Surprisingly, options for Classic Arcade Gaming in Miami, Florida are pretty limited. I found myself in town for a couple of days back in November 2018 after visiting the Free Play Florida event, and was taken aback by Google’s distinct lack of suggestions for places to check out, given the size and cultural significance of the city itself.
Aside from a couple of ‘barcade’ type arcades that didn’t look terribly inspiring, one place did jump out – Arcade Odyssey. Located in the south of the city, this arcade has been around for a few years now. I realised that I had actually popped in for a few minutes on my way to the airport during a trip a couple of years back; but I have to admit it didn’t leave a huge impression on me. A friend told me that things had changed significantly since my visit, following an expansion into the property next door, so I was keen to make a return to check out how things were shaping up.
I’m glad I did.
Arcade Odyssey is located in a small strip mall and welcomes customers with floor to ceiling branding blacking out its glass storefront:
First impressions are everything, and walking through the doors, you are hit with a cacophony of noise and lights. There’s no doubting where you are. The arcade itself is broken down into three distinct areas – modern machines, pinball and of course, the classics. Elsewhere out back is a full Lan Center PC setup where regular gaming tournaments take place. There’s also a smattering of modern consoles, running the latest games.
One of the things that makes Arcade Odyssey stand out from the crowd is its pricing. Amazingly, it still operates a token system. There are no cover charges or entrance fees. Walk up to one of the three change machines and you’ll find that a single dollar buys you 3 tokens, while spending $10 or $20 earns you bonus tokens on top. Most machines are priced at 1 or 2 tokens per play, with just a few larger or new games costing 3 or 4 tokens. This model adds to the authenticity of the place compared to the usual ‘fee at the door’ model found at most classic arcades these days.
The PCs and consoles found in the arcade can be rented by the hour or for a full day.
Let’s take a look at the modern section of the arcade:
Walking around the arcade, you’ll come across several Candy cabinets. Significantly, this gives Arcade Odyssey the opportunity to change games out on a regular basis from its extensive catalogue of games in storage. Of particular note during my visit was this very rare title, The Act:
The Act is essentially an interactive movie, utilising hand drawn cartoon scenes created by former Disney artists. It really is a thing of beauty. It has had a troubled history in terms of release but is a true piece of arcade history and I’d urge you to play it – it is no longer available for play on any other platform, not even MAME. It was removed from the Apple store over a year ago and does not exist on any other platform anywhere else – this is it! Read more about The Act here.
Talking of Candy cabinets, this glorious row of Sega Blast City cabinets is a sight to behold:
Pinball is well represented at Odyssey. A great selection of modern pins is available to play:
And so onto the classics. These are broadly laid out in a second area that has opened up since my last visit. What can I say? This is a great curated selection of games, that doesn’t just focus on the usual suspects like Asteroids, Robotron and Pac-Man. Sure, the mainstream titles are there, but there are other rarer titles too:
If you need a break from the action, there’s a bar counter at the back of the arcade, serving an excellent selection of draft/bottled craft and imported beers, alongside authentic Japanese snacks and soft drinks. More machines are located here:
Walking around, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the machines reflect the thought and passion that’s gone into creating a space that players want to visit. But that’s only part of the story. As a modern arcade, Arcade Odyssey has the ability to get customers back time and again. Using its extensive inventory of boards, you’re unlikely to see the same suite of titles from month to month. With space for almost 200 cabinets, the arcade can regularly serve up games that you wouldn’t usually come across. And everything runs on original hardware – in itself, this is quite something.
Simply put, it’s an awesome proposition for both the casual visitor and enthusiast. But who’s behind Arcade Odyssey? I was fortunate enough to meet and talk with the owner, Rick Medina. It’s hard not to be inspired by his passion. Within seconds, Rick’s infectious enthusiasm draws you into his vision for the arcade. His vast collection of video game paraphernalia is as huge as it is impressive. He took me out to the storage area and shared just some of the inventory he owns:
But its all in the details. Rick has no intention of changing the token based model he works to. The weekly coin-count reconciliation from each machine, (using an original old school token counter wheeled through the arcade on a trolley!) tells him what is being played and what isn’t – and this will steer the direction of what you see on the floor. With this weekly feedback from customers, Arcade Odyssey constantly understands what its customers want to play and what they don’t – and so, changes can be quickly made:
Finding an old school arcade that still delivers such an authentic ‘pay per play’ experience is hard in itself, and this one is the furthest south in mainland USA.
This truly is America’s ‘last arcade’.
Rick’s long-term plan for the arcade is to expand to house a dedicated video game museum, allowing the public to see and get hands-on with the collection he’s amassed over the years. Until then, there’s plenty to see and do at Arcade Odyssey. I cannot recommend this place highly enough. The thought and passion that’s goes into this place is unlike any other arcade I’ve visited. Everything is very well laid out, the atmosphere and vibe is great, and more importantly, you’ll discover a ton of rarities as you walk around. I can’t wait for my next visit.
This place is an easy 10/10 – make sure you check out Arcade Odyssey if you find yourself in Miami. More information, including opening times, and a list of current playable titles can be found here.
See you next time