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The arcade, my friends, is not dead. A bold statement, considering the condition of arcades in places such as GameWorks or Dave & Busters. While those complexes may appear to be arcades, the corporate stench permeates them and the entertainment provided inside is more akin to a roller coaster ride than the arcades of our youth. The truth is, however, those neon lit rooms that rang with the sound of flipper hitting metal ball still exist. They are havens for those needing to spend a few precious minutes or hours dropping quarters into coin slots and challenging physics. They are rare, they are prized and they are sadly known only to a few.
Hiding away in a strip mall in the Minnesota suburb of Hopkins, SS Billiard is just such a place. It’s a room that is almost frozen in time. I had the privilege of visiting SS Billiards for the first time last week and the moment I stepped through the door, it was as if I were back in the arcades I loved as a kid. Pinball machines lined the walls from various generations. There were old favorites that I loved, such as The Addams Family and The Twilight Zone. New Stern pinball games such as The Dark Knight, Spider-Man and The Lord of the Rings stood as the last men standing; champions of a classic genre too long beaten yet still fighting. Even some classic machines such as Eight Ball Deluxe and the rare Capcom machine, Big Bang Bar, were in attendance. Each stood, tempting with classic lights and sounds and the elegant beauty of a wooden surface worn from years of play. While there were a few video games in attendance, they felt strangely out of place in this pinball mecca. It’s as if SS Billiards has one love and video games are simply a token gesture, as if to harken back to the 80’s but not to relive them.
SS Billiards belongs to a rare breed of business. Family owned and operated since 1972, SS Billiards has stood the test of time for thirty five years and remained the place for pinball. Holding tournaments and special events, the business shows it’s passion for the classic arcade in a way that very few can match. If you grew up in the days of the arcade then you simply need to experience it for yourself. Following is a quick video I shot while making my way through the arcade for the first time. It doesn’t do the place justice and you’ll have to excuse the rather obvious music choice but I hope it gives you a feel for what this place is.
Sadly, this arcade is in need of your help as are all arcades that one might consider “real”. This establishment is family owned and as such, has no corporate backing. Your quarters pay the bills and you are needed. So, come down to SS Billiards and drop a couple of bucks or fifty on some fantastic pinball. Places such as this are rare and will only remain open with your patronage.
SS Billiards can be found on the web at www.ssbilliards.com. There you can find information on games that are on rotation, current schedule for events and tournaments along with a list of some pinball machines and arcade games that are up for sale. In addition, you can find a bit of history on this great establishment. If you live in the Twin Cities area, or even if you don’t and you like to travel, I highly recommend making a stop at SS Billiards.
SS Billiards is located at 732 11th Avenue South, Hopkins, MN. Following are some pictures: