Beat's Guide to Melbourne's Best Video Game Bars

Booze and video games. As the old saying goes, it's the simple things in life. As if crushing your mates in a round of Mortal Kombat wasn't satisfying enough, couple that with a few beverages and you've got yourself a recipe for one hell of a good time. With that in mind, we're celebrating ACMI's upcoming Retrolympiad by compiling the very best places to share a pint over some pixels with Beat's Guide to Melbourne's Best Video Game Bars.

Retrolympiad at ACMI this Saturday


You know when Super Mario gets a super star, and all of a sudden his running and jumping powers are increased tenfold? Apply that idea to a video game bar, and you'll start to get an idea of what ACMI's Retrolympiad is all about. Tying in with the upcoming Rio de Janerio Olympics, the special event couples the best of retro athletic video games with gaming-inspired drinks, food and a DJ set from none other than the synth-loving Midnight Juggernauts. Some of the cracking vintage titles include Epyx’s iconic California Games, Konami’s genre defining Track and Field, and the Olympic Gold series capped off with a slew of 8-bit arcade machines. Plus, there'll be '80s factoids, dance-offs and a medal ceremony for the top players. It's a one-night-only video game extravaganza you don't want to miss.


It all goes down Saturday July 23 at ACMI, Federation Square. Tickets available now.


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Pixel Alley


This is the team you can thank for those amazing drinks at Retrolympiad. On home turf, they're renowned for a tidy selection of alcoholic milkshakes, cocktails, and bubble cups. A personal recommendation is the refreshing and aptly-named 1-Up shake, consisting of Creme de Menthe, dark chocolate, chunks of biscuit and peppermint crisps. It's got a gorgeous selection of classic cabinets and pinball machines (hell yeah, Monster Bash!), as well as multi-game cabinets stocking multiple '80s Capcom and Sega staples (MegaMan, Galaga or Street Fighter, anyone?). Located directly underneath Mr. Wow's Emporium – a bar where you can play bocce and ping-pong – and operated by the same people, you know that Pixel Alley understands what a good time with mates is supposed to look like.


95 Smith Street, Fitzroy


Beta Bar

A cool pop-up venture that's huge in heart, Beta Bar is a super-chill event space heavily focused on the community aspect of gaming. With the former (sadly-defunct) Mana Bar Melbourne bartenders/organisers Bonnie Bradley and Skaidris Gunsmith at the helm, Beta Bar is all about celebrating gaming culture in its many forms and sharing that enjoyment with those just as enthusiastic as you. They do board games, card games, console games, Mario Kart and Rock Band competitions, theme nights, game-based cocktails and if you happen to be attending the Penny Arcade Expo this year (Friday November 4 to Sunday November 6) or hanging around on New Years, they host one hell of a party. Your Fridays are sorted.


660 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn



A gaming utopia tucked away in the middle of the CBD, Bartronica is the cool basement retreat you wanted growing up after years of watching Hey Arnold and A*Mazing left you obsessed with hidden rooms. A great selection of drinks (with Tetris-block shaped ice cubes), cabinets and pinball machines alike, Bartronica also boasts several booths and lounge areas where you can ease into some legendary consoles of the '90s with a group of mates. There's Nintendo 64s (Goldeneye! Diddy Kong Racing! Super Smash Bros!), Super Nintendos, and Sega Genesis aplenty. The interactive favourites like Sega Rally, Time Crisis and a four-player Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles will maintain a friendly, if not frantically kinetic, competition. Make sure you're using those handy pint-glass-sized platforms cleverly installed beside the cabinets to avoid spillage. (By the way, if there still happens to be a certain "JC." registered in ninth place on the Point Blank machine's high scores board, then feel free to leave it like that.


341-347 Flinders Lane (basement), CBD


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Forgotten Worlds

Ever wanted to step back in time and take advantage of how cheap everything seemed? Forgotten Worlds (who proudly claim to be "Australia's First Arcade Bar") understands you. The arcade machines at this jam-packed establishment have been generously left at '90s-style prices, giving you true bang for your nostalgic buck. The place is chock-a-block with the unmistakable likes of Ghosts 'N' Goblins and Golden Axe, and they have a monstrous range of classy beverages on rotation, including a whopping 70-odd beers. Make sure to pop by in the middle of the week. Every Wednesday and Thursday, they have a $10 nachos and beer deal. Bring a fistful of silver shrapnel and enjoy.

113 Johnston Street, Collingwood


Alchemist's Refuge


Located within and operated by game store kings Games Laboratory on Little Lonsdale Street, Alchemist's Refuge is all about unwinding with a quiet drink at the end of the day and enjoying the simple pleasure of a good board game from their extensive library. With a rich rotating roster of delicious craft beer, it's a great place to spend a cold winter's eve. Don't think that they're just about board games, however. Every Friday the Super Smash Bros. enthusiast community host what they refer to as a "super casual" Super Smash Bros. night, where friends can come together and enjoy a rousing round of their favourite fighting game. There's also a geek-themed trivia night every second Thursday. Take a trip downstairs and discover a gentle world of nerdy wonder.


328 Little Lonsdale Street, underneath Games Laboratory, CBD


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Galactic Circus underneath Crown has always been a myriad of whizzing lights and blaring sounds, like a building possessed by a seven-year-old on copious amounts of Kirk's Portello, but it shut its doors earlier this year. It seems, however, to be a self-spun cocoon, promising to reopen even grander and more extravagant than before. Its plans suit its standing tradition of excess, including four zones with several bars, lounges, food, and over 150 brand new games. There'll be bowling, DJ booths, lazer tag and prizes to win. We'll have to wait until November to find out what this looks like, however. Meantime, enjoy the comfortable surroundings of the vibrant, passionate gaming community Melbourne offers elsewhere until this glorified Timezone explodes in your face like a Michael Bay breakfast cereal commercial.



Image: @nniixx and Pixel Alley

Retrolympiad artwork by Ivan Dixon of Rubber House. 

Reckon you're Melbourne's ultimate video game champion? Duke it out (or just dance it out, the choice is yours) when Retrolympiad comes to ACMI on Saturday July 23. Tickets available now