Nerd Culture

ZapCon Returns to Mesa in April — Here's Everything We Know So Far

Arcade adventures at last year's ZapCon.
Arcade adventures at last year's ZapCon. Benjamin Leatherman
Think the retro gaming boom is sort of played out? As the monster success of the NES Classic Edition proves, there’s still plenty of energy left in the trend’s lifebar.

Here’s another sign, albeit more on the local level: ZapCon, the Valley’s classic arcade game and pinball convention, will return for its fifth edition in April. And it’s shaping up to be bigger than ever.

The event will take place on Saturday, April 29, and Sunday, April 30, at the Mesa Convention Center, and is set to feature 200-plus old-school arcade and pinball machines.

And while everything is still in its planning stages, ZapCon co-founder Wes Cleveland is expecting the amount of games featured in 2017 to be larger than in years past.

“It's hard to tell this far out,” Cleveland says. “We're on course for a lot of games, though.”

He isn’t kidding. ZapCon’s website features an ongoing list of games that are currently scheduled to be at this year’s event and includes more than individual 75 arcade titles and 60-plus pinball machines.

It includes many games that haven’t been featured at the event, according to Cleveland.

click to enlarge Playing pinball at last year's ZapCon. - BENJAMIN LEATHERMAN
Playing pinball at last year's ZapCon.
Benjamin Leatherman
“We'll have a couple of the new Stern Aerosmith pinball machines,” Cleveland says. “We're also getting the Batman '66 and the vault edition Spider-Man. We've never had any of those [before].”

And then there are the homebrew titles, one-offs, and custom-made games that are created by indie game designers and featured every year at ZapCon. For instance, there’s Skycurser, an immensely fun shooter that’s very much in the spirit of Capcom’s U.N. Squadron; Neo Geo’s Metal Slug; and Namco’s Splatterhouse, which is both comically gory and probably loads of fun to play will be at the event.

Cleveland says all the indie and custom games have become a hallmark of ZapCon.

“Those are certainly my favorite part of the show,” he says. “There are a lot of talented and creative folks in the local scene, and I love to see what they come up with.”

And we can’t wait to get our hands on 'em.

ZapCon 2017 will take place on Saturday, April 29, and Sunday, April 30, at the Mesa Convention Center. Daily admission is $20 to $30, and a weekend pass is $40.
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Benjamin Leatherman is a staff writer at Phoenix New Times. He covers local nightlife, music, culture, geekery, and fringe pursuits.