In the three years since L.A. Weekly's last arcade roundup, the IRL gaming landscape in L.A. has changed. Former favorites like fighting-game hot spot Family Fun Arcade in Granada Hills and Little Tokyo's Japan Arcade have since closed, and Super Arcade is in the midst of moving to a new location.
Not long after that first list was published, though, an arcade renaissance hit Los Angeles. Little Tokyo got a bowling alley complete with a shiny new arcade and the trend toward '80s video games has led to the opening of three retro-modern establishments. More recently, Monterey Park got a new claw machine-centric arcade filled with fun prizes. Consider this an addendum to the 2012 list that includes the more recent additions to the local arcade world, plus a few oldies that weren't included last time.
1. Neon Retro Arcade
Pasadena's Neon Retro is filled with '80s games, but its business model is decidedly less old school. This is an arcade with a cover, typically $10 for an hour on games that are set to free play. This isn't a great deal for arcade whizzes who can go for hours on a quarter. Nor is it the best spot if you happen to be in the neighborhood and only have time for a single shot at Centipede. However, if you're an average-to-awful player who thinks you'll spend more than $10 in an hour, it's a bargain. Your best bet is to make a date of it. Grab some friends and spend an hour battling it out over your childhood favorites before you grab dinner at one of the many neighboring restaurants. 28 S. Raymond Ave., Pasadena; (626) 568-2924, neonretroarcade.com.
If you like claw machines, then you might not make it past the entryway at XLanes. This Little Tokyo bowling alley greets customers with machines filled with teddy bears, My Melody plushes and other cute gift items that could be yours if the claw gods are on your side. Further down the hall is an arcade that's small in size, but crammed with large games that are as flashy as anything you'd see in a Vegas casino. Grab a few friends for Pac-Man Battle Royale. If you're flying solo, try the Walking Dead and Game of Thrones pinball machines. Got kids with you? The middle-school crowd seemed to dig the basketball hoops and rhythm games. For adults, there's a beer pong machine by the pool tables. Just mind the sign and refrain from pouring your beer into the cups. 333 Alameda St., #300, downtown; (213) 229-8910, xlanesla.com.
Arts District hot spot EightyTwo keeps bar hours; it opens early in the evening and goes until last call. As one might expect, it gets pretty crowded later in the evening. Show up when it opens, around 5 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, to get in some good playing time. Games rotate at EightyTwo, so you never really know what you're going to end up playing on a given night. That's great for variety, but it's a bit of a bummer when you return to find that your old favorite is no longer on the floor. If your tastes lean towards vintage Nintendo games, you will probably enjoy the selection here. We've spotted Mario Bros., Duck Hunt and even Dr. Mario here at various times. Since EightyTwo is walking distance from XLanes, you may want to bar-arcade hop with your buddies. 707 E. 4th Place, downtown; (213) 626-8200, eightytwo.la.
4. The One Up
If “understated retro” is a design ambition, then One Up in Sherman Oaks has achieved it. The wood facade of this Ventura Boulevard gastropub/arcade is marked by a sole blue-and-pink neon Space Invader and a black awning with the words “Eat. Drink. Play.” Inside, most of the games are paneled in wood as well. One Up is stylish with some unusual decorative touches, like a bar that's covered in cassettes and tape players. The music is heavy on the '80s, from Social Distortion to the Scorpions and when I stopped by Flash Gordon played on one of the TV sets. The cabinets here tend to hold multiple games and are set to free play. It wasn't crowded on a recent late Saturday afternoon and was a really nice place to enjoy a grilled cheese sandwich and play a few rounds of Super Mario Bros. 13625 Ventura Blvd., Sherman Oaks; (818) 849-5181, theoneup.com.
5. Dave & Buster's
OK, so, including Dave & Buster's on this list might seem a little lazy. After all, it's a national chain and most people already know about it. But hear me out: the sports bar/arcade sets the standard for modern gaming venues. There is nothing retro about this place; Even tried-and-true Pac-Man appears here in multiple, souped-up incarnations. Dave & Buster's has the arcade versions of contemporary hits like Angry Birds and Candy Crush. There are also games based on franchises that your kids actually recognize, like Ice Age and Spongebob Squarepants. This is a place where the big games rule and, on one Saturday, Mario Kart was a hit with the afternoon crowd. For selfie fanatics, there's a Japanese-style Purikura booth, where you can edit your photos before you get them. There are multiple Dave & Buster's locations in the greater Los Angeles and, while I hit up the Hollywood and Highland outpost, you might want to avoid the tourists and head to Westchester or Arcadia instead. Various locations.
Tucked in the far end of Universal City Walk, Jillian's is an all-purpose entertainment venue with bowling, billiards and video games; the arcade is small and closer in line to Dave & Buster's or XLanes than other spots on this list. On the day I visited, it was in need of a little TLC; both Dance Dance Revolution and an arcade version of Plants vs. Zombies were out of commission. However, as a Sanrio fanatic, I feel it's necessary to point out that there's a Hello Kitty claw machine here. They also have Pump It Up Fiesta EX 2011 for those who like their rhythm games played with a good dose of K-Pop. The high-end prizes for ticket games include large plush figures from all-the-rage franchises. If your end goal is to win a Minion, this is certainly the spot to do that. 1000 Universal Studios Blvd., North Hollywood; (818) 985-8234, jilliansbilliards.com.
7. AMF Beverly Lanes
The arcade at this Montebello bowling alley is tinny and more of a local spot than a destination. Their games are fairly new and family friendly, i.e. they have Sink It instead of Beer Pong. The Transformers 55″ Theater is fun if you're in the mood to repeatedly shoot robots and their Ice Ball is a more aesthetically pleasing version of Skee-Ball. Their basketball games rep the Lakers and the Clippers, but, when I stopped by, the purple-and-gold machine wasn't working. (As if Lakers fans needed any more disappointments this season.) Prizes here are distributed via machines too, which can be very confusing for those of us who grew up in '80s arcades. At least you can still count on cheap, plastic toys for your ball-flinging efforts. 1201 W Beverly Blvd, Montebello; (323) 728-9161, amf.com/beverlylanesca.
NeoFuns arcade is hidden inside Atlantic Times Square. There's no sign out front, but it's across the walkway from Daiso. This Monterey Park arcade has only been around for a few months, but it has already found its niche as a claw game specialist. The machines here hold a fantastic assortment of adorable stuffed toys that go far beyond Sanrio. Japanese characters like Domo, Gloomy Bear, Rilakkuma and the adorable Sentimental Circus gang all make appearances inside NeoFuns. Anime fans should be pleased to hear that there is a claw dedicated to plushes from the popular series One Piece. There are games here as well and the tickets you accrue can lead to an array of cool and unusual prizes. 500 N. Atlantic Blvd., #162, Monterey Park; (626) 215-7090, neofuns.com.
Technically, DreamLab isn't an arcade. It's a PC cafe, but it's also one that has a reputation as a gamer hangout. That said, tastes run more toward League of Legends than Galaga inside this movie-theater-dark space. For $3, you'll get one hour on the computer, which is less than what you might spend in 60 minutes at an arcade. If you want to take a game break, you can watch Twitch, the gamer-centric video channel, on TVs inside the venue. There are even a handful of a chairs set up in the center of the room for a homier Super Smash Bros.-viewing experience. If you're planning on a marathon session in front of the computer, fear not; DreamLab has soft drinks, snacks and drugstore ramen for sale as well. Once in a while, famed gamers will host events here too, so keep up on events via DreamLab's Facebook page. 1023 S. Baldwin Ave., Arcadia; (626) 348-8534, dreamlabgaming.com.
10. Button Mash
In the few months since it opened, Echo Park's Button Mash has already amassed a healthy crowd. The latest addition to L.A.'s small bar arcade scene has a few things going for it: Starry Kitchen, makers of gooey tofu balls and flavorful chicken wings, handles the food while gamer art gallery iam8bit runs the adjacent boutique PWNshop. If you show up early in the evening, expect to drive around in circles as you search for a parking spot. You may have to wait a bit for a dinner seating too, but that just means more time to spend in the arcade. Button Mash has all the standards, like Street Fighter II and Galaga, plus a few more unusual picks in the mix. The games run on tokens and are fairly inexpensive, although it can be really easy to blow through a couple bucks on Michael Jackson's Moonwalk. Make sure to check out PWNshop for the odd mix of video game-related items. They have everything from Space Invader underwear to a coffee table/SNES controller. 1391 Sunset Blvd., Echo Park; (213) 250-9903.