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Classic Games Make a Comeback

Old-school arcade games enchant visitors at eight fun venues across the West. 

Urban Putt mini golf, San Francisco, Calif., image
Photo caption
At San Francisco's Urban Putt, over-the-top miniature golf captivates kids and adults.

Before you flung angry birds at grumbling pigs, you likely hurled wooden balls down an inclined lane while aiming for the 50-point ring. Now classic games—from miniature golf to Space Invaders—are experiencing a comeback. These fun zones put yesterday’s games in today’s social settings.

  • A former funeral parlor gets reincarnated as Urban Putt, a fantastical miniature golf course in San Francisco’s bustling Mission District. Candy-colored balls traverse 14 high-tech holes, coasting through a pulsing Jules Verne submarine (complete with giant squid), a quaking San Francisco skyline, and an elaborate series of chutes that would have made Rube Goldberg giddy. (415) 341-1080, urbanputt.com.
  • Ever since slot machines went coinless, downtown Las Vegas’s Insert Coin(s) has been the preferred Sin City spot for plunking quarters. But rather than line up a trio of cherries, you’ll maneuver Ms. Pac-Man to gobble them. The arcade-themed club features 60 old-style games and—because it’s Vegas—bottle service, which includes a game console and cartridge of your choice.
  • Children of the ’80s can nurse their Pac-Man fever at High Scores in Alameda, Calif. A low entry fee ($5 per hour or $10 a day) gets you unlimited play on more than 45 vintage video game cabinets—think Tron, Asteroids Deluxe, and Donkey Kong—lovingly restored by collectors turned arcade owners Shawn and Meg Livernoche. (609) 468-3083, highscoresarcade.com.
  • In El Cerrito, Calif., Playland-Not-at-the-Beach offers a landlocked tribute to a long-gone seaside amusement park. A foldout map leads guests through penny arcade and carnival games (Skee-Ball, Tip-a-Troll) plus seven decades of pinball machines all set on free play. (510) 592-3002, playland-not-at-the-beach.org.
  • With more than 100 coin-op games and a logo inspired by TV’s A-Team, Atomic Arcade in Holladay, Utah, is an homage to the 1980s, with prices to match. A quarter still lights up favorites such as Galaxian, Q-Bert, and Pong, and rarer games like SAMI (aka Surface to Air Missile Interceptor), with 2-D effects a universe apart from the hyper-realistic graphics of today’s games. (801) 634-1130.
  • Funland Arcade of Seaside, Ore., is home to one of the country’s last remaining Fascination parlors. Players roll rubber balls across a bingo-style game table and attendants walk the aisles collecting money and handing out prize coupons while an announcer calls games over a microphone. (503) 738-7361, funlandseaside.com.
  • At Level Up Arcade in Eugene, Ore., players guide electronic frogs through traffic with one hand while hoisting pints with the other. This massive “barcade” boasts 16 local craft brews on tap, 90 video games both old and new, and Oregon’s largest pinball collection. (541) 654-5632, leveluparcade.com.
  • With live music and 25 old-school video-game cabinets plus eight pinball machines stuffed into a cool basement in Boise, Idaho, Spacebar feels like a real-life Wayne’s World. Pop upstairs to the Boise Fry Company and you can pair a game of BurgerTime with a side of fries. (208) 968-6352, spacebararcade.com.

Photography by Gabriela Hasbun

This article was first published in Spring 2015. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.