While Japan has lots of excellent arcades, Tokyo is home to the country’s best. If you are visiting the city and like video games, these are the arcades you must check out.
Club Sega is a solid arcade experience with no fuss. There are locations in Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Shinjuku and Meguro. All of them are great (I’ve always been partial to the Shinjuku spot). The Ikebukuro location, however, does have a taiyaki stand with edible Sega logos.
Locations: (Akihabara Building 1, Building 3), (Ikebukuro), (Shinjuku), (Meguro)
Joypolis claims to be “The largest indoor amusement park in the country.”
Yes, it has arcade games, prize machines and sticker picture booths. But what sets Joypolis apart is the attractions, simulators and rides. Don’t expect Six Flags type thrills or Disneyland quality. Also, know there is an entrance fee and a charge for attractions.
If you want more of a traditional arcade experience, although one from years past, check out Tokyo Dream, which is next to Joypolis, right up one flight of escalators. It has a surprising selection of vintage cabinets and makes for a striking contrast after a Joypolis visit.
The first floor has a decent selection of retro games and shmups, but if you like fighting games, your interests will be found upstairs. The number of fighting games here is staggering. Mikado also holds tournaments, including one with rounds lasting only seconds. The arcade is a vital part of Tokyo’s fighting game community. Apparently, you can have wedding parties here.
This might be the best retro game arcade in the whole country. This place is incredible. It’s like walking into a museum and being allowed to touch and play with the exhibits.
What makes Natsuge Museum so special is that all the cabinets aren’t running on emulators, but the original boards and are often in their original cabinet housing. It makes this arcade like an old movie revival house that screens 16 and 35mm film prints.
The place is small and usually opened only on Fridays, but the place swaps out games on a fairly regular basis. It’s a treat—no, a privilege—to walk in Natsuge Museum and be able to play these games and touch these cabinets.
Note: Natsuge Museum is only open on select days (usually Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as well as other sporadic days) so be sure to check the website before going.
Round One (Ikebukuro)
Ikebukuro has long been the place for rhythm and music games in Tokyo. Round One is a bowling chain, but its arcades are generally good. Its Ikebukuro location has a thriving Bemani scene, with well-kept machines and amazingly talented players.
If you want to play Bemani games in Tokyo, go here. Be sure to leave messages (and drawings) in the community notebooks!
Taito Hey Akihabara
There is no better place on Earth to play shumps (shoot ‘em up games) than here. Hey, short of Hirose Entertainment Yard, is home to around sixty classic shooting games. While it feels like bullet hell maker Cave has moved beyond twitch shooters, Hey has not.
Hey is filled with classic Cave shooters, like Mushihimesama, and iconic Treasure titles like Radiant Silvergun. Hey has several floors of gaming, but come here for the shumps.
Super Potato Akihabara
The top floor of Super Potato Akihabara is certainly not Tokyo’s greatest game center, but it’s terrific if you’re already shopping in Super Potato and want a quick and easy arcade experience. This is worth the trip upstairs.
There are fewer cabinets than typical arcades (and fewer niche games). But there’s a wide variety of well-known stuff that even non-gaming types will know like Super Mario Bros., Tetris and Street Fighter II. Part of the draw is the dagashiya or traditional Japanese candy shop, selling inexpensive snacks and bottled soda pop. Note that this small arcade does allow smoking.
If you are travelling with someone who isn’t that into games (and doesn’t mind smoking), this might be a good spot to visit.
Like Club Sega, Taito Stations are good one-stop shopping for the Japanese arcade experience. There are locations throughout Tokyo (and Japan), but Akihabara and Shinjuku are the recommended stops.
Locations (Akihabara), (Asakusa), (Ikebukuro, West Exit), (Kanda), (Shibuya), (Shinjuku, Shinjuku East Exit), (Ueno)
Go at night. The outside of this arcade is lit up with Showa Era neon font. It looks fantastic, I think. Sure the big drawback (or, depending on your interests, big plus?) is that it’s across from an adult video shop, but don’t focus on the porno stuff. Just keep your eyes on the entrance of this arcade.
Tokyo Leisureland has a classic Japanese arcade floorplan with the crane games on the first floor. While there are retro classics, the upper floors are mostly packed with the latest releases.
Location (Main Shop, Second Shop)
Try Amusement Tower
This is an incredibly solid arcade, and the staff have taken extra steps with the do-it-yourself decor. Of course, this arcade isn’t only about ambience. There are rarities and oddball games to be played, such as the Street Fighter II bootleg that changed history.