Phoenix Comicon 2017 will be bigger than ever in downtown Phoenix.

Movies, books, comic books, video games and tabletop games can be a joyous relief, when surrounded by strange, smart and fun fan communities.

Metro Phoenix is home to a few nerdy sanctuaries. There are places that serve alcohol, because sometimes it’s fun to drink a little while playing on a 25-year-old Sega Genesis. Others are family-friendly spots where you can sip an espresso while perusing comic books, or learn to play tabletop games for free among geeky brethren.

Go forth and find your haven.


Bonus Round arcade bar

The bar is the brainchild of James Goshow and Jacob Rendel. The cousins, who grew up in Phoenix, began noticing great arcade bars across the country more than a year ago. Unlike other arcade bars, all of the machines will be free to play. Games include X-Men, Spy Hunter, Ghost Squad, Gauntlet Dark Legacy and NBA Jam. The Jurassic Park game is the Japanese version, and the compressor still works, so users move while they play. The drink list features a variety of draft and bottled beers, many from Arizona, and wine and cocktails. Food includes pizza, sandwiches and tater-tot nachos.

Details: 24 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix. 602-374-6936,,


This independent movie theater in downtown Phoenix screens indie, foreign, retro and cult movies, making it a popular spot for film geeks. It also has a small bar that sells beer, wine and snacks, including locally made tamales. To get a sense of the vibe, consider the Britney Spears quote often displayed on the venue’s marquee: “Sundance is weird. The movies are weird – you actually have to think about them when you watch them.”

Details: 815 N. Second St., Phoenix. 602-595-9187,,


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Cobra Arcade Bar

The bar has 40 arcade games — from Tron to Q-Bert to Galaga to two different Street Fighter machines — each costing 25 cents a play, and a bar menu with video game-inspired cocktails. Cobra Arcade Bar is funky and industrial with a black, white and gray color palette and pops of color and geometric patterns. The playful artwork and bold designs pay homage to retro video and arcade games. Cobra is popular on the weekends and often has a line out the door. 

Details: 801 N. Second St., Phoenix. 602-595-5873,,

Phoenix Gaming Lounge

This small venue is dedicated to tabletop gaming, primarily Pokemon, Magic: the Gathering and Dungeons & Dragons, as well as any other analog board game.

“I look at my job as a way to get people engaged into tabletop gaming and get people sitting at a table, away from their cell phones and computers, and talking face-to-face with somebody for a change,” said the owner, Joshua Ogle.

They host Magic: the Gathering gameplay six days a week, with Fridays geared toward new players. New Pokemon players gather Thursday nights.

Details: 1343 W. Thomas Road, Phoenix. 602-705-3901,

Science with a Twist at the Arizona Science Center

Science fanatics 21 and older take over the Arizona Science Center on the third Friday of every month to explore the center’s four levels without kids getting in the way.

Plus, there’s a DJ, a cash bar and live demonstrations. The theme changes each month; on the docket for 2017 are “Trek, Wars and Who” and “Science of Harry Potter.”

Details: 6-10 p.m. Arizona Science Center, Washington and Seventh streets, Phoenix. Free.

All About Books and Comics

This shop has been open for more than three decades and they have the fan base to prove it. They offer a huge selection of new and back-issue comics, claiming more than 1 million in stock. New merchandise is listed on the website every week, as well as the weekly deal.

Details: 24 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix. 602-277-0757,,


This gaming location specializes in Magic: the Gathering and lets players congregate every evening, though people of all skill levels also are playing Yu-Gi-Oh!, Pokemon, Dragon Ball Z and Pathfinder all day.

Details: 4340 W. Thunderbird Road, Glendale. 602-761-2035,

Imperial Outpost Games

Imperial carries all things related to tabletop games. They have nine large tables open for gaming and people are welcome to stop by and play whenever they like, owner Darren Johnson said. It’s a popular spot for the Unnamed Association of Gamers, a Phoenix board-gaming club.

Details: Imperial Outpost Games, 4920 W. Thunderbird Road, Suite 121, Phoenix. 602-978-0467,,

East Valley

The Grid: Games and Growlers

This bar arcade offers arcade games, live music, gaming events, movies and craft beer and is open until 2 a.m. every day. They also sell classic bar food with a twist – vegan pulled pork and “chicken” fries are on the menu next to real chicken wings and burgers. There are events almost every night, such as dance parties, comedy shows and trivia.

Details: 525 S. Gilbert Road, Suite A-7, Mesa. 480-621-8088,,

Cult Classics Arizona

Every month or so, a group of film geeks descend on Pollack Tempe Cinemas. They watch cult classics, create and buy illustrations of the movie and show off their best retro T-shirts. Each screening draws 200 to 300 people and many sell out, event director Victor Moreno says. Past screenings include “Poltergeist,” “Pulp Fiction” and “Army of Darkness.”

Details: 1825 E. Elliot Road, Tempe.,

Changing Hands

Although not explicitly nerdy, this independent bookstore hosts book clubs, including one for the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Check for details on that group and others at both the Tempe and Phoenix locations. The Phoenix location also shares space with First Draft Book Bar, which sells beer and wine, and The Newton, a community space which has a fireplace – talk about a great way to spend a Sunday and meet new friends.

Details: 6428 S. McClintock Drive, Tempe, 480-730-0205. Also, 300 W. Camelback Road, Phoenix, 602-274-0067.

Desert Sky Games and Comics

This store has two locations – one in Tempe and one in Gilbert – and is planning to open a third in Mesa this fall and a fourth in Payson next summer. It focuses on tabletop and card games and comics, and hosts gaming events every day such as Magic: the Gathering lessons and Pokemon open play.

Details: 2531 S. Gilbert Road, Suite 106 and 107, Gilbert. 602-615-5214. Also, 1523 E. Apache Blvd., Tempe. 480-966-3804.,

Gotham City Comics and Coffee

Coffee is the perfect excuse to drop into a comic store if you have no clue about comics. It’s one of the reasons this shop is known for its sense of community, as well as their participation in downtown Mesa’s 2nd Friday Night Out and other events. They have in-store events almost every day, including “Doctor Whosday” on Tuesday, when people watch “Doctor Who” and do show-themed trivia, and a class on yo-yoing every Saturday.

Details: 46 W. Main St., Mesa. 480-649-3065,

StarFighters Arcade

This arcade has more than 28 pinball machines and more than 120 classic video arcade games, and requires a membership of either $10 per day or $35 per month for unlimited play.

Details: 4840 East Jasmine St., Suite 102, Mesa. 480-688-0356,

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West Valley

8-Bit Aleworks

Approach the Hopsassin’s Creed Session IPA or the Offensive Tanooki IPA infused with Makrut lime leaves. Can you defeat the boss? Beer, that is. This microbrewery is dedicated to old 8-bit video games – the walls have hand-painted, pixelated artwork, and video-game music plays throughout the bar. It also has NES and Super Nintendo gaming systems and tabletop games for people to play, which many do on Friday and Saturday nights.

Details: 1050 N. Fairway Drive, Suite F-101, Avondale. 623-925-1650,,

Drawn to Comics

This locally owned store sells comic books, collectibles, action figures, games, T-shirts, posters and prints. Owner Ken Brown prides himself on running “Arizona’s friendliest comic store,” where a familial atmosphere makes the store’s 2,000 square feet seem small.

Details: 5801 W. Glendale Ave., Glendale. 623-847-9090,,

Multiple locations

Geeks Who Drink

“Geeks Who Drink is a homegrown Pub Trivia Quiz modeled after those in Ireland and the UK,” according to The quiz topics vary, though each quiz has both audio and visual rounds, and occasionally video. It’s held in more than 700 bars across the country, and in Arizona locations include The Grid in Mesa, Mad Hatter Brew Pub and Devil’s Advocate in Tempe, 8-Bit Aleworks in Avondale, Mother Bunch Brewing and Bonus Round in Phoenix, Thirsty Lion Gastropub in Scottsdale, State 48 Brewery in Surprise. Yeah, there are a lot.


Samurai Comics

The Phoenix location is their largest, and is one of the largest comic-book specialty stores in the country.

Details: 6808 N. Dysart Road, Suite 148, Glendale. 623-872-8886. Also 1051 E. Camelback Road, Phoenix. 602-265-8886. 1120 S. Country Club Drive, Suite 107, Mesa. 480-962-1123.

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