Highlights from the Galloping Ghost Arcade
Hey there, gamers. I’m back with another rip-roarin’ article, this time highlighting the many wonders of the Galloping Ghost Arcade.
Based in Brookfield, Illinois, the Galloping Ghost Arcade is the largest arcade in the world, with more than 900 machines and counting. Since 2008, the brand has steadily grown to consume a sizable chunk of Ogden Avenue, now also encompassing a pinball parlor, reproduction art house, and gym and martial arts studio. That’s not even counting the company’s in-house video game development arm.
I first visited the fated venue in February 2019 when I still lived in Kentucky. My follow-up visit last week — made on March 20th, 2023, to be exact — was a much less arduous trek seeing as how I now live in Wisconsin.
As I mentioned in my Round1 highlights earlier this week, this particular arcade-going endeavor of mine was spurred my girlfriend’s extended stay at my apartment over spring break. Because I hadn’t been to the Galloping Ghost Arcade in nearly half a decade — and she hadn’t seen much more than a Chuck-E-Cheese in her entire life — I decided to prolong her gaming journey with something truly novel.
The admission-based, all-you-can-play approach of the Galloping Ghost also took off some of the edge she felt while paying per credit at Round1. Whereas each flub could be detrimental during traditional paid play, there was no way she could run out of funds and tank a playthrough when we’d already covered our dues at the door.
With $50 dropped upfront, we set off into the overwhelming sea of CRTs. Grappling with the choice of what to play first, while initially daunting, was quickly settled when I saw The Grid once again. Since we arrived at the arcade so early, my girlfriend and I had no competition for the machines and quickly engrossed ourselves in a multiplayer death match. Sadly, I didn’t finish the single-player tower due to concerns with time.
We then partook in a couple bouts of Killer Instinct and its sequel, the home versions of which were deeply formative to my girlfriend in her younger years. The sound and visuals of the arcade versions, in my opinion, simply can’t be topped. These are one-on-one fighters I would very seriously consider purchasing as PCBs, for both my girlfriend’s benefit and my own.
CarnEvil came third — because of course it did. Something about the loopy light gun game has always resonated with me despite the fact that bloody horror usually sends me the other way. Heck, I’ll be the first to admit that the game is essentially coin-operated smut, but man-oh-man, was it a blast to blow chunks off baddies for half an hour. Those Midway guys sure had a wicked sense of humor to them back in the day.
Our next destination was Sega’s 1993 foray into the Star Wars franchise, immediately scratching my girlfriend’s space fantasy itch. Given her sharp-shooting inclinations, she fired the weaponry while I helmed the ship. I was pleasantly surprised by just how vibrantly Sega had managed to capture George Lucas’ vision in the early days of polygonal 3D. Plus, I couldn’t help but grin while besting teamwork-based objectives with my favorite person by my side.
Keeping with the theme, my girlfriend next played through the entirety of Star Wars Trilogy Arcade on her own, witnessing firsthand what five years of technological development can do for a licensed property. While she wasn’t as enamored by the control scheme and struggled with the lightsaber duels, she nonetheless reveled in spearheading a “best of” compilation of iconic moments from the series.
After a great deal of deliberation, we stumbled upon something neither of us had even considered playing before we saw it: Uchuu Daisakusen Chocovader Contactee. The rapid-fire mini-game compilation ended up being a perfect pick for a gaming pair such as ourselves — and a piece I wouldn’t mind purchasing as a kit if the rare opportunity ever arose. My girlfriend especially appreciated the odd art and mellow music. The only hang-up was, you know, not knowing Japanese.
Ninja Clowns was the next hard-to-find title I wanted to play, mostly because I was curious about the brief period in Incredible Technologies’ history when the company made literally anything but Golden Tee and its spin-offs. While it wasn’t a perfect game by any stretch, it did elicit laughter in both my girlfriend and myself at multiple intervals, and that’s about for which I can ask from something silly like this. It’s a shame I haven’t seen the PCB on eBay yet.
From there, we latched onto another intellectual property near and dear to my girlfriend’s heart in the form of Alien Vs. Predator. This was, hands downs, one of the best beat-em-ups — nay, one of the best cooperative games, period — I’ve ever had the pleasure of experiencing. I enjoyed it so much that I bought the PCB on eBay the next day and will have installed in a cabinet this summer. I can’t wait to someday put it on location for others to enjoy.
Just for kicks and giggles, we also gave Sonic Championship (a.k.a. Sonic the Fighters) a fair shake, and I must say it quite tickled my fancy as a huge fan of the series. Granted, Sonic’s world has changed pretty substantially since the ‘90s, but the heart was still there. I didn’t even attempt to complete the single-player mode because there were other, more sought-after titles I still wanted to check off the list.
Interestingly enough, the arcade’s selection of vector games soon caught my girlfriend’s eye, so we stopped by Lunar Lander to give it a spin. Even though we couldn’t quite figure out the physics of this bonafide classic, our time with it did at least inspire us to pursue Cosmotrons as an option among our future game purchases.
What we played after was most definitely meant for me — and just so happened to precede something my girlfriend and I had played at Round1 just a couple days prior. The House of the Dead 4 had been on my “hit list” for a very long time, meaning my moments spent basking in its presence were all too precious. It certainly didn’t hurt to finally assimilate the full narrative context for Scarlet Dawn either. I’d argue the fourth entry edges out its successor in just about every way — especially atmosphere — but I also don’t think there’s such thing as a subpar House of the Dead game whatsoever.
As much as I would’ve liked to keep going uninterrupted, by this point, it was time for us to witness what the Galloping Ghost proudly calls its “Monday Mystery Game” reveal. Every Monday for the past eight years, the venue has unveiled a new game for its swelling line-up, a trend which dutifully continued during our visit. Game No. 922 was Pac & Pal — coming alongside an exclusive showing of the teaser trailer for a new documentary based off Dark Presence. (This, for those not in the know, is an upcoming title from Galloping Ghost Productions that has been in active development for nearly three decades.)
Being the lizard-brain specimen I am, I could help but play another game during the preamble of the reveal, that being Power Stone by Capcom. This is one game I wish had proven more popular during its original release because it deserves a more lasting legacy than it ultimately got. I went absolutely bananas when beating up my girlfriend for a few minutes' time. Problem?
My girlfriend and I returned to the deep recesses of the game floor to play Sega’s original Jurassic Park release, which we both enjoyed considerably less than Raw Thrills recent stab at the property. It wasn’t even the graphics — because goodness knows Lucky & Wild worked the same angle to markedly better results — but rather the unfair difficulty curve that kept us from having boatloads of fun. It was a unique experience, though.
We wrapped up the night by playing The House of the Dead III and 2 back to back, the former of which I surprisingly preferred in most regards. Sure, it probably has the weakest soundtrack and most out-of-place art style, but holy cow, is the gameplay ever-so-satisfying. Not only that, but the plot is perhaps the most gripping of all five entries — or at least the most human. The House of the Dead III is the only reason Curien comes across as anything more than an over-the-top cartoon antagonist. Goldman and Thornheart definitely couldn’t top that.
Unfortunately, there were many games that slipped our grasp during our eight-hour visit, but hey — that only gives us more to do the next time we’re in Brookfield. Vitra Hexa; Silent Hill: The Arcade; Dirty Pigskin Football; Johnny Nero; Action Hero; Rampage World Tour; Zombie Raid; Total Carnage; I, Robot; Kangaroo; and many others continue to call our names.
I made sure to amass some merch before leaving — as any diehard fan would. Much to my delight, the CarnEvil 20th Anniverscary poster from all the way back in 2018 was still in healthy supply, so I snapped that up immediately, alongside a Galloping Ghost hat and shirt.
Still, the entire day was a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to do it again. I was especially honored to have my girlfriend by my side, who not only matched my skill step for step in every game we played but also encouraged to reinvigorate my side business. Considering that I’m currently working a full-time job in Wisconsin — and my aspirations lie pretty squarely in Kentucky — we’ll see where that goes from here.
Long story short, the Galloping Ghost Arcade is a dopamine rush like no other. As such, I highly recommend it to anyone who has the chance to visit. Thanks for reading — and see ya ‘round.