Thursday, January 27, 2022

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Barcadium travels back in time with vintage arcade games


Remember back when you and all your friends would hole up in somebody’s living room to play games and drink? There were good people, a variety of things to do so no one got bored, the comfort of your own home and your favorite seat — what more could you ask for?

That’s the same vibe you get with a visit to Barcadium in downtown Des Moines. Vintage arcade games line the painted brick walls and the space in between, some few tables thrown in every few feet. Add a bit of dim lighting, graffiti-type wall art, stained carpet and well-used couches, and guests can enjoy the feeling that they haven’t even left their basement.

Games range from pinball, shooting and racing; even giant Jenga is set up both inside and out on the patio, which offers about twice as much seating and an outdoor bar.

The old-school basement feel of Barcadium creates a relaxing environment for vintage and modern gamers alike.

The old-school basement feel of Barcadium creates a relaxing environment for vintage and modern gamers alike.

Inside, the bar is fully loaded, and beer comes any way you like it. A few TVs line walls that are covered with vintage posters and artwork. There’s even a wall dedicated to old awkward family photos, complete with mullets and animal props.


Barcadium opened in January as the second arcade bar in Des Moines, following Up-Down, which offers similar games. Despite that, Barcadium has a good following of people looking to play games they haven’t seen in years and have a craving for a good time in a relaxed setting . Low overhead music allows the game sound effects to be the main focus, which is an added benefit as you don’t have to shout to be heard at your own table.

It’s also a great spot for gaming couples that like to keep dating a little more active than dinner and a movie. Two-player games such as Area 51 allow friendly — or crushing, depending on your S.O. — competition, while others like pinball and Ms. Pac-Man are better suited for watching one another.

Other games include Frogger, X-Men, NFL Blitz, Rampage and a mechanical arm wrestling machine. There is also a life-size pink Barbie box so everyone can have a turn at being America’s favorite doll. You might even make Barcadium’s Instagram. Is there such a thing as Beer Can Barbie?

The machines take tokens and money — an ATM is inside next to the token machine, so don’t worry about stopping at the bank first — and most are 50 cents or less to play, except on Sunday when games are free all day.

Dinner is also served at the bar in true retro fashion. For $5 you can get a Banquet TV dinner and a can of PBR or Hamm’s. Is there a more fitting meal to accompany ’80s- and ’90s-style games? It’s just one more way Barcadium makes its customers feel at home. CV

102 Third St.
4 p.m. to 2 a.m., Monday through Friday
Noon to 2 a.m. Saturday and Sunday
Sunday Funday: free games all day

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