Steve Thomas and Mike Lovato are what you'd call old-school gamers. The two grew up during the golden age of arcades (read: the 1980s) when said establishments were dimly lit dens filled with blaring rock music, the glow of pixelated graphics, and dozens of games powered by quarters instead of cash cards. And both have cherished memories of spending countless hours at such spots, battling hordes of invading aliens, maneuvering through mazes while munching dots, or rescuing princesses from dastardly villains. So when Thomas and Lovato, who have become collectors of vintage coin-op games in the ensuing years, wanted to open an arcade of their own, they drew inspiration from some their favorite gaming haunts of the past.
The result is StarFighters Arcade, a 4,000-square-foot joystick joint situated in a Mesa office park near Falcon Field. It features a treasure trove of more than 100 classic titles, including many culled from Thomas and Lovato's collections. As a neon Pac-Man hanging from one wall looks on, gamers of every age gather on weekend nights to get their hands on such old-school favorites as Paperboy, Omega Race, Ghosts 'n' Goblins, Spy Hunter, RoadBlasters, and Tempest. There are also clusters of games grouped together by manufacturer, such as a row dedicated to Williams classics like Sinistar and Moon Patrol, as well as such hard-to-find gems as the 1976 submarine game Sea Wolf or sit-down version of the old Atari dogfight game Red Baron. The arcade, which is open only on Friday and Saturday nights, requires the purchase of a membership, ranging from $14 for a single evening or $30 for a month to $120 for an entire year. It's a small price to pay for a chance to take a trip through a warp zone to gaming's yesteryear.
Readers Choice: Dave & Buster's