A Cocktail Arcade Machine can add real character to any man cave. Most of us remember sitting down at the corner shop with a handful of quarters, trying to beat that high score on Pac-Man. Along with the nostalgic value, a cocktail arcade machine can bring your friends together, especially if they’re sick of playing pool or darts.
In a hurry? Here’s our top pick…
What is a Cocktail Arcade Machine?
Many people believe that any arcade machine is a cocktail arcade machine, but this isn’t true.
Don’t confuse Upright Arcade Machines with Cocktail Arcade Machines.
A cocktail arcade machine is an arcade machine that has a flat glass top with the screen pointing upwards. The table is low enough so that players can sit down and place their drink on the surface, hence the name “Cocktail Arcade Machine”. There are game controls on either side of the table.
Although there are many variations of this theme (like tilting table tops), this is the essence of what a cocktail arcade is.
Remember, when you are playing on a cocktail arcade machine, you are playing the exact original arcade game, not a redeveloped game from a console. Of course all cocktail games have minor changes in order for them to be played on cocktail machines today, but all of the game code remains the same.
Things to Consider Before Buying
What Do You Want To Play?
All cocktail arcade machines sold today have a heap of games bundled in, but most of us usually have a few favorites that are must-haves. Unless you just want something that looks good in your man cave, there is no point spending all that cash on a machine that doesn’t have the games you want.
Hundreds, sometimes over a thousand games on one machine will definitely keep your buddies entertained in between games of pool. Who knows, there might be a long lost favorite that you forgot still existed.
Some cocktail machines will let you add more games to it so be sure to do your homework on a particular game and system to see if it will run before buying a machine.
How Will the Table Be Used?
Cocktail machines are available in many different configurations. Joysticks, trackballs and number of buttons will dictate the games that you can play.
It’s better to buy a machine with more buttons as games that only use 1 or 2 buttons will still work if your machine has 6 buttons per player.
To Trackball or not to Trackball?
There are a few niche games that use a trackball instead of a joystick. These are few and far between but only buy a machine with a trackball if there are certain favorites you want to play that use it.
Number of Players
Cocktail machines are also available in 2, 3 or 4 players so decide how many you want playing your machine at one time before buying. Cocktail machines to me were always only 2 player games. More recently, 3 and 4 player versions are available but not all games will support 4 players at one time.
Today, coin mechs on a cocktail machine will only be there for aesthetics and are very rare, surely you don’t want to charge your friends to play? Maybe you do!
Machine Size/Screen Size
You should take into account, the actual machine size as well as the screen size. Just seeing images of a machine can be deceiving. Some machines are slightly smaller than your standard cocktail arcade size. The last thing you want is to have to place a riser underneath the table just so that you can sit comfortably.
Cocktail arcade machines vary in size, width and length as well as height. Make sure the machine will fit into your man cave and have enough room on sides where players will be sitting. Most cocktail machines require a certain amount of assembly so getting it into your man cave shouldn’t be a problem. What may be a problem is having to move the machine into a different room or house. Some can weigh over 200 lbs!
Screen Size & Aspect Ratio
Screen sizes on cocktail arcade machines range from 19” up to 32”. Bigger is better… sure! But bigger will always be more expensive. Original cocktail machines did have quite small screens but you don’t want to be squinting over the screen if you don’t have to.
The old cocktail machines existed with a 4:3 aspect ratio. Although this aspect ratio is still available, buying a machine with a 16:9 widescreen means that you will usually have black bars on each side. Not a critical element but still worth mentioning.
Not all cocktail arcade machines are made equal. Looks can be deceiving. It’s important to look at the general aesthetics of the machine, the quality of the components used (especially the cabinet) and the warranty.
Your man cave is your sanctuary so be sure your cocktail arcade machine blends in with the decor. You want your machine to last so look to see if the cabinet is made from MDF particle board or plywood.
Many cocktail arcade machines are supplied with either 2 or 3 years warranty, which is nice. Be sure to check to see what the warranty covers. Some components inside the table may be supplied with shorter warranties. Be sure to check first.
What Games are Included?
It’s always a selling proposition to list the total number of games supplied with a cocktail machine. Always look out for the ones you know and will play as some machines are just supplied with a lot of rubbish games that you will never play.
Some machines also let you install your own games so be sure to research how someone does this. If you really need to be able to run your own games then a MAME machine will be a better option.
Do You Have Power?
This might sound obvious, but you don’t want to have a power cable permanently running across the floor for someone to trip on. A standard 10 Amp power plug will be sufficient to run most cocktail arcade tables.
What System Does it Use?
All cocktail arcade machines have their own operating system that lets the machine boot up straight into game mode, just like a console would.
Knowing what system the cocktail arcade machine runs is only useful if you plan on wanting to run your own games.
Many machines on the market will offer stools. Unless you have your own, manufacturers will supply decent quality stools. Maybe you want something that’s a little more up to date in terms of technology so features like LED lighting may be important to you.
Best 5 Cocktail Arcade Machines
1. Prime Arcades Cocktail Arcade Machine
This machine is built to last. It weighs 165 lbs so it should stand the test of time, as well as a few knocks here and there. An important safety aspect is the thick tempered glass. The last thing you want to happen after your buddies have had a few is for them to smash the glass after losing to you.
Unlike many other machines we reviewed, this one ship fully assembled. You simply plug it in and turn it on. Nice!
Some of the classic games we found… Pac-Man, Galaga, Frogger, Donkey Kong and Space Invaders and many of them will flip the screen for 2 player action.
There are not many things wrong with this machine. In a man cave it should last a very long time.
2. Creative Arcades Full-Size Commercial Cocktail Arcade Machine
To start, this machine ships with an astonishing 3500 games. More than any other machine we reviewed. It has all of the classics, and probably a few that you just can’t remember the name of any more.
The Creative Arcades Cocktail Machine comes with a massive 32″ LCD monitor. Many others were supplied with 19″ LCD monitors. You will notice the difference when you play on a larger screen.
Being able to tilt the screen up enabling it to play like a standard arcade machine is an excellent feature and one that will please the die-hard gamers.
No assembly is required. It’s simply plug-n-play. 3 year warranty is nice (and better than some), but other machines we reviewed were supplied with longer warranties. Something to think about.
Commercial grade speakers with volume control was another feature we really liked. When your buddies are around, of course you’ll want to crank up the volume, but when playing late at night, perhaps a lower volume is in order.
Interestingly, this machine includes 4 controllers but all of the games are only 2 player games. There are no 4-player games.
The system in this machine is faster than some of the other arcade machines we reviewed so it does support some of the newer “classic” arcade games, like Street Fighter and Mortal Kombat.
If you want a machine which is beefy and will play a ton of games then the Creative Arcades Cocktail Machine is definitely your choice. The tilt screen option is impressive, but you do pay for it.
3. Creative Arcades Wine Barrel Arcade Machine
- ✔️FULL-SIZE COMMERCIAL GRADE: Equipped with the Highest Quality SANWA Joysticks, 19" LCD Monitor, Thick Tempered Glass, and more! We stand behind our products because we are industry leaders in quality craftsmanship and design.
- ✔️ 412 CLASSIC GAMES INCLUDED: Feel like a kid again while playing the pre-installed 80's and 90's classic games! Whether playing for fun or competitively with your friends and family, this arcade machine is guaranteed to be a big hit!
- ✔️ PLUG AND PLAY: No setup necessary. Simply plug the game machine in and choose from a comprehensive game list. Supports free and paid gameplay with no setup required. All of our Arcade Models also include a commercial grade custom Volume Control Module with Bass, Treble and Balance inside the cabinet.
This arcade machine can become a real centerpiece of any man cave and something that you can proudly keep on show. The round tempered glass top is a pleasant change from most of the other machines on the market. The downside to this machine is that it’s only supplied with a 19″ LCD screen. Bit on the small side compared to other cabinets on the market. Overall, this is a nicely built arcade machine with character.
4. Doc and Pies Arcade Factory Cocktail Arcade Machine
The build quality of this machine is sound and it’s supplied with a 2 year warranty. You can expect all of the classic retro arcade games, Pac-Man, Frogger, Centipede and Burger Time to name a few.
5. Cocktail Arcade Machine 1162 Games
- Brand New Fully Assembled - Plug and Play
- Industries Best 5 Year Warranty
- Includes 2 Chrome Stools
What we like about this machine apart from the fact that it ships with 1162 games is that it includes a 5 year warranty. You also get a 26″ LED Monitor so you won’t be squinting like those with 19″ monitors. Don’t be fooled by there being 4 joysticks as this machine only allows 2 players at one time.
What About DIY Cocktail Arcade Machines?
If you’re not satisfied with the games that ship with these arcade machines or perhaps you want to have a go at building your own cabinet, there are many communities online that will help you do that. It is possible to buy just a MAME (arcade emulator) to build your own. It’ll save you quite a lot of money but not everyone is good at woodworking to build the cabinet.
Cocktail Arcade Machines add a real sense of nostalgia to any man cave. It may not be something that you’ll sit down and play for hours on end (sitting on a small stool will ensure that) but it will give you and your buddies some variety of games to play, especially if they are bored of pool or darts. There are also plenty of other reasons to play cocktail arcade games. Today’s cocktail tables add some nice features like LED lighting or tilting tabletops while still keeping the essence of what a cocktail arcade table is. Once you sit down on your arcade stool, all the memories will start flowing back from your younger years.
Now isn’t that worth the price of admission?