A tribute to seaside arcade machines

You could have a hell of a lot of fun for a pound when I was a kid. You could buy enough Freddos to induce a mild coma. You could take advantage of the 5 year old me renting out my ‘husband’, Phillip Hodgekiss, for the whole of lunchtime. Or you could have 5-10 goes on a ticket-shitting arcade machine.

These machines were the backbone of my holidays in Ingoldmells, Scarborough or similar. I would pester my parents for up to 24 hours a day, and eventually manage to get enough loose change to be able to wander round, honing my skills at ball throwing, thing hitting and general gambling. This tour of the machines would last about three minutes, because I would inevitably lose at everything due to being a stupid uncoordinated kid.

On the occasions I did win at these games (about once a year), I’d be rewarded with tickets. These would then be exchanged for things like one fake rubber finger, and a pencil sharpener with ‘Five Star’ written on it. What more could you want?

Cosmo Gang


Shoot the shit out of aliens before they manage to advance forward and steal your energy packs. Which might actually be their energy packs, I can’t remember. We might be the bad guys in all this. Excellent music and sound effects as each alien got shot in the face. Those poor aliens. I hope I was proud of myself. I probably was. Footage of the ongoing human/alien conflict:

Beat The Clock

beat the clock

Not a tribute to Television X’s Ten Minute Freeview. Beat The Clock was actually a ball rolling game similar to Kentucky Derby (I’m getting to that). My memory’s all gone to bollocks, but I’m assuming you had to fill up some kind of score meter before the clock ran out. Then you’d beaten the clock. See? If you didn’t manage it, the clock probably punched you in the face.

Two things I do remember about Beat The Clock:

1) It played Mussorgsky’s Promenade on a loop.
2) Those moulded plastic seats really hurt your arse.

Feed Big Bertha


There’s no other way to say this – this game is about a fat woman who likes to eat balls. Because she’s fat, she does nothing but stand there waiting for you to put her dinner in her mouth. I do that too.

As Bertha eats balls she gets fatter and fatter until… the game just sort of stops. But if you’ve done well, a load of tickets come out of what I assume is her vaginal area.

Sweet Licks

sweet licks

I think Americans call this ‘Whack-a-mole’ or something. But they’re always wrong about everything. In our version, brightly coloured things (lollipops?) come out of random holes just to sass you. You must then show them who’s boss by beating them to death with a hammer.

Kentucky Derby/Arabian Derby

Known in our family as ‘Donkey Rolling’. Similar to beat The Clock (which I didn’t explain above so the comparison is a bit pointless at this stage). Basically: roll balls, get them in holes, and this makes your horse/camel move forward using technology and magic. Excellent theme tune.

What makes this game special is the bloodthirsty competitive element. This isn’t just you playing for tickets – this is you playing against a dozen other people, all of whom might be up to 100% better at rolling than you. Therefore it’s completely acceptable and within the spirit of the game to elbow your neighbours, and occasionally to bite your neighbours. Sadly, there’s nothing you can do about the people who aren’t sitting right next to you, apart from hope they suddenly die.

Mini Wheel


The object of this game is to sit there going round and round and round and round and round, until your 20ps run out. By the time this happens, there will be a long queue of crying children and angry parents. Ignore them, apart from to ask them if they will give you money for another go. Chances are they’ll say no. No tickets to be won as only a moderate level of skill is involved.

Read more about my exploits on the Mini Wheel and other rides here.

Horse racing thing


This had various names, but was generally called something like ‘The Derby’ or ‘Grand National’. It was probably never called ‘Horse racing thing’. You didn’t win tickets, but you did win cold hard cash – sometimes you could win 4p, which was not to be sniffed at.

Gameplay was simple – put your money in, pick a horse, then watch the ultra-realistic race play out before your eyes. Different horses had different odds, so some paid out more than others. Having said that, you were never going to be able to retire on the winnings from this game.

Footage here, but sadly it’s missing the announcer ordering you to “Place your bets now” while sounding a bit like Stephen Hawking:

For more on wasting your money at the seaside, here is a selection of the shit you can win on a 2p machine.

17 thoughts on “A tribute to seaside arcade machines

  1. I loved the horse racing game, I remember to this day that the white and pink colours were worth quite a lot, but hardly ever won.


  2. My number one arcade game was called Wonderboy and it was at an arcade in Prestatyn (or Great Yarmouth. I forget). I dread to think how many 10p’s I fed into that thing between me and my best mate. Good times.


  3. Oh man, the seaside arcades! We used to go to Blackpool every October, and we made a regular thing of doing the rounds at either Coral Island or Harts Amusements (more often it was Harts, as it took up the entire ground floor of our hotel, and thus was in easy reach).

    I seem to remember seeing the Arabian Derby at Coral Island. Couldn’t ever grasp how it worked, so I never had a try of it. I DID spend plenty of time on The Derby at Harts, though. I once discovered that each slot had a barrier about half an inch down, which automatically closed up during each race. made a habit of putting a coin into each slot during the race, so that when the barriers opened again, I effectively placed a bet on EVERY horse in the next race at once! That way, I’d still win money, no matter which horse actually won.

    Naiive gambler? Maybe. Cheating bastard? Certainly. But I still had a good time, and isn’t that what matters most at the arcade? 😉


  4. One of our horse racing games was a bit broken, so one of the horses didn’t retreat all the way to the start for the next race. It still wasn’t guaranteed to win, but it certainly tipped the odds a bit for you.


  5. I remember the horse racing game, no one would ever play it, yet it would constantly break the noise in an arcade playing Oh, my darling Clementine, then saying Place your bets now please.

    It’s also a legal requirement for every arcade to have a Street Fighter II with a joystick that doesn’t move left, A Simpsons arcade machine where the screen has turned yellowey-green, and some obscure Japanese platform game no one is ever playing, like Wardner or Wonder Boy.

    Oh, and a change booth operated by a really miserable looking old bastard.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Does anyone remember the names of the jockeys on an oval glass topped arcade horse racing track in the 1960’s? There must have been five or six horses – two names were, piggot and teal I think. Anyone help? Thanks.



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