The Midwest Gaming Classic is a trade show with over 150,000 square feet of home video game consoles, pinball machines, arcade cabinets, computers and other games. It has a heavy focus on retro gaming, and Tom and Joey hit the road to see if old games are still fun.
The Classic is technically open on Saturday and Sunday, with limited tickets available for a Friday night Preview Party. The party took place in the main gaming hall, the rest of the features opened up Saturday morning.
There was an astounding number of games on display. The first row featured light guns of all generations, before giving way to row after row of classic consoles. Nearly every non-Nintendo console was represented, from Turbgrafx16 through Xbox One. Games from all genres were represented. Some titles that stood out to me:
Magical Chase – Turbografx16
- Sidescrolling bullet hell where you play a witch on a broomstick, hurling magic at your enemies
- Your upgrade shop floats through levels, and upgrades appeared to stick with you through all your lives
- This was a fun game, and one of my favorite things I played at the show
Cotton Boomerang – Sega Saturn
- I believe this is the first and only Sega Saturn game I have ever played
- Also a side-scrolling bullet hell with witches
- Instead of lives, you have three witches on the screen, when one gets hit they are knocked off, until they are all gone
War of the Monsters – PlayStation 2
- 3D fighter where two giant monsters face off
- Controls like garbage – looking and shooting at the same time was nearly impossible
- My giant robot lost to a praying mantis, and playing once was enough
Cuphead – XBox One
- The only “new” game I played at the tournament, it was incredibly fun
- We took on two bosses – a vegetable medley we defeated and a pair of frogs who turn into a slot machine. We couldn’t figure out the final stage of the frog board.
Mario Kart Double Dash Tournament – Nintendo Gamecube
There were a number of tournaments going on throughout the event, I took part in a Double Dash competition. This game features a pair of characters on each cart, and they set up a LAN that let eight teams compete at once.
We wound up finishing in the middle of the pack, which is surprising because:
- I never owned a Gamecube and hadn’t played this Mario Kart in over 12 years
- My interest in Mario Kart has always been tepid at best
- I screwed up the drifting mechanic, keeping us from being as efficient as possible
In addition to consoles and some arcade cabinets, there were a number of pinball machines at the event. These ran the gamut from very very old to some very new tables with HD video boards. The consoles were much busier on Saturday, so the OiO crew ended up competing in a pinball decathlon, going head-to-head on machines from all eras. After splitting the first 10 matches, Hobby Box took the trophy with a winner-takes-all deathmatch on the Demolition Man table. For the record, it’s based on a movie I haven’t seen.
The Vendor Hall
In addition to the games, there was a huge vendor hall. There were a couple stalls with interesting gaming art, including prints, shadowboxes and embroidered materials. There were also a ton of game shops with stalls, selling everything from Atari games through PS4 and Xbox One titles.
It was a treasure trove for retro gaming collectors. There was also a deep dish pizza stand that probably made about $1 billion, and celebrities including Mortal Kombat actors and the voice of NBA Jam.
The Other Stuff
There were other aspects of the show that we didn’t engage with much:
- Speakers and panels – A variety of topics and celebrities, including Eric Bischoff.
- Pinball high score tournament – Outside of the main gaming hall, there was always a line
- Air hockey against a pro
- Board game library and demos
- Saturday night after party – A DJ and drinks with some celebrities. One member of our group went and was very disappointed. There were very few games at the event, it was held at the host hotel instead of the convention center. The rest of us played Smash Ultimate in one of our rooms. One cool note, the Million Dollar Man Ted DiBiase was handing out drink tickets. Apparently he is a pastor now.
Friday night preview tickets were $45, as were Saturday tickets. We spent $90 each for our tickets, plus $300 for two nights of hotels with parking. Meals were additional, although we were able to find relatively healthy options (and Dunkin Donuts) within walking distance of the hotel. Considering it was more than half the cost of a PS4 (not counting gas) it was on the more expensive side of the entertainment spectrum, but the event was definitely fun. We had a great crew with nine people from their mid twenties to late thirties and one eight-year-old.
If you are hungry for a blast from the past, or interested in a slice of gaming history, you should check out the Midwest Gaming Classic next spring.