I will start off by saying that at the basement of an international landmark sits an arcade, an arcade that contains things that one does not simply see in today’s modern day arcades. The Skylon Tower is located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, in Canada. It is in the tourist district of Niagara Falls Ontario so if you are in the area you can visit the Skylon along with all of the other attractions in the Niagara Falls area. If you like arcades, the Niagara Falls Ontario area is not one to miss, as there are several modern-day type mostly redemption based arcades then there is the Skylon, which is definitely a unique one.
The Skylon Tower itself is a historic landmark. The Skylon Tower officially opened in 1965 and features a rotating restaurant at the top of the tower where you can dine while watching the scenery and an observation deck also on the top. The Skylon is also famous for the “Yellow Bug” elevators that take visitors on an outside ride to the top of the tower. The top part of the Skylon doesn’t have any arcade games and it costs a fee to take the elevator to the top you are not dining in the restaurant. There is no cost to enter the arcade (you just walk into the building and go down the escalator into the arcade) but you may have to pay a parking fee depending on the time of the year you visit and if its a holiday in the region.
This is an original sign from the Skylon Tower arcade that was located in the arcade during the 1970’s or 1980’s. Photo courtesy of Jason E.
In the 1970’s, 1980’s and partially into the 1990’s the basement level of the Skylon tower held not only an arcade, but an Amusement park as well. A lot of people do not even know the Skylon Tower has a basement,as I have had several people surprised by this fact over the years. I guess most people do not think of the Skylon Tower for what was or is in its basement. However the basement of the Skylon Tower holds not only an amazing amount of history not only for its arcade games but for its amusement rides as well. Since a lot of this information predates myself (I was born in 1981) I cannot tell of the wonders of the basement of the Skylon Tower had in the past from personal experience. What I do know is that this arcade at some point between the1970’s and during the 1980’s had a full-sized Ferris wheel (yes a Ferris wheel in an indoor location), several amusement rides for the kids, a full-sized Carousel, Bumper Cars, Tilt-A-Whirl, a wooden Go-Kart track, aroller rink and probably many other amusement rides over the years. There were of course, various arcade games mixed in with these amusement rides. Basically, this place is gigantic and there is a lot of space in the basement. The basement of the Skylon also has kind of a second floor to it around the perimeter of the actual basement, which is not open to the public at this time, but in the past held some of the attractions of the place.You can see the second floor of the basement when you use the down escalator to descend into the arcade,there is also an up escalator right next to it (that you cannot use because its off limits to the public at this time). Think of it as a two-floor basement.
This is the escalator entrance that you use to get into the Skylon Arcade.
My first contact with the basement of the Skylon Tower was at some point in the late 1990’s. I don’t remember the exact year of my first visit, but when I was there they had a Haunted House, a small carousel for kids,bumper cars, batting cages,a wooden go-kart track and of course the famous Sega R360 arcade game. I will have more on the Skylon’s R360 in another article as that is another story altogether. The reason I became aware of this arcade is that I saw it advertised in tourist brochures in the area, and I liked amusement parks so I decided to pay a visit. Ever since then I have been enthralled to say the least with this arcade, as it has a great collection of games now and in the past it had many great games as well. This arcade also holds a lot of good memories for me as I have visited it many times in both the past and the present and is definitely my favorite arcade of all time. Many people local to the region also have very fond memories of this arcade.
These photos show the Skylon basement in 1998, this is how I remember it on my first visit.
The bumper cars. Photo courtesy of Sam Shurgott.
The Haunted House. Photo courtesy of Sam Shurgott.
The small carousel. You can see a little bit of the R360 in this photo. Photo courtesy of Sam Shurgott.
This arcade focused on games manufactured by Sega. They had other manufacturers as well, but its the Sega games that really shine here. At one point I do believe this arcade had an entire set of Sega simulator games.From the Space Harrier cockpit made in 1985 to the Sega R360, the original Daytona, Sega GT (also known as Scud Race) and more recently Nascar Arcade it was all here at one point or another. Unfortunately the Sega R360 is no longer operating at the Skylon Tower. At some point between 1998-1999 the amusement rides were removed and it became just an arcade.
A shot of part of the Skylon arcade from around 1995. Photo from the archives of the Niagara Falls Public Library, Ontario, Canada. You can see 2 Japanese style Turbo Outrun cabinets (converted to other games) if you look closely.
On a return visit to the Skylon in 1999 I captured Turbo Outrun and Rad Mobile at the Skylon, 2 games no longer operating there.
On a 2001 visit to the Skylon I found this full sized Atari’s Moto Frenzy, which is also no longer there.
This full-motion Power Drift also once resided at the Skylon.
These are just a few examples of the full-sized motion based machines the Skylon was filled with in the good old days.
I recently visited the Skyquest Arcade at the Skylon Tower and to my amazement found some of these older machines still operating and functional.
The rarest and most interesting machine still operating in this arcade has to be Galaxy Force II Super Deluxe. Made in 1988 by Sega it features a large rotating cabinet that rotates in a circle while you play. This is probably the second best Sega cabinet ever made next to the Sega R360. This is an extremely hard to find game and to find one still operating today is unprecedented. I do not even have words for this. It is simply amazing to find one of these machines still working today. I only know of one other arcade in the USA that has one and this is the only arcade I know of in Canada that has one as far as I know…these might be the only 2 Galaxy Force II Super Deluxe machines operating today in arcades North America. There is also a Galaxy Force II Super Deluxe in the collection at the Strong Museum of Play in Rochester, NY but to my knowledge it is not currently operating there.
This is the Galaxy Force II Super Deluxe currently at the Skylon.
This is a video of me playing the Galaxy Force II Super Deluxe while holding the camera.
The next machine, which I have not seen anywhere else nor do I have any knowledge of another one that is operating anywhere for that matter except maybe in Japan is a motorcycle game made by Taito in 1989 called WGP or World Grand Prix. This is most likely the only instance of this game operating in North America. This game is supposed to give you a real race feeling and it definitely does that. Instead of using your body to move the bike as you do in most standard motorcycle simulation games this game throws you from side to side as you play the game. This game was working perfectly when I was there. It must have motors in the bike that throw the player from side to side while playing. You have to put your feet on the pedals to activate the motion, and it will stop if you put your feet on the base of the machine. I have never seen another motorcycle game do this ever. It is a very intense game to play, and I got off the machine with quite a feeling at the end needless to say, this game beat me up pretty badly, but that is a good thing. This game offers a very unique take on the standard motorcycle racing game.
This is a video of me on the Taito WGP.
Another video of me on the Taito WGP.
I also found a few other Sega classics when I was there. Super Monaco GP (1989) in the deluxe cockpit version which is very hard to find and Space harrier (1985) in its full motion cockpit which is again very hard to find. Unfortunately these games were not working when I was there, lets hope they get them up and running again so everyone can enjoy them!
Sega’s Hang-On made in 1985 in its full sized red bike version and G-LOC (1990) in its full motion cockpit were also found here, in working operating condition.
The Sega influence on this arcade continues, as there were many other more modern Sega games located here as well. Most of these games have been converted to LCD screens as this is the preferred way of keeping these games in operational condition these days. Sega’s Daytona USA (1994) is here, there are 4 of them in working condition in a full sized cockpit version, though I do not believe this version of Daytona has motion cockpits. There is a motion-seat version of Daytona however this version with the large cockpits I have not seen before, other than at the Skylon, its very hard to find.
Top Skater (Sega, 1997), is also here in working condition, converted to LCD. In recent years I haven’t seen very many of these around recently either, definitely hard to find these days.
In this row is Jambo! Safari (1999, non-working), Sega Bass Fishing (1998), and twin Manx TT (1995)
Here is Star Wars Racer Arcade (Pod Racing) 1999-2000. These have not yet been converted to LCD and have their original toppers on them, which gives a unique look to this game. Namco’s Alpine Racer (1997) also sits next to it with its original monitor as well.
This is a row of cabinets including Sega’s Clutch Hitter (1991), The Simpson’s 4-player (Konami, 1991), NBA Jam (Midway/WMS, 1993) and WWF Superstars (Technos, 1989).
Another row of cabinets including World Kicks (Namco, 1999) , Terminator 2: Judgement Day (Midway, 1991), Space Invaders/Qix (2004), Egg Venture (Ice, 1997), Street Fighter II Championship Edition (Capcom, 1991).
There are a few other games I did not get photos of here, including Sega’s House of the Dead 2 (1998) in a 2 player sit down cabinet, Sega’s Jurassic Park The Lost World (1997) in a 2 player sit down cabinet, Title Fight Sega (1993), Frenzy Express (Uniana, 2001), Nascar Arcade Racing (Sega, 2000), Sega Super GT also known as Scud Race (1996), Point Blank 2 (Namco, 1999), 18 Wheeler (Now working) (Sega, 2000), Namco Ms. Pac-Man/Galaga (2000), Star Wars Trilogy Arcade (Sega, 1999), Nicktoons Racing (2003).
Minor update: Sega’s 18-Wheeler has been fixed and a new LCD has been installed.
This arcade also has a number of classic redemption games that you simply do not find any more in arcades, as most arcades that have redemption machines at least around where I live only stock the largest and most flashy machines. That is not a bad thing but its nice to see the redemption games of the past also in operation. Its also worth noting that the Skylon’s arcade still operates on tokens, which seems to be an ever fading method of operation these days as most arcades again where I live are quickly converting to various swipe card systems.
This is the Sidewinder redemption game.
Some of the classic redemption games here include Boom Ball by Meltec, Sidewinder, Classic Skee Ball (no 100 point scoring option), A giant basketball game that I cannot name, Hoop Shot, Racing version of Roll-A-Ball, Simple Simon, Feed Big Bertha, Alley Hoops, more Skee-Ball (this time with the 100 scoring option), and Scat Cats. They also have a number of modern redemption machines, claw machines, bowlingo bowling alleys, air hockey tables including a unique air hockey table called Boom-A-Rang and a foosball table.
Here is a video showcasing the Skylon’s redemption game. The redemption counter gets moved to one of the gift shops on the main floor during certain seasons.
As with most large arcades you visit these days a number of machines were in a non-working state when I was there, this is normal for large arcades and is not a reason to stay away from this arcade as there is still a decent ratio of working to non-working games but with this large amount of machines in the place there are bound to be some non-working games on each visit. I am sure this arcade does its best to keep all the machines in working condition as most operating arcades do these days.