Hard Drivin' by Atari (1989) at the Showboat, Hunstanton G-LOC by Sega (1990) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Rad Mobile by Sega (1990) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Monaco GP by Sega/Gremlin Industries (1979) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Space Harrier by Sega (1985) at the Showboat, Hunstanton After Burner by Sega (1987) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Mortal Kombat II, The Simpsons, and Hang On at the Showboat, Hunstanton Hang On by Sega (1985) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Snapper by Unknown, at the Showboat, Hunstanton Space Tactics by Sega/Gremlin Industries (1980) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Inside Sega Space Tactics at the Showboat, Hunstanton Chase HQ by Taito (1988) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Space Tactics and Chase HQ at the Showbooat, Hunstanton World Cup 90 by Tecmo (1989), Outrun by Sega (1986), and Operation Thunderbolt (1988) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Out Run by Sega (1986) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Out Run, Operation Thunderbolt, and Operation Wolf at the Showboat, Huntstanton NBA Jam Tournament Edition by Midway (1995) at the Showboat, Hunstanton Left view inside the retro arcade at the Showboat, Hunstanton Retro arcade at the Showboat Family Leisure Centre, Hunstanton Right view inside the retro arcade at the Showboat, Hunstanton


Readers of our 'Norfolk Coast Arcade Hunt' article, which covered our trip to Hunstanton in 2006, will be aware of our devastation of finding out that the 'retro arcade' that was once located in Thomas's Showboat Family Leisure Centre had closed (apparently weeks before we arrived). What should have been the highlight of our trip had been resigned to a distant memory and, if I'm honest, it put a bit of a downer on the day.

But one day in late January 2015 I was checking my emails and came across something amazing. Somebody had left a message via this sites 'contact us' page and he had taken some pictures of the arcade back in 2004. Not only that but the sender of the message, one Alan Jacobs, had kindly offered to let me have a copy of the images to use on the site if I wanted. So I thought I would share his images with the world as I'm sure there are others out there that had visited the arcade and have fond memories of playing on some of the great games found in the Showboat.

Anybody who had read Retro Gamer back in the early days may recall Alan, as he contributed to their 'Arcade Hunt' article in issue 9, revealing the treasures found in the Showboat arcade. This wasn't Alan's first appearance in Retro Gamer as he had previously had a letter printed in issue 7 which pointed out that by publishing details of rare machines in various arcades may, in fact, have the effect of giving collectors the information they needed to buy them thus removing them from public use. Although that topic caused several letters to be sent to Retro Gamer, the truth is that the older machines were prone to failure due to age and of course the elephant in the room is revenue, and these great old machines could never make the same money as a fruit machine. Of course there is also the fact that some of the collectors that look after these machines often take them to retro shows so the public can enjoy them. This is especially true of the members of UKVAC (the UK Video Arcade Collectors group).Anyway, we'll come back to the topic regarding the future of the machines later, this article is about the arcade as it was back then.

I did visit Hunstanton in the late 90's (or it may have been early 00's) and popped into the Showboat at time. I remember the smaller room housing some older machines although I remember it being a little less 'cramped'. I can recall the Space Harrier being there and the Monaco GP and Space Tactics. I don't remember the other sit-down machines but some of the more 'recent' cabinets may still have been in the main arcade. I seemed to remember their being a Taito Lunar Rescue and Space Invaders (or is that my memory playing tricks on me).

It certainly seems that over the years the older machines (and rides) had been moved from the main arcade into the smaller room (which explains why it pretty full by 2004). And this is backed up by Mr. Thomas's comments back in 2006 when he said that he couldn't stand to see the machines removed. I think it was a bold gesture, even in 2004, to have so many older machines in place and in such good working order. There was, of course, some wear and tear (as you'll be able to see from the pictures) but considering that even in 2004 many were over 20 years, they looked great. I can only imagine how it would have felt for a retro gaming fan to have walking through the door from the main arcade to be presented with sit-down versions of Hard Drivin', G-LOC, and Rad Mobile on one side, as well as Monaco GP, Space Harrier, and Operation Wolf. But then to walk into the room itself and see the others... well it would be a 'kid in a candy store' moment (it's just as well the toilets were just inside the door).

I've used many of Alan's images in this article and after making a quick sketch of how the machines would have been arranged, the images follow the order as you would have walked in from the main arcade, with Hard Drivin' being the first machine you would have seen and the Operation Wolf cabinet being the other end of the loop.

So the question is, what happened to these machines between September 2004 and May 2006? Alan's letter back in Issue 7 of Retro Gamer stated that Mr Thomas was already considering scrapping the machines at the end of the 2004 holiday season. We were also told in 2006 that the machines had only been dumped a 'couple' of months earlier. If this is accurate then it would suggest that at least some of the machines had survived another season at Hunstanton. And if we had visited one year earlier then we might have had some serious fun playing on classic arcade machines - and I may have had one last chance to have a go on the sit-down Space Harrier, which was one of my 'favs' from back in the day.

I hope to have some more information for this article in the very near future but for the time being enjoy the images and if anybody has more information on the final days of the retro arcade and the awesome machines in there, drop us a message using the 'contact us' link at the bottom of the page.


Article by Gary - April 2015 (Images by Alan Jacobs)