The high-score board is back, the pinball tables have new lights, and arcades are officially cool again. While they once seemed to be going the way of Blockbuster Video, the popularity of dedicated homes for coin-operated video game machines has seen a shocking resurgence, thanks in large part to the advent of arcade bars. Some of those bars are adult-focused (or have adult-only hours), but family-friendly arcades are also back in action.
Sure, game consoles have found their way into most homes, and the cellphones most of us carry in our pockets are more powerful than any Pac-Man cabinet ever dreamed of being, but sometimes you just need to meet up with some friends and settle a score the old-fashioned way: with a game of Street Fighter II.
For moments like those, here are some of the best places in the Dallas area to quarter up. (Listed in alphabetical order.)
Update at 11:20 a.m.: Unfortunately, a reader informed us that the Fort Worth location of Barcadia closed a few days before this story was posted. We've removed it from the list.
If you need a little Mortal Kombat with your nightlife, Barcadia is a pretty good spot. While it's one of the older, more established spots on this list, it is more bar and less arcade than some of its younger competitors. The bar doesn't boast the largest collection of machines in the area, but its old-school selection is solid with games like Tron and Track and Field, all of which are playable for a quarter. If you want your '80s nostalgia with a side of beer and food, head to Barcadia and play some Frogger.
1917 N. Henderson Ave., Dallas. Twenty-five cents per game. barcadiabars.com.
Bishop Cider Co.'s Cidercade has been voted the best cider bar in the U.S., and for good reason. Not only is the cider on point, but the arcade has a solid selection of machines, including a Nintendo PlayChoice-10, and titles such as Soulcalibur, Mario Kart, NBA Jam and X-Men. The Cidercade is one of the few homes of the five-on-five action-strategy game Killer Queen, which has been a cult hit since its release in 2013. Monday nights are devoted to the game, and the Cidercade has two machines, meaning 20 players can enjoy it at once.
2777 Irving Blvd., Dallas. Free play after admission. $20 per day or $30 per month. cidercade.com.
Craftcade Pinball Bar (Fort Worth)
This is the bar for folks in Fort Worth who love pinball. There are no arcade cabinets here, but there are 16 pinball tables, including Creature From the Black Lagoon, Hook and Star Trek. Most tables are 50 cents per play, but you can exchange some of your bills for Craftcade tokens if you really want to throw back. The bar features gaming-themed cocktails like the Invaderade (a green mojito inspired by Space Invaders) and a Tetris drink called Puzzle Punch, which contains tetromino-shaped fruit-infused ice. Bonus: Skee-Ball is free.
615 S. Jennings Ave., Fort Worth. facebook.com/thecraftcade.
"Newer and flashier" tends to be the MO at Dave and Buster's locations. You're less likely to find classics like Joust or Gauntlet -- when you stumble on a familiar face like Frogger, sometimes it's a modern iteration that might not appeal to retro fans. But if you want something fresh and exciting, Dave and Buster's probably has it. One of the company's most recent acquisitions: A Halo arcade game called Fireteam Raven, which allows up to four players to shoot enemies on a 140-inch 4K screen. D&B has recently been a home for arcade iterations of many mobile hits including Temple Run, Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade.
Four D-FW locations: 425 Curtis Mathes Way, Arlington; 9450 N. Central Expressway, Dallas; 2525 Rio Grande Blvd., Euless; and 2601 Preston Road, Frisco. Prices vary. daveandbusters.com.
Free Play (Richardson, Arlington, Denton)
Free Play took the arcade bar concept and made it more about the arcade than the beer. After a successful launch in Richardson, Free Play quickly expanded to Arlington and Denton, and a pinball-focused spinoff is in the works for Dallas. More than 60 arcade and pinball machines are set to free play (that name makes even more sense now, huh?). So for a small entry fee ($5 in Denton, $10 in Richardson and Arlington), you can play classics such as Joust, Smash TV, Pac-Man and more to your heart's content. Free Play also has a strong community that meets regularly for tournaments and events, including a recent world record-breaking Tapper marathon.
Update on Dec. 14: Free Play's Denton location only charges $5 admission, as opposed to the originally reported number of $10. This has been corrected.
Three locations: 1730 E. Belt Line Road, Richardson, freeplayrichardson.com; 400 E. South St., Arlington, freeplayarlington.com; and 505 W. Hickory St., Denton, freeplaydenton.com. Free play after $5-$10 admission fee.
National Videogame Museum (Frisco)
One of the main attractions at Frisco's National Videogame Museum is an arcade room with more than 40 games, including Asteroids, Centipede and Donkey Kong. Your admission fee to the museum comes with four game tokens (each game costs one or two tokens per player), but additional tokens can be purchased for 25 cents each. While you're there, check out the timeline of game consoles, or see rare oddities like the sewing machine accessory for the Game Boy Color (yes, that's a real thing).
8004 Dallas Parkway, Frisco. $12 general admission; $10 for ages 10 and under, senior citizens, educators and active military members. nvmusa.org.
The games here aren't set to free play, but they're pretty close -- they take nickels instead of quarters, albeit after you pay a small entry fee. Unfortunately, several classic cabinets have been removed and replaced with newer games in recent years (R.I.P. NBA Jam), most of which give you tickets. Still, it's a fun place for families, and it can be a good spot for birthday parties. Plus, it feels good to play a game for 20 cents when it normally would have cost a dollar.
Two locations: 1238 Belt Line Road and 3046 Lavon Drive, Garland. Admission is $3.50 (group rates are available for parties). nickelrama.com.
Quarter Lounge Arcade (Bedford)
Head out to Bedford and you'll find a well-curated collection of classics from the '80s and '90s, from Galaga to Outrun to Tekken 3 to Area 51. If you'd rather chill out with some retro console games, there's a wide selection of those, too, ranging from the Atari 2600 to the original Nintendo Entertainment System all the way up to the PlayStation 2. After a $3 entry fee (or $5.50 if you want unlimited console play) all the arcade machines cost 25 cents per play. Pinball tables are 50 cents per play.
1424 Brown Trail, Bedford. $3 admission. quarter-lounge.com.
Regeneration Arcade Bar (Dallas)
Regeneration wears its '90s heart on its sleeve. The first game you're likely to see when you walk through the door of this part-pizzeria and part-arcade is the thematically appropriate classic Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. There are pinball tables and classic arcade cabinets, like NBA Jam and The Simpsons that you found at CiCi's Pizza in the '90s -- and all are set to free play. Couches are also set up so that guests can chill out with classic video game consoles (NES, SNES, N64 and Genesis).
17721 Dallas Parkway, Dallas. $5 admission Monday-Thursday, $10 admission Friday-Sunday. regenerationarcadebar.com.
Round1 has a lot going for it, including karaoke, bowling and pingpong. It's similar in vibe to Dave and Buster's, packed with a variety of flashy machines. But its biggest strength in video games is its imports from Japan. Here you will find some awesome rhythm and fighting games shipped directly from the Land of the Rising Sun, most of which you would be hard-pressed to find in other U.S. establishments. Be warned, though, that few Westerners are prepared to play. Hop into Theatrhythm Final Fantasy, for example, and you may struggle to deduce which Japanese menu item actually lets you start the game. Once you're in, the game play tends to be easy to pick up, and it's an experience that's hard to replicate elsewhere.
Two locations: 3000 Grapevine Mills Parkway, Grapevine; and 3811 S. Cooper St., Arlington. Prices vary. round1usa.com.
Select Start Arcade and Bar (Dallas)
Batman, Slimer, Mario and Scorpion cover the walls of this boozy arcade with a more millennial vibe. (Or maybe that's just the mist shots talking. Because what other generation consumes alcohol via balloon?) The game selection comes from a wide range of eras, and it may not feature your favorite games from a particular series (let's face it: Mortal Kombat 4 is not remembered fondly). But it can certainly be a fun place to enjoy some Guitar Hero or NBA Jam. It's less a spot for the purists, but if you're out for a drink in Deep Ellum anyway, why not play some Donkey Kong?
2812 Elm St., Dallas. Prices vary. facebook.com/SelectStartArcadeBar.
Tornado Terry's (Keller)
Walking into Tornado Terry's feels like walking into a skating rink in the '90s -- and not in a bad way. You pay to get in, after which you're presented with two sides of the arcade: The free play zone and the token zone. As you'd expect, the free play area will let you play games to your heart's content. A solid mix of classics like Dragon's Lair, Donkey Kong Jr. and Battletoads stand alongside more recent hits like Guitar Hero and Galaga Assault. They also have the classic and modern versions of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The token area has a small selection of pinball tables (seven in total) as well as games where you can win tickets, exchangeable for prizes.
4530 Keller Hicks Road, Keller. $15 admission, after which most games are free. tornadoterrys.com.
Versus Gameplay (Plano)
While Versus Gameplay inside Collin Creek Mall has been making a name for itself in modern esports (hosting events for games like Street Fighter V and Dragon Ball FighterZ), its home in Plano also sports a collection of classic arcade cabinets, including Sinistar, Defender and Centipede. You can play all you want for $4.99 an hour, $9.99 a day or $29.99 a month (the daily and monthly passes also include access to console games).
811 N. Central Expressway, Plano. versusgameplay.com.
While conventions obviously aren't available year-round, Dallas-Fort Worth regularly hosts some amazing ones that include plenty of classic games. One of the best (especially if pinball is your thing) is the Texas Pinball Festival, which returns March 22-24 and brings to town a massive collection of pinball tables (and quite a few arcade machines), often including at least one or two that are brand-new. You pay $10-$40 to get in (depending on the day and your age), but everything is set to free play. Another one to watch for: Let's Play Gaming Expo, which last took place in July and featured more than 80 arcade cabinets.