Five Game Centers in Kansai Gamers Must Visit

As someone who spent most of their youth playing video games, Japan always seemed like the ultimate destination for a gamer. A lot of the big video game companies such as Nintendo and Sega originate from Japan and some of the finest gamers of all time come from Japan. Kansai sees a lot of visitors from all over, and some of those want a place to relax and game for a bit. This is a guide for those traveling to or living in Kansai and want to experience Japanese gaming culture at its finest.

1. Club Sega Denden Town

Club Sega from the outside

Denden Town (otherwise known as Denden Machi) is Osaka’s equivalent to Tokyo’s Akihabara. Located near Namba station are plenty of anime, figures, cards, costumes, and card shops to keep any pop culture loving visitor busy for a day. For those who want to take a break from shopping and get some gaming in them, look no further than Club Sega. What makes Club Sega stand out in the Japanese arcade scene is that it offers everything that makes arcades still relevant in today’s gaming sphere. Between the dozens of crane games with several awesome prizes, giant racing and rhythm games that are only available at arcades and fighting games with competitors always ready to play.

Most arcades in Japan can be very cramped, but Club Sega expanded outward giving customers much more breathing room compared to others. Club Sega is also known for having quality arcade parts and a clean environment. Every machine is in great working order. If there are any issues, Club Sega’s staff is very quick to respond.

A look inside Club Sega.

Club Sega is a staple of the Japanese arcade scene, and any video game fan would enjoy stopping by and putting in a few coins to try out some awesome games that are only available at arcades.

Club Sega official site

Address: MMO Bldg., 2−3−15 Nanbanaka, Naniwa Ward, Osaka

Hours: 10:00 am – 12:00 am

2. The Silver Ball Planet

The sign outside Osaka’s Big Step

Pinball was never the big phenomenon in Japan as it was in the states, but rest assured there are plenty of pinball enthusiasts in Japan. As proof of this, look no further than The Silver Ball Planet in Shinsaibashi’s Big Step. The giant signs outside of Big Step are quick to attract anyone passing by. 

A look inside The Silver Ball Planet.

Upon entering The Silver Ball Planet, customers are greeted to dozens upon dozens of pinball machines both old and new. Several of the newest machines, such as “Deadpool” and “Guardians of the Galaxy,” reside near the entrance. Machines such as “AC/DC,” “South Park,” “The Simpsons Pinball Party,” four “Star Wars” machines, and many others are always ready to steal a few 100-yen coins from customers. Venturing to the very back of the store is like stepping back into the 70’s with some extremely early pinball machines such as “Black Hole” and “Captain Fantastic.” Anyone who grew up with even a passing familiarity in pinball will recognize at least one machine they have dropped a few quarters in.

Two rare “Super Mario Bros” pinball machines. It is said less than 500 of these machines were made.

For those who are more serious about pinball, The Silver Ball Planet offers pinball tournaments where players can compete with the best players Kansai has to offer for a chance to win a sweet Silver Ball t-shirt. The Silver Ball Planet is a store that pays tribute to pinball. It is an interactive museum showing a hobby that has retained its popularity over the years and exposing it to an audience who may have never noticed the phenomenon. 

The Silver Ball Planet official site

Address: 1 Chome-6-14 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka

Hours: 11:00 am – 8:00 pm weekdays 11:00 am – 11:00 pm weekends

3. Game A-Cho

Several fighting games lined up at Game A-Cho.

Kyoto isn't known for its gaming scene unlike Osaka. Having said that, Kyoto is home to one of Japan’s best and most hardcore game centers, Game A-Cho. Located in Kyoto’s busy shopping center of Teramachi-dori, many of Kyoto’s and Osaka’s best gamers go to A-Cho to practice and show off their gaming abilities. A-Cho is known for its weekly fighting game tournaments. From newer games like “Blazblue Central Fiction” and “Guilty Gear Xrd” to classics like “Street Fighter Zero 3,” just about any fighting game at Game A-Cho will have someone there playing, waiting to take on any challengers.

Beyond fighting games, several arcade classics are easy to find at A-Cho, such as Tetris, Puyo Puyo, Dodonpachi, among many others. The third floor is home to several popular Bemani and rhythm games, many of which are only playable at Japanese arcades. Several new arcade games such as the classic zombie shooting game House of the Dead 4 and mech game Starwing Paradise take prominence on the second floor. For those who need to cool down after intense arcade action, A-Cho also provides plenty of crane games with cool anime goods to win and Purikura to take home as a nice souvenir.

Retro gaming at Game A-Cho.

What makes A-Cho stand out is that it strikes that perfect balance between approachable for non-gamers but has enough variety and competition for hardcore arcade fans. It is both bright and welcoming but also shows the serious side of Japanese arcade gaming. There a sense of competition in the air but A-Cho knows how to kick back and have fun with video games.

A-Cho official site

Address: 302 A-break Bldg., Higashi-Daimonji-cho, Teramachi-agaru, Shijo-dori, Nakagyo-ku, Kyoto

Hours: 10:00 am – 12:00 am

4. The Hearth Board Game Bar and Café

As fun as video games and pinball are, they aren’t as social as a good board game, that’s where the Hearth comes in. Located in a snug back alley in Osaka’s Namba area, the Hearth is an expat ran cafe and board game paradise. Upon climbing several flights of stairs to get into the store, one is instantly greeted with a wall of shelves filled with dozens of board games for all kinds of playstyles. It can be intimidating to see a wall of board games and not know where to start beyond the simple games like “Monopoly” or “Risk.” Thankfully, The Hearth has a very easy to understand labeling system, assigning each game with a colored sticker to represent learning curve and if the game has Japanese and/or English instructions.

A wall of board games.

“Laid back” is the best way to describe The Hearth. Unlike in A-Cho or Club Sega, there is no cold, competitive focused atmosphere. Just people socializing and enjoying board games over food and drinks. The Hearth lives up to the cafe and bar part in their name with some amazing food and beverages. Favorites include the mint chocolate milkshake and the very salty fries. Even for solo travelers, The Hearth is still a fun experience. There are always people behind the bar looking to have a conversation or gamers who need one more person to play their game with. For an hour or for the night, The Hearth provides the perfect spot to take it easy and game.

The Hearth official site

Address: 14-25 Namba Sennichimae, Chuo-ku, Osaka City Hannan Building 4F

Hours: 12:00 pm – 12:00 am

5. Space Station

Inside Space Station.

Capping off the Kansai gaming adventure is Space Station, a gaming themed bar in Shinsaibashi’s America-mura. Upon climbing LED lined stars, patrons are greeted to a small, dark, yet cozy bar that would make any video game fan feel right at home. The walls are lined up with empty game boxes from the Nintendo Entertainment System to the Sega Genesis, and actual arcade boards. The bar top has several TVs with retro classics like the Famicom, Super Famicom, Sega Genesis, Dreamcast, and Nintendo 64 all hooked up with games ready to be played.

The drink menu keeps up with the gaming motif with each beverage named after something video game related. Two of the most popular drinks are the Dr. Mario, a rum and Dr. Pepper cocktail and the Dankey Kang, a banana rum mix. To see a show, order a flaming Hadouken shot. Just make sure to not knock over the beverages on the games.

Space Station is the ultimate place for any gamer. Whether if one just wants to relax with a beverage and get a quick kick of nostalgia or game all night in a group, Space Station is the place to go for any gamer in Osaka.

Space Station official site

Address: 2 Chome-13-3 Nishishinsaibashi, Chuo Ward, Osaka

Hours: 7:00 pm – 2:00 am

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