An Introduction to Everything Killer Queen Arcade

Alan Dang
Alan Dang
Jun 2, 2018 · 6 min read

You may have stumbled across the name ‘Killer Queen Arcade’ while browsing for arcade games, or maybe you saw a crowd of players at your local arcade bar cheering around some really large arcade machines, or maybe you saw it as part of a leak of some other games at a particular gaming expo. However you found Killer Queen Arcade doesn’t matter. No, it’s not a stand from Jojo’s Bizarre Adventure, and it doesn’t really have much to do with the band Queen and their song Killer Queen (but they’re all pretty awesome too).

Killer Queen Arcade is something very magical, and let me tell you a little bit about it.

What is Killer Queen Arcade?

Killer Queen Arcade is a 5 v 5 arcade game created by Nik Mikros and Josh Debonis. The game works like this: two teams of five compete against each other to be the first to accomplish 1 of 3 different objectives:

  • Kill the opposing Queen 3 times
  • Ride a snail located somewhere in the center of the map into your own team’s goal
  • Collect 12 berries (those purple orbs) and bring them back to your hive one at a time

The center player on each side plays as the Queen. She has the ability to kill enemies Joust-style (that means colliding with an enemy from above) and tag Gates scattered across the map. These Gates can be used by the other four players playing as Drones to become Warriors (with the help of a berry). Warriors can only kill enemies Joust-style; they can no longer carry berries or ride the snail like could as Drones. Drones and Warriors have infinite lives and will respawn as Drones.

There is a bunch more intricacies to the game but that is enough to get you started. Up/Down, an arcade bar with several locations and Killer Queen Arcade machines in the Midwest created a Youtube video that goes more in depth on how the game works.

What’s the back story to the game? How did it come about?

While the arcade machines themselves have been around for around five years, the game started off actually as Killer Queen: the Field Game a year or so before. The rules are similar and used things like foam swords, balls, and even a fez to represent various roles and tools. Here’s a video of the live action game being played at Indiecade 2012:

The rules are still available on the Killer Queen Arcade site and the game occasionally pops up at festivals from time to time: http://killerqueenarcade.com/fieldgame

While the field version was being tested and played Nik and Josh made a digital version for 12 players, six to a side using NES usb controllers, before finally building and displaying what was to be the first Killer Queen Arcade cabinet at an NYU event called No Quarter in 2013.

What else should I know about Killer Queen Arcade?

Having worked at Bumble Bear, the company behind the game for a while and played the game on and off for almost five years I am very biased but it is a really, really fun game to play, especially with friends. Check out this video from SXSW 2018:

It’s easy to pick up and play while still maintaining a tremendous amount of depth. The controls are easy to learn but everyone has their own special technique and style when they play.

On top of that, Killer Queen Arcade has also had two National Championships so far. The first one in 2016 had over 30 teams with over 150 players total playing for a trophy and custom arcade marquee. Check out the end of the final matchup from BumbleBash I and the ensuing celebration:

The 2017 tournament had even more players and teams attend. Communities even made hype videos ahead of the tournament. Here is the Portland Killer Queen hype video for 2017 (home of the upcoming 2018 BumbleBash 3):

This looks awesome. Where can I play it?

Well, if you came here from the possibly leaked news you might be able to play it on a console someday soon (or not, you won’t get any leaked info here), but to truly get the whole experience your best bet is inside an arcade or arcade bar. Unfortunately, there are only just over two dozen machines publicly playable around the country. The machines do require a fair amount of space and they are not cheap, so you may have to wait until your favorite arcade makes the jump and purchases one (feel free to tell them all about it!). Having said that, operators are very enthusiastic about the game too:

There is a nice map on the Killer Queen Arcade Twitter that shows you where all the machines are currently. Most of these machines have built communities around them and have organized on Facebook. Finding a machine near you and finding out when the regulars come play or when there are special events is a great way to get into Killer Queen. KQ Players are a fun and diverse mix of people from all backgrounds who come together to play this amazing arcade game. They have also created some awesome fan merchandise, from awesome posters:

To Pins:

To T-shirts:

You will not find a more dedicated group of arcade gamers in this day and age anywhere else. Players will often travel around the country to participate in tournaments, or just to hang out and meet new people and make new friends while playing this game.

Where else can I find more information about Killer Queen Arcade?

There is a lot of longer pieces of writing online from a number of gaming websites about Killer Queen Arcade:

Kotaku has written about Killer Queen Arcade and made a video to go along with it.

Polygon has written about it way back when as well.

Here’s a video from 2014 with Nik and Josh talking about the history of Killer Queen up until that point.

Communities will regularly stream tournaments on twitch.tv as well as post the videos on youtube as well.

If you want to stay up with the latest and greatest information, check out Killer Queen Twitter and Facebook pages. Or check out your local KQ communities on Facebook.

Also, come to Portland, Oregon for BumbleBash 3, happening October 19–22nd. More details are on the Facebook event page.

Whatever you do, just don’t set fire to the cabs.

Alan Dang

Written by

Alan Dang

Game Developer, current Consigliere/Producer for Funktronic Labs. Former Iron Chef Bacon and former COO of Killer Queen Arcade.

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