From the old-school retro classics – Space Invaders, Pac-Man and Donkey Kong – to today’s computer games akin to billion-dollar Hollywood blockbusters, the world of video game arcades has had a renaissance. The biggest arcades attract people of all ages playing games from the 1970s all the way up to the latest releases. The contenders for the biggest arcade in the world are amazing arenas of noise, colour and pure, unadulterated fun.
Games arcades – originally called amusement halls – can trace their roots back to the late 1920s and early 1930s, when the first mechanical coin-operated games like pinball were invented. In the late 1960s, shooter games such as Duck Hunt and racing games like Grand Prix paved the way for today’s incredibly complex, video-quality games.
Fast-forward to the early 1970s and the first arcade game that we’d recognise today was called Computer Space. Pong appeared soon after and then came Space Invaders. It was, if you’ll excuse the pun, a game-changer.
Arcades had become a major fixture around the world by the early 1980s, and the title of world’s largest arcade changed hands dozens of times. By the late 1990s, games consoles were increasingly powerful and affordable and offered all the fun of the arcade but at home, in the warm, without having to scramble around for change.
Today, the biggest arcades in the world are still packed full of gamers, young and old. Some playing Pac-Man for the first time and others playing with treasured memories of times gone by.
Here are the runners and riders for the title of world’s biggest arcade.
The Arcade Club
Location: Bury, UK | Arcade games: 300+
The Arcade Club is Europe’s largest arcade and one of the biggest arcades in the world. It’s spread over four floors in a converted mill just north of Manchester. From a collection of thirty arcade games in the back of a computer shop, today The Arcade Club is home to an awesome collection of new arcade games and old-school 80s classics as well as pinball machines, VR headsets and the latest PC games.
Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines
Location: Moscow, Russia | Opened: 2007 | Arcade games: 325+
This is a museum charting the history of Soviet-era arcade games from the 1970s to the 1990s. Every exhibit can be played, if you have a pocketful of 15-kopeck coins. All the games were modelled on those made in the West and Japan and, so the story goes, all personally approved by Cold War Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev. Certainly one of the more unusual arcades on this list, but nevertheless a contender for the biggest arcade in the world.
Pinball Hall of Fame
Location: Las Vegas, USA | Opened: 2009 | Arcade games: 700+
Las Vegas isn’t all about colossal casinos, huge hotels and very big video screens. Just metres from the Las Vegas Strip, the 2,600 square metre converted warehouse is a contender for the biggest arcade in the world. It features some of the pinball world’s rarest machines, including Williams’ Black Gold, Bally’s Pinball Circus and Recreativos Franco’s Impacto.
Galloping Ghost Arcade
Location: Illinois, USA | Opened: 2010 | Arcade games: 900+
After a chance encounter with Mortal Kombat co-creator Ed Boon when he worked at a games store in the 1990s, Doc Mack decided to open an arcade. The legend of the Galloping Ghost supposedly starts with a barn find of 114 arcade games he bought for $5,000. Only eight were working so he fixed the others and the rest is history. The biggest arcade in the USA is believed to be, by number of games, the largest arcade in the world. Amongst the collection is an ultra-rare Sega R360, the only publicly-playable example of this machine in the USA.
Funspot Family Fun Center
Location: New Hampshire, USA | Opened: 1952 | Arcade games: 600+
The world’s biggest arcade by size is the 7,000 square metre Funspot in the New Hampshire town of Laconia. It was opened as an indoor crazy golf course and a coin-operated games arcade. Funspot is also home to the American Classic Arcade Museum with over 250 retro games from Asteroids to Zaxxon.
Grand Prix Race-O-Rama
Location: Florida, USA | Opened: 1970s | Arcade games: 1,200+
Although it’s now long closed, the Grand Prix Race-O-Rama was said to be the biggest arcade in the world and one of the biggest arcades ever. It was famous for racing games like Hot Wheels and go-karting, as well as its vast collection of arcade games and pinball machines. In the early 1980s there were around 950 arcade machines before the original home was demolished to make way for a new motorway. The next site in Fort Lauderdale had around 1,200 games and four mini-golf courses.
So there we have it, the contenders for the largest arcade in the world. How Kong do you think it would take for you to Pac in all these amazing games?