The best places to play games in London, for competitive dates or competitive mates.
Friends: they’re nice to meet, but better to beat. If you love nothing more than the cut-and-thrust of high-drama low-stakes competition, we’ve found a dozen great ideas for a game-fuelled night out in London. They’re perfect for drinks, giggles, and yelling ‘I AM BEST! I AM BESSSSSST!’ as you surge to victory after victory*. (Victory not guaranteed.)
1. Crazy golf
The traditional concept of mini-golf has received quite a re-imagining in recent years. London offers neon courses hidden beneath street food markets, luxury adults-only venues with top-class cocktails, and even a high-tech version where cameras can track your ball and keep score. And with many of the courses wholly indoors, you can get putting no matter the season. See our 17 favourite crazy golf courses in London.
2. Axe throwing
Make like a lumberjack and give axe-throwing a go at the moody Whistlepunks venue. You’ll need to get the hang of spinning the axe perfectly towards the target – instructors stand ready to assist – but when your blade buries itself in the wood, it’s damn satisfying. Read our article on axe throwing at Whistlepunks in London.
If you prefer your targets smaller and your surroundings more luxurious, check out the twin Flight Club bars in Bloomsbury and Shoreditch. Each oche in these high-tech dart halls comes equipped with sensors and screens that track each dart’s position, keep score, and even create cute videos of winning throws. (Larger groups can go massively-multiplayer across multiple boards at once.) Read more about darts at Flight Club.
4. Ping pong
Play table tennis as you never have before at the Bounce venues – one in Farringdon, one in Old Street. They have a ton of tables, cocktails and bar food, and some tables are also equipped with WONDERBALL, amazing projection-mapping tech that takes the game to a trippy new level. Read more about playing ping pong at Bounce.
Not just for awesome tween birthdays, London is home to some truly grown-up ten pin bowling joints. Some venues even have private VIP lanes (with their very own bar!) for groups to hire, promising an evening fit for Lebowski himself. Strike it lucky with our guide to London’s best bowling alleys.
This vintage, floor-based pastime now has a permanent home at London Shuffle Club in Shoreditch. A game is played by two teams – the owners say it works best with a group size of six, four or eight.
7. G0 karting
NEEEEEEEEEOWNG! Enjoy some high-octane thrills at one of London’s many exciting go-kart tracks, as you go head-to-head against your squad to see who can get the quickest lap time. Here’s where to find go-karting in London.
8. Board games
For a more relaxed afternoon out, pay a visit to one of London’s brilliant board cafés. They offer hundreds of board games from nostalgic classics to more obscure offerings, so there’s always a new way to torment your companion. Try Draughts in Hackney or Waterloo, or Proceed Clockwise in Shoreditch.
9. Escape rooms
If teamwork makes your dream work, maybe you’d prefer taking on one of London’s baffling escape rooms. From bank vault heists to Harry Potter-inspired challenges, there all kinds of fiendish, puzzle-filled chambers to stretch the intellect. See our guide to London’s best escape rooms.
10. Arcade games
For a bit of retro action, hit up an arcade bar in London, where you and a pal can pew-pew-pew the night away. Games range from old-school arcade machines like Pac Man to comfy setups with N64s and PlayStation classics. Prepare to whittle down your savings, one quarter a time. Try Four Quarters in Peckham or Hackney Wick, Secret Weapon in Stratford or Scenario in Dalston.
11. Virtual reality
These spaces might not look like much, but strap on your goggles and grab a controller and soon you’ll be immersed somewhere entirely different – an ailing spaceship, a surreal fast-food restaurant, or an ancient castle fighting off invaders. You can play with friends cooperatively or competitively across tons of different games. Try DNA VR near Caledonian Road, the Four Thieves in Clapham, or The Aeronaut in Acton.