For those of us who grew up in the 1980s and '90s, arcades were an integral part of our childhood and adolescence. They existed inside malls and in shopping centers, waiting for us to fill up the storefronts after school and on weekends. Occasionally, we would have to stand in line waiting behind players who were genuinely skilled at the hot game of the moment. We challenged our friends to games like true fighters. Sometimes we were actually good. Other times, we proudly sucked. Either way, we vented out our teenage frustrations with joysticks and attack buttons and, in the end, we left exhilarated and broke.
The era of the arcade has long since passed, and some today face hard times -- in fact, two of the great stops on this list are set to close by year's end. For right now, though, they still exist, so take the time to enjoy them while they're here. And even when they go, there are plenty of other places where you can watch the best-of-the-best compete in tournaments hear friends screaming "Don't shoot the food!" during games of Gauntlet
Below are ten of the best places to play games in the L.A. area. We tried to make the list all-inclusive, so there are spots here that specialize in retro video games, others for fighting and rhythm games, and a few good Skee-Ball joints.10. Playland Arcade
Located inside Pacific Park on Santa Monica Pier, Playland Arcade isn't the sort of arcade that you'll want to visit every day. Traffic can be a bit of a mess around here and parking is often pricey. If you are planning on a day at the beach, though, it's a solid, diverse arcade to visit. There are a handful of redemption games here. I'm partial Skee-Ball. There are also a handful of classic and relatively recent arcade games. This is by far the busiest arcade I saw while crisscrossing the county in search of video games. With its mix of locals and tourists, it's a good place for people-watching. 350 Santa Monica Pier, Santa Monica.9. Shatto 39 Lanes
Last year, Shatto 39 Lanes on 4th Street and Vermont got a shout out in L.A. Weekly's Best of L.A. issue for its mid-20th century design and good times. As far as the bowling alley's small arcade is concerned, it has one game that you would be hard pressed to find at most contemporary venues. That's Jr. Pac-Man, which is a bit of an oddball in the Pac-Man series in that the mazes are wider than those in its predecessors, so it scrolls from side to side as you're playing. If you're the sort of person, like me, who still plays Ms. Pac-Man, it will take a couple quarters to get used to the visual differences. Other than that, it's still essentially the same game.
Jr. Pac-Man seemed to be one of the more popular games at Shatto 39 Lanes, which gets pretty busy on Saturday nights. The bowling alley is close to both Family Arcade on Vermont and Blipsy Barcade on Western, so you can hit up all three in one evening. I did. 3255 W. 4th Street, Koreatown.