Bar Guide: An overview of the Columbus bar arcade scene

Jim Fischer
Jean Roberds plays a Simpsons-themed video game at the Old North Arcade.

When it's time to play, it's more fun to do so with friends - and with a drink in your hand.

The bar arcade scene in Columbus is healthy and growing. Of course, there are a lot of places that have games, even places that serve drinks. But for places that specialize in thoughtfully curated games - often with an eye toward vintage consoles and pinball - you'll want to visit one of these fine establishments.

16-Bit Bar & Arcade

Owner Troy Allen has expanded the 16-Bit concept to other markets, and is looking at still more. But he hasn't abandoned Columbus - in fact, he plans to open a pinball, duckpin bowling, bocce and shuffleboard concept called Pins this summer at the corner of Fourth and Long streets Downtown.

"It's what's next. This will really be a social gathering place," he said of Pins, which will also have life-size Scrabble and Hangman games.

Meanwhile, 16-Bit is rotating games and adding new ones as they become available. Patrons enjoy multi-player games, he said, citing X-Men, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Simpsons.

And they're drinking the bar's popular "popsicle" drinks such as the Hulk Hogan, with lemonade, vodka and an original Bomb Pop.

254 S. Fourth St., Downtown


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This new companion to Barley's Brewing Company is the latest entry to the scene, opening in March directly above Barley's. General Manager Jason Fabian said the project has been in the works for a couple years and that, upon finally opening, he felt Brewcadia balanced "stuff that's just different enough with the familiar."

Skee-Ball is "by far" the most popular game going, Fabian said, a unique old-time add to the fully computerized mania. Fighting games and sports games also get the arcade bar's patrons going.

Brewcadia benefits from being Barley's home arcade, and there's no shortage of other local craft beers, either, what with 36 options in addition to Barley's offerings on tap. Gueuzes and sours, Fabian said, are current top choices, alongside traditional IPAs.

A pizza kitchen, operated within the arcade space, is coming soon, Fabian said.

467 N. High St., Short North


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Old North Arcade

Games! More than 30. Drinks! Also more than 30. But it's Old North Arcade's emphasis on console gaming - GameCube, Sega Genesis, PlayStation - that gives this entry a different feel.

"We're also a neighborhood bar, because of our location in the Old North neighborhood," owner Ben Morgan said, a feel he hopes is further cultivated by the console gaming.

Which is not to say there aren't plenty of arcade games to play at ONA. Morgan said NBA Jam is a current favorite of patrons, among other "fast-paced, multi-player games from the 90s," which lend themselves to the social nature of a bar.

He also said shooting games are popular "because you can play them with one hand."

You wanna drink while you're shooting? Morgan gave a shout out to Barley's Brewing Company, whose Blood Thirst Wheat is a popular choice among ONA gamers.

2591 N. High St., Old North


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Arcade Super Awesome

If you're playing Killer Queen in Columbus and not playing at Arcade Super Awesome, well, you're not playing in the Killer Queen league at ACA.

"It's easy to learn and difficult to master," owner John Geiger said of the game's appeal. "And it's really social and interactive. It does require 10 people, so you'll see games filled out with total strangers who become fast friends."

The space above Yellow Brick Pizza also emphasizes pinball games (an every-Thursday-night league is in its second season), which also offer the same multi-player, social interaction benefit. On the way are the much-anticipated new Ghostbusters pinball game and a pinball table based on the movie "The Hobbit," which Geiger said is fantastic.

A handful of taps is augmented by cans (ideal for gaming). Popular choices include brews from Athens' Jackie O's and Hoof Hearted Brewing, as well as classic selections like Old Style.

892 Oak St., Olde Towne East


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Level One Bar + Arcade

Owner Paul Burkhart's Level One has only been open since last summer, and yet is still a veteran in the city's burgeoning scene.

"People are still playing fight games, Mortal Kombat, Street Fighter," he said. "And sports games like NBA Jam and NFL Blitz."

He said Level One will have Wayne Gretzky's 3D Hockey available soon for sports gamers.

It's not quite sports, but the arcade bar also has a Mario Kart league that meets one Saturday each month.

There's also a strong pinball scene, as "people just love the feel and sound," Burkhart said. There is a women's league that meets Wednesday evenings and he hopes to roll out an open league soon.

Level One plans a big Ghostbusters pinball launch event on May 1.

Burkhart said patrons are split between craft beers and the bar's signature cocktails, such as the Tapper (with gin), Tron (vodka-based) and Frogger (rum).

130 Hutchinson Ave., North Side