LA’s Best Barcades for Vintage Games and Cocktails

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In the scheme of things, video games haven’t been around for very long – compared to games like, say, Mancala or Cuju, they’re a recent phenomenon. But they’re already old enough to generate wave after wave of nostalgia, and for whole cottage industries to spring up around that nostalgia. Perhaps the best thing to take away from it, however, is the advent of the Barcade, a cool bar bolted onto an old-fashioned archway.

Modern barcades tend to be sleek and fashionable, with fun retro colors reminiscent of 80s and 90s nerd culture, local craft beer, and game cabinets that are mostly functional and in good condition. These are, unlike the vast majority of actual arcades, great places to meet up, watch sports, space for light casual competition, mild chatter, and multiple rounds of great drinks.

Some operate a bit more clubbier, and some are more game-focused. Some have better food, and some have wild decor, but these are universally fun places for a night out. From downtown to Hollywood to the Valley, here are ten of our favorite barcades in LA:

Eighty-two
Eighty-two

arts district
Arts District hotspot 82 is the barcade for people who prefer to keep the stress on the first syllable – there are some decent games here, but it’s as much an aesthetic tone-maker as anything else. There’s also a large outdoor patio, retail space, and listening bar with a full-time DJ schedule. That means the energy can veer clubby, with a downtown crowd more dressed up than others in the category. That said, they host the LA Pinball League on Tuesday nights, and you won’t have trouble finding a partner for a game of Area 51 at any time.

barcade
Barcade – Los Angeles

Highland Park
There’s a reason the Highland Park Barcade has a generic name: they invented the concept, or at least they claim to have. The company’s first location opened in Brooklyn in 2004, and they now have nine barcades spread across the country, mostly in the northeast with one in Detroit and one here. Whether or not they were the first (there are people in Portland who would disagree), Barcade executed the idea to perfection, with a simple menu, great cocktails and beer, and a great set of classic arcade and pinball games. And if you get a high score, they post it on their website – we’re picking you up, Tenny.

player one
player one

North Hollywood
Most barcades lean into the retro side of the aesthetic spectrum, but few charge as hard as North Hollywood’s Player One. Their massive space sits in a prime corner of Lankershim, a purple, pink and teal landmark in 80s retro-future style with teal palm trees and a silhouetted vintage sci-fi cityscape to the side. The theme continues throughout, with 80s and 90s jams on the stereo, lots of bright neon lights, and plenty of vintage game consoles. There are larger format games like dance dance revolution, and also regular events like quizzes and karaoke. There’s solid craft beer and a full bar, and you can bring food as long as you clean up after yourself and don’t spill on games.

Mashed Buttons
Photo by Rudolph Johnson, courtesy of Button Mash

Echo Park
Because it’s also a Dodger bar, a taqueria and a natural wine bar, we almost forget that Button Mash is above all a barcade, with a selection of vintage games in good condition that kills. Play classic bangers like Galaga, NBA jamand x-men while you gulp down selected craft beers. Then, take a quick break with a mushroom taco from Tacos 1986, and head to skee-ball and pop-a-shot for some friendly competition.

EXP Barcadia
EXP Barcadia

Arcadia
If you don’t fancy the bustling 80s arcades of tron but instead of the silent carpet of your friend’s TV room, with two liters of soda and several LAN-connected video game stations, EXP Barcadia may be the place for you. Decor is relatively toned down, with lifted touches of equal parts of a WeWork kitchen and a dorm common room. The games are more reminiscent of a high-quality home setup than a typical arcade, with PC game labs, consoles set up in mock living rooms, and a dedicated VR space. The cocktails all have gaming-themed names like the rum and citrus-based health potion or the tequila and prickly pear Exp Boost, and there’s an interesting menu of dishes with Japanese and LA influences. .

The One-Up
The One-Up

Sherman Oaks
The Sherman Oaks The One Up barcade takes its name from the extra life bonus in vintage video games, but it could also refer to how they push the competition forward with a simple policy: their games are free for customers. If you eat from their vegetarian pub food menu or drink their cocktails or beer, you can dive into CarnEvil, space invaders, Dual Dragon, or anything else from their vast selection. Decor is loungey with fun, cheesy touches like a series of pop culture portraits and a giant MT mural

Koreatown
Many of these other arcade bars look like your best memory of an old arcade mixed with a hip bar. Blipsy is more like a real old-school arcade – it’s dark and plunging, some of the games are broken, and you’ll inevitably grab something that’s mysteriously sticky. But they have a great selection of games, affordable drinks, and the energy is always good. If you want to see your childhood through rose-colored glasses, maybe look elsewhere, but if you really want to remember the arcades as they were 30 years ago, this is your place.

Walt's Bar
Boulevard Sentinel

Eagle Rock
The sign outside Walt loudly proclaims “Pinball” in garish rainbow neon, but it’s not as intense as it sounds – it’s more of a bar with cool pinball machines than a Pinball Bar. Instead, the focus is on their good natural wine list, solid craft beer, and hot dogs, with pinball tournaments as a feature. Whether you’re there for a tap takeover, a winemaker’s night, or just a quiet weeknight, Walt’s is a great place to grab a few cold drinks and bang a metal ball around a machine.

guild house
Guildhall esports bar

Burbank, Whittier
Guildhall isn’t exactly a barcade like the others on the list, but it’s a fantastic place to have a drink, eat creative pub food and play games – it’s just board games instead of video games. Guildhall is an esports bar, where you can watch the best esports competitions and Twitch streams on their TV screens, and it’s also a board game bar, where you can experience board games from from their extensive library of over 200 titles to play while you eat and drink. The mechanics may be slightly different, but the fun, competitive, nerdy spirit of the best barcades is alive and well in Guildhall.

At Dave and Buster's
At Dave and Buster’s

Hollywood and Westchester
Yes it’s a corporate juggernaut, and no it’s not as trendy or cool as most of the other options on the list, and yes the beer list leaves a lot to be desired, but there’s a reason why which Dave & Buster’s has reached this size in the barcade game – their formula works. Each location has an absolutely massive selection of games, including classics and modern hits, and the food and drink is totally competent. It won’t give you the electric charge of a vintage-style arcade, but it would be a mistake to cancel D&B, especially if you’re looking for a kid-friendly afternoon activity.

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Ben Mesirow is an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food and sports. At one time or another his writings have appeared in The Los Angeles Time, liter, McSweeney’s Internet Trend, Los Angeles Magazineand engraved on dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.

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