Want to know the lay of the land from high tech e-sport meltdowns to beer-soaked nerd caves? Well look no further. Ready Player One!
Today’s arcades are experiencing a 21st-century renaissance with venues popping up all over the world, from Taipei to Tokyo and Warsaw to Washington state.
Top Picks for You
WHERE: Brooklyn, New York
Barcade is to arcade game bars as Kleenex is to tissue paper. The four founding friends literally “coined” the coin-op-rooted term in 2007 when it was registered for trademark. The machines here are token-based, each one a quarter a pop. The beer flows aplenty, with special craft brewery nights and 25 rotating daily taps, but the food options are limited to basic snacks. However, Barcade is happy to offer a binder full of options that deliver in the neighborhood.
Continue? Gaming Bar and Bistro
WHERE: Taipei, Taiwan
Located in one of the world’s computer chip-manufacturing hubs, Continue? Gaming Bar is taking gaming social in Taipei. A bistro menu with clever section titles like “Multi Player” serves Italian and American foods (with a Taiwanese touch), sometimes tricky to find in the Asian island nation. Cocktails have fun names like Slime Paradise or Chinese Paladin Ice Tea. The passionfruit- and lychee-liqueur Pikachu Thunderbolt is to be quaffed with caution.
WHERE: Paris, France
Meltdown, or “Le Melt,” is the product of a culture without a clear distinction between geeks and jocks. Meltdown bars (they’re internationally licensed) have free and easy access to computers souped up with Alienware chips, Logitech sound, and the hottest games, fueled by all the Monster Energy drinks and alcohol you can guzzle. Settle into a bloody match of DOTA or Starcraft II, or tune into the big screens and see how the pros do it.
WHERE: Toronto, Canada
Tilt takes you back to a time when walk-up French fry windows were the norm and arcades reeked of zit cream and cooking grease. A true gamer haven, all the rotating selection of arcade consoles and pinballers are free of charge, along with more analog games of skill like Super Chex Bubble Hockey, Skee-Ball, and classic Italian foosball.
INSIDER TIPThere’s $5 cover charge on most nights.
WHERE: Tokyo, Japan
Capcom is an absolute mecca for fans of the Street Fighter, Mega Man (or “Rockman” as he’s known in Japan), or the Resident Evil series. The bar, located inside the Pasela Resorts Shinjuku Urban Oasis complex, boasts 80 creative concept foods based off of game heroes. Waiters are more than happy to indulge Capcom fans in gamer talk, the odd hadouuuken, and even quick skits if you’re lucky. Three console stations are set up around the resto-bar for your gaming pleasure.
WHERE: Vancouver, Canada
Chomp on gamer-themed burgers like The Triforce (beef, bacon, chicken) while immersed in gamer décor at EXP. Jump in on one of many regular charity tournament nights, industry Q&As, or trivia nights, and partake in many gamer and RPG-themed community events. EXP is sponsored by gaming industry favorite, ASUS computers, who provide VG248QE specialized low-lag monitors.
WHERE: Orlando, Florida
Trade in gaudy mascots and brightly-colored amusement parks for a whole other level of flashy, pixel-riddled entertainment at Player1, where craft beer is the main attraction. Modern consoles can be rented out by the hour, with the bar acting as a game library. Retro classics like the Atari 2600, Colecovision, and even Sega Dreamcast are on hand as well, along with lof-fi T.V. screens in old-school entertainment cabinets.
INSIDER TIPThere’s a $5 cover charge.
WHERE: Chicago, Illinois
Emporium has a double draw, as both locations (along with a third pop-up spot) also double as live music venues that host indie rock bands and DJs that play the appropriate bleepy-bloop synth and electro sounds. Air hockey and foosball tournaments are a regular thing. The Wicker Park location breaks retro conventions with a 20-foot HD TV for watching the big (sports) game and appropriate gamer flicks.
Game Over Lounge
WHERE: Bangkok, Thailand
Founded by an expat food truck chef, Game Over Lounge provides a respite for Westerners who miss their college days of lounging on the couch in the common area with a beer in one hand and a controller in the other. Serving craft burgers, steak, and beer, Game Over doubles as a nightclub. Come for hip-hop night on Wednesdays.
Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade
WHERE: Portland, Oregon
Ever wanted to play Don Bluth’s groundbreaking (for the 80s) Dragon Quest arcade game/cartoon hybrid in its entirety? Well, at Ground Kontrol you can. Billed as the West Coast’s “premier classic arcade,” the bar preserves the “golden age” of video games with dozens of arcade games and pinball machines. While the bar arcade trend has only emerged in the last few years, Ground Kontrol is one of the granddaddies, founded in 1999 by two friends who worked together at a record store.
WHERE: Denver, Colorado
Swig 40s of malt liquor while pumping quarters into arcade games, go wild with six lanes of skee-ball, get tipsy with giant Jenga on the patio, and pick your own jukebox tunes at The 1UP’s big Colfax Street location. Being the behemoth that it is, the 1UP Colfax also serves as a concert/DJ venue with a prominent marquee. The 1UP also has a slightly smaller location in LoDo that serves all your arcade bar needs.
WHERE: Warsaw, Poland
FIFA tournaments, both real and digital versions, are in frequent rotation at the sprawling Level Up in Warsaw, where soccer is a religion. If you’re not into games where you have to chase a ball around a field, there are plenty of other consoles and board games available to play, and cocktails to sip from plush vinyl lounge chairs.
WHERE: London, United Kingdom
Loading has become something of an indie-gaming institution in London with two locations, a podcast, and even a zine. The (mixology) wizards at Loading’s Dalston location have been known to infuse their liquor with some unconventional ingredients, including McDonalds burgers, nuggets, fries, and sweet & sour sauce.
North Star Machines à Piastres
WHERE: Montreal, Canada
The historic selection of pinball games (or machines à piastres in French Canadian lingo) at North Star lend themselves well to warming up frozen fingers during long Montreal winters. The interior pays tribute to the veteran pinball manufacturer Gottlieb, as does the rotating menu of pinball-inspired cocktails.
INSIDER TIPEven flippers have to rest, and the bar is closed Sundays and Mondays.
Seattle Pinball Museum
WHERE: Seattle, Washington
Billed as an “interactive display of kinetic art” in the heart of Chinatown, this establishment holds true museum status after being vetted by a panel of juried artists tasked with filling Seattle’s store fronts. Contained within two floors are 54 different rotating machines (placed in chronological order) that range from the 1930s up to present day, some 80s arcade games, and a bar. Who knows, you might just come across a real pinball wizard.