Few things pair better than video games and beer. Restauranteurs have taken notice, and over the past decade several impressive arcade/bar hybrids have emerged throughout the country looking to lure thirsty gamers. The Game Informer staff travels a lot over the course of the year, and when we're in new towns we often try to make time to check out these venues. We haven't crossed every barcade throughout the United States off our list of places to visit, but of the many we've visited to burn through a hefty stack of quarters, these are our favorites.
The barcade of choice for most Denverites like our own Ben Reeves, The 1Up is so popular it spawned a second location. Both the Colfax and LoDo spots feature dozens of classic arcade cabinets and pinball machines. Hardcore players can engage in monthly tournaments or league play. To match the lo-fi vibe, the bar offers many different 40-ounce malt liquor offerings in addition to tap beer.
Location: New York, Newark, Jersey City, Philadelphia, New Haven
Upon opening in 2004, Barcade’s Williamsburg location combination of craft beer and classic arcade cabinets proved immensely popular, with Esquire naming it one of the best bars in America in 2008. Since then, the owners have extended the brand to seven locations across four eastern states. World record holders for games like Donkey Kong, Q*bertz, and Timber call the Brooklyn location home.
Location: Los Angeles
Los Angeles is home to many good arcade bars, but Button Mash is our favorite thanks to its great Asian fusion food menu. The lineup of arcade cabinets boasts a murderer’s row of greatest hits spanning most game genres. While you’re waiting to challenge the person holding court in NBA Jam, you can munch on must-haves like the double-fried tamarind chicken wings and spicy Korean pork belly sandwich.
Cobra Arcade Bar
Cobra Arcade Bar owner Ariel Bracamonte has put together what he considers to be the Holy Grail lineup of arcade machines at this popular Phoenix bar. The list includes most of the arcade classics you'd expect, as well as the holy trinity of early '90s brawlers – The Simpsons, X-Men, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Turtles In Time. The cocktails have names that pay homage to arcade classics like Pac-Man and Street Fighter, and constant drink specials make this an afforable hang out spot.
Coin-Op Game Room
Location: San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento
The San Francisco location was already a must-visit thanks to its eclectic game-themed craft cocktails, Neapolitan pizza, and lineup of 50 arcade machines from the ‘80s and ‘90s. But that didn’t stop Coin-Op from leveling up with a sleek speakeasy themed after Tron. Known as the Grid, this bar-within-a-bar is a great place to wind down after a tense round of Killer Queen – provided you remembered to make a reservation for this SF hotspot.
A Portland mainstay since 1999, Ground Kontrol is home to the annual Portland Pinbrawl tournament. The location boasts 90 arcade cabinets spanning back to the ‘70s, and also hosts game-centric events year-round. Our favorites include the monthly Rock Band karaoke night, occasional Hearthstone gatherings, and indie game showcases. Right now, the arcade is in the middle of a massive expansion and remodel, and it also has merch available for purchase.
Location: Chicago, Nashville
This well-stocked arcade haven boasts more than 60 arcade and pinball games, including some lesser seen greats like Narc and Primal Rage. Living up to its name, HQ features a fantastic selection of rotating craft beers, plus creative craft cocktails that take bold risks like combining Cinnamon Toast Crunch with bourbon. The interior design of the Chicago location in the River North neighborhood is also a must-see, with cool flourishes like a wall of cassette tapes behind the DJ booth.
Kung Fu Saloon
Location: Austin, Dallas, Houston, Nashville
The concept for this Austin staple proved so popular the owners have expanded into three other cities as well. Though the number of arcade cabinets doesn’t match those of other bar arcades, the lineup of fighting game classics like Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, and Kung Fu Master that let you show off your combat style. The new West Sixth location is more spacious than its predecessor, and it’s one of the few gaming-centric venues we know about that serves brunch.
This undead clown lounge was almost sacrificed to the real estate gods to make room for yet another high-rise condo – the fate of too many great bars across the nation. This caused pinball and dive bar aficionados to reach out to the Landmark Preservation Board, which successfully stayed the real estate project back in 2015. The beloved Belltown bar still isn’t 100-percent clear of the wrecking ball, but for now, it’s still serving hot dogs and offering a great slate of pinball machines to its dedicated patrons. Come to drink a Rainier at the old-school dive bar, and stay to try and get that Addams Family pinball table high score.
Location: Minneapolis, Kansas City, Des Moines
Given our headquarters is in Minneapolis, chances are you could run into a Game Informer editor dropping quarters into one of the 50 arcade cabinets at this Uptown hotspot. Up-Down’s strong lineup of arcade and pinball favorites includes many favorites, but extends to deep cuts like Mr. Do! and Crystal Castles and modern games like Killer Queen and Black Emperor as well. Pizza slices satiate you between rounds, and the Skee-ball leagues don’t mess around. The impressive tap list includes 60 beers, with a large focus on regional breweries. Dedicating 30 taps to your neighbors is never a bad thing when the city boasts great options like Bent Paddle, Fulton, and Surly.