Get happy: five places to play games

Had enough culture, food and specialist shopping for now? Here’s something different: today we’re focusing on pure fun, from laser shoot-outs and eye-popping arcade machines to traditional pub games (surprisingly rare in the West End, but there if you know where to look). Switch your brain off, grab some friends and turn London into your personal playground…

Laser Tag at Trocadero

Laser Tag was HUGE in the 90s, but there are fewer around than there used to be. Remind yourself how much hectic, silly fun it can be at Star Command, a large, high-tech arena at the Trocadero. There’s the obligatory scene-setting intro, followed by 20-40 minutes of combat, complete with crazy visuals and surround sound. Sophisticated it ain’t, but it’s immersive and energetic, and with capacity for 35 players you can count on some serious gameplay. Book ahead if you’re a large group, but small ones and individuals can usually turn up and play.

  • Address: London Trocadero, 7-14 Coventry Street, Piccadilly Circus, W1D 7DH
  • Walking time: 12 minutes

Bowling at All Star Lanes and Bloomsbury Bowling

If you prefer your ten-pin bowling with a side of retro Americana, you’re in luck – both our nearest alleys have an cool, Atomic Age vibe that pulls in young and fashionable crowds. All Star Lanes is a little closer, but Bloomsbury has a couple of karaoke rooms too – other than those differences, you can expect great diner-style food, a soundtrack of rockabilly, psych and pop, and a decent range of beers and cocktails at both, with the party continuing to 2am on weekend nights. They’re not the large bowling alleys you get in the suburbs, so book ahead if you’re a big group or want a lane on Friday or Saturday night.

  • Address: All star: Victoria House, Bloomsbury Place, WC1B 4DA / Bloomsbury: Tavistock Hotel, Bedford Way, WC1H 9EU
  • Walking time: All Star: 16 minutes / Bloomsbury: 24 minutes

Pool and darts

Once we’d have had a third game to mention, because the Glasshouse Stores, near to Piccadilly Circus, used to have a rare Bar Billiards table. Sadly the table vanished a few years ago, but in its place is a dartboard – now equally rare in West End pubs. Ask at the bar for darts, and expect to leave a small returnable deposit for them. For pool, try The Angel in Covent Garden, which, like Glasshouse Stores, is a Sam Smith’s pub – a testament to the brewery’s commitment to retaining traditional interiors in a rapidly modernising part of town.

  • Address: Glasshouse Stores: 55 Brewer Street, W1F 9UL / The Angel: 61-62 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LE, UK
  • Walking time: Glasshouse Stores: 16 minutes / The Angel: 12 minutes

Arcade games at Namco Funscape

This large, family-friendly complex near Westminster Bridge features bowling, an adventure play area for the little ones, karaoke and even bumper cars – but the arcade is the main event. Namco are a big name in arcade machines, so expect everything from the latest hi-tech dancing platforms and shoot-em-ups to funfair classics like claw machines and whack-a-moles. It’s the very opposite of peace and quiet, but if you’re into gaming, this is the place to come.

  • Address: Westminster Bridge Road, Riverside Buildings, SE1 7PB
  • Walking time: 20 minutes (or take the RV1 bus to the London Eye and walk from there)
24 Hour
Room Service