The best arcade in New York is a laundromat.
Photo: Liz Clayman
Here are the best arcades in New York, because even in the age of Candy Crush and League of Legends, sometimes you want to put down your phone, stand up from your home console, and play pinball and video games the old-fashioned way.
The Absolute Best
1. Sunshine Laundromat
860 Manhattan Ave., nr. Milton St., Greenpoint; 718-475-2055
The best arcade in New York looks like an ordinary laundromat. But walk past the line of washing machines, take a close look at the two stacked dryers set into the rear wall, and you’ll discover a not-quite-secret doorway. Behind it lies a speakeasy-style pinball arcade, complete with beers on tap, wine, and an automated fortune-telling chimp. Sunshine Laundromat’s charm is that you feel like you’ve stumbled into a hidden clubhouse, and the place rewards close inspection with further delights. That dryer near the front door? Peer inside and discover it’s been converted into a console for Area 51, the two-person shooter video game. Notice the vending machine, stocked with a variety of oddball items from pregnancy tests to powdered pork-gravy mix, all labeled with “bacon” stickers. But it’s not all whimsy; Sunshine Laundromat is a serious arcade that will satisfy pinball aficionados with more than 20 classic machines — including Indiana Jones, AC/DC, the Twilight Zone, and Arabian Nights — in top condition. Be prepared to pay a bit of a premium, however: Most machines cost 75 cents per game.
2. Barcade Brooklyn
388 Union Ave., nr. Ainslie St., Williamsburg; 718-302-6464
It’s no surprise that Barcade has expanded to six locations in four cities since it first opened in Williamsburg in 2004. It has a simple and foolproof recipe: Take an unassuming bar with craft beer and decent music and add dozens of classic video games. Barcade satisfies because of what it avoids: no swipe-cards, no expensive newfangled games, no kids. You get just the arcade classics of your youth — Ms. Pac-Man. Galaga, Q*Bert, Tetris, Arkanoid, Dig Dug, Gauntlet, and Centipede — all for only a quarter. Of the three locations in New York, the original Barcade in Brooklyn has the best selection. But Barcade on West 24th does have Golden Axe and a rare and beautiful Discs of Tron from 1983.
3. Modern Pinball
362 Third Ave., nr. 26th St.; 646-415-8440
Modern Pinball is an arcade for purists: no distractions, just a room full of more than two dozen pinging and clanking classic and modern pinball machines. And play is by the hour, so you don’t even need quarters. You can simply focus on racking up a new high score on games like the Shadow, Star Trek (original or TNG), Metallica, Dr. Dude, or Gorgar (the first talking pinball machine, from 1979). Found a game you can’t stop playing? Take it home; all of the machines are for sale. There’s no food or drink, but your admission bracelet will get you 10 percent off at the bar next door.
4. Dave & Buster’s
234 W. 42nd St., nr. Eighth Ave.; 646-495-2015
Dave & Buster’s is by some measures the most impressive of New York’s arcades. It has the biggest screens, the most immersive consoles, and the loudest music. You can step inside a pod and pilot a fighter jet over New York, or play Fruit Ninja on a TV-size touch screen, or become Kung Fu Panda in a game that includes six punchable pads. It’s a great arcade for kids and tourists or anyone passing through Times Square.
5. Chinatown Fair Family Fun Center
8 Mott St., nr. Worth St.; 212-964-1001
Even though the tick-tack-toe-playing chickens are long retired, this historic hole-in-the-wall arcade is still worth a visit for its small but decent mix of racing, fighting, shooting, and rhythm games. And if you’re a serious Dance Dance Revolution devotee, this is your spot, with three DDR-style consoles. But be warned: This is where the truly revolutionary dance-dancers step out — shirtless, sweaty, FiveFinger-shod feet flying. It’s a sight to behold.