What It’s Like Visiting The Roanoke Starcade Video Game Museum In Virginia

by Joshua

Museums And Memorials, Virginia Travel

The Starcade video game arcade museum in Roanoke, Virginia, serves up nostalgia, history, and fun all for one price. Admission covers all the games you want to play.

The Roanoke Starcade video game museum is one of the most unique arcades anywhere in Virginia — and certainly the best I’ve ever visited.

This cool attraction is a hidden gem in the “Star City of the South,” a moniker for Roanoke that surely must’ve helped inspire the name of this arcade museum at Center in the Square — a family cultural and entertainment complex in the heart of the downtown district.

The Roanoke Starcade is an electric blend of nostalgia, history, and fun!

Things To See & Do At This Video Game Museum

The 3,000-square-foot Starcade opened in 2019 and managed to survive the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s not hard to see why…

The Roanoke Starcade is the kind of place that draws people back again and again for their video game fixes and vivid trips down memory lane.

That’s certainly what it is for me… A time machine back to my youth, when arcades were full of life and the sounds of the latest video games pinged and blipped from wall to wall. It even has that familiar arcade smell — which I can only best describe as slightly greasy, woody electricity.

I’ve never seen anything like this arcade museum.

It’s a fully interactive museum with more than 3,000 games and plenty of space for parties, get-togethers, and just good ol’ gaming.

Except… you can leave the quarters at home! The single price of admission covers all the games you care to play.

It’s really a gamer’s paradise. Sort of like an all-inclusive resort for video games… If only it were an actual resort!

And it’s not just video games. They also have air hockey, Skee-Ball, basketball, and so many other classic games that I grew up playing at arcades in the 1980s and ’90s.

My Experience At The Starcade In Roanoke

This Donkey Kong game machine at the Roanoke Starcade gives you a chance to play the game where Super Mario made his world debut in 1981.

I immediately headed toward the first arcade game I ever remember playing: Pac-Man!

I played a few rounds until I gave up trying to outrun Blinky, Pinky, Inky, and Clyde — the four colorful ghosts who give Pac-Man chase in this classic game.

I then moved a few machines down to Donkey Kong — the game in which the world-famous Mario made his debut on July 9, 1981, as “Jumpman.”

Mario was and remains my all-time favorite video-game character. So, I couldn’t resist trying my hand at rescuing Pauline from the clutches of Donkey Kong, the barrel-throwing ape who wouldn’t let me get past the third floor of his tower. (Maybe next time!)

I went on to play Galaga, Frogger, and other vintage games before having to head out for the evening.

I could’ve easily spent the whole day at the Roanoke Starcade though.

My first time visiting this video game museum was a complete nostalgia trip for me. I can’t remember when I had so much fun playing games in an arcade!

My wife caught this glimpse of me playing my heart out on some of the classic arcade games at Roanoke Starcade.

Not just old, classic video games… The newer ones, too, like Guitar Hero and Dance Dance Revolution.

There’s something for everyone here — all generations.

I was playing alongside folks who were probably twice my age.

I also saw plenty of younger adults and children who weren’t even alive when so many of these video games were originally released.

At the Roanoke Starcade, it’s not just about playing the classics. It’s also a place to learn about the games and game systems that have helped make the multibillion-dollar gaming industry we know today. (Not to mention the booming one that I grew up with in the 1980s and ’90s.)

I took a moment to pay homage to the Atari 2600, which debuted in September 1977 and popularized the home-game consoles that were a staple of Millennials like me.

Then there’s Pong — a tennis-style video game that my mom and dad recalled playing in the mid-1970s!

Younger folks will enjoy the Nintendo Wii on display at the video game museum in Roanoke — and the countless other pieces of nostalgia.

The Atari 2600 revolutionized home gaming and is seen here at the Roanoke Starcade video game museum.

My #1 Tip For Visiting The Roanoke Video Game Museum

What’s the one thing I would’ve done differently when visiting the Roanoke Starcade?

Spend more time there!

Remember… one admission price covers all the games. ALL the games.

When I think about all the quarters I dumped into Pac-Man, Pole Position, Donkey Kong, and later Super Mario Brothers 3 machines at the University Square Mall arcade in Tampa, Florida during the 1980s and early ’90s, I realize the $13 admission fee I paid to get into the Roanoke Starcade was a steal.

You definitely get your money’s worth — both in terms of nostalgia and game-playing time.

I spent close to an hour there before I remembered that I had another place to get to later that evening.

Most people spend many hours there, I’m sure.

So, plan your clock accordingly!

Roanoke Arcade Museum Location

The Starcade Video Game Museum is located on the second floor of Center in the Square, a 7-story cultural and entertainment center in downtown Roanoke.

Roanoke Starcade video arcade game museum is located in Center in the Square, a popular cultural and entertainment complex in the heart of this Virginia city.

This same building is also home to:

  • Roanoke Pinball Museum
  • Science Museum of Western Virginia
  • Kids Square
  • The Harrison Museum of African American Culture
  • Mill Mountain Theatre

It’s a short drive from these other Roanoke landmarks:

Here is the address and directions to the Starcade Video Game Museum in Roanoke.

The Center in the Square is the kind of hub where you can spend an entire day hopping around from place to place and then maybe catch a show at the theater in the evening.

It was Christmastime when I visited, and Mill Mountain Theatre was hosting a stage production of Elf. The place was packed, and everybody was so happy strolling around in the Christmas spirit.

The vibe at this place is really cool — and I think you’ll feel the same when you visit the Roanoke Starcade in Virginia.

The Bottom Line

This video arcade game museum is a real treat for anyone who has ever had Pac-Man fever, enjoys gaming today, or simply wants to check out something unusual in Roanoke.

There’s nothing else like it, and I really hope to visit again soon.

I’ve got a score to settle with Donkey Kong…

Before visiting, be sure to check out the Roanoke Starcade website first to view the hours and any special events they may have going on.