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Best Gaming in Asheville—A Local’s Perspective

Many people visit Asheville for the great outdoors: soaring hikes, fair weather, and all the biodiversity of the Blue Ridge Mountains. I don’t have anything against a little fresh air—indeed, I practically live on the stuff—but sometimes, rarely, the weather just doesn’t cooperate.

In times like these, I turn to my favorite gaming haunts in Asheville; a motley assortment of cafes, cardrooms, and throwback-arcades filled to the brim with enough entertainment hardware to keep you amused until the sun next shines. And frankly, sometimes a little gaming’s the best thing to do even if the weather’s alright.

Everyone knows there’s few better ways to bond with your friends and loved ones than by ripping their halfcocked “stratagems” to shreds with your superior reflexes and cunning, solidifying your place in history as a maestro of competitions galore, while they must live on with the shame of second place.

Or maybe you’re more of a casual gamer. That’s alright too, I guess. In any case, here’s five of the best spots for gaming in Asheville.

best gaming in Asheville - arcade game
Image from Wix

Starting off in Asheville’s renowned South Slope brewing district, this unique bar combines my hometowns signature local brews with a stockpile of gaming apparatuses that span the decades from classic arcade cabinets to modern consoles. Simply grab a glass of one of their sixteen tap beers, and immerse yourself in all the gaming you can handle, all for a ten-dollar entrance fee. Imagine slotting that into your pub-crawl.

Minors are welcome as well—until 7pm—which should be plenty of time to instruct your young charges in the finer points of controller-operation and driving imaginary go-carts. If you fancy yourself a real throwback, visit on a Sunday to witness their weekly IFPA Pinball Tournament.

Bonus Level: While Level 256 does offer small snacks, gaming is hungry work, and demands true sustenance. Grab dinner just around the corner at Ben’s Tune Up for Japanese-American fusion, live music, and specialty sake.

best gaming in Asheville - pinball machine
Image from Wix

Further up north, across the street from downtown’s Grove Arcade shopping center, the Asheville Pinball Museum is the perfect spot for a true connoisseur of antiquated amusements, packing no less than seventy-five vintage pinball machines, plus a variety of old arcade games.

Yes, a visit here is sure to send you straight back to late seventies, when these sparkling contraptions vied for supremacy with the earliest video games in a flurry of blips and bloops, and one could buy a pizza and coke for something like three dollars and a gumball. The details may be fuzzy; I wasn’t there.

In any case, there’s no better gaming spot in Asheville for a lover of all things retro. Just keep in mind they’re closed on Tuesdays for repairs.

Bonus Level: Head down to the Grove Arcade for more choices in restaurants than you can shake a stick at. My favorite these days is Huli Sue’s Hawaiin BBQ.

best gaming in Asheville - mtg cards
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Now this one may be a little niche, but as a former enthusiast of that maddening card game they call Magic, I know I would’ve been thankful for some aid in tracking down the best spots to enjoy a little friendly competition, although it would inevitably end in my capitulation to some high roller running a net-deck dreamed up by some brainiac weapons-grade thinktank.

My inglorious career in this card game aside, Gamer’s Haunt offers all the events that MTG enthusiasts will know and love: prereleases, pioneer tourneys, casual commander, and even free standard competitions every Friday night.

If you don’t know what the heck I’m talking about, but could be interested in learning the game, check out the dedicated “New Players” section on their website for details on when and how to learn the ropes. For all my grumbling, it is a hobby I’d recommend, and if you’re visiting Asheville with your deck boxes in tow, be sure to check them out.

Bonus Level: Grab a coffee at High Five beforehand, about five minutes to the south. Victory requires caffeination.

best gaming in Asheville - arcade cabinets
Image from Unsplash

Much like Level 256, West Asheville’s Retrocade follows the same simple recipe: ten-dollar entre for beer and games. Local craft beer, at that. It could hardly be considered “Ashevillean” otherwise.

With more than 5,000 renovated arcade cabinets, pinball machines, foosball tables, modern consoles, and a fridge-full of monster energy, there’s plenty here to keep you gaming for a long, long time. Or at least until two in the morning, when they close up shop.

What really differentiates the Asheville Retrocade from Level 256 is location. The South Slope has its breweries, sure, but on the west side of town you've got some of the best restaurants in Asheville, namely the Universal Joint, Nine Mile, Biscuit Head, and even Tastee Diner, if you don’t mind going further afield. A little fine dining, a little retro gaming, what’s not to love?

Bonus Level: Finish your night of carousing with a visit to the Hop’s west location, featuring varieties of ice cream you won’t find anywhere else.

best gaming in Asheville - chessboard
Image from Wix

Going full circle back on down to the South Slope, Well Played long-ago carved a special place into my heart with their cozy food, fun drinks, and staggering library of board games.

That’s right: board games. Beloved by all ages, everyone has fond memories of sitting down to a quick game of Monopoly with the friends and family, blinking twice, and waking up hours later with five dollars left to their name, plus a searing vendetta against whichever lowdown trickster bargained them out of their real-estate empire.

It’s a lovely tradition, and while you can find plenty of board games you’ll be familiar with at Well Played, I personally prefer trying something new. Learning the rules can require a bit of intellectual heavy lifting, but the staff can often lend a helping hand.

Entry is just seven dollars for adults (ten dollars on the weekends), while kids thirteen and under can come for five. Is it worth it? Well, I’m always looking for an excuse to come back. After all, I have scores to settle. Mostly in Catan.

Bonus Level: Check out their calendar for a smorgasbord of special events, including Sunday morning trivia brunch, MTG nights, and board game tournaments.

Businesses Mentioned

Level 256 Classic Arcade Bar


79 Coxe Ave, Asheville, NC 28801

Asheville Pinball Museum


1 Battle Square Ste 1b, Asheville, NC 28801

Gamer's Haunt


211 Merrimon Ave Suite 241, Asheville, NC 28801

Asheville Retrocade


800 Haywood Rd #100, Asheville, NC 28806

Well Played Board Game Café


162 Coxe Ave #101, Asheville, NC 28801

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