The 10 Best Barcades for Gaming and Drinking in LA
Combine your love for retro arcade games, pinball, and great drinks at these video game-focused bars.
In the scheme of things, videogames have not been around very long—relative to games like, say, Mancala or Cuju, they are a recent phenomenon. But they are 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 come from it, though, is the advent of the barcade, a cool bar bolted onto an old-school arcade.
Modern barcades tend towards stylish and trendy, with fun retro color schemes that call back to nerd culture of the ‘80s and ‘90s, local craft beer, and game cabinets that are mostly functional and in good condition. They are—unlike the vast majority of actual arcades—great places to take a date, watch sports, a space for lighthearted casual competition, gentle shit-talking, and several rounds of good drinks.
Some run a little clubbier, and some are more game-focused. Some have better food, and some have wild decor, but they are universally fun places for a night out. From Downtown to Hollywood and the Valley, these are ten of our favorite barcades in LA:
The Arts District’s hot spot 82 is the barcade for people who would prefer to keep the emphasis on the first syllable—there are good quality games here, but it’s as much an aesthetic tone-setter as anything. There is also a large outdoor patio, retail space, and a listening bar with a full-time DJ program. That means that the energy can veer towards clubby, with a more dressed-up downtown crowd than the others in the category. That said, they do play host to the LA Pinball League on Tuesday nights, and you won’t have a hard time finding a partner for a round of Area 51 anytime.
There’s a reason Highland Park’s Barcade has a generic name—they invented the concept, or at least they claim they did. 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 some folks in Portland who would beg to differ), Barcade has executed the idea to perfection, with a simple food menu, good cocktails and beer, and a great set of classic arcade games and pinball. And if you get a high score, they post it on their website—we’re coming for you, Tenny.
Most barcades lean into the retro side of the aesthetic spectrum, but few charge as hard towards it as North Hollywood’s Player One. Their massive space is on a prime corner of Lankershim, a bright purple, pink, and teal monument to ‘80s retro-future style with teal palm trees and a vintage sci-fi cityscape in silhouette on the side. The theme continues throughout, with ‘80s and ‘90s jams on the stereo, lots of glowing neon, and plenty of vintage game consoles. There are bigger-format games like Dance Dance Revolution, and also regular events like bar trivia and karaoke. There’s solid craft beer and a full bar, and you can bring in food as long as you clean up after yourself and don’t spill on the games.
Because it is also a Dodger bar, a taqueria, and a natural wine bar, you could almost forget that Button Mash is first and foremost a barcade, with a killer selection of vintage games in good condition. Play classic bangers like Galaga, NBA Jam, and X-Men while you knock back some curated craft beers. Then take a quick break with a mushroom taco from Tacos 1986, and head over to the skee-ball and pop-a-shot for some friendly competition.
If you long not for the buzzing ‘80s arcades of Tron but instead for the carpeted hush of your friend’s TV room, with a two-liter of soda and several videogame stations connected by LAN, EXP Barcadia may be the spot for you. The decor is relatively toned down, with touches lifted in equal parts from a WeWork kitchen and a dorm common room. The games are more reminiscent of a high-quality home setup than a classic arcade too, with PC gaming labs, consoles set up in mock living rooms, and dedicated VR space. 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 food menu with Japanese and LA influences.
The Sherman Oaks barcade The One Up is named for the extra life bonus in vintage video games, but it could also refer to the way they’re one upping the competition with a simple policy—their games are free to play for customers. If you’re eating from their menu of veg-friendly pub food or drinking their cocktails or beer, you can dive into CarnEvil, Space Invaders, Double Dragon, or anything else from their large selection. The decor runs loungey with fun, nerdy touches like a series of pop culture portraits and a giant Mr. T mural.
Many of these other arcade bars look like your best memory of an old arcade mixed with a trendy bar. Blipsy is more like an actual old school arcade—it’s dark and divey, some of the games are busted, and you will inevitably grab something that is 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 want to actually remember arcades as they were 30 years ago, this is your spot.
The sign outside Walt’s loudly proclaims “Pinball” in garish rainbow neon, but it is not as intense as that makes it seem—it is more of a bar with some cool pinball machines than a Pinball Bar. The focus is instead on their good natural wine list, solid craft beer, and hot dogs, with pinball tournaments as a special feature. Whether you’re there for a tap takeover, a winemaker night, or just to hang out on a quiet weeknight, Walt’s is a great place to knock back a few chill drinks and knock a metal ball around a machine.
Guildhall isn’t exactly a barcade like the others on the list, but it is a fantastic place to have a drink, eat some creative pub food, and play games—they’re just board games instead of video games. Guildhall is an e-sports bar, where you can watch top e-sports competitions and Twitch streams on their TV screens, and it is also a board game bar, where you can check out board games from their expansive 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 very much alive at Guildhall.
Hollywood and Westchester
Yes, it’s a corporate behemoth, and no it’s not as trendy or cool as most of the other options on the list, and yes the beer list leaves much to be desired, but there’s a reason Dave & Buster’s has grown to this size in the barcade game—their formula works. Each location has an absolutely massive selection of games, including classics and modern hits alike, and the food and drinks are totally competent. It won’t give you the electric charge of a vintage-style arcade, but it would be a mistake to write off D&B—especially if you’re looking for a kid-friendly afternoon activity.