Arcade Club: The Biggest Free-Play Arcade in Europe

A little slice of Paradise in Manchester.

A couple of months ago now, I took a trip to Manchester -- a city I have a great love for. This time around, I finally got to visit the Arcade Club -- one of the premier arcades not just here in the UK, or in Europe, but in the entire world. Needless to say, expectations were pretty high, and somehow the Club, which opens four days a week for hours of free gaming at the cost of a fiver, smashed them. It doesn't even look like much from the outside -- a nondescript location in an industrial estate in Bury, just outside Manchester itself...but then you go in, go up a classic elevator with sliding doors and everything, and find two floors of, bluntly put, arcade heaven.

I apologise in advance if this overview of Arcade Club sounds like a blatant advertisement -- I'll stress immediately that in no way did the lads who run it pay me to do this. But Arcade Club's two floors don't exactly take long to hook you in -- split between retro and modern games, the variety is amazing. In the new bit, you can play all kinds of strange rhythm games from Japan, a particularly odd one where the goal is to flip a table over, as well as do some modern LAN gaming and some VR racing or Beat Saber. There's even FIFA there too! I was a bit worried about this seeing as the place does sell drink and no game causes more fights than FIFA does, but thankfully the atmosphere seems to keep everyone in good spirits.

Of course, the retro floor will probably be of more interest to the denizens of these pages, and needless to say I fell in love with it the moment that I saw WWF WrestleFest -- my personal favourite arcade game, and one that I hadn't seen in the flesh for 20 years. There's so many other classic cabinets such as 6-player X-Men, both Time Crisis games, TMNT, The Simpsons as well as a strong pinball section and most any other big name you can think of, along with a few other cult favourites. I think that Dan "DJ Slope" Ibbertson, who was with me, fell in love with the place the moment he laid eyes on Michael Jackson's Moonwalker.

All the machines are kept in really good condition, which is nice to see -- especially where I come from, a place that was once one of the most important Arcade locations in the entire UK, it's always sad to see machines that have seemingly been broken for years, with no-one bothering to give them any TLC. The Arcade Club make sure to keep their machines in excellent condition -- I played a lot of games and didn't have any trouble when it came to inaccuracies, or dead switches or anything like that. You can often find these same machines at Retro events and Expos around the country, so it does pay to give them love.

I was able to speak with Andy Palmer, the club's owner, for a bit -- and his plans are pretty hefty...he aims to make Arcade Club the single biggest arcade anywhere. To this end, they are planning to install a third floor of games later in the year, and have no end of machines ready to introduce...I can't imagine that the cost of running this place is cheap, but the club seems to always be busy. After a long time away, it feels as though the arcades, particularly places like this, are due a revival as a place for socials -- after all, people clearly love places like this, and there was a great mix of clientele. While they plan for the future and are bullish about it, one thing is clear: The place has won my heart, and I can't wait to go there soon. Certainly something to check out if your travels ever take you to fair England.