“It’s a-me, a tourist!”
While the next generation of gaming is in full swing—Xbox Series Xs and PS5s sat patiently under Christmas trees all around the globe this past holiday season—Nintendo fans still absolutely have their hands full with exclusives populating the bestselling Switch’s eShop regularly. Not to mention the brand’s handheld 3D consoles—a pillar in that market for some decades now—are still going strong. And to their fans’ delight, Super Nintendo World Japan is set to open on February 4. Needless to say, it’s a good time to be a gamer.
If you fall into the above category—and especially if you’re partial to Nintendo—the below spots are something you’ll want to consider checking out for when you don’t immediately have a controller in-hand.
Top Picks for You
Nintendo New York
WHERE: New York City
Nintendo’s flagship store, this mainstay opened in 2005 and is located in 10 Rockefeller Plaza (another iconic establishment). Spanning over 10,000 square feet across two floors, inside you’ll find a variety of Nintendo merchandise (including collectible T-shirts), games to play, a real-life Warp Pipe, and memorabilia (like the storied Nintendo Power Glove) that will truly make you feel as if you’ve stepped into the Mushroom Kingdom.
Fun Fact: The store was originally called “The Pokémon Center.”
National Video Game Museum
WHERE: Frisco, Texas
An institution that strives to “preserve the history of the video game industry by archiving not only the physical artifacts, but also the information and stories behind its creation,” the National Video Game Museum is, frankly, seminal. With video games available to actually play, as well as literal relics on display, expect to learn something AND be entertained during your visit here. The museum, which offers private tours, is also running such current exhibits as “You’ve Stepped Back Into an ’80s Arcade” and “The Timeline of Consoles.”
The Heart of Gaming
An ode to video game arcades, London’s The Heart of Gaming is an arcade itself—one of the city’s few! Entry requires a flat fee—no coin-operated machines here, sorry nostalgia-lovers. But the good news is, after paying, you’ll get to play anything you want. From “Sega Rally Racing” to “Die Hard Arcade,” you and your buddies are sure to find something to enjoy when you drop by as part of your video game tour.
Commonly referred to as the geek district and/or “Electric Town,” this neighborhood in Japan’s Chiyoda ward features a bevy of staples in Japanese pop culture, including video games (more specifically, arcades), manga, and more bright lights than you can imagine. We recommend heading to Super Potato, a family-friendly retro game store that spans three stories and contains candy and stuffed animals based on popular video game characters. Retro Game Camp, which has an unfathomable number of NES cartridges available for purchase, is also worth checking out.
WHERE: Carlsbad, California
OK, so it might not be directly Nintendo-related, but Legoland is a tourist hotspot that’s video game-adjacent (and Lego video games have, historically, been quite successful). The theme park has over 60 rides (including a challenge that lets you build a car and then race it against others), an aquarium, and two (!) different hotels.
The Strong National Museum of Play
WHERE: Rochester, New York
Sporting an impressive collection of board games, dolls, and video games, The Strong National Museum of Play wants to encourage and celebrate, well, playing. You’ll find a number of exhibits running at any given time, like “Millennial Madness: The Toys that Shaped a Generation” and “American Comic Book Heroes: The Battle of Good vs. Evil.” And, given the number of consoles it has in its possession, your Nintendo heart is likely to sing as you pass through the Museum’s doors.
WHERE: Los Angeles
An annual event, E3 (short for “Electronic Entertainment Expo) is a gathering of the most chaotic sort at the renowned Staples Center as gamers come from far and wide to experience and see for themselves what video game studios and developers have lined up for consumers. The energy in the (crowded) auditoriums is palpable as people race to queue up in hopes of playing first-party exclusives, like Nintendo’s Splatoon 2, or Super Mario Odyssey. There’s nothing else like it, and it’s the kind of thing that’s absolutely worth making a road trip for.