Covid restrictions have been lifted in Melbourne and that means our gaming events are back on.
The thing is, it’s been nearly two years! You might not even remember where to go. Which of your favourite gaming spots in Melbourne made it through the lockdowns? Which sadly didn’t? Who’s thrown open the doors for the first time? We’re getting into it.
Bars and Clubs
Let’s start with nightlife, because after spending so long at home, we’re honestly feeling ready to party.
Basement/335 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
Bartronica is probably the Melbourne barcade most people are familiar with. It has a chill atmosphere and is stocked with an assortment of the greatest arcade hits. They also have a rotating list of gaming-themed craft beers and cocktails if you’re feeling something a bit different.
Level 3/211 La Trobe St, Melbourne
B. Lucky at Melbourne Central is perfectly placed to draw you in while you wait for your movie to start at Hoyts upstairs. A smoking room aesthetic, multiplayer games machines, a loaded bar and an outdoor dining area with a bit of a view. A very popular spot.
23 Caledonian Ln, Melbourne
The big lad, the multifaceted entertainment chungus in the heart of the city. Fortress Melbourne is home to all sorts of activities — there’s a tavern, a LAN facility, streaming pods, a tabletop area, an esports arena. It’s wild, and by the largest space for gaming events in Melbourne this side of Jeff’s Shed. Fortress threw open its doors in 2020 right as the city went into lockdown and has battled to survive since. It emerges from lockdown stronger than ever. Pop by and give it a look. We’ve visited before and were pretty impressed with what we found.
Basement 93/95 Queen St, Melbourne
Your friendly neighbourhood esports bar. GGEZ has built its profile on its highly visible social media presence and dedicated collection of regulars. The perfect place to post up for your favourite esports match, the team also runs regular competitions in-house.
Inflation Entertainment Complex
60 King St, Melbourne
Glitch is a new arrival in the Melbourne scene, founded by the former owners of Hawthorn’s Beta Bar (may it rest in peace). Its next event will be a banger of a New Year’s Eve party, tickets for which can be copped here.
63 A’Beckett St, Melbourne
Marche Board Game Cafe is just such a treat. Comfy, cozy and with a great library of games, this is a wonderful place to stop when the weather turns — grab a coffee, play a game, have a chat and wait for the rain to pass.
74 Rose St, Fitzroy
Pause Menu is unbelievably cute. If you’ve got a free Saturday morning and you’re looking for a coffee spot with friends, but you’d also like to get a game of Magic in, this is the one. Chill vibes, adorable atmosphere. We love to see it.
1279 North Rd, Huntingdale
Here’s one for folks a bit further out of the city. Pixel Bar & Cafe is a secret little spot in the suburbs with a stacked bar, mountains of memorabilia and a great pub feel. Well worth a visit.
135 Arden St, North Melbourne
Temple Arden is classy. It’s just so classy. Pop in, you’ll see what we mean. Racks of games, a clean and modern vibe, and the coffee’s really good.
Arcades — true arcades — are, for the most part, a thing of the past. There are, however, a few places around the traps that still recall the old arcade spirit.
Basement/335 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
Yes, we’ve already featured Bartronica on this list once already, but they are home to one of the most well-appointed public arcades in the city. Classics, rarities, mainstays, gun games, racers — the greats are represented in all their coin-operated glory.
440 Docklands Dr, Docklands
Archie Brothers Cirque Electriq is an example of the modern school of arcades. By this, we mean a lot of skill testers and ticket machines, gimmick machines and fun diversions. That’s not for everyone, and there will be arcade purists that scoff at what Archie Brothers keeps on their floor. But here’s why they’re on our Melbourne gaming events list — if you’re going to build a new school arcade, you build one like this. It’s beautiful and leans into its heightened, vintage sideshow aesthetic to an absurd degree. It’s so self-aware. We have to respect it.
You’ve raved to your mates about the experience of VR, but you can’t really do it justice without having a headset to give them. VR party locations are the perfect solution. Bring a group of mates and enjoy watching them be blown away by the magic of VR for the first time.
31 Valerie St, Kew East
Flight Sim Melbourne is a fully appointed public flight simulator in the heart of the suburbs. You don’t need a licence to hop in, and, with a certified pilot on hand to catch you if you fall, you certainly don’t need any training. In addition to its incredible sim rig, it is also outfitted with a range of Oculus Quest 2 VR headsets. These headsets have a range of games installed and are a great way to get to grips with VR before diving into owning a headset yourself.
555 Flinders Ln, Melbourne
Viri VR is a great spot for a party. In addition to wide spaces for VR play, it also has racing sim rigs for an even more immersive experience. Easy to get to and plenty of experiences to try. One to check out for sure.
69 Pelham St, Carlton
VR World sits at the intersection of VR experiences, laser tag and escape rooms. It also has a contract with Ubisoft on some pretty impressive VR experiences around IP like Prince of Persia and Assassin’s Creed. It is currently open by appointment only, so make sure you book in advance.
22-32 Steel St, North Melbourne
The original, physical VR experience. A combination of the best of laser tag and VR, Zero Latency maps its modular, physical space to a VR program at 1:1 scale for a truly crazy level of immersion. Effectively, if you see a ramp in your game, you can trust that it is there in real life and you can walk up it. It’s physical, to be sure, but a hell of a lot of fun.
We love puzzles. We especially love spooky puzzles, which is what a lot of the escape rooms in Melbourne seem to enjoy constructing. Escape rooms are group activities that usually last an hour or so. Teams are locked into carefully curated sets with a core objective to complete — getting out. To do this, they’ll have to work together to look for clues, solve puzzles and slowly piece together how to escape before the time runs out.
Basement, Causeway House
306 Lt. Collins St, Melbourne
Adventure Rooms is all about the spooky vibe. One hour to escape from a mad scientist’s lair or witch queen’s castle, or just bust out of jail — that’s your mission. Great for teams or just a bunch of fearless mates.
Ground Floor 3, 190 Queen St
Escape Hunt plays in a similar space to something like Call of Cthulhu. Creepy rooms, a clear sense of time and place, and only your wits to save you. Great fun and a wide variety of rooms to choose from. Pretty reasonably priced too, especially if you’re bringing a larger group.
377 Lonsdale St, Melbourne
TRAPT is an escape room venue that casts an extremely wide net. Its rooms run with themes as broad as space stations and circuses, and it can accommodate for parties large and small. There is also — and this is crucial — a bar attached so you can celebrate if your escape goes well or commiserate if it goes to hell.
Look, online shopping is fine, but for the collector or board game geek, it’s hard to top being able to go into an actual store and have a browse. Now, in the ‘living with it’ stage of the pandemic, we can do just that once more. Here are a few spots to pop off to now we can be out and about again.
145 Swanston St, Melbourne
Mind Games is a bit like the 7-11 of games stores in Melbourne. It feels like they’re everywhere. But there’s a reason they’re so popular: their staff are lovely and knowledgeable, and their range is massive. In the city, you’ll find them on Swanston St (there used to be two stores in close proximity but sadly it seems as though one of them didn’t survive the lockdowns). Beyond the city, there are stores in Hawthorn, Malvern and Northcote.
Shop 7/335 Bourke St, Melbourne
An old favourite. The Games Shop is a women-owned business with a packed range and kind, knowledgeable staff. It’s also got the single coolest look of any game store around and blends perfectly into the grand old dame of a shopping arcade in which it resides.
377 Little Collins St, Melbourne
Critical Hit, tucked away on Lt. Collins St, is the kind of all-purpose nerd bazaar that makes for a great stop on a longer weekend shop. Covering off everything from video games to statues and manga, this is the sort of place that tests your willpower. The urge to make impulse purchases is strong here.
And there you go, our picks for places to hit in Melbourne now we’re allowed back out again!