Metro Phoenix’s arcade and game bar scene has leveled up in recent years. Local joints offering pinball machines, consoles, or arcade games are in abundance these days. And new spots are popping all the time, including a recent arrival in the far end of the southeast Valley.
Earlier this month, Dangerzone Arcade opened for business inside a side room inside Ironwood Pub & Grub in San Tan Valley. The 500-square-foot establishment features a modest selection of quarter-powered arcade titles, as well as pinball machines and pool tables.
And yes, the name is a nod to that bodacious Kenny Loggins rock anthem from Top Gun.
Dangerzone, which opened on November 2, brings pixelated thrills to a part of town where arcade action is virtually nonexistent. Owner Jordan Lamoreaux, a San Tan Valley resident and self-described “passionate retro gamer,” is a big fan of local arcades and game bars like The Grid in Mesa, Tilt Studio in Tempe, and Bonus Round in midtown Phoenix. However, he’s not of a fan of the lengthy commute required to get to those spots.
“From where I live, I've got to drive like 30 minutes to an hour each way,” Lamoreaux says. “For me, it was like, ‘I want to play pinball, I want to play arcade games, but I’m tired of that insane drive.’ So I said, ‘Screw it, I'll figure out how to open an arcade in the southeast Valley.’”
So he worked out a deal with the owners of Ironwood Pub & Grub to host Dangerzone and began bringing in his games. The setup is similar to Electric Bat Arcade in Tempe, which occupies a previously unused space at Yucca Tap Room.
Lamoreaux thinks Dangerzone will appeal to other old-school arcade fans in San Tan Valley and the neighboring town of Queen Creek.
“[An arcade] is desperately needed because this part of the Valley is growing dramatically, and there aren’t many good sources of entertainment out here,” he says. “And the majority of the demographics out here are young families and people in their late-20s to mid-40s, and they all grew up with old-school arcades.”
Hence the reason why his spot taps into nostalgia, ranging from its name (“When you see ‘Dangerzone,’ you automatically think of the ‘80s and that awesome song,” Lamoreaux says) to the retro-influenced selection of games.
Dangerzone features three popular indie arcade titles, all of which were produced by old-school gamers and inspired by some legendary quarter-powered classics. There’s Killer Queen, an ultra-fun and fast-paced action/strategy game that's a mix of Joust and StarCraft. It can be played by up to 10 people and has built an enormous local and national following. It's downright addicting.
“The fan following and community that Killer Queen has been able to spark has been astounding and unlike any arcade game in the last 20 years,” Lamoreaux says.
Dangerzone also features Cosmotrons, a space combat game boasting vector graphics that Lamoreaux describes as a “modern rendition of Asteroids and Lunar Lander, and Galactic Battleground, which is like a “four-player battle royale version of Galaga.”
And he's got even more buzz-worthy indie arcade games on the way, including DeathBall (an action-packed platform soccer game with wizards as players) and Skycurser (an insane side-scrolling shooter in the vein of R-Type).
"It's going to be a small but growing collection,” Lamoreaux says.
Retro-influenced indie arcade games have a big appeal among both old-school and new-school gamers, he says.
“It's the retro games that grab people’s attention. And these indie games are made by die-hard arcade fans. They're not made my multimillion-dollar companies, like Raw Thrills or Capcom, just fans who have a raw passion for games and know what's fun,” he says. “They've created something new out of something old, and I think its a product that's addicting, appealing, and sucks people in.”
It will also help set Dangerzone apart from other local game spots, Lamoreaux says.
“I want my specialty to be indie arcade games. If you want to play Pac-Man or Street Fighter II, you can do that on your home console or at other arcades. But if you want to play Killer Queen, there are only a couple of places locally that have it. And I'm the only place in Arizona where you can play Cosmotrons and Galactic Battleground,” he says. “I'm finding these very competitive, very awesome indie games that have a good fan following and can't be found anywhere else.”
Lamoreaux says Dangerzone is a work in progress, and he’ll continue to bring in new games and redecorate the place to look more like an old-school arcade. He’s also planning theme nights, tournaments, and special events.
"It’s going to take a little time to get everything how I want. This is a passion project for me and I'm betting other people feel the same way I do about these arcades and will be just as excited as I am,” he says. “And I think I can do that with these games versus something you'll see in the corner of every movie theater or every Dave & Buster's or other big-box arcades.”
Danger Zone Arcade.
40975 North Ironwood Drive, San Tan Valley, 602-403-6470
Hours: 11 a.m. to 2 a.m., daily.
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