This past Tuesday, my friend Sean and I went down to Red Bank, NJ to visit Yestercades on Broad Street. Sean had been there before and raved about just how awesome it truly was. We planned on going last year, but plans fell through and we never got around to it. To hold me over, I stayed local and stopped by Barcade in Jersey City. That place is great, especially because its geared toward adults who like to drink while playing classic arcade games, but Yestercades promised so much more for people of all ages. Between the reviews I received from my buddy and the positivity online, I knew this was going to be a much cooler experience than I first thought. We were on our way.
There are two locations in New Jersey - Red Bank and Somerville - and each offer a different variety of games, but the purpose remains the same. Yestercades is designed to bridge the gap between yesterday and today. Not only can you play the vintage arcade games that we all grew up with, but you can also sit back on a leather couch and pop in the latest Xbox game to play with friends. That's right, along with the famous cabinet arcade games, retro and modern consoles are available to you on large-screen TV's. And the best part? You can leave the quarters at home. For merely $8.75 and hour or $25 for the day, unlimited access to every game is literally at your fingertips.
Everywhere you looked, there were vintage arcade cabinets. You were surrounded by them. If the retro sounds weren't enough to bring you back to a simpler time, that familiar arcade smell we all know and love will surely do the trick. I don't know if it's old plastic, dusty screens, or sweaty palms, but arcades have always had that same aroma and I wouldn't have it any other way. It's a whiff of nostalgia that can only be inhaled at places like Yestercade. For a nostalgic nut like me, that's something I wish I could bottle up and bring home with me. It's a reminder of my childhood and when I think of the Jersey Shore, three scents are synonymous: the food, the ocean, and the arcades. Hey, Yankee Candle, figure that one out!
There was no doubt about which game we were going to play first. In my opinion, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles is THE greatest arcade game of all time. I've said it before when I visited Barcade and I'll say it again - TMNT stands high and above the rest in the world of retro arcade games. Yes, there are many that have come close and have revolutionized the genre in their own right, but nothing quite like TMNT. Off the top of my head, I can think of a few. The Simpsons Arcade Game is surely a fan favorite. Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat changed the way we viewed fighting games. And, of course, games like Space Invaders, Donkey Kong, and Pac-Man (all of which were at Yestercades) paved the way for the games of my generation. But, at the end of the day, there's nothing I'd choose over TMNT besides, maybe, Turtles in Time. I know.. The last few posts have me painted as a biased Turtle fan, but I swear I'm being objective.
Another of of my all-time favorite arcade games is WWF WrestleFest. Wow, if I had every quarter that I ever put into WrestleFest machines as a child, I'd have well over $200. I spent countless hours playing this classic and, to this day, it never gets old. The gameplay wasn't all that special, but the characters and the way they were designed always drew me in. My favorite Superstars of that era were cartoony and colorfully vibrant. In a lot of ways, that represented the time and maybe that's why I've always loved WrestleFest so much. Unfortunately, this cabinet was 2-players only and we were unable to team up in an attempt to battle the Legion of Doom, but we did have a blast in the Royal Rumble. In the end, the Ultimate Warrior took out Sgt. Slaughter to be victorious. Sorry, Sean..
Like any great arcade, Yestercades had a wide variety of pinball machines. Growing up, my Dad owned an arcade in Bayonne, NJ and we housed The Addams Family Pinball Machine for well over a year. I usually played the beat 'em ups, but I could always count on Gomez and Uncle Fester to save me from boredom when my favorites were overrun by the older teenagers. My Dad and I always had so much fun playing The Addams Family Pinball Machine and he was really good at it. I don't know how much of it was skill as opposed to luck, but it created many memorable moments. Yestercades actually had The Addams Family and I was looking forward to giving it another shot after all these years, but it was broken and being repaired while we were there. But just seeing it from afar was cool enough for now. When I head back, it's certainly on the list of things to do. Until then, there were plenty of machines to choose from and all of them were a lot of fun.
Here's what separates Yestercades from every other arcade I've ever been to. Although the vintage arcade games may be great for people like me who grew up with them, the kids of today are used to everything on-demand. Technology has taken things in a different direction and going to the arcade to play a video game is, sadly, a thing of the past. It takes more time and money to get there than it does to simply sit back and download an emulator or game via console stores. It's something we dreamed of as kids, but the new era of gaming is issentially the Redbox to an arcade's Blockbuster. So how do you avoid going out of business, becoming a crane-based establishment, and lure in kids and adults alike? You offer every video game console ever created. It's absolutely genius and, believe it or not, it's an idea I offered my Dad years ago to the sound of laughter and rolling eyes. This changes the game. Pun intended.
Nintendo, Super Nintendo, Sega, Nintendo 64, Sega CD, Dreamcast, Playstation, Xbox... You name it, they had it. Now, why is that special? Kids today probably own either an Xbox or Playstation, if not both, and can play with their friends online. We all know that and it's awesome, but how many own the classics? Personally, besides the OUYA, I no longer have any of them. But to be honest with you, consoles like Sega and Nintendo 64 still stand the test of time and instead of kids coming over after school and parents having to watch over everybody, Yestercades welcomes 10-20 kids to sit back and play against each other in person. Imagine that, in person? In today's day and age, that's almost unheard of. Why see each other when I can text, chat, or snap? Imagine that..
Not only does Yestercades offer so many vintage gaming options, but the games are available to you as well. Do you know how awesome it was seeing Wrestlemania 2000 and WCW/NWO Revenge for N64? That brings me back to skipping track practice to play my cousin in the battle between Sting and Han Zo Mon. Probably not the best idea for a budding athlete, but a great idea for a kid who loved video games. Now, Yestercades welcomes kids of today to also skip out on their priorities and obligations in an attempt to save the princess, save the world, win the championship, or eat ghosts.
Yestercades also offered board games to their customers, but I don't think I saw one person playing or even interested in that idea. I thought it was cool, but the thought of playing one never actually crossed my mind until I got home and looked further into the photo. That Nickelodeon Double Dare game is one I always wished I'd received as a child and would probably be a lot of fun to play with a group of friends. Operation is always a classic and almost as nerve-wrecking as Perfection. Candyland, for as simple as it is, can be a great time and was always my favorite as a young child. Plus, Trivial Pursuit 80s edition is probably very challenging. Even though I wasn't born until 1987, I'm a big fan of 80s culture and nostalgia so that would have been a blast. I don't think these games are necessarily meant for two guys in their late 20s, but kids should take advantage of these classic board games when visiting Yestercades. They're clearly under appreciated.
As an added touch, to go along with the vintage movie posters and decorations throughout Yestercades, their display cases were filled with classic gaming consoles, handhelds, and games from over 20 years ago. Everything is lit nicely and displayed to be visual art that acts as a tiny museum on your way in and out of the establishment. Everything is in mint condition and, together, your mind is taken on a journey back in time through sensory overload. Between all of it, combined with everything we've already discussed, this is a complete rush of nostalgia that only Yestercades, in my experience, has been able to offer.
If you're in or around New Jersey, I highly recommend taking a trip to Yestercades. When Sean and I went, it was a bit crowded and we didn't get to experience half of what we wanted to but, with more time and less people, the experience could have only been better. We had a wonderful time and I have no doubt you would too. If you're not in the NJ area, then I suggest Googling vintage arcades in your hometown because ya never know what's out there. If not for my friend, I would have never known about Yestercades and their vast variety of vintage gaming options. So look into what's near you and, hopefully, you'll be just as happy as yellow-bandana-wearing Michelangelo.