Retro games at NQ64 Manchester

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Just when you thought Manchester’s uber-trendy Northern Quarter couldn’t get any more hipster, local entrepreneur Matt Robson has decided to up the ante by opening a retro videos games arcade-themed bar in the heart of the neighbourhood.

NQ64, located in the small alley which also houses Crazy Pedro’s, is the first such bar to grace the city, and expectations have been sky high in the run-up to the opening earlier this year.

The basement bar features all of the classic arcade games that will remind you of your childhood, including Time Crisis, Mortal Kombat, and Crazy Taxi. There are also several more recent gaming options for the Gen Z crowd, including Guitar Hero: World Tour and Mario Kart, for those who never experienced the pure joy of 80s NAMCO games.

NQ64 promises a novel experience, where people can gather with their friends and play some classic shoot-em-up games whilst nursing a beer. Of course, that’s not the only thing on the menu, as the selection of cocktails is arguably an even bigger draw than the chance to play Dance Dance Revolution after a couple of units.

Naturally, the drinks are all themed after your favourite video game legends. There’s the Princess Peach, with prosecco, peach, pimento and Drambuie, The Mario, combining bourbon, watermelon, Campari and soda, and The Luigi, a blend of gin, mint soda, coconut, lemon and white chocolate, to name just a few. At £8, these are firmly on the lower side of the drink price spectrum for this increasingly overpriced hipster enclave. There is also a rotating selection of beers which changes weekly.

Of course, the drinks menu is merely meant to be the sideshow here. The bar owners clearly believe that the opportunity to play old arcade games will keep customers coming long after the original novelty has worn off. It’s clear to see the appeal – in this age of nostalgia, where technology has allowed all of our favourite slot machines and arcade games to be played from our smartphones, people yearn for the real deal.

This nostalgia factor will be the main driving force for business at least for the first six months of operation, but what happens after that? Arcade game bars are nothing new. One of the earliest and most famous iterations was the ill-fated Barcode, located just off Times Square in Manhattan but other short-lived iterations have since popped up in London, Paris, Berlin, and pretty much anywhere else where hipsters might choose to congregate.

At a glance, it seems like the owners of NQ64 have done their research and hope to avoid the mistakes that shuttered the doors of their predecessors. One common complaint made against other arcade-style bars is that the actual cost of playing the games is prohibitive. The time you actually stay and play (and buy drinks) tends to be limited when a 90-second round of House of the Dead II costs about as much as the drink in your hand.

This is not the case at NQ64 – a mere £5 gets you 15 game tokens, meaning that the cost of playing games here is actually considerably lower than in the few surviving arcades that are clinging on for dear life in coastal towns up and down the country. For the price of one of NQ64’s cocktails, you can enjoy a full evening of group gaming fun, which definitely sets this place apart from other places that have tried it before.

The actual space is an experience in itself. Descending into the cavernous basement of NQ64 feels like a genuine step back through time, with the actual arcade area being meticulously curated to evoke that old-school arcade feel. The space feels sufficiently maze-like without being overwhelming, while there are plenty of areas to stretch back and relax in between bouts of Dead or Alive.

The owners keep it light and fun, without there being any stifling rules about having drinks too close to the gaming consoles etc., rules that have previously put a major dampener on many similar bars in the past. All in all, NQ64 has potential well beyond the novelty-seeking crowd. Tourists, increasingly aware of Manc’s reputation as a hipster haven, will undoubtedly provide good business to this place for a long time to come.

The relaxed and social atmosphere will also see this place emerging as one of NQ’s prime after-work drinks spots over the next few months. We’ll be seeing a lot more from these guys in the future.

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