This is the third in the series of Arcade Road Trip 2018 blog entries about a day-long trip I took to three modern video arcades in the midwest on August 2, 2018.
Located in Menomonee (that’s pronounced men-AH-muh-nee) Falls, Wisconsin, which is a suburb of Milwaukee, The Garcade is a relatively new joint opened in July of 2017 by local arcade collector Gar Nelson (hence the name). And it’s everything you could want in a classic arcade.
As a member of a couple different Midwest arcade collector groups on Facebook, I saw the development of The Garcade as it was happening. I’d never had contact with Mr. Nelson myself, but I was very interested in the fact that someone was opening a new arcade in my own state, less than an hour and a half away from me. I also saw them promoting The Garcade at Midwest Gaming Classic in 2017, so I was very aware of its impending arrival. However, despite the fact that I live so close, I just hadn’t gotten a chance to head down and check it out yet. Even one of my coworkers, who is not a gamer but has family in Menomonee Falls, had stopped by The Garcade and asked me if I knew about it.
Well, since Menomonee Falls is on my way back home from Chicago, I added it onto the arcade road trip that I took in August of 2018. After a full day of driving and two very intense arcade experiences that day at both Galloping Ghost and Level 257 in the Chicago area, I wasn’t sure I would be up to visiting a third game room. But as I made it to the Milwaukee area at dusk, a full 12 hours after I had left home that morning, I thought if not now, when? I knew I had it in me to give one more arcade a whirl, so I took the exit off the highway and headed into the Falls.
I arrived at The Garcade just before 9pm. They close at 11pm on weeknights, so I still had some time. The Garcade is located in a strip mall on the main drag through town, just a mile off the highway, so it’s easy to find.
Even from the outside, you can tell this is going to be the real deal.
When you enter, there’s a main counter to your left. Here you pay a $15 entry fee, and all games are on free play.
The ambiance is pure, classic video arcade: it’s dark, lit only by some colored lights around the ceiling, a few neon signs, and the pure awesomeness radiating out of the games themselves. It’s also loud: the games are turned up and there’s classic ’80s rock blaring out of the overhead stereo. In short, if you’re a gamer my age, it feels like home.
The main arcade floor is laid out nicely and is spacious, with plenty of games, yet room to grow. Even with the excitement of the atmosphere, it’s a little more relaxed experience than the somewhat claustrophobic conditions at Galloping Ghost. To the right of the entrance are a couple of party spaces, and in the back corner are games being worked on and parts storage.
The Garcade’s game selection is outstanding: all the main classics you need, a few rarities and oddities, a well-stocked wall of pinball, and some good ol’ air hockey to round it out.
After my initial walkaround, the first thing I had to try was this Donkey Kong Remix machine.
An interesting unofficial mod that I hadn’t seen before, DK Remix twists up the level designs and tests how much you really know about how Donkey Kong works. I don’t know who created this version, but they’re kinda evil and I like it.
I had just recently been thinking about how I miss my Neo-Geo MVS — I sold my cabinet, but I still have my MVS 1-slot board and several games for it, but I have no way to play them right now. One of my games that I’ve really missed playing is Blazing Star, so when I saw it on one of the Neo-Geos here, I had to take a crack at it for the first time in years. How is it that this game could be even more fun than I even remember?? Adding to the intensity was Van Halen’s “Eruption” blaring out of the stereo while I was blowing up the first boss — that was a perfect moment to kind of step back and realize how much love I have for this hobby. If an arcade can make you feel that, it’s doing its job right.
Another interesting machine here was Time Pilot ’84 — I knew it existed but I’d never gotten to play one before. It’s a pretty fun sequel to Time Pilot, with really great visuals for its time.
I played plenty of other classics and put my initials on a few machines. Then, moving over to the pinball area, I had to try two vintage Williams machines, Gulfstream and Space Mission.
Both were in great working condition and fun to play. As impressive as modern pinball machines are, I do love the old electromechanical tables as well. I especially like playing them in a setting like this, where their antiquated charm contrasts with the surroundings.
But then I time-leaped from the ’70s right into one of the very latest (as of my visit) machines on the pinball scene, Iron Maiden: Legacy of the Beast!
As a Maiden fan, I’d really been wanting to try this table out, and since I missed its premiere at Midwest Gaming Classic this year (I was unable to attend due to that freak April blizzard), this was the first time I’d seen it in person. And damn, this thing is impressive. The action is fast and I did fairly well at it, considering I generally suck at pinball. And it’s metal as all hell.
By this time, my energy was dwindling, time was running out, and I was about ready to finally head home. I had one more game in me, and I took a crack at their Black Widow machine, which is in stunning condition.
So what did I take away from The Garcade? If you’re my age (40s or older), and you want to show your kids what it was really like in the Golden Age of arcades, bring them to the Garcade. Are you someone who looks at photos of arcades from the ’80s and wishes they still made ’em like that? Well, someone did. I mean, I guess there are a couple things missing — the shady characters, the girls with mall bangs, the acid-washed jeans — but we can probably do without those. I can’t wait to see how the Garcade grows in the future.
The Garcade is located at N85 w15920 Appleton Avenue, Menomonee Falls, WI 53051.
Hours are Tues-Thurs, 12-11pm; Fri-Sat, 11am-12am; Sun 11am-8pm; closed Mondays.
Find The Garcade on Facebook