Best Arcade Game Machines

Updated September 2021
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We recommend these products based on an intensive research process that's designed to cut through the noise and find the top products in this space. Guided by experts, we spend hours looking into the factors that matter, to bring you these selections.

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Buying guide for best arcade game machines

If you grew up during the heyday of arcades, you might have asked for your allowance (or your paycheck) in quarters. Even with all the handheld, console, and computer gaming options available today, there's nothing quite like the thrill of standing in front of that arcade game machine, grabbing a joystick and hovering your finger over the fire button, ready to battle the attacking alien hordes.

If that sounds like you, you've probably considered purchasing an arcade game machine for your home. As a matter of fact, if you're reading this now, you're probably thinking about it today. Luckily for you, you're in the right place, because we're here to help you find the best machine for your game room.

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While most arcade game machines are designed to plug into a standard 110-volt three-prong outlet, some models must be installed by an electrician. Be sure you understand the voltage requirements before purchasing a machine.

Key considerations

Factors to think about

There are several things to consider before purchasing an arcade game machine. The following is a list of questions to answer if you’re serious about making a purchase.

Who is the arcade game machine for? Consider if you’re buying it for kids, adults, or the whole family.

Where will the arcade game machine be located? You might have space for it in the basement, family room, garage, or other room.

Do you need to have the arcade game machine by a certain date? Some machines are made to order, so they could take a while to arrive.

Do you own a business that would benefit from an arcade game machine?

Are you interested in opening an arcade?

What is your budget?

Types

There are many types of arcade game machines available, such as classic, pinball, shooting, racing, dancing, skill, and chance.

Classic: This is often the type of game that people are thinking about when they’re interested in buying a video game machine. This category includes all the classic arcade games controlled by a joystick or trackball and buttons.

Pinball: For many individuals, the definitive arcade game isn’t a video game; it’s a pinball machine. If you’re a fan of the endless hours of entertainment that the silver ball provides, this is the way to go.

Shooting: This type of game is a little more elaborate in that it features a plastic gun of some sort. These games are often about survival or hunting anything from dinosaurs to zombies.

Racing: While you might think that racing games only include cars, you can find units that feature motorcycles, skis, skateboards, or even rowboats.

Dancing: Although you can get somewhat similar gameplay with newer game systems, there's nothing quite like tapping out those precise moves on a tiled dance floor.

Skill: This category of arcade game machine involves some sort of physical activity, such as tossing a ball (basketball), rolling a ball (hard rubber ball, bowling ball), defending your goal (air hockey), or whacking moles.

Chance: Also known as redemption games, these are arcade game machines that reward you with tickets when you perform a certain feat, such as stopping a flashing light in a particular zone.

If you're having trouble choosing an arcade game machine for your home, consider taking the family to a local arcade to play various games to find the one that’s the best fit for you.

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Features

Size

Arcade game machines come in a wide variety of sizes. Some are too big to fit through the average door. Before purchasing a model, get its dimensions and measure your home to make sure the machine will fit not only through the front door but also down any hallways or stairs and interior doorways. Note that interior doorways are often smaller than exterior doorways.

When you think about owning an arcade game machine, you probably picture a large unit that stands on the floor and is at least as tall as you are. However, you can also find arcade game machines that are about half that size and only feature the essentials of controllers and screen. This smaller type of unit is designed to sit on top of a table or a bar and is much more affordably priced.

Configuration

Not all arcade games have a vertical screen. There are some models that allow you to play on a horizontal screen while sitting down. These machines come with stools that are placed at each end of the machine.

Multi-game system

If you have a hard time deciding on your favorite arcade game, consider purchasing a machine that’s loaded with several different games. These models are designed to make everyone in your family happy.

Assembly

Most arcade game machines come fully assembled. There isn't much setup involved other than selecting a location for your unit and plugging it in. However, some consoles do require minor assembly. Be sure to read the product description to determine if you’ll need to assemble the arcade game machine that you're considering.

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DID YOU KNOW?
To keep the artwork on your arcade game machine vibrant, don’t place your machine in direct sunlight.
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Arcade game machine prices

Inexpensive: It’s possible to purchase an arcade game machine for less than $1,000. These models may be tabletop/bar-top consoles or they may be retro models that require a little assembly. If you're trying to keep things affordable and just want an arcade game to play at home, this might be your best option.

Mid-range: If you're looking for the type of arcade game that you find in a commercial arcade, you can purchase a smaller unit for $1,000 to $4,000. These models are typically the classic machines that you remember playing at the mall, such as Pac Man, Galaga, or Street Fighter. Additionally, there are modern versions that allow you to play several different games in one unit as well.

Expensive: If you want a fully immersive machine that you sit on or in when playing, those are available as well. Most cost anywhere from $6,000 to $15,000, though some units may cost as much as $30,000. These high-end models are best for commercial arcades, but if you're a die-hard arcade gamer and have the budget, you can get one of these for your home.

Never apply liquids directly to your arcade game machine. To clean it, simply moisten a lint-free towel or cloth and wipe down the outside of the machine.

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Tips

Playing arcade games is fun, and it gives you that warm feeling of nostalgia, but did you know it offers far more than that? Here are some benefits of playing arcade games.

  • Develops hand-eye coordination: To be successful at arcade games, you need to have impressive hand-eye coordination, and playing helps you develop this transferable skill.
  • Builds muscle memory: Nearly everything you do, from walking up a flight of stairs to driving a car, requires muscle memory. Playing arcade games helps you build muscle memory so you can more easily accomplish your day-to-day tasks.
  • Improves reflexes: The more you play arcade games, the faster your reflexes may become.
  • Develops cognitive skills: Arcade games challenge you to engage your cognitive skills so tasks such as reading, creative thinking, and problem solving improve.
  • Reduces stress: While playing an arcade game can raise your heart rate, it also helps you forget your current real-life problems, providing a way to relax.
  • Develops leadership skills: It doesn't matter if you're in charge of your team in a multiplayer game or you learn to appreciate the rewards from collecting coins and leveling up, arcade games can help groom you to be a better leader in the workforce.
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While turning on Free Play might be desirable for most families, requiring quarters can be a way to limit gameplay or a clever strategy to help save up for something special.

FAQ

Q. Do arcade game machines consume a lot of power?

A. No, not at all. There’s a tendency to equate size with cost, but an arcade game machine is basically a computer with a monitor in a very large, well-constructed console. While each machine varies in the amount of power it consumes, a hair dryer consumes far more power than an arcade game machine.

Q. How much does it cost to run an arcade game machine?

A. There are three factors that determine the cost of running an electrical appliance: wattage, hours used, and the cost of your electricity. If your arcade machine consumes 300 watts and you play it for an hour straight 30 days per month, that’s 9 kilowatt-hours. If your electricity costs $0.13 per kilowatt-hour (roughly the national average), it will cost you $1.17 per month. If your arcade game machine consumes more than 300 watts, you play longer than an hour every day, or your rate for electricity is higher, the overall cost will be higher. If your arcade game machine consumes less than 300 watts, you play less than an hour every day (or you don't play every day), or your rate for electricity is lower, the overall cost will be lower.

Q. Do arcade game machines require a lot of maintenance?

A. It depends on the type of machine you have and the amount of use it gets. If you own an arcade game machine with several moving parts (pinball machine or claw machine, for example), maintenance will be a little more involved. However, if you own a machine that just features a joystick and a couple of buttons, and you don’t abuse that machine while playing, care is mostly a matter of keeping the cabinet clean and safeguarding the circuitry with a surge protector.

 

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