Family members play The Simpsons at the Neon Retro Arcade in Pasadena. Image Credit: Photograph by John Kim/CNET
When Mark and Mia Guenther first opened Neon Retro Arcade about three years ago, people told them they were crazy. But the couple had already seen proof the games can bridge generations.
Mark started collecting the machines in college and began holding backyard arcade parties, where kids and adults took to the classic games.
“We knew that there was a large appetite out there to play these classics. It was really a way for us to preserve them as well. We really felt like … there wasn’t a whole lot of effort being made to make sure that they kind of stayed alive.”
The arcade has games mostly from the ’80s and ’90s that Mark has restored, including Ms. Pac-Man, Galaga, The Simpsons, Frogger, Tron, Star Wars and Joust, as well as several pinball machines.
Customers are always curious about certain games.
“When people call the arcade to see if we have specific games, they always want to know if we have Centipede. They always want to know if we have Street Fighter II. They always want to know if we have Mortal Combat,” Mia says.
While people who grew up in the ’80s are an obvious customer base, the Guenthers are also working to reach a younger audience, specifically those in their early 20s. They have a couple of modern game consoles in the back of the arcade and are rotating in more ’90s machines.
“One of the trends in terms of bringing new games in — we’re seeing a lot of interest in some of the ’90s games,” Mark says. “Some of the early ’80s games appeal to maybe a more narrow demographic.
And so, we’re seeing certain titles from the ’90s really becoming popular again. So, if we announce a ’90s game, it’s gonna have a lot more impact than if we announce an early ’80s game.”