It Was More Fun When Stores Had Arcade Games

I don’t mean arcades, I’m talking about retail stores like grocery stores, drug stores, 7-11 and other mini-marts. Yea, back in the ’80s they basically all hosted a couple of arcade cabinets. As a kid being dragged around from store to store by my mother way back when, it was great to be able to count on a little video game fun for a quarter at every stop. It was quite a different scene than today.

I had my first encounter with many of history’s most notable games in stores rather than arcades. To try and share a glimpse of how things were when I was a kid, I thought I would share a list of stores and the games that I got to know in each. I grew up in southeastern Virginia (the Hampton Roads area), so readers will surely not have heard of several of the places in the list. Here we go.

Wornom’s Drugs in Grafton Shopping Center (Grafton, VA)

  • PAC-MAN
  • Satan’s Hollow

Rite Aid drugs (I think…) in Newport Square Plaza (Newport News, VA)

  • Gyruss

Safeway grocery store in Newport Square Plaza (Newport News, VA)

  • Moon Patrol
  • Donkey Kong Jr.
  • Centipede

Giant grocery store (I think…) in Heritage Square (York County, VA)

  • Robotron: 2048
  • Defender

BJ’s Ice Cream in York Square (York County, VA)

  • Pole Position

Pizza Hut in Heritage Square (York County, VA)

  • Ms. PAC-MAN (cocktail table)

Plaza Roller Rink (Hampton, VA)

  • Tempest

Every time I play any of these games or see them referenced in the retro media, I think of these locales where I played them first. Every time. As for the rest, it was pretty much standard mall arcades.

Got any similar stories? I’d love to hear them in the comments.

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9 Responses to It Was More Fun When Stores Had Arcade Games

  1. Matt Breaks says:

    I grew up in Gloucester Point, and the Little Sue had Ikari Warriors for a short time. They had a rotation, but this was the one I loved the most!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiQmBwwx7_Y

  2. Blake Patterson says:

    I remember Little Sue. Mine was on 17, just shy of Denbigh Blvd.

  3. The 7-11 near Denbigh High School had some great games, too.

  4. Sheri says:

    Grafton laundromat

  5. Juan Castro says:

    Waitasec, Demon Attack as an arcade game? Was it an Atari 2600 inside an arcade cabinet?

    Oh, and I know exactly how you feel about games bringing back places. The landscape in Brazil was somewhat different, as street arcades were as ubiquitous, if not more, than mall arcades (of which there were many, also). In the state of Rio de Janeiro, Jungle King meant Tijuca, Pengo and Rally-X and Moon Patrol meant Botafogo, Missile Command meant Saenz Peña, Zaxxon and Qix meant downtown, Pac-Man and Phoenix meant Barra, Polaris and Donkey Kong meant downtown Petrópolis, Bomb Jack and Bubble Bobble meant another place in downtown Petrópolis etc…

  6. Blake Patterson says:

    Juan,

    Sounds like a nice scene, down there!

    I just corrected the post. The game I meant is Satan’s Hollow… Thanks for catching that.

    • Juan Castro says:

      Oh, it most certainly was. Now all we have is D&B-like places in malls. :(

      Interestingly, the one city in which I saw an abundance of stores-with-a-couple-of-cabinets like you remember was Cabo Frio, circa 1988. The most common machine in bars and snack joints was, oddly enough, Pinball Action.

      About ten years later I would come across MAME and much happiness was had.

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