It was the early to mid-80s at the height of the arcade era.
Back then, every summer, I’d spend a few days in deep Southern Indiana – they call it Kentuckiana – with my Aunt Beth and Uncle Mike.
Uncle Mike is a lot of things – artist, inventor, master gardener. But to me, his 9-year-old nephew whose parents had split up, Uncle Mike was just fun.
Part of our routine, for instance, would be to break away and find an arcade. These were the early years of arcades and for people of a certain age, the world revolved around them. Sure, a few people had an Atari system at home, but Atari couldn’t compete with the major consoles.
Mike would get a couple of rolls of quarters – or more – and we’d spend hours playing the classic games like Pac-Man, Dragon’s Lair, Joust, Kung Fu, Donkey Kong, Tron and more.
For that reason, the trips to the arcade with Mike remain among my fondest memories.
I’m a little bit sad to say my kids are unlikely to have similar memories with me. We do play video games, but usually at home.
But arcades are fun because they’re the perfect mix of retro and modern gaming.
When we do make trips to the arcade, it’s usually in conjunction with some other form of entertainment, like, playing a few games before a round of putt putt or racing go-karts.
Subscribe to our newsletter for area news, coupons and discounts
What is the cheapest arcade in Pigeon Forge?
It can be surprisingly difficult to do arcade math. Not all arcades offer the same games, and worst of all, not all of them operate in dollars.
Most of the time, your dollars will be converted into arbitrary points, tokens or gold. But below, we’ll list the current pricing to help you choose the best arcade for you.
Honestly, it is rare that we set out to just go to an arcade, but when we do, these are the places we aim for. Here are some of the best arcades in Pigeon Forge and the surrounding areas.
7. Rockin’ Raceway Arcade (Pigeon Forge)
As the name suggests, Rockin’ Raceway offers a go-kart racetrack as well as an arcade with 150 popular games.
Rockin’ Raceway is known for offering incredible prizes and several fun games.
Game prices range from a quarter a play to $3 per play.
The play card is loaded with cash value when you buy in advance. For example, $20 will get you $25 worth of plays. $50 will get you $65 worth of plays and $100 will get you $145 worth of plays.
Rockin’ Raceway is part of the FACE Entertainment Group. It is located at 2839 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.
6. Arcadia (Gatlinburg)
The Arcadia is best known for its location. It’s at the base of the Gatlinburg Space Needle, a tall observation tower above the Iris Theater.
Arcadia is a 30,000 square foot amusement center in Gatlinburg.
For prizes, Arcadia offers big-name brands such as Playstation, Apple, Yeti, Dyson and more.
When you buy a play card online, you can get better deals for their gold payment system. For example, $10 will get you 40 gold, $50 will get you 260 gold. The prices per game are similar to most other arcades in the area.
Arcadia is located at 115 Historic Nature Trail in downtown Gatlinburg. Check Groupon for discounts when you purchase tickets to the Space Needle.
5. Fat Daddy’s at The Track (Pigeon Forge)
We like The Track because of its go-karts and putt putt.
In addition to the arcade, there’s mini golf, a variety of go-karts and bumper boats.
The arcade, known as Fat Daddy’s, has classic games, ice ball, dueling basketball hoops and a wide variety of fun arcade games. Win tickets which you can use to buy prizes worth far less than the amount you paid to win them.
Still, it’s a fun attraction where you can spend nearly the whole day.
The biggest downside to The Track is that it uses a point system for everything.
X points to play golf. Y points to run kart racing. Z points for playing an arcade game. It’s purposefully perplexing, like the time I went to Europe pre-Euro and had my mind blown by the exchange rate.
Dutch Guilders? Belgian Francs? 32 to a dollar, 56 to a dollar? It was insane. I’m pretty sure I paid about $175 for a croque monsieur and a Fanta.
The Track is located at 2575 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.
4. Arcade City at the Island (Pigeon Forge)
I like the idea of Arcade City, which is located on The Island. It sounds like something from an 80s sci-fi classic, a spin-off of Pinocchio’s Pleasure Island. The entire city’s an arcade? That’s radical, man.
A fan-favorite game is the Wizard of Oz game. They also have hoops, claw machines and other arcade classics. It’s a good location for a wide variety of visitors since The Island has so much to offer.
And while Arcade City does use play cards, the units remain in a form I can understand. Dollars.
As part of FACE Entertainment, it uses virtually the same structure as Rockin’ Raceway.
Game prices range from a quarter a play to $3 per play. The play card is loaded with cash value. $20 will get you $25 worth of plays. $50 will get you $65 worth of plays and $100 will get you $145 worth of plays.
At $3 a pop, that will get you 46 plays, a real bargain!
Big Top Arcade, a circus-themed arcade located nearby, is operated by the same group as well and offers a similar experience.
Arcade City is located at 131, The Island Drive, Ste 1105 in Pigeon Forge. Big Top Arcade is located at 3275 Parkway, Pigeon Forge.
3. LazerPort Fun Center (Pigeon Forge)
Lazerport offers laser tag, go-karts, mini golf and a stellar arcade. And they also have axe throwing.
If arcades had axe throwing back in the early-80s, Uncle Mike and I would have certainly gotten in a hell of a lot of trouble. In fact, I’m pretty sure that back then axe throwing would have been something akin to hedonism.
Lazerport is a multi-purpose facility that offers a 10,000 square foot arcade with a wide variety of modern and classic games.
Their credit system – which operates in dollars – gives you $175 worth of plays for $100 and $75 worth of plays for $50.
LazerPort is located at 2783 Parkway in Pigeon Forge.
2. Dave & Buster’s (Sevierville)
Arcades for adults. I love it.
For instance, classic games like Pop-A-Shot, Skee-Ball and Pac-Man meet strange and new games like a life-size Hungry, Hungry Hippos where you sit on the Hippo and grab as many balls in its mouth as you can.
After a couple of drinks, this is a surprising amount of fun.
In addition to the classic games, there are virtual reality games that let you fight Darth Vader or the Terminator that are exceptionally cool.
Most of the games are half price every Wednesday.
Gameplay requires chips, and there is a tiered system incentivizing you to pay more.
$100 will get you 750 chips while $75 will get you 550 chips. The lowest threshold is $15 for 75 chips.
Dave & Busters is located at 1554 Parkway in Sevierville.
1. Red Rocket Retro Arcade (Gatlinburg)
This arcade was built for children of the 80s. In fact, it is the kind of place Uncle Mike and I would recognize if we were teleported from 1984 to today.
Pinball, air hockey (I was an air hockey god) and games like Defender, Donkey Kong and Star Wars Battle Pod are personal favorites.
It also has the added bonus of not being a neon-coated disorientation room designed to keep you unaware of the passage of time like a Vegas casino. It’s just a simple arcade with simple games and a whole lot of fun.
Red Rocket Retro Arcade is located at 815 Parkway in Gatlinburg.
Do you often vacation in the Smokies? Do you have a favorite arcade in Pigeon Forge? Let us know in the comments.