Q1: Which arcades are the overall best?
A1: By area,
Akihabara: Hey / Shinjuku: Club Sega / Ikebukuro: Sega Gigo / Shibuya: Shibuya Kaikan / Nakano: Namco Nakano
Q2: Where can I find the best competitions?
A2: Hey in Akihabara and Club Sega in Shinjuku offer good competition for most new games. For Super Street Fighter 4 AE, Taito Station South Shinjuku is popular amongst the top players. For KOF, Shinkuku Carnival is known for the recent titles, while Nishinippori Versus, a small arcade run by a few top players, is known for older games. Note that there isn't competition until the evening when the locals are off from work. (remember to look at the green trophy icon when checking this arcade guide).
Q3: Where's a good place to rest and play alone?
A3: Most arcades are empty during off-hours, but especially so with locations outside the commercial areas. They also tend not to have as strong a competition. Taito BigBox and Mikado in Takadanobaba, Alpha Station in Okubo are three examples. Since lack of competitors is synonymous to low cigarette smoke, read Q4 below for more arcade suggestions.
Q4: Are there places where the smoking isn't so bad?
A4: You can either go to a large arcade that doesn't get customers at early hours, or go to an arcade with a designated smoking area. Small arcades aren't usally a good idea since it can get smokey if a single person lights a cigarette. Here's a few places.
Large arcades that aren't too smokey during off-hours:
Shinjuku Carnival, Shibuya Kaikan, Hightech Land Sega Shibuya, Mikado (Takadanobaba), Taito BigBox (Takadanobaba), Tokyo Leisure Land Akihabara, Tokyo Leisure Land Akihabara 2, Club Sega Akihabara Shinkan
Arcades with a designated smoking area:
Namco Nakano, EmEm Land (Shimokitazawa, not in this Guide. Link is Google Map)
EmEm Land is not featured in this arcade guide because it's not located at a major commercial district; Shimokitazawa is more of an area that Tokyo locals hang out rather than tourists. EmEm Land is a large-scale standard priced arcade with a 2 credit service on Tuesdays (NesicaLive cabinets excluded). The location can be reached with a 5-8 minute ride from Shinjuku on the Keio Line. There's two smaller arcades during the walk from the train station, so don't mistake them. You can see a Google map here.
Q5: Are there good arcades that only the locals know?
A5: few locally known locations like Machida Catseye and Plaza Capcom are not on this guide since they're outside of the general Tokyo area-- Tokyo players wouldn't go to those locations either unless they live around the area or there's an event going on (like a tournament or beta test). This guide covers most of the arcades in the general commercial areas of Tokyo, but not the smaller areas inbetween them (however, famous arcades in the smaller areas ARE covered! Check the misc section). If you're simply looking for a slightly different experience from the standard arcades, a few suggestions would be-- Ramble Plaza in Ikebukuro (feels like an arcade in the countryside), Mikado in Takadanobaba (they sell their own merchandise and have a weird restroom enterance), and Taito BigBox in Takadanobaba (roomy as hell).
Q6: What arcades have vintage games?
A6: For retro gaming, Mikado at Takadanobaba, Tri-Amusement Tower at Akihabara, and the rarely-opened Natsuge Museum are the best locations. For semi-retro gaming, Ramble Plaza at Ikebukuro isn't too bad. For retro-fighting, Alpha Station in Okubo, Shibuya Kaikan in Shibuya, Playland Las Vegas in Ikebukuro, and Game Safari in Ikebukuro are good locations.
Q7: Where are the cheapest arcades?
Q7- Fortunately for you, this guide tells you whether the arcades offer games for full price or half price (100yen/50 yen), and there's plenty of places that run at half price. But if you're looking for a large arcade that offers half-price credits, Shinjuku Carnival, Shibuya Kaikan, Mikado (Takadanobaba), and Alpha Station (Okubo) are your best bets. As a general rule of thumb, remember that arcades in Akihabara don't offer half-price credits. Franchised arcades like Sega, Taito, and Namco also don't offer half credit, although there can be exceptions at some stores, especially with Tekken 6 and KOF13. NOTE: Stores that offer 2 credits per 100 yen are also labeled as half price/Budget.
Q8- I need directions to these city locations!
You only need to know two train lines to get to these locations: The Yamanote Line and the Sobu (or Chuo) line. Yamanote is green a green car and loops around the city, The Sobu is yellow and goes east and west through the city,, and Chuo--which is like an express of Sobu, is orange. Here's a quick reference.
Shinjuku: Yamanote, Sobu, Chuo lines runs though
Shibuya: Yamanote line
Ikebukuro: Yamanote line
Nakano: Sobu/Chuo line
Akihabara: Yamanote, Sobu, Chuo line
Takadanobaba: Yamanote line
Sugamo: Yamanote line
Nishinippori: Yamanote line
Okubo: Sobu line
Shinokubo: Yamanote line