Arcade and competitive gaming – at its core – is a social activity, one that flourishes under the influence of beer and alcoholic hedonism. Interestingly enough, however, Cardiff has yet to have an arcade or bar that appeals to this dream combination. Retro-fetishism has had something of a renaissance period in the past few years, yet Cardiff hasn’t really jumped onto this social trend.
There’s been a huge gap in the city for an arcade for a while and Kongs – given the success of their branch in Bristol – has seen this gap as an opportunity to combine this niche with one of Cardiff’s great loves: bars. The nonchalant exterior of the bar can fool many, a few short steps down and suddenly you’re submerged in a basement of neon signs and 8-bit classics.
The food and drink at Kongs offered something a little different than traditional pubs on St. Mary’s street. Lesser known lagers such as Red Stripe and beers like Blue Moon were popular amongst the pint sippers of the bar, whereas the food offered tasty and interesting twists on traditional pub food (the BBQ burger was a real treat). Craft beer, too, was popular on tap, so that’ll appeal to all you beard waxing craft beer aficionados out there. Pricing was similar to the rest of the pubs on St. Mary’s – i.e. a little on the pricey side – but this is to be expected for such a popular street in Cardiff.
Of course, what matters most at Kongs are the games. Classic arcade games such as Street Fighter II, Mortal Kombat, Donkey Kong and Pac-Man got the most attention at the bar. What I liked about Kongs was the sheer array of arcade games available. Outside of the staples mentioned, you could also find things like OutRun and NBA Jam, too. The majority of the games had a competitive edge, and were suited to a social setting: everything in the bar was geared towards promoting good-natured competitive gaming, an ode to the unique gaming social culture of the arcade era. In case you’re interested, prices were £1 for 2 credits.
The bar, overall, struck a good balance between social drinking and dedicated gaming. Kongs proved to be an exciting collage of conversation, drinking and combo-punching, an experience that was original in comparison to the growing homogeneity of St. Mary’s.
The major question about Kongs is whether it can sympathise the gaming bar niche with the boozy nature of St. Mary’s Street, but judging by the success of their Bristol branch they should have no problem finding a clientele itching for a game of Street Fighter II over a pint. Bars like Koopas and 8-Bit Bar have been huge successes in Swansea, so why not Cardiff?
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