The Washington area has no shortage of bars offering video games, pinball or Skee-Ball, and their numbers have been growing rapidly. Having opened in 2010, Spider Kelly’s in Clarendon seems like a veteran of the scene: Among these other recommended arcade bars, five opened in 2018.
The formats and some of the games may be the same, but each location brings a different flavor, as well as new high-score charts waiting for your initials. Be aware that some sponsor weekly league nights — usually for darts, Skee-Ball or shuffleboard — so check their websites if you’re heading out to play a specific game. Also: Most of them require bringing cash, if not a roll of quarters. A few, such as Punch Bowl Social and the Eleanor, use a reloadable card to pay for games.
The Eleanor : Although this NoMa restaurant and bar bills itself as a “neighborhood bowling lounge,” there’s much more than the pair of duckpin-size lanes: Think Skee-Ball, pinball and video games, such as the multiplayer Pac-Man Battle Royale. Head to the long bar — topped with wood salvaged from a bowling alley — for wine, craft beer or nachos at the weekday happy hour. 100 Florida Ave. NE.
Lyman’s Tavern : The District’s capital of pinball just happens to be a neighborhood corner bar with Pabst Blue Ribbon on draft and free baskets of fresh-popped popcorn. There are usually a dozen machines, ranging from such cult classics as Red and Ted’s Road Show to the state-of-the-art Star Wars- or Ghostbusters-themed games. The machines rotate in and out, rewarding regular visitors. 3720 14th St. NW.
Paradiso Game Room : When Pizzeria Paradiso’s basement beer bar in Georgetown transformed into an arcade last year, the staff made a clean break from Ruth Gresser’s award-winning Neopolitan-style pizza restaurant: The stairs leading from the upstairs dining room were closed, and the only way to enter is through a door off a parking lot behind the building. When you find your way into the speakeasy-inspired bar, there’s a selection of great craft beers, including eight drafts and 60 more in cans, as well as a pair of Skee-Ball machines, a shuffleboard table, pinball machines, video games and darts. And yes, you can still score Gresser’s pies. 3282 M St. NW; enter through a parking lot off Potomac Street NW.
Penn Social : Penn Social’s huge screens make it one of our favorite places for watching the Super Bowl or March Madness (its largest projection measures 22 feet across), but the cavernous Penn Quarter nightspot can keep gamers occupied all night. When your televised sport of choice is done, choose from pop-a-shot basketball, bubble hockey, video games, oversize Connect Four and banks of Skee-Ball machines. 801 E St. NW.
Players Club : Eric and Ian Hilton envisioned this subterranean Logan Circle bar with “a late ’70s/early ’80s basement-rec-room feel,” filled with era-appropriate furniture and color scheme. (Look closely, and you’ll see “A-Team” and Star Wars trading cards under the bar top.) The space is filled with the games Ian Hilton remembers playing a lot in those days: billiards, pinball and video games, though the collection includes Mortal Kombat and “Guardians of the Galaxy” pinball based on the movies, so it’s not quite all retro. But the wide variety of activities, including pop-a-shot basketball, bubble hockey and claw machines filled with adult toys, mean there’s something for everyone. 1400 14th St. NW.
Punch Bowl Social : Your first impression of this vast three-level bar, part of a 15-strong national chain, will depend on how you enter. Doors from Wilson Boulevard open into a pretty, if sparse, diner-style restaurant and bar serving retro-awesome dishes, such as fried bologna and cheese topped with potato chips, local craft beers and fresh nonalcoholic concoctions. But walk in from the Ballston Quarter development — the former Ballston Common Mall — and you’re plunged into the heart of a millennial-centric game room, with a huge round bar, multiple bowling lanes, an arcade section and pumping pop music. And you haven’t even seen the private karaoke rooms, pool tables and foosball yet. 4238 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
Spider Kelly’s : Hundreds of barhopping young professionals can squeeze into this popular bar on Clarendon’s main drag, and on Saturday nights, it can feel like they’re all trying to get to the bar at the same time. Once you’ve got a drink, relax by shooting pool, throwing darts or playing a few rounds of basketball, Skee-Ball or shuffleboard. 3181 Wilson Blvd., Arlington.
Spin : Washington’s newest ping-pong parlor features a dozen Olympic-size tables in a vast, 12,000-square-foot space under the National Press Club. There are multiple bars with fancy cocktails, leather Chesterfield sofas for lounging and a bathtub full of balls where you can shoot your new social media profile picture. Pro players show off in special exhibition matches on Friday nights, but it’s most economical to visit Sundays, when $9 buys unlimited all-day play. 1332 F St. NW.
Vuk : This three-year-old Bethesda arcade sticks to the basics: New York-style pizza by the slice, cold beer, and a dozen new and classic pinball machines. It’s very family-friendly, with kids running around weekend afternoons (doors open at noon), but it’s a low-key hangout for adults throughout the week. 4924 St. Elmo Ave., Bethesda.