In the ancient days, back when dinosaur poop was still warm (the 1980s), nearly every shopping center in the part of the country that I grew up in had a Family Fun Center or game arcade. I was even night manager of a Bally’s Aladdin’s Castle in West Main mall for a brief while.
The Aladdin’s Castle chains at that time were mostly stocked with pinball games and only had a few of those new-fangled video game things. During this time it was not at all unusual for young people to spend their pocket change playing games while their parents shopped.
In other words, arcades were a thing.
Unfortunately, at least in the greater Chicagoland area, the few arcade chains that remain have few or no pinball games; video games and other games of skill such as mini-golf, skeeball and claw machines have taken over.
There is a large arcade in a mall near my home called Tilt Studio that does not have ONE pinball game. I feel that’s an irony if there ever was one.
But I digress.
When on a road trip recently, I made a small side excursion to visit an arcade that is a genuine throwback to the days of disco and shopping centers with family entertainment centers.
Mega Play in Mishawaka, Indiana
Mega Play in the Town & Country Shopping Centre (not far from the campus of the University of Notre Dame) combines elements of the past and the present. They have an indoor mini-golf course, American Gladiator jousting area, air hockey, billiards, laser tag, ball pit, skeeball, whack-a-mole, virtual batting cages, kiddie playland, bumper cars, old school video as well as driving games….. and PINBALL!
American Gladiator jousting at Mega Play
It would have taken me a very long time to go around and write down the names of all of the video games at Mega Play; hopefully a list of their video games exists somewhere on-line? The majority of the games were 1980s and 1990s vintage, but in very good condition.
Mega Play had 11 pinball games in their own area apart from the video games.
The pinball line-up at Mega Play
One game was switched out while I was there so I was able to play 12 different games; it was a bonus for me, but probably not the typical experience.
The newly-added Corvette
Like many game centers in the 21st century such as Dave and Busters, at Mega Play you purchase credits on a plastic card and swipe to add credits on whatever game you want to play. If you don’t have a Mega Play card, the credit dispenser machines will sell you one for $1.
Card readers on the front of each machine
I have never seen ‘card swipe-enabled’ pinballs, but they have them here at Mega Play. In spite of being charged a dollar for a play card, I wanted to mention that the more credits you buy at one time, the more bonus credits that you get over and above the usual 4 credits for a dollar. For example- if you put $20 on your card, you get 110 credits. Mega Play also has party packages at what appear to be reasonable prices.
Card credit prices
All of the pinball games were in very good condition and the only one showing any wear that I could see was South Park which had some wear around the edges of the ball exit holes under Kenny and Cartman.
FYI, this particular South Park game is uncensored with the early ‘profanity’ ROM that generates rude (but funny) character comments, the ‘carpet munching‘ game on the DMD and of course Mr. Hanky in the toilet tank and on the playfield graphic in full view.
The pinball games at Mega Play when I visited were:
• Corvette, Bally-Midway
• Star Wars, Data East
• Attack from Mars, Midway
• Batman Forever, Sega Pinball
• The Simpsons Pinball Party, Stern Pinball
• South Park, Sega Pinball
• Black Knight 2000, Williams
• Dirty Harry, Williams
• Fish Tales, Williams
• Star Trek: The Next Generation, Williams
• Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Williams
Attack from Mars
The credits per game are not listed on the pinballs but they were a mix of 75 cents and $1 per three-ball game.
I wasn’t able to confirm this but it would appear that occasionally Mega Play has contests – most recently they had a Dance Dance Revolution contest.
There is a huge parking lot outside of Mega Play while inside they have sandwiches, snacks, pizza, desserts as well as soft drinks available to purchase at reasonable prices.
PS: I was told that there are two ‘kids pinballs’ at Mega Play. I was only able to find one:
• Super Mario Brothers Mushroom World, Premier Technology
It has short legs fitted and is set up as a ticket redemption game for prizes.
I enjoyed my visit to Mega Play and wished that I hadn’t been quite as pressed for time and that I was able to stay a little longer. I felt the combination of the well maintained games and the achievable free credit thresholds made playing their games very fun and engaging. For sure I will visit Mega Play again soon.
It delights me to visit old school arcades that seem to be frozen in time; some other people seem to prefer having more current games to play. If you are like me and enjoy playing the late 1990s and early 2000s games as much as the current ones, then Mega Play is probably your kind of place too.