Air Hockey… a game created by two billiard table manufacturing engineers and a former ice hockey player, in its most basic sense, is an amusing combination of billiards and ice hockey. It’s a way to bring the excitement of the hockey rink from the arena into the comfort of your favorite hangout spots.
Unlike the usually methodical game of pool or billiards, the unforgiving pace of air hockey does not permit players to even think and strategize. The friction-less surface makes the puck to go so fast that the human eyes would find it difficult to keep track even for the most skilled players. This is where its beauty lies, it’s an exciting fast-paced game where a single stroke of good luck can earn even the weakest player a victory.
Air hockey tables used to solely belong on the floors of bars and pubs where a lot of stressed-out people tend to congregate. These large colorful tables with flashy lights naturally attract quite the crowd for casual games back in the day. However, the advent of video games triggered a mass exodus of players.
Luckily, manufacturers have a found a way to make these formerly bar-exclusive fixtures more accessible to casual users who, in turn, took the game that they’ve fallen in love with, to their homes. It’s now making a comeback of sorts in game rooms and man caves everywhere and people are starting to realize just why it became so popular, to begin with.
Air hockey tables come with a variety of different features depending on the model you choose. Some models tend to have no bells and whistles, but many will include features such as score-keeping, rotating time allotments, buzzers, and more. So if you like to keep things simple, you can always go for the straightforward model, but if you want the high tech table, there are also plenty to choose from.
Many people only have space for either a pool table or an air hockey table, not for both. If you’re a fan of foosball and pool, but also love to play air hockey, you’ll want to take a look at multi-game tables. Designed to transition smoothly from one recreational activity to the next, you can enjoy all 3 games in a hassle-free manner, without having to find exclusive space for all 3 tables. This helps if you’re available space is severely limited, or you prefer to sample various games rather than predominantly playing one. Some of these tables don’t have the full scope of the original games, however. So if you’re a hardcore player of one or more of the activities included in your table, make sure you’re getting one with all the essential table facets, and not a limited version.
Air hockey tables, just like board games and pool tables, are particularly prone to lost parts. This isn’t the case of losing a couple of ‘chance’ cards in Monopoly, however. Without the proper pieces, it can be impossible to play air hockey at all. So be sure to stock up on strikers so that you always have effective ways to hit those pucks around the table, and don’t forget the pucks as well, as it is quite hard to score without them. If you’re looking to customize your table without actually changing the table, getting pucks and strikers in different colors can help to create a unique look other than the traditional white table/red accessories appearance found commonly.
We review the Top 5 Air Hockey tables that will suit just about every man cave.
- COMMERCIAL QUALITY - The sturdy table features a commercial-quality blower that provides ideal airflow to the playfield and the low profile, high-density aluminum rails allow for perfect bounce and bank shots.
- AWESOME PLAYFIELD - Wear-resistant laminate playing surface is meant for competitive play and will extend the life of the table. The playfield features a face-off circle for competitive play and the Tournament Pro is fully-sanctioned for tournament play by the U.S. Air-Hockey Association
- OVERHEAD SCORING UNIT - Features the first ever player-selectable push button to choose between white overhead light or black light. A great feature that adds another level to the game play. Puck Glows Bright Under Black Light. Score is Displayed on the Overhead Unit.
The Gold Standard Games Tournament Pro Elite Air Hockey Table is specifically designed with those stressed out patrons in mind. It’s built to withstand countless hard smacks from overzealous players and direct aggression from occasional rage quitters who vent out their frustrations on the table itself.
- Designed by air hockey champions specifically to fall within the standards of the United States Air Hockey Association for competitive tournament play
- The build quality of the cabinet and legs are definitely top-notch and should endure years of hard smacks and abuse
- Equipped with high-density aluminum rails for precision bounce action and bank-ability.
- Industrial grade blower helps keep the frictionless surface completely even across the entire table
- bit expensive for most home setups
- 650lbs total weight makes it too heavy to move around even with multiple people
- It's all about the Power Play Goal with the full-size NHL 84" Power Play Pro air hockey table!
- Hit one of your opponent's game table power corners and it will pulse and flash for 3 seconds.
- Hit the second table hockey game corner within 3 seconds of the first to activate the Power Play!
EA Sports is more popularly known as a video game brand that produces huge games like the FIFA series. Their foray into the air hockey table business shows how serious the company is in taking over game rooms and man caves.
Like with their video games, the company pulled out all of the stops to make the game as enjoyable as possible. It’s constructed with sturdy materials that can stand the test of both time and abuse. The playing surface isn’t standard competition size, but it’s a great size for both adult and child use.
- Made by a brand that kids and most adults can relate to
- Competitively priced
- Scoring music
- Sturdy construction
- Electronic Scorer that projects onto playfield
- Size is a good middle ground for children and adults
- The colorful finish makes it difficult to match some man caves but should be perfect for a game room
- May take a long time to assemble
For avid hockey fans, ESPN should ring a bell. The brand is one of the biggest sports networks to cover NHL and the name recall just makes it feel like you’re in a professional hockey match.
Kids who keep up with the game should also be able to get in on the action as the table is a perfect compromise for children and adult. The well-built construction is also a plus as no matter how hard adults smack on the puck or how often children jump on the table when trying to reach in for a smash, the construction and materials should hold. The leg-levelers make it difficult to complain about unfair advantages to your opponents.
- The brand is a sports legend that hockey enthusiasts can easily relate to
- Integrated ice hockey sound effects that heighten the action
- Leg-levelers for a perfectly even surface
- Dimensions hit a perfect middle ground for adults and children to be able to play comfortably
- Lightweight for easy moving
- Small size
- Not competition-grade dimensions
- Slick, scuff-proof surface is designed for exceptionally fast play
Nothing can beat the original. So since Brunswick was the first company to produce air hockey, their latest design should be on this list. The look is updated with modern stylings but all the basics are still there. The blower still does an awesome job at friction reduction while still being quiet, the abacus style scoring display works perfectly and reliably, and the puck and mallets still slide across the surface without a hitch.
This basic set up is perfect for a minimalist man cave as it’s got a classy vibe to it. The predominantly black and white finishes should go perfectly with a contemporary vibe.
- The brand that started the air hockey industry
- Contemporary styling that goes perfectly well with modern man cave designs
- MDF surface with a strong blower gives excellent friction reduction
- Sturdy adjustable leg-levelers for an even surface
- Comes with 4 pucks
- Perfect price for style and durability
- Light up the night with the illuminating technology of the Lumen-X Lazer Air Hockey Table
- Interactive table features in-rail LED lighting with cascading effects and in-game music. Age Range- 8 - 11 Years
- Elevate gaming experience with accessories – two ultra-bright strikers and light-up puck
Rounding out our top 5 is the Triumph Lumen-X Air Hockey table. This table certainly has the “look” with LED lighting and in-game music. Sure to appeal to the younger generation.
- LED lighting
- In-game music
- Electronic scoring
- Dimensions fit perfectly for casual players
- Size is perfect for a small man cave
- Leg-levelers for an even surface for all the games
- Pucks fly off the table often
- Not competition quality materials and dimension
There are a plethora of game table specialist brands to choose from – and it doesn’t stop there. Outdoor and indoor games designers, pro air hockey champions and your local large-scale retailer all have their own versions to offer.
Arguably, the best known brand in gaming tables is EA Sports – but that is simply because of their manufacture of video games… their history in the air hockey table industry is relatively untested by comparison – although everything we have seen so far assures us they will be equally as successful in tables as they have been in software.
Before you buy you need to consider what you are going to do with it, exactly. For example, if I were buying one for a commercial arcade center I would want it to have flashing lights, as much interactivity and engagement as possible, and all of the sounds effects I could get my hands on… If I were buying for my home, I would want a lot less noise and a table I was sure would fit.
The materials used in the making of an air hockey table have a direct relation to the products durability and longevity. Normally, the cabinet will be constructed out of some sort of hard plastic or steel, but the more high-end tables often sport a sheer wood finish that adds a touch of luxury to a space. If you are looking for an air hockey table for a private clubhouse, these wooden finished ones are a good place to start.
The top of any air hockey table is also covered in some kind of laminated or high gloss substance to allow for ease of slide when the game starts. Other perks come with more elaborate tables; such as safely rounded corners, corner caps, steel skirts for added durability or powder coated side rails for tournament tables.
Prices vary, but the cheapest table on our list comes in at under a hundred dollars – but bear in mind this is for a child’s or mini table. A good, high quality and durable table can start from around the four hundred dollar mark and go all the way up to just over a thousand with the more commercial or professional models.
It is also worth mentioning that most tables have various add-ons and accessories that you can buy separately (such as extra lights, timers and pro-quality touches).
Size of table can vary from the miniature, kids-friendly versions right up to the massive 7/8ft (full size) tables that are suitable for two-four players. Some of the more expensive tables come with a choice of size, but the majority of tables have a set size. The average weight of a mid-range table sits somewhere around the 400 pound mark, but obviously the bigger ones weigh more than that. Medium and smaller sized tables are available though and are often better suited to someone buying for their home.
There are so many lighting options associated with air hockey tables that it is enough to confuse even the best of us – so let’s break it down into manageable options.
You can buy a light-free machine, or a table that only has a light on its scoreboard. On the next level there are the ones with a few lights here and there that will make the game play experience a little more interesting… On the final level we have the all-singing, all-dancing machines that do everything except turn themselves on… Some have even explored new avenues of game play by being fully glow-in-the-dark, with self illuminating pucks and tabletop.
LED lights are a popular addition, as are projector lights and, on the really expensive models, interactive lighting.
Pucks & Paddles
Paddles are sometimes called hammers, pushers or strikers, just to add to the confusion. Most tables come with paddles and pucks so that you can start playing straight away, but always check when buying to see if your deal includes them. Most are plain but both can come in a variety of colors. Some paddles, hammers or pushers (and even strikers) are illuminated and rechargeable via USB.
Not only do air hockey tables come in every color under the sun – there are also a few in our review list that are particularly eye-catching. Some come with UV glow and an in-built black light while some have glow-in-the-dark pucks and accessories. When it comes to color the market is your oyster.
While some tables are nice and quiet; most of them have speakers built in that have a variety of sound effects. Usually they are win/lose noises. Some high-end models have expensive speakers and hundreds of sound effects – and some tables don’t have speakers at all. Always consider location before you buy an air hockey table that has sound effects… you don’t want to go annoying your neighbors. Be sure to look for a table that has volume control. Tables can be very loud… and annoying.
Durability and Longevity
Many manufacturers of mid-range and upwards air hockey tables have put a lot of thought into construction specifically to increase the product’s life. If you buy a cheap air hockey table don’t expect it to last long, likewise if you buy from a lesser brand.
Unfortunately durability and longevity almost directly relate to the price of the table, and therefore many people go with the cheaper option which will need replacing sooner.
The more stable the table the more likely it is to last, so leg levelers are a good indication that the manufacturer has thought about durability and are something you ought to look out for when purchasing.
Leg levelers will also allow for more flexibility in where you can place your table, since they can be used to ensure the table top is flat even if the legs are on uneven ground.
Electronic or Manual Scoring
There are usually two types of table – ones with an electronic scoreboard and ones with a manual scoreboard. Electronic is great, manual is becoming outdated but can seriously affect the price of a table. So if you want a particular model but can’t afford it, you can always check to see if they have a similar one with manual scoring and a little less bling to it for a better price. You can also get tables with scoreboards on side panels or on overhead panels – or both.
The dreaded words we hate to see on any packaging; but yes, some air hockey tables do require you to set them up. Usually this only involves locking the legs into place, but be aware that some of the elaborate tables might require you to read the instructions…
Whether you enjoy a casual game of Air Hockey or not, having a table in your man cave will never look out of place, it’s just a space. There are many tables on the market and they vary greatly in price so it’s important to do you homework before purchasing. Sometimes it makes sense to buy a Multi Game Table if you are short on space and want multiple games on the one table. Once you’ve purchased a table then it’s time to hone your skills.