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Arcades in Hong Kong used to have a somewhat seedy reputation for being semi-legal gambling dens, truant haunts, and smoke-infested lairs instead of the entertainment hubs they were intended to be.
However, this has changed greatly throughout the years, and now many arcades have transformed into fun, inexpensive, and smoke-free places to hang out with friends, engage in friendly competition, or to try the latest games, modelled after popular Japanese arcades.
So this summer, hit up some of the best local arcades, exchange your bills into coins at the counter, and prepare yourself for an exhilarating time.
It makes sense that one of the liveliest arcades in the city is in a huge mall connected to the MTR. Here, you can spot gloved experts taking turns at Maimai, a popular rhythm game that resembles a washing machine. Players tap on the outer rim of the circular touchscreen in a flurry of hand gestures—almost as if they’re doing tai chi on steroids. If that seems too intense, head over to their aisle of racing games and challenge a fellow racer to a casual competition.
Hollywood Game Zone, Shop 383A, 3/F, Hollywood Plaza, 3 Lung Poon Street, Diamond Hill
Smack-dab in the middle of Whampoa Estate is the perplexingly named American Pool. You won’t find billiards there, but you will find a fair assortment of other arcade games, as well as a few quaint pinball machines. Check out their Groove Coaster, a futuristic-looking rhythm game brought to you by the same creators of the vintage Space Invaders. With a hand on each of their two knob-like controls, players swipe, wobble, and tap along to music as specially-designed abstract visuals draw them into a world of synesthesia.
American Pool, 13 Man Tai Street, Hung Hom
Buried beneath the Silvercord mall in the glitzy shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui is Silvercord Amusement & Games. Stop by for a two-player game on the good ol’ Taiko Master with your friend and drum on the barreled-shape taiko to your hearts’ content. Alternatively, strap yourselves in for a roaring race across virtual highways on any one of their 16 Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 5 and Initial D Stage Zero racing simulators, replete with an array of models to customise as well as a six-speed gear stick for manual transmission.
Silvercord Amusement & Games, Shop B03, B/F, Silvercord, 30 Canton Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
Those who pick Smart Game in Mong Kok as their arcade of choice are certainly smart because of its convenient location and robust range of games. Try out Wacca, the latest rhythm game from Japan, for an immersive musical experience as you tap and swipe to the beat on a 360-degree conical touchscreen, or to live out your DJ dreams and take a spin on the scratchable turntables on the DJ-themed arcade game Beatmania IIDX. When you’ve tried every single one of their games, simply head out and turn to the left to continue your merry day out on the renowned street food alley on Dundas Street.
Smart Game, 1/F & 2/F, Newport Cinema, 60–104 Soy Street, Mong Kok
Perhaps the most well-known arcade in Hong Kong is the Game Zone below one of the bustling malls on Argyle Street. Their eclectic mix of games attract both arcade aficionados and casual shoppers and tourists alike, and as a result, the place is often jam-packed. Bust out snazzy dance moves solo or have a dance-off against your friends on Danz Base or Dance Evolution Arcade, two full-body dancing games much like Just Dance or the ones available on Kinect.
Unlike other arcades which are coin-operated, Game Zone requires players to purchase a top-up card at their counter for ten dollars to pay to play on their machines, though once you’re done, you can return the card to get your initial ten dollars back.
Game Zone, B/F, Mong Kok New Town Mall, 65 Argyle Street, Mong Kok
Namco is an oddity among the entries on this list not only because of its upscale location in Mong Kok’s Langham Place and its brightly lit interior but also because of how the shop mostly consists of gacha games and a Jumpin Gym-style rainbow coin toss rather than the usual arcade games. Nevertheless, Namco promises a fun time for those who venture in.
Highlights include the Pac-Man Smash Air Hockey, where up to four friends can play with two dozen pucks all at once in a frenzied twist to the traditional air hockey; and the Purikura photo booths, where you and your friends can edit your photos using cute effects and filters before printing them out on the spot. And while their sought-after Taiko Master has since been replaced by the more modern Nintendo Switch, the Switch has multiplayer controls and is free to play.
Namco, Shop 3–11, 9/F Langham Place, 8 Argyle Street, Mong Kok
Despite its relatively small size and narrow aisles, X-Land is a must-visit because it has over ten different types of music games and boasts the widest selection of arcade games in the city. Some games exclusive to their location include a Jurassic Park-themed first-person shooter where you go up against the mighty Tyrannosaurus rex, and an equally terrifying first-person zombie shooter set in a haunted Victorian mansion. X-Land also houses one of the few Dancerush Stardom machines in town, the newest freestyle dance game from Japan released to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the famed arrow-based Dance Dance Revolution (which you can also play here).
X-Land, 4/F, Tsuen Wan City Landmark, 68 Chung On Street, Tsuen Wan
A few minutes’ walk from Sha Tin’s New Town Plaza is a surprisingly spacious, tidy, and well-lit arcade tucked away in a smaller mall. While the Salem Game Centre has the usual mix of arcade and racing games, one of their more in-demand games is the rhythm game Jubeat, where players tap on a four-by-four grid of transparent square buttons as animations pop up from beneath them in time to the music, much like a gamified Launchpad. You could play against your friends or other gamers in the arcade locally, or even connect online and go head to head live with someone from anywhere around the world.
Salem Game Centre, Shop C2, G/F, Sha Tin Fun City, 7 Lek Yuen Street, Sha Tin
While there are not as many arcades on the Island side, Chon Shing Game Centre makes up for it with its central location, being just a few minutes away from Central Station and Lan Kwai Fong. From retro classics to modern rhythm and driving games, the arcade’s substantial selection of games makes it a fun alternative way to spend time in the area. Rock on DrumMania or GuitarFreaks for just $3 a game, or battle your friends in a series of ridiculous minigames such as “Hyper Pie Throwing” and “Shake the Can Into Outer Space!” on the Bishi Bashi for a classic, button-smashing arcade experience.
Chon Shing Game Centre, B/F, Haleson Building, 1–4 Jubilee Street, Central