, attracting gamers and their families from the local area and further afield. To top things off they also recently held a very cool gaming tournament that I attended. The format was that in the first round about 25 of us had to play 5 games and get the highest scores we could, or in some cases the quickest times.

Pac-Man – We had to try to get the quickest time to complete one full maze. Didn’t matter how many lives you had to use. I somehow managed to get the equal top score on this one.

Daytona – This was based on your position in the race after doing the Beginner’s circuit on Automatic. Didn’t matter if the finish happened at the end of the race or by you missing checkpoints. I was doing reasonably well in this one and was in position 13 or something on the final bend. The highest scores were between 11 and 15 at that point. But I bloody well pressed the gas instead of the brake on that bend and went straight into the wall! Finished about 29th or something in the end. Poor show.

Donkey Kong – We just had to get the highest number points on one live. For many people, including myself, DK is a beast of a game. Very difficult. There were multiple tactics you could try here to accumulate a top score. You could race your way up to the top and try to get the big time bonus. But that required confidence in your ability to traverse the first level of Donkey Kong without losing any lives. The other tactics were to get the hammers and bash as many barrels as you could, or you could literally just stand still and jump barrels for as long as you could. I went for the later option, jumping barrels, and I think I managed to finish 2nd or 3rd by doing that, so I was really pleased with that.

League Bowling – I’d only played this once before but I did ok. Think I got about 190 or something? Not sure. Was reasonably high up the scoreboard I think.

Mr Driller – I’d never played this one before apart from the night before the competition. I had done ok the night before at home getting over 200 levels deep, but in the competition I made a stupid mistake and only got about 40 or something rubbish like that.

After everyone had played these games the scores were all tallied up and the highest 16 players went into the knockout stage. I think I came second overall which I was very, very surprised by. But the slight confidence that I took from that was soon to be wiped out. The first game in the knockout stage was Point Blank. I’d actually not really ever played this game much before. I did ok but the guy I was up against was much better and so my night ended here. The people who stayed in the competition went on to play a few other games including Street Fighter, Virtua Tennis, I think, and Track and Field if my memory serves me correctly. The eventual winner of the whole evening walked with his choice of an N64 or £50 to spend in Ally’s Retro Hunter shop. The whole night was just a perfect example of what Neon Knights is about. Fun, games, and a positive, supportive environment. Can’t wait for the next one.

The guys have done so well in opening and running a successful arcade for us to enjoy. I honestly believe that one day they are going to expand to own all the other six shops in their little row of shops. Maybe a retro cinema, VHS store, retro sweet shop, retro toy museum. Anything else you can think of?!

Well done Dave and Ally and I hope Neon Knights goes from strength to strength. Please do check it out if you’re ever in the area. Unfortunately at the time of writing they are temporarily shut due to the Coronavirus, but Dave just posted a video on Facebook explaining that they are going to do some ‘Isolation Tournaments’ where people can submit high scores from home. Dave also offered some great support for the community to just be able to chat with them about retrogaming or anything if people are feeling lonely during the self-isolation lockdown. A great example of the local retrogaming community spirit. I also look forward to the tips videos that Dave said he might film in the coming weeks. I could certainly do with the help!

Here are all their social and web details. Check ’em out!

Website – https://neonknights.co.uk/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/NeonKnightsCafe/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/NeonKnightsCafe
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/neon_knights_arcade/