An Arcade Date Night: 1-UP Your Outing with Games

I’m one of those guys that does the arcade 1st date type thing.

It just so happens the arcade is part of a bowling alley so one of the first date nights I had with Nicole was a double-whammy! Between games we’d dip into the arcade area which had a dozen pinball machines and some classic arcade games like Galaga.

A follow-up date had us at Dave & Busters, a rather popular arcade chain with hundreds of games — and you bet your butt we played the hell out of skee-ball!

It’s kind of funny because Complex has going to an arcade in their list of terrible first date ideas…

What kind of nonsense is this?!

I could see an arcade not being the best place if the other person isn’t into games. But, I can’t really think of another date night idea that isn’t this relaxed and fun. The two of you get to enjoy video games, be goofs, and grab a few drinks & food. It’s also pretty competitive which adds a nice, little playful tension as you’re teasing another (or maybe that’s just me?).

Maybe it’s just me and the fact I used to work at an arcade back in the day (still one of my favorite jobs).

Anyway, this brings me to…

Arcade Date Night: Quarter after Quarter after Quarter of Good Fun

I think an arcade date is right up your alley if you’re:

  • Into games
  • Competitive
  • Don’t mind noise

A lot of people will say an arcade isn’t too good because you’re competitive.

They say it can cause friction because you’re trying to 1-up the other person. I can see that, some people do take it too far. But that all depends on the game you’re playing.

I’d say stick to coop type games:

  • Racing
  • Shooters
  • Beat-em-up

…the type of games you can team up.

Bonus if they have any of these:

I’d also say go with some classics:

  • DDR
  • Air hockey
  • Punching-bag-thing

Air hockey is especially fun because it’ll get the two of you working of a sweat. The game gets pretty competitive but air hockey is just down-right fun. You can tease between points. Then, bet on the game like loser buys the next round.

If you want to keep the date night cheap then look no further than skee-ball.

Skee-ball usually costs a quarter but can go on for ages, it seems, if you’re taking turns playing. Plus, these are “old people” games so a lot of the kids will generally leave you alone, awesome! It’s also one of those slow-enough-games you can chit chat in-between. It’s not noisy and quite passive so you can use that opportunity to get to know each other.

I’d recommend you avoid any games of chance — like:

… really anything with too much a random chance because you’ll burn through money fast with these games. I should know from my time at the arcade — those stacking machines are rigged to not let you win until it hits a threshold. And, I can guarantee you claw games have light grips and overstuffed bins making it harder to win anything.

So… don’t waste your money on chance games especially when you could get more chow, play more fun games, or do something after.

Where to Go for Arcade Date Night

I’d have loved to lived during the golden age of arcades.

The cool thing is that they’re kind of coming back — they’re rare but they exist.

I recommend doing a search for a local arcade before you dive into one of the chains. The local ‘cades usually have more of the older and odd-ball games you won’t find at modern ones. Plus, their community is usually tight-knit and it’s cool supporting a local business.

With that said…

Dave & Busters

Dave & Busters is a pretty solid choice if you want a bit of everything. They’ve got 100+ games and arcade bar. The place is a little expensive so I can only really recommend you go when there’s a 2-for-1 game deal. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself blowing through your game card in 30 minutes to an hour (I’ve done this, it’s easy).

They’ve also go:

They do the whole sports bar thing, too, but meh. Go to a sports bar if you really wanna do that especially since you’d probably get local music, trivia nights, or some kind of neat show, instead.

But my point: D&B is a good option if you want an arcade date with a bit of everything.

A Gaming Museum

Now these are pretty B.A.

Gaming museums mix arcade fun-ness with a bit of education.

They’re almost always independently owned. You’ll need to probably trek a bit to get to them since they’re not always in the heart of the city.

Make an arcade museum a date if you can — because:

  • You can usually pay a flat rate to play all the games
  • You get to see tons of games you won’t find in modern arcades
  • You’ll probably bump into the owner

Some arcade museums have newer collections. Google Maps will be your better resource for this. Or Facebook.

A Barcade

These are everywhere these days…

…I wish I could run one, haha.

Barcades are really great because they’re smaller, more intimate. Plus, you got a better selection of beers and a curated selection of games. The price is usually way less than what you’d pay at one of the arcade chains like D&B, too. Depending where you’re at, you can play some board games and other table-top games.

Eater has a good write-up on arcade bars if you want to get the scoop on them.

Overall: A+ for games, A+ for drinks, but not exactly the “arcade date experience” you’re probably thinking.

I’d say leave the barcade for maybe a 2nd date.

A Few Ways to 1-UP an Arcade Date & Closing Thoughts

I notice people want to know what to wear to an arcade. Or, how much they should spend, what prizes they should get for their date, and all that. That’s fine and all but just go and have fun. It’s an arcade… you’re there to play games and goof off. This isn’t meant to be a stressful first or second date type environment.

I would suggest trying these to add a bit more fun to the night out:

  • Betting. Try keeping a high score and have a few playful bets going on between games.
  • 2-for-1 Specials. Get on Groupon for the 2-for-1 specials usually going on to really stretch your dollars.
  • Go Old School. The newer games cost a ton and have learning curves, pick older games because they’re easy to understand and usually only cost a quarter/credit.
  • Mix It. Go for arcades with bowling/bar as a fall-back in case you notice your date starting to get bored with games.


There you have it.

Do I think an arcade is a great date night idea? You bet.

I think your date will do, too, because it’s just all-around good fun. It’s not too expensive, either.

You two will have a great time goofing off and playing fun games.

Agree? Disagree? Lemme know whatchya think in the comments.

Also, share this post :D.

I’m one of those guys that does the arcade 1st date type thing. It just so happens the arcade is part of a bowling alley so one of the first date nights I had with Nicole was a double-whammy! Between games we’d dip into the arcade area which had a dozen pinball machines and some classic…