We rate the emirate's gaming hotspots and report back
Time Out Dubai staff
Far from being just kid-centric, Dubai’s arcades house a huge range of fun and challenging amusements. Across the city, the emphasis in these fun zones is increasingly on keeping up with the competition that comes in the forms of high-quality games on tablets and smartphones. Whether you’re risking it all with a round of Deal or No Deal, fighting off zombies in House of the Dead or screeching around Tokyo in a supercar simulator, even the aging fuddy-duddies among us feel a familiar thrill. Knowing that you, like us, believe you’re never too old to wield a plastic gun and leap with fright at the sight of pixelated assassins, we’ve sought out the best from the city’s varied gaming scene.
Sega Republic, The Dubai Mall Though the stomach-churning rollercoaster, simulator, dodgems and other rides that make up this indoor theme park are perhaps its biggest draws, there are plenty of arcade games on offer for visitors of all ages and interests – more than 170 games and attractions overall. Downstairs, you’ll find more kid-friendly pursuits, while upstairs more challenging machines await.
Retro games: Everything being brand spanking new, you’ll be hard pushed to find anything truly old-school here, save for basketball hoop-shooting game NBA Hoops. However, Pac-Man lovers can try their hand at the multi-player Pac-Man Battle Royale, or the Tetris Giant, which features comically oversized joysticks for gamers to manipulate bricks with.
Unique games: Like racing simulators? Try strapping yourself into the Storm G, a bobsled race that spins drivers a full 360°.
You can also try the Initial D-4 game, which allows you to step inside the shell of a real car to drift the streets of Japan.
Latest games: As well as stations where you can play games that started life on smartphones, there’s also Guitar Hero and a four-player Sega air hockey table (the Sonic Sports Quad Air) where things can get really competitive. Pay and play from Dhs10, power pass for all attractions all day from Dhs175. The Dubai Mall (04 448 8484).
The Living Room, Dubai Festival Centre Hidden away in the mall’s annex-like second floor, this sprawling premise houses dozens of ‘living room’-type setups with sofas and games consoles dotted around the room and yet more outside in the corridor. It’s a popular hangout for adolescents and teens, with refreshments readily available. You can also try your hand at classic board games such as Monopoly, Scrabble and Cluedo, as well as foosball, chess and billiards.
Retro games: With the emphasis on the latest games from the past year or two, there’s little here that falls into the truly ‘retro’ category. Home console games such as cowboy epic Red Dead Redemption and footballing pursuits such as FIFA 2010 and Pro Evolution Soccer 2010 are about as old-fashioned as you’ll find.
Unique games: Try playing Need for Speed Most Wanted in the Room’s Cinema 3D seats, which come complete with steering wheel controls.
Latest games: The Xbox 360 Kinect area allows players to try the latest motion-controlled games, including sports and wrestling. Sun-Thu Dhs50 per hour, Fri-Sat, Dhs70 per hour. Opposite Fitness First, Dubai Festival Centre, Festival City (04 232 9291).
Al Nasr Leisureland, Oud Metha An ancient force on Dubai’s recreation scene, Al Nasr is not only home to an ice rink, bowling alley (licensed) and rather bizarre 'fruit garden' (an outdoor area featuring a carousel, train ride, dodgems and numerous buildings taking the shape of various gigantic fruits), but also a small arcade. Barely a thing about this quaint leisure centre has changed since the 1990s – including the games available. Games are Dhs2 each, and you’ll need to ask the very nice man in the ticket box to switch on the power supply before you can get going.
Retro games: Almost everything in the room dates between 1992 and 1996, including a 1995 Sega Rally Championship game, early ’90s Neo Geo games, a Megalo 410, two skiing and one skateboarding simulators.
Unique games: We’d be surprised if you could find any of the old games in here at the city’s more modern arcades.
Latest games: A skiing simulator from 2000 seems to be the most recent acquisition, while the small billiards tables seem in good enough nick to be reasonably new. Entry Dhs10, games Dhs2. Oud Metha, behind American Hospital (04 337 1234).
Dubai Bowling Centre, Al Quoz Playing second fiddle to the main attraction here – which is, as the name suggests, a bowling alley (a very well-run one at that, with regular leagues) this small arcade houses a good mix, and sits next to a modest cafe should you find yourself in need of refreshment. All in all, it’s a great place to host a small get-together.
Retro games: Sadly non-existent, unless you count racing games from 2006, but the good news is that the older games appear well-maintained and clean.
Unique games: Sit astride a motorbike to try Harley Davidson’s King of the Road, grab a gun to compete in Razing Storm, or sit in the driving seat for a few laps on The Fast and The Furious Drift.
Latest games: Game show installations seem to be the newest on offer, such as Deal or No Deal and The Price is Right. Card Dhs3, minimum Dhs50 top-up. Meydan (formerly Muscat) Road, Al Quoz (04 339 1010).
Fun City, Ibn Battuta Mall An arcade so colourful it looks like an explosion in a Skittles factory, Fun City caters for kids and grown-ups of all ages. You’ll find everything here, from fun fair rides to arcade games, an area for toddlers and a Play Zone for kids aged four-12 years. It’s so loud in here it’s like sharing a bed with an orchestra, with a plethora of beeps and jingles all fighting for air time. The multi-coloured tiled floor and walls also play havoc with your retinas, but in a good way. You can book and hold parties at Fun City.
Retro games: Fun City isn’t really aimed at the older gamer with a passion for retro titles – you won’t find Pac-Man hanging out here.
Unique games: Grown-ups can shoot plenty of zombies and aliens in at this arcade, with titles such as Terminator Salvation and House of The Dead 4. And it’s a great spot for racing fans, too. Sega Rally and Grid are just two available for petrol heads.
Latest games: Interestingly, Fun City features many games that started out on smartphones and tablets, including the extremely addictive Indiana Jones-inspired Temple Run and Fruit Ninja, where gamers have to slice up piles of bananas, oranges and strawberries. Powercards start at Dhs75. Open 10am-10pm Sun-Weds, 10am-midnight Thu-Sat. Tunisia Court, Jebel Ali Village, Ibn Battuta Mall, www.funcity.ae (04 366 9819). Other location: Lamcy Plaza.
Magic Planet, Mall of the Emirates You can find all the Magic Planet arcades in shopping malls, in areas that are dedicated to some mid-shopping or pre-lunch entertainment (or just keeping the kids quiet). Some are busier than others, and it depends on which mall you go to – the arcade at Mall of the Emirates is usually a lot more packed than the one in Mirdif, for example.
Retro games: While there aren’t any retro video games at Magic Planet, there are still plenty of other retro games, such as basketball hoops and machines where you have to grab a stuffed toy with a claw. Most of the games dispense tickets depending on how high your score, which you can then swap for prizes – anything from pencil cases to waffle irons.
Unique games: The indoor skydiving experience, iFly, is probably the most unique thing you’ll find at any Magic Planet. It’s only at Mirdif City Centre, but the other arcades all have ten pin bowling and rides such as Ferris wheels and carousels.
Latest games: The newest games are based on game shows, like Deal or no Deal and Wheel of Fortune, or tablet games such as Fruit Ninja and Infinity Blade. But if you fancy doing something a bit more exciting than opening virtual boxes, you’ll find computers and consoles, where you can play the latest games. From Dhs50 for a card with game and ride credits. Dhs20 for 30 minutes on a console or computer. Mall of the Emirates (04 341 4444). Other locations: Deira City Centre, Mirdif City Centre.