Rather than slog through the tourist-clogged, giant-money-grabbing-Elmo-infested hellscape that is Times Square to get your fix of arcade games, you can save your sanity and venture to areas that aren’t teeming with slow walkers and people in giant plush costumes that may very well grope you while you’re bathed in the neon-tinged light of the billboards, lining this most timely of squares.
After you’ve scrolled through this list, you’ll never have to push past people begging you to come to a comedy show, promising you the appearance of Chris Rock when everyone involved in this exchange knows that’s a goddamn lie. Nor will you have to dodge out of the way of a mixtape being shoved into your walking path. You will be able to stay in a far less stress-inducing environment, and enjoy the arcade games for what they are.
Barcade - 388 Union Avenue
Bars with the odd pinball machine or deer-shooting game, maybe even a little beat-em-up action in the corner, are all over the city. But to whom do we owe all these bar-adjacent distractions? It might just be the four friends that started Barcade in 2004.
Spanning several locations, the first of which is based in Williamsburg, Barcade plays host to some incredibly niche and retro arcade games like Michael Jackson’s Moonwalker, a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles game, and some classics-like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat. They also offer a rotating selection of craft beers - what’s a better combo than niche beer and fondly-remembered video games?
Chinatown Fair - 8 Mott Street
Walk into Chinatown Fair and you’ll be blasted by neon lights and arcade noises - you know the ones: coins hitting plastic, fake gun shots, 8-bit theme tunes, Guitar Hero admonishing you for being a terrible musician. It’s fantastic!
Here you’ll find Dance, Dance Revolution (an arcade staple) and the Korean equivalent - Pump it Up PRIME. You’ve got air hockey, basketball games, different iterations of Tekken, Mario Kart, and a mammoth version of Space Invaders.
Sunshine Laundromat - 860 Manhattan Avenue
Most of the places on this list will be a combination of bar and arcade. Sunshine Laundromat differs in that it’s not only a bar-cum-arcade, but that it’s also a laundromat! You probably guessed that from the name though.
Now you can break up the monotony of laundry day by doing a load while sipping on some beer, wine, or froze and playing some pinball! Why every laundromat isn’t like this, we’ll never know.
Two-Bit’s Retro Arcade - 153 Essex Street
Who wouldn’t want to throw themselves into the 80s/90s nostalgia pit that is Two-Bit’s Retro Arcade? This Lower East Side staple lets you simultaneously soak up the nostalgia while washing it all down with craft beer, wine, or sake. The tipple is gamer’s choice. Here you can play a huge range of arcade classics like Pacman, Frogger, or Paperboy.
There’s food too - hungry, inebriated gamers can order pizza and hot dogs while watching classic movies, which are projected on the bar’s back wall.
Modern Pinball - 362 Third Avenue
Modern Pinball may be the only entry on this list that doesn’t serve its game hungry patrons alcohol or food. Here, the sole focus is pinball. Only pinball. Here you’ll enter a room and be surrounded by rows upon rows of pinball machines - a collection carefully curated by owner, Steve Zahler.
And guess what happens if you fall in love with one particular pinball machine - you can take that bad boy home. Modern Pinball functions as a game room/museum/pinball machine store. Playing here is by the hour, so you don’t have to worry about turning up with a pocket full of quarters, and your wristband can get you 10% off drinks at the bar next door.
7B/Vazacs Horseshoe Bar - 108 Avenue B
A bar with two names - Vazacs Horseshoe Bar is also known by 7B, for its Alphabet City location. Not only does this place stock a wide range of pinball machines and classic arcade games, but it’s also served as a filming location for The Godfather Part II, Sex and the City, Rent, and countless others.
Here, you’ll find Game of Thrones and Iron Maiden-themed pinball machines, a photobooth, and a full bar that best allows you to wash down the sweet taste of victory with any manner of drink you may desire.
Ace Bar - 531 East 5th Street
This is for the game aficionados that can appreciate the beauty of a vintage lunchbox, all while sipping on $3 PBRs. Ace Bar is renowned for its collection of over 100 lunchboxes, as well as its cheap beers and pinball machines.
Here, you can play a number of pinball games and, when those flashing lights begin to cause your beer-soaked eyes to ache, you can switch over to either the pool table, one of the two skee ball lanes, bar staple Big Buck Hunter, a darts board, or a vast array of board games.