924 Williamson St, Madison, WI 53703
⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐★ ★ ★
7 out of 10
The I/O Arcade Bar is the popular place to go for adults both young and old to have a drink and get together to play some games. Located downtown it’s walkable and its clean interior is inviting to those unfamiliar with the arcade scene. The drinks are good and the games work all the time and if not there’s always an out of order sign. They host a number of events, have an overall welcoming atmosphere and they have Killer Queen, Pacman: Battle Royale and Deathball. The downside is this barcade is a little small and lacking in character. You won’t have a bad experience here, and you’ll probably have a good time but this is firmly in the 7/10 star territory.
1444 E Washington Ave, Madison, WI 53703
⭐⭐⭐⭐★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
4 out of 10
Aftershock Classic Arcade has big shoes to fill and it hasn’t filled ’em yet! Previously home to “Maria’s” - a part arcade/part bar/part underground music and art venue - the Aftershock arcade isn’t living up to the recent memory of the place. Where there was once a handful of endearing games including the beloved “Ice Cold Beer” cabinet, also known as “Zeke’s Peak”, this arcade is now home to a myriad of broken machines mixed between games you never really cared for. They insist on you purchasing tokens to use in their machines and that’s part of the issue. They were designed for quarters and it looks like quarters still work! The tokens gum up and ruin the machines, leaving what appears to be the best ones inoperable. Many multiplayer games that required both coin slots didn’t work either, leaving one person to wait while the other played alone. Our party got bored with more than half our tokens left and we couldn’t even take them home to do laundry! Some cabinets had bad screens, and the whole place felt dirty and cheap and not in a nostalgic way. This used to be such a cool venue! Now it feels like an old Chuck E. Cheese. It hasn’t been open for too long, so they may turn it around but for now I would not even bother. However, if you’re looking to play Dragon’s Lair, they have it! It was my first time experiencing the impossible but fascinating looking game.
6502 Odana Rd, Madison, WI 53719
8 out of 10
Geek’s mania isn’t as slick as the I/O, or as dirty as the Aftershock, and it doesn’t serve alcohol. But what it does serve is a whole lot of pinball for a one time payment of 15 dollars. They also feature a large variety of other games including skeeball and the like and they host parties. It’s a family friendly joint and you’re likely to run into a lot of kids, but I think kids are cool and there’s a good chance you have them so why are you anti kid? If you need drinks it appears there is a bar in the Radison hotel meters away. This place feels a little like an office went out of business and an arcade moved in but they lean into it in a good way. I had a good time and you probably will too. Bonus points for being near a bowling alley, an escape room and a board game shop called Pegasus Games. What board game fan could resist a shop with that name? I don’t even really like board games and I like it! Okay but you get what I’m saying this is the daytime place to play with the family or to get a couple hours of pinball practice in. There’s even billiards and… what’s this? A themed party room called the Nintendo Room? With its own refrigerator and what may or may not be a photo booth? Intriguing…
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I haven’t been here yet. But that logo gets a solid 9. The game list is impressive. I saw that a big time development wanted to tear down the old building this is in, but NerdHaven had a long term lease and they said “Hey, it’s not in our best interests to move” so that’s that! Development cancelled. I’ll have to check it out.