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The Most Popular Game Arcades from Childhood — Where Did You Play?

From the late ’70s to the “Golden Era” of the ’80s, video game arcades were huge in America. They were a popular hang-out spot for kids looking to smash buttons, eat pizza, and laugh with friends. In those days, parents would drop their kids off at the arcade and leave them for hours while running errands or working.

These are some of the most popular arcades from the 1970s to the 1990s. While the golden era of the past may be over, some of these arcades are still in operation! What was your favorite gaming spot back in the day?

Tilt Arcades

Tilt Arcade
Reddit u/pet_semetary

Tilt is a chain of video arcades and one of the few arcades still in operation today. Its first location opened in the Six Flags Mall in Arlington, Texas in 1972. During Tilt’s heyday, the arcade chain had around 200 locations spanning from Hawaii to New York in the US, as well as to locations in Australia. An estimated 5 Tilt locations remain today.

Craig Singer founded the company as Tilt Family Entertainment Center. It is currently owned by Nickels and Dimes Incorporated (NDI), founded in Carrollton, Texas, and currently headquartered in Celina, Texas. NDI also operates Tilt Studio family entertainment complexes, which include additional arcade games, food services, and major attractions.

Aladdin’s Castle

Aladdin's Castle
Reddit u/spideylovescake

Aladdin’s Castle was one of the most massive arcade chains with 450 locations nationwide at its peak around 1983. It was founded in 1969 by brothers Merrill Millman and Jules Millman, who opened their first location at the Dixie Square Mall in Harvey, Illinois. At the time, the company was called American Amusements, Inc.

Pinball company Bally Manufacturing purchased the chain in 1974, renaming it Aladdin’s Castle. Bally began expansion, adding more than 50 mall-based locations per year. But as a decline in arcades began in the early 90s, Bally sold their stake to Namco. The last Aladdin’s Castle location closed in 2021.

Time-Out Arcade

Time Out Arcade

Time-Out Arcade was founded in 1970 by Tico Bonomo and was the only arcade chain to open inside malls on the East Coast. The first Timeout opened in Colonie, New York, and other locations were added quickly. Its unmistakable framed entrance and tunnel-like interior could be found in every mall on Long Island. Soon, the chain covered the entire country.

Time-Out Arcade’s iconic design has made it popular for nostalgia-seeking people across the Internet. Time-Out created compartmental booths for each game, which helped players, and the arcade itself, feel uncrowded. Sega purchased Time-Out in 1986. The chain declined by the end of the 80s.

Space Port Arcade

Space Port Arcade

Space Port Arcade looked as its name suggested, the interiors of the locations look like spaceships, making it unique among arcades. In keeping with the thematic atmosphere, employees of Space Port Arcade wore jumpsuits made to resemble those of NASA. Much of Space Port’s success was due to it fostering a fun, family-friendly atmosphere. 

Space Port Arcade had locations across the US. The chain was the biggest competitor to Aladdin’s Castle and Time-Out. Although most locations were within shopping malls, there were also some freestanding Space Port Arcades, such as in Bloomington, Indiana, and Champaign, Illinois.

Timezone Arcade

Timezone Arcade

Timezone is an international chain of arcade and family entertainment centers and is still in operation today. The first location opened in 1978 in Perth, Western Australia, by Leisure & Allied Industries (now LAI Games). This was also the same year Space Invaders was released. The first location outside of the continent was opened in 1995.

Currently, there are more than 200 locations of Timezone spread across Australia, India, New Zealand, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, and Vietnam. Originally founded by Malcolm Steinberg, LAI is now controlled by parent company The Entertainment and Education Group (TEEG). 

Station Break

Station Break Arcade

Station Break was in an arcade chain owned by the Mall Management Division of Edison Brothers Inc., who reportedly also had some ownership in Space Port. Not a lot of information is known about Station Break in terms of when it was founded, how many locations it operated, or how many years it was active.

What is known is that Station Break was featured in a Life magazine cover story from 1982, and that the locations were US-based. Some known locations operated in Illinois (1), New York (3), North Carolina (1), Ohio (2), and Washington, D.C.

Malibu Grand Prix

Malibu Grand Prix

Malibu Grand Prix is a miniature outdoor IndyCar racing track, while the interior of a typical complex also includes an arcade and concession stand. The first location opened in the parking lot of Anaheim Stadium in 1975. Some locations also include bumper cars, miniature golf, go-karting tracks, and water play areas. 

Malibu Grand Prix is among the few entertainment centers that are still in operation today. However, the company changed hands many times. It was acquired by Warner Communications in 1976 and then sold to Canadian developers in 1983, who also later sold their interests to Palace Entertainment. Currently, it is owned by Boomers! Parks.

Gold Mine

Gold Mine Arcade
Arcadepreservation Wiki

Gold Mine arcade chain mainly operated in regional shopping malls and wasn’t as large in operation as others. Gold Mine played on the thematic image of its name, with entrances surrounded by rock, having the appearance of a mine shaft. The interior also had a tunnel-like midway with overhead wooden beams. 

Gold Mine was founded in 1975, with the first location opening in Kingsport, Tennessee, in the Kingsport Town Center Mall (now Fort Henry Mall). In addition to Tennessee, Gold Mine expanded into Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Florida, and California, which had 10 arcades alone throughout different shopping malls.

Nickel City

Nickel City Arcade

Nickel City derives its name from its original operating intent where each game only cost a nickel to play. The founder created Nickel City with the intent of making the games more affordable to ensure kids could stretch their dollars far enough to have a good time.

Nickel City is still in operation today in Orem, Utah. It still offers a nickel arcade and hosts a pizzeria. However, inflation being what it is, there is a $2.50 admissions charge. It also offers laser tag at $4 for the first game and $3 for additional games. Nickel City also offers some great deals on hosting parties.

Dream Machine

Dream Machine Arcade

Dream Machine was a popular arcade chain in the Northeast US. Their logo featured red, yellow, and blue, and the interior walls were the same color. The decor was bright and colorful and featured mirrored ceilings. Kids love seeing themselves playing the games upside down. Some centers had cocktail tables that allowed for head-to-head competitions.

The first Dream Machine locations opened in 1973 in Massachusetts. They later expanded to other Eastern states, and New York had numerous Dream Machine locations. The chain began to dwindle as the popularity of arcades diminished. One of the last locations to close was in Old Orchard Beach in Maine, in 2005.