Joe Grisaffi is one of Houston’s most beloved film stars, having written, directed, and starred in dozens of local films like Conjoined and The Haunted Trailer, and even making appearances in Hollywood productions like Pirates of the Caribbean. He is also one of the city’s premiere collectors of arcade machines and tables. He’s channeled that impressive collection into a new arcade called Mr. Pixel's Classic Arcade in northwest Houston that is having its grand opening this week.
It’s a small affair, located at West and Jones next to Paradise Anime and near a Papa John’s that offers customers of Mr. Pixel's half off. What it lacks in size and a bar, though, it makes up for in its classic appeal.
Like a lot of arcades opened in the last decade, Mr. Pixel's offers free games all day for an entry fee. In their case its $10, which can be a real steal for those of us used to dropping extra cash every time a kid’s game card runs out at Chuck E. Cheese or the like.
“It can be a real bargain,” says Grisaffi. “There are a lot of apartment complexes and stuff around here. Parents can bring their kids down on Saturday and spend all day for like $40. This isn’t really supposed to be a job for me. It’s something I love to do and want to do.”
Though the arcade contains only some of Grisaffi and his partner’s combined collection, it’s still very impressive. Pinball tables include Nightmare on Elm Street, Barb Wire, Batman Forever, and Dungeons & Dragons. The arcade games are a nice mix of fighters like Street Fighter II and Killer Instinct II and more esoteric stuff. I found myself completely sucked into an old Atari game called Berzerk that is simple yet murderously addictive. My daughter lost herself in Donkey Kong Jr., and when I explained that Mario was the bad guy in the game her mind was well and truly blown. There are also a few driving games, Golden Tee, and other classics.
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The plan is for Mr. Pixel's to be a very reactive sort of arcade, with Grisaffi moving games in and out regularly depending on how well received they are. For the burgeoning collector, every game will also have a price tag, and they are planning to eventually start selling vintage home console titles as well. They’ve already been in touch with local fighting tournament groups, and the big front room is set aside for a rotating group of local vendors selling art and video game related items.
Even during the soft open, the arcade was packed with families. I had an absolute blast. Between Mr. Pixel's, Paradise Anime, and 8th Dimension Comics, it’s nice to see northwest Houston build up a small, but excellent geek-centric shopping area. If you want to experience a family friendly classic arcade experience, you could hardly do better.
Mr. Pixel's Cassic Arcade is open 5-10 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, noon to 10 p.m. Saturdays, noon to 6 p.m. Sundays at 9110 Jones Road, Suite 135. For information, visit mrpixelsarcade.com or facebook.com/Mr.PixelsClassicArcade.