Some kids grew up on the baseball field, others on their bikes. I was raised on video games. As a young lad in northern New Jersey, many an afternoon was spent at the local arcade. My dad would hand me $5 in quarters, and I’d wander the labyrinth of lights and sounds in search of the perfect game. The arcade experience defined my childhood.
And while the neighborhood arcade has gone the way of Game Boys and Pogs, one Austin institution is keeping the dream alive. Retro yet modern, classic yet contemporary, Pinballz safeguards the legacy of old school gaming in a modern age.
Keeping Old Traditions Alive
Walking into Pinballz is like entering a time machine. Its centerpiece is its namesake: pinball. Rows upon rows of bumpers and paddles greet guests as they enter any of Pinballz’s three locations (183 and Burnet, Buda, Lake Creek). Across locations, Pinballz has over 200 pinball machines spanning five decades of gaming. From their oldest machine, 1964’s Riverboat Gambler, to 80’s era Pinbot, to modern titles like Star Trek and Game of Thrones, gamers from every era will find something they recognize.
If pinball isn’t your thing, the retro vibe continues in the arcade cabinet section. Each location has a healthy selection of classic arcade games guaranteed to bring back memories of Asteroids, Galaga, and Mortal Kombat. When I visited the Lake Creek location, part of the fun was looking over a player’s shoulder as he played Street Fighter 2, a common practice back in my grade school arcade days.
And for those with fond memories of winning giant stuffed animals at county fairs, Pinballz has a fantastic prize game section. While thirty-somethings like myself gravitate toward skeeball, hoops, and the Wheel of Fortune ticket wheel, others may want to rack up points on giant Space Invaders and Deal or No Deal.
Looking to the Future
Pinballz isn’t dependent on nostalgia. Each arcade continues to push the envelope when it comes to new and exciting ways to play. The Lake Creek location has the latest arcade innovation, a newly minted 7D Dark Ride Theater. This interactive experience puts riders in a moving, lurching shoot-em-up game where the lines between reality and fantasy are shockingly blurred.
My experience was with the “Zombies” game. Wearing 3D glasses, sitting on a moving seat and armed with a light gun, I competed with seven other riders in a battle against an invading zombie hoard. Wind rushed in my face and strobe lights flashed, creating an enveloping, exciting sensory experience.
And it doesn’t stop with the walking dead. Pinballz Kingdom’s massive outdoor laser tag attraction allows players to battle in a paintball-style arena, without the mess and bruises. Lake Creek features an exhilarating sci-fi themed laser tag game, as well as a light maze so devious, you’ll need to be Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible to escape unscathed.
Fantastic Time for the Family at Pinballz
All of this activity is bound to make you hungry and thirsty. Luckily, both the Lake Creek and Kingdom locations feature extensive food and drink options. And while the original 183 location continues to be BYOB, the in-house snack bar has enough grub to keep you gaming for hours.
When I moved to Austin, I secretly hoped there would be an arcade geared towards the young me and the old me. A place where I could grab five friends and wreak havoc on X-Men Arcade, while enjoying a pint in the process. A place that was both nostalgically young and invitingly mature at the same time.
Pinballz checks all of those boxes. By providing classic gaming, modern attractions, and adult libations under one roof, this mecca of all things fun continues to be the gold standard for Austin arcade entertainment. My local arcade back in Jersey would be proud.
@BillTuckerTSP wants to know:
Where do you go for your video game fix in Austin?