We cooked up a list of the best arcades in Dallas just last year, but the video game landscape in North Texas has changed enough in the last 12 months that we’re due for an update. We’ve hit Peak Retro, and even as we plunge ahead into a future of virtual reality and couch potato entertainment, the classics continue to hold sway. And your home entertainment system is never going to match the social joy of a dark arcade, especially now that so many of them have full bars and “all you can play” policies for the most ardent binge gamers.
Free Play Arcade | 1730 E. Belt Line Rd., Richardson
The new-ish arcade is a throwback to the arcade glory days of the 1980s, with more than 50 old school games and a period-appropriate soundtrack. Free Play does feature two very welcome contemporary updates: a bar stocked with a decent, rotating supply of beer and wine and a pay-at-the-door, token-less play policy. After separating with $10, you’re free to play Pac-Man and The Simpsons game until carpal tunnel syndrome forces you home. (The drinks are not included in that price.) It’s a family-friendly affair during the day, but stays open until 11 pm on weekdays, midnight on Fridays and Saturdays. Starting in July, the arcade will only allow those of legal drinking age in past 9 pm on weekends.
The National Videogame Museum | 8004 Dallas Pkwy, Frisco
Since opening earlier this year, the National Videogame Museum has lived up to its name and been a museum first, showcasing hundreds of artifacts — memorabilia, technology, and other knick-knacks — in its historical walkthrough of the video game industry. Of course, most museums don’t include a throwback arcade room, the world’s largest home Pong console, or a head-to-head computer gaming hall. No other arcade is quite so educational. It keeps museum hours, closing at 5 pm most weekdays, although you can play a little later (until 8 o’clock) on Saturdays and Sundays.
Barcadia | 1917 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas
More bar than arcade, the Henderson Ave. haunt nevertheless has a solid scattering of classic games, including Street Fighter II and Galaga. This is adults-only, and if one or more of the arcade games aren’t working, you can always step out to play Giant Jenga, cross the street to dance at Beauty Bar, or order another drink.
NickelRama | 1238 Belt Line Rd., Garland
One of North Texas’ best collections of pinball machines is yours to play for just $3.25, which gets you in the door at this kid-friendly Garland arcade. From there, it’s all nickels for a mix of new titles and older games.
Pinstack | 6205 Dallas Pkwy, Plano
Few arcades on this last can match Pinstack for sheer size and spectacle. Much of its 50,000 square feet is devoted to bowling, eating, bumper cars and rope grappling, but plenty of space is devoted to old-fashioned games (skee ball) and flashy new developments in arcade technology, including a one-of-a-kind Transformers game. Look up after getting that high score, and you’re likely to see somebody traversing the ropes course overhead the arcade.
Dave & Buster’s | 9450 N. Central Expwy., Dallas
The restaurant and sports bar might extend your stay, but the plentiful arcade games, including a Star Wars shooter that requires you to get into a capsule and staples like skee ball, are the main attraction.
Tornado Terry’s Family Amusement Center | 4530 Keller Hicks Rd., Keller
This long-running amusement center has an all-you-can-play arcade with more than 70 games. Access to the “free zone” will cost about $15. The “token zone” requires independently-purchased tokens, but all the games in this section cough up candy or tickets, which can be exchanged for a prize.
Round 1 | 3811 South Cooper St., Arlington
A Japanese chain with an arcade, bowling, ping pong, and karaoke.