iiRcade Bartop Arcade | $599 | Walmart
I’ve always been an arcade guy. As a kid, I loved nothing more than heading to spots like the Dream Machine at my local mall and dropping quarters. Even as an adult, I will still drop whatever I’m doing to play a Ms. Pac-Man machine. Despite my love of arcades, I’ve never once considered actually just buying one of my own. Part of that is just that I’m a New Yorker living in a one-bedroom apartment, but there’s also an element of indecision. What cabinet would I commit to? You can’t just have one game. I want to replicate that feeling of wandering around a big room and trying random games.
That’s where iiRcade comes in. The indie hardware company has created a clever new arcade cabinet that’s a sort of answer to that conundrum. Rather than having a few games pre-installed on it, iiRcade offers a full service. The machine integrates with a digital storefront where you can buy games a la carte. That includes a mix of classic arcade games and modern indies adapted for an arcade control scheme. It’s a clever business model. iiRcade basically gives you an iTunes-style digital marketplace of games that can be instantly downloaded to your cabinet. That makes it more of a future-proof concept for people who want the experience of an arcade without harboring a dozen cabinets.
iiRcade is just getting started, so its current selection of games is limited. Judging by some of the titles it does have, there’s some real potential for this to be a worthwhile cabinet for arcade diehards. Here are the best games that you can currently play on an iiRcade machine.
Dead Cells is really the main selling point of iiRcade at the moment. The beloved indie roguelike is the most high-profile game on the machine and also the best. It works shockingly well as a traditional arcade game. Every ability nicely maps to one of the six buttons on the system, so it doesn’t feel like anything is lost in translation from controller to arcade pad. There’s something surreal and delightful about playing a modern game like this standing up at a cabinet. Is it the quintessential way to experience Dead Cells? No. Is it a blast to revisit the game in a totally new way? Absolutely.
What’s most exciting about Dead Cells on iiRcade is the possibility it opens up for the platform. If the company can partner with an indie studio like Devolver Digital to bring more modern, retro games to the shop, this machine could really become a must-own for indie enthusiasts who love that fusion of old and new. I just want to play Enter the Gungeon on the dang thing.
Oddmar is a side-scrolling platformer that was first released on iOS and Android in 2018. At the time, it was a standout mobile game that got overlooked due to some of the unfortunate stigmas still lingering around phones as a legitimate gaming platform. Naysayers really missed out. Oddmar is a wonderful Viking platformer with shades of Rayman. The only issue with it was that touch screen controls still just aren’t ideal for games that require precise movement.
So when I saw that Oddmar was available on iiRcade, I got genuinely excited. This is the kind of game that deserved some special treatment and it’s perfectly suited to arcade controls. Playing a tight platformer like this with a well-built joystick just feels so much more natural. Oddmar is available on Nintendo Switch, so you can always try it there, but it’s one of those hidden gems that makes it a crown jewel on a more specialized device.
Here’s the most genuine surprise on iiRcade. Riptide GP Renegade is a sci-fi water-skiing game that launched back in 2016. It didn’t really make a splash at the time, but its throwback sports racing gameplay evoked games like Wave Race 64. It just wasn’t a perfect fit for modern consoles. Old-school racing games never do feel quite the same sitting in front of a widescreen TV with a controller in-hand.
This is an example of a game that’s simply made for the arcade. In my time with the machine so far, it’s the one title I keep coming back to. The cabinet setup better emphasizes the game’s specific retro charm. Playing it feels like sitting in a Cruis’n USA machine at a movie theater. The somewhat simple racing mechanics become its strength, making it perfect for poking into a few rounds every once and a while. With a full single-player campaign and customization options, it’s an experience I imagine I’ll keep coming back to, despite not going so far as to bat an eye at it on consoles.
One thing that’s nice about the iiRcade is that it’s built for two players. You get two full sets of controls on the tabletop, so it’s a nice social statement piece for anyone who wants to show off a little for company. There’s a pretty wide range of multiplayer games currently available considering the shop’s current size, but Windjammers is an especially inspired choice.
Windjammers is a multiplayer sports game whose premise can be boiled down to “Pong reimagined as extreme frisbee.” Its biggest strength here is that it’s a single-screen multiplayer experience. While iiRcade’s 19” screen works perfectly well for split-screen, it’s better suited for games like this where screen real estate isn’t quite as limited. With quick rounds and a lot of little nuances, it’s the next best thing to having a full air hockey table in your house. The difference is that this machine will take up much less space.
If you haven’t played any of the recent Wonder Boy remakes, you’re in for a treat. The revival remakes the classics top to bottom with colorful visuals and a modern soundtrack. The neat trick is that you can press a button at any point during gameplay to seamlessly switch between the old look and the new one. It’s a little magic trick that lets purists experience the game in its original form. It’s a really thoughtful approach to a remake that lets players see and hear the exact difference between two eras.
Wonder Boy: The Dragon’s Trap is perhaps the best symbol for what iiRcade itself represents as a platform. It offers the nostalgia of the arcade era, but with a modern twist that makes it feel brand new. The machine’s $600 price point will likely scare off those who only have a passing interest in home arcades, but there’s a lot of potential here for diehards. It really does combine the best of both worlds. If it can keep landing games like these, it could become the only cabinet a person would feasibly need.