Got a kid who loves video games? Put down the ipad and take him to a real arcade to play Mario Brothers or Pac-Man the old-school way. Whether you’re looking for games from the eighties or faves from today, let your little gamers spend your spare change at these awesome arcades.

neon-retrophoto: Melissa Heckscher

Neon Retro—Pasadena
Eighties generation parents who want to relive their childhoods can bring their X-Box-addicted kids to this Pasadena arcade, where old-school games like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong still rule the room. Let your kids try their 21st century finger-tapping skills in games like Frogger, Asteroid, and Q*Bert; they just might be surprised when they can’t beat you. For kids who just can’t take the archaic pixels, there’s two flat screens and a Wii in the back of the room (where “old people” can marvel at how far we’ve come). What’s more? You don’t need any quarters here: A single $10 cover charge (or $25 for all-day play) gives you one hour of free-play on any of the machines. Just hit start.

28 S. Raymond Ave.
Pasadena
Online: neonretroarcade.com

vintage-arcade-superstorphoto: Vintage Arcade Superstore’s Facebook Page

Vintage Arcade Superstore—Glendale
If just playing vintage arcade game isn’t retro enough for you, how about buying one of your own? Vintage Arcade is an 11,000-square foot superstore that boasts the largest collection of used classic arcade and pinball machines in California. And while it’s not an arcade, per se, some games are available to play (especially to interested buyers). Want to throw an arcade party? The entire showroom can be rented out—with unlimited game-playing—for private events.

4334 San Fernando Rd.
Glendale
Online: vintagearcade.net

matrix-arcadephoto: Matrix Virtual Reality Arcade

Matrix Virtual Reality Arcade—Long Beach
If your kids think retro is so yesterday, blow their futuristic minds with a glimpse of the future at this “Virtual Reality Arcade” where gamers can strap on a pair of VR goggles and play games that put them in the middle of the action. At first glance, the Matrix arena (hosted by the Groundwork Fitness space) doesn’t look like an arcade at all, but don’t let that fool you: The video games of the future don’t need boxy machines and quarter slots; only eyepieces and something to hold to let you move and gesture your way through virtual worlds. (Note: Recommended for kids 8 & up.)

Located inside Groundwork Fitness
333 Pine Ave.
Long Beach
Online: matrixarcade.com

redondo-fun-factoryphoto: Joan S. via Yelp

Fun Factory at the Redondo Beach Pier 
This Redondo Beach fixture, which opened in 1973, has a dusty, Twilight Zone sort of vibe that makes you feel like you’ve landed in a seaside arcade, circa 1975. And let’s be honest: some of the bizarre prizes available at the ticket redemption center (boxed holy water! Bags of bird seed! Buddha statues!) might actually be that old. No matter — kids will love the vast selection of games, and tiny tots will be entertained with the slew of coin-operated kiddie rides. There’s also a working Tilt-a-Whirl ride and an entire wall of Skee Ball lanes. And, unlike the Santa Monica Pier, the Redondo Pier is almost never crowded, especially on weekdays (it’s open every day except Tuesday); and has convenient parking in the adjacent public lot.

123 International Boardwalk
Redondo Beach
Online: redondo.com/rff

 

castle-parkphoto: Melissa Heckscher

Castle Park—Sherman Oaks
The fact this place is a bonafide castle is enough to get the littlest gamers across the moat. The Sherman Oaks spot may be best known for its sprawling miniature golf course, but its bustling arcade is big enough that little ones don’t even have to know that there’s mini-golf just out back. Games are top-of-the-line and include driving consoles, stand-up favorites, various spin-the-wheel machines, and air hockey.

4989 Sepulveda Blvd.
Sherman Oaks
Online: laparks.org/castlepark

photo: Games and Thrones Facebook page

Games and Thrones—Burbank
Looking for a place where you can have a good meal and let the little ones play video games all night long? Games and Thrones is your spot. With upscale food (menu items include items like bruschetta skewers, seared salmon, and yummy gourmet burgers—plus simpler fare for the kiddos) and a huge video game arena with plenty of token-taking machines, glow-in-the-dark air hockey, and an indoor coaster ride your whole family can settle in for a loooooong time.

2814 W Empire Ave.
Burbank
Online: gamesandthrones.com

xlanesphoto: Richard L. via Yelp

XLanes—Downtown Los Angeles
Most people come here for the disco-style bowling lanes (parents, there’s also a full bar), but kids will have just as much fun playing in the neon-lit arcade, which has more than 80 games including a huge four-way Pac-Man arena and various skill and luck games. While a full menu offers items like pizza, pasta, and other upscale bar bites for those who need to fuel their game playing, we prefer taking advantage of this spot’s location in Little Tokyo to grab some seriously great grub.  Dumplings, cream puffs and sushi are in this shopping complex alone (as is Daiso, the Japanese discount store where you can stock up on pretty much everything fun) and many, many more options present themselves with just a short walk.

333 Alameda St.
Downtown
Online: xlanesla.com

And… There’s More!
Want some more unusual fun? Royce’s Arcade Warehouse in Chatsworth is another rental/purchase store that opens on Friday afternoons and Saturday all day to test out the games; for just $3 you can play vintage games to your heart’s content.  For a hipster (early) evening of beer, burgers, Brussels sprouts and old school video games, head to Button Mash in Echo Park.  It’s all ages until 9 p.m.

Lastly, let’s not forget about the big name game spots, namely:  Dave and Busters (there’s one in Hollywood and another in Westchester); Chuck E. Cheese (various locations across Los Angeles); and Mulligan Family Fun Center in Torrance.  While they might not be our first choice for atmosphere, when your little gamer wants some big fun, sometimes convenience rules.

What’s your favorite gaming spot? Tell us in the comment section below!

—Melissa Heckscher