Review: Gunther’s Games flourishes in new Broadway location

The arcade revives a downtown tradition with both older and newer games.

You could pass Gunther’s Games on Broadway and assume it’s some sort of GameStop ripoff. However, a closer look inside a Columbia tradition reveals something a little more.

Stepping inside, you would be greeted with lights and waves of nostalgia upon seeing a genuine PAC-MAN machine, and an urge to blow robots to pieces when you see a Terminator glaring from the Terminator Salvation machine.

From there, you could walk up to the bar and see sodas priced cheaply at 75 cents a pop. More investigating would only reveal more wonders — and a diverse selection of pinball machines.

According to the arcade’s website, Gunther’s originally existed as an arcade called Pin Pan Alley, also located on Broadway. Despite the eventual name change, the arcade thrived for quite some time.

As at-home game consoles increased in popularity, arcades eventually began to lose business. In 2007, Gunther’s was closed to make room for a sandwich shop.

Now, after several years and with the help of Gunther’s Games owner Wesley Upchurch, the arcade is back on Broadway and reclaiming its place as downtown Columbia’s resident arcade since the grand reopening last April.

Many of the shops downtown have a history behind them, and Gunther’s is not afraid to claim that it, too, deserves to be a part of that history.

“I sit here and I watch people bring their kids in, and they go, ‘Hey, I used to play here when I was a kid,’ ” employee Randy Slaughter says.

Gunther’s Games is known for its pinball machines. A quick glance shows a pinball machine for The Avengers, AC/DC, Metallica, Wizard of Oz and many others, which round out the arcade’s repertoire of machines.

“We have a pinball league every Monday,” Slaughter says. “Our very first session last year had a huge turn out. We had at least 52 people show up, which was a huge turnout for our first time.”

The arcade’s appeal lies in its ability to inspire both awe and nostalgia at the same time and its mix of older games, such as PAC-MAN, Galaga and Elevator Action, and newer games, including Guitar Hero, Terminator Salvation and many others.

Gunther’s Games will continue to search for new ways to expand and appeal to more people.

“We’re working to have a new fighting league for the people that like fighting games,” Slaughter says. “We even have trophies.”

Gunther’s Games has made a name for itself as a must-see in downtown Columbia entertainment. Anybody looking to try something new should stop by and give the Mario Kart a whirl. The arcade will provide hours of entertainment and a boatload of fond new memories.

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