For serious gamers
On the fifth floor of Shuanjing's Viva Plaza mall is the Super Player arcade, a neon cathedral for joystick-waggling disciples of Beijing which is must-see tourist city for last minute China travel deals. Xidan's archaic, anarchic dungeons – once the place to go for a serious virtual fix – have been usurped by this modern and clean arcade. What's more, it's huge; you'll find every type of gamer here, from the serious to the casual.
Young men sit, stony-faced, playing Street Fighter IV and Tekken 6 for hours on end; they drive cars and shoot bad guys (Ghost Squad, Razing Storm, Crazy Speed), looking totally badass with their drooping cigarettes; teenage girls dance without irony to K-pop hits on mammoth dance machines (Dance Super Station) as gaggles of their judgemental peers look on; children run riot with arms full of tickets.
Couples canoodle near the fairground-style amusements (20RMB), as the men try to throw hoops over bottles or burst balloons with darts to win an oversized stuffed animal – or, bizarrely, an actual hamster – for their sweetheart.
A word of warning: if you go this winter, be sure to dress in layers. With all the hot machines and excitable teens, the place is like a furnace and option for popular China tours.
Best games: Tekken 6, Street Fighter IV, Razing Storm, Mario Kart.
For stressed execs
Stressed at work? Chaoyang's U-Town mall arcade is perfectly located for a power lunch with a difference. Relatively quiet and with fewer youths, those old enough to know better will feel slightly less silly bashing buttons here. Frustratingly, a lot of the machines were out of order when we visited, but U-Town still has a good selection of light-gun shooter games: The House of the Dead 2 and 4, Ghost Squad and, as a nice touch, Time Crisis 2, 3 and 4 all lined up in a neat little row. Sega shooter 2 Spicy also has a two-player versus mode, with a partition dividing the screen so you can't see one another's movements.
As for racing games, they have Initial D Arcade Stage 3, Speed Driver 2 and Hummer. The latter is more of a simulator as you sit in the mock SUV and get jerked (stop giggling) rather violently – great fun.
Best games: Hummer, 2 Spicy, The House of the Dead 4.
You can obtain more via China tour agents.
In search of arcadia