If you live in Austin, you’ve likely heard of Fantastic Fest, the biggest genre film festival in the country that’s held annually at the Alamo Drafthouse Cinema. What isn’t talked about as much is Fantastic Arcade, an interactive arm of the event that brings some of the coolest — and weirdest — games to the public in arcade cabinets. And the annual arcade’s entries never fail to impress.
Organized by the Austin video game collective Juegos Rancheros, Fantastic Arcade functions as a kind of micro-Indiecade to the larger cinematic festival. Aside from promoting the artistic value of creative independent projects in various capacities, the collective’s members have the experience to back up their passion – developer Adam Saltsman created Canabalt, actor and artist Wiley Wiggins is the creative director of local indie outfit Karakasa Games and game historian Rachel Weil founded and runs the awesome-sounding FEMICOM museum, to name just a few examples.
Arcade dates back to 2010, preceding Juegos (which launched a year later). The show caters to people interested in games in all capacities, whether it’s playing or learning about them. Each year, the curators make their selections from a group of submissions from across the world, some of which are then shown off in custom-built housing in the style of old-school coin-op machines; 2016’s offerings are a smattering of 30 different experiments and genres, with 10 games showcased as spotlight selections.
This year, Downwell creator Ojiro Fumoto, i.e., Moppin, is debuting a new game with Momo Murakami (or Nemk), a graphic artist in the Japanese developer community; Mountain creator David OReilly will also be showing off his new title Everything, a game in which you can literally play as anything you can see.
Other notables are Manifold Garden, and Lucas Pope’s Return of the Obra Dinn, his follow-up after Papers, Please, among others.
Arcade has shown off a number of indies now considered classics over the years, including Fez, Limbo, Octodad, and Hotline Miami, to name a few – as well as a number of wildly original and interesting outsiders like bizarre sports game Push Me Pull You and Wheels of Aurelia, a narrative racing game set in 1970s Italy. As with any good independent art festival, creativity seems to be the key factor here.
This year’s show, which runs from September 26 to 29, will also feature a new arcade cabinet for Alphabet, the collaborative result of Katamari creator Keita Takahashi and Saltsman. Takahashis strange and wonderful games since leaving Namco have been regular showcases at indie events across the industry, and are always worth a look.
There are other aspects of Arcade too — festival-goers can attend discussions and developer talks, as well as participate in game tournaments and other events. Though Juegos Rancheros hasn’t announced an official lineup, The Witness’ Jonathan Blow and Spelunky developer Derek Yu were among the first guests to speak at Arcade’s 2010 debut, setting the bar high for future speakers early.
Here are some of the games you’ll be able to play at this year’s show.