Crashing the Galloping Ghost, The Largest Arcade in the United States

Cavalcade Arcade

It’s not often I get to profile an actual arcade on Cavalcade Arcade, but that is my pleasure today. While you’ve probably seen and heard that both the Nerd Lunch and Atomic Geeks podcasts united in Chicago for C2E2, a few of us broke away from the convention nuttiness to live out a boyhood dream of playing in a dedicated video arcade. And one just happened to exist in the suburbs of Chicago.  And it’s called the Galloping Ghost Arcade, reportedly the largest indoor video game arcade in America.

Galloping Ghost arcade

So, without further ado, here is a journal of my adventures with Jeeg and Christian traveling to outer Chicago to find the mythical Galloping Ghost Arcade.

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The day started off with breakfast at McDonald’s, then Jeeg, Christian and I had to hightail it to Union Station to catch a train to Brookfield. We were cutting it close, but we made it. Here’s Jeeg running for the train.

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Jeeg, Christian and me.  Train buddies. Traveling to a mythical nirvana of pixels, CRT monitors and nostalgia.

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Right off the train stop in Brookfield, there was this awesome little ice cream shop called Cock Robin. I was afraid to walk over to it because I didn’t want to ruin the illusion of a time warp to a 50s diner in perfect hibernation.

Galloping Ghost entrance
And after planes, trains and automobiles, we finally arrive. The Galloping Ghost Arcade in Brookfield, IL.  HALL-LE-LU-JAH! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH! HALLELUJAH!

Walking through the door for the first time, you literally have to stand back for 5 minutes to even process everything that you’re looking at.

Galloping Ghost wide 01

Galloping Ghost wide 02

Then expect another 10-15 minutes just walking around open mouthed looking at the games. You’ll literally say over and over again in your head, “They have THAT?!” or “I haven’t seen that in YEARS!”

So you shamble over to the counter, pay a $15 cover and begin your own personal spirit walk.  Everything is set to free play.  No quarters.  No tokens.  Just bliss.

After taking stock of the situation, it was really hard to decide which game would come first.  What should start off this massive orgy of electrical consumption?  The arcade made that decision for us.  Or at least, for Jeeg and me.

Krull game

We had literally just done our Krull episode for Nerd Lunch and I discussed how 100% of my knowledge of that movie comes from this game.  We had to play it.  And play it we did.

Krull Pax Krull Jeeg

That game was a fun blast from the past.  And with that, the seal had been broken.  Before we split up after playing this game, Jeeg and I stated that our goal before we left the arcade was to play each other in Karate Champ, a very favorite of both of us growing up. Making that pact, we split up and explored the wonders that lay within The Galloping Ghost.

Here are some of the games I saw and played.

Tron/Discs of Tron
They had a Tron cabinet sitting right next to its sequel, Discs of Tron. While I prefer the environmental Discs of Tron cabinet, one does not look a gift horse in the mouth. This is something the arcade did very well, they grouped games and their sequels together. I also saw Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr and Donkey Kong 3 all right next to each other.  Same with the Mortal Kombat and Street Fighter franchises.  One thing I did learn, I am super rusty on MKII and Street Fighter II.  Yikes.  My 16 year old self would have been disgusted with me.

Superman/Batman cabinet
Another awesome thing the arcade did was have multi-game cabinets. These cabinets had multiple game software that you could toggle between with a small black switch on the front.  This was a good one because I used to love that 1988 Taito Superman arcade game.  Conversely, I never got to play the 1990 Atari Batman (the Movie) arcade game.  So this was a nice one-two punch (pun intended).  Superman is still fun, as I remembered.  Batman….well….I want to use a word other than awful, but I can’t think of one.

NBA Jam
NBA JAM!  This was my JAM, back in the day (pun intended, again).  I loved this game.  Especially NBA Jam: Tournament Edition.  In college, I played in several actual arcade tournaments on this game with my good friend Steve.  And I was happy that I was able to corral Jeeg and Christian to play against me.  The game is fun, but this particular game had odd button placement.  It was uncomfortable to place your hands in a position to be able to reach the Shoot, Pass and Turbo buttons.  That was my only complaint.  Also, Jeeg and I played against the computer and it felt like the Computer Assistance was ratcheted up to 11.

Mr Do/Dig Dug
My good friend The Retroist will be happy about this.  If you listen to episode 140 of the Nerd Lunch podcast you’ll hear The Retroist talk about his love for Mr Do and how it gets called out for being a rip-off of Dig Dug.  The Retroist also talks about Mr Do! on episode 105 of his own podcast.

Pitfall II Indy Jones 2 GI Joe arcade game
I was aware that Activision made a sequel to Pitfall!, but I didn’t realize it made its way to an arcade cabinet.  Looking online, I see that Sega licensed the game from Activision and created a hybrid version of both Pitfall! games and released it in an arcade cabinet in 1985.
I was also a big fan of the Temple of Doom video game. That mine car chase level was fun. And using your whip on the Thuggee guards and swinging across ledges. Lots of fun.
Conversely, I don’t think I knew this GI Joe game from 1992 existed. It was pretty fun to play, you are constantly running away from the screen shooting a machine gun and throwing grenades at COBRA troopers.

Karate Champ 1 Karate Champ 2
And yes, we finally did play Karate Champ. It was a little dicey at first because some dude was literally parking himself on the game for like an hour. I honestly didn’t think we’d get to play, then it opened up about 30 mins before we had to leave so we dove on it before anyone else could.  I even got to play Christian for a few rounds.  So much fun.  Honestly the best time I had at the arcade was playing NBA Jam and Karate Champ with Christian and Jeeg.  Followed closely by the combo game I played of Lethal Enforcers also with Jeeg.

There was so much game playing that I couldn’t get a picture of everything.  Other games I played included Spy Hunter, the original Star Wars arcade game, the Return of the Jedi arcade game, Mortal Kombat 1 and 2, Street Fighter 1 and 2, Burgertime, Donkey Kong, Donkey Kong Jr, Punch-Out, Kung Fu Master and Elevator Action.

This is going to sound like nitpicking, and I am, but there were a few games that would have been “nice to have” while I was there.  Most notably, they did not have the Empire Strikes Back arcade game between the Star Wars and Return of the Jedi games.  That would have been a hat trick that I would have loved to have completed.  They had the awesome Nintendo Punch-Out game, but not its even awesome-er sequel, Super Punch-Out.  I would have also liked to have seen Ye Ar Kung Fu which was a fun but cheesy knock off of MK and Street Fighter.

Oh yeah, they did actually have the cabinet for Dragon’s Lair II, which I was never able to play when it was released back in 1991, but the game was not turned on for some reason.  So I still wasn’t able to play it.  Oh!  I didn’t get a picture of it, unfortunately, but they did have the 1991 Sega Time Traveler game that is 100% terrible but still cool in that it’s a hologram game.  I remember when it was released, I got to play it once and immediately regretted it.  It looked so cool but was such a horrible, horrible game.

I asked Jeeg and Christian what they wished they could have played and Jeeg said Cabal from 1988 wasn’t there.  Nor was another game he loved called Guardians of the Hood. Christian wanted 10 Yard Fight and The Combatribes.  On the way back on the train Christian mentioned the skate game 720 Degrees and two days later on Facebook The Galloping Ghost announced they got it.  Oh well.

However, those are totally just wish fulfillment.  The three of us are thoroughly happy with the LARGE selection of games we were able to play.  I personally couldn’t have been happier with this place and I’m so glad Jeeg discovered it and suggested that we go there.  Worth every moment.

I had a blast, and as we left, I had a single tear, running down my cheek.

Leaving Galloping Ghost

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7 Responses to “Crashing the Galloping Ghost, The Largest Arcade in the United States”

  1. So, so, SO very jealous. Did the place have that arcade sound? The cacophony of intermixed games and people murmuring?

  2. Glad you had fun! Next time please let us know and we will give you the full tour. We are always adding new games (of the ones you mentioned, Combatribes we do already have on the floor, and Yie Ar Kung Fu & Guardians of the Hood we have the PCBs for so its only a matter of time & space. Empire Strikes Back & Super Punch Out are definitely ones that will be added when we find them. Hope you come back soon as we will be adding another 40+ games in the next 2 months! Thanks again!

  3. Retromash Says:

    WOW. That looks like my actual idea of heaven. So jealous but really grateful that you took lots of photos and wrote that great article about it. Thanks a lot!

    Did they have Out Run and Bubble Bobble? Two of my favourites. And any WWF games?

    Also do you know when they opened? I’d be gutted if they were around 5 years when my wife and did Route 66 on our honeymoon because I could have gone if I’d known about it. I’ve actually discovered at least one other arcade along Route 66 that I could have done if I’d known about it. Oh well. A good excuse to redo our honeymoon to ‘relive the romance’ (and go to some arcades).

  4. LBD "Nytetrayn" Says:

    Man, now this sounds like a fun time! So many classic games I remember, and more I’ve always wanted to play. I could probably blow a ton of cash in a place like that, given the right opportunity.

  5. excessivelyperky Says:

    Speaking as a former girl, is there a Defender machine left for me? And our whole family blew some real money to finish The Simpsons at Circus Circus….boy, my arm hurt for a day after that!

    I hope y’all had fun. I’m jealous .

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