Do you love the game of air hockey? The sound of pucks bouncing off the table edge, the slap of a mallet, the rattle and clink of a successful shot on goal? If so, then you know that there's nothing quite like playing a game on an arcade style air hockey table. These tables are built for serious players, and they provide an incredibly realistic and satisfying gaming experience. If you're looking at buying a high quality arcade style or commercial air hockey table, this is the guide for you. Here, we'll dive deep about arcade style air hockey tables and why you might want to buy one. We'll also provide some tips on how to choose the right table for your home game room. So without further ado, let's get started!
Looking for bubble hockey? We've got you covered! Check out our guide to buying a bubble hockey table for your game room.
What is an air hockey table?
Most people reading this site are already probably familiar with what an air hockey table is. Eponymous with arcades, pool halls, amusement centers and home game rooms, air hockey is a game that's been enjoyed by many people since it's introduction in 1972.
At its core, an air hockey table is a large, smooth playing surface that features two open slots at either end that players shoot small plastic discs (pucks) through in order to score points. The most unique feature of an air hockey table is the perforated play field that when combined with a powerful motor and fan system, creates a cushion of air that the puck floats on top of.
Most air hockey tables are built for two players, but some are built to allow four or more players to play at once.
How do you play air hockey?
Air hockey is a very simple game to learn to play, and can be enjoyed by players at all skill levels. If you're already familiar with games like tennis, pong, hockey, soccer, ping pong, and more, then you probably have a grasp of the rules.
Two people play against each other and try to score goals hitting flat plastic discs (pucks) with a hand-held mallet into the scoring area at the opposite end. The table has raised edges so the puck can bounce off and the surface is very smooth, with a forced air system which creates a cushion of air, helping the puck move smoothly across the play surface, almost like a hockey puck on ice.
While there are many variations to the rules of the game, an officially sanctioned match usually comprises a best of 5 format, with each set comprising 7 games. Players win a game by being the first to score 7 points (goals) on their opponent.
What makes an arcade style air hockey table?
Generally speaking, if you're looking for an arcade style air hockey table for your game room, then you're probably looking for an air hockey table that's full, regulation size (8'), has even airflow, a flat surface, strong bulit-in blower motor, and generally a higher build quality air hockey table then something you could purchase on a site like Amazon or Wayfair.
If you're a competitive air hockey player, you may also be looking for a specific air hockey manufacturer or model, like the ones authorized by the United States Air Hockey Association (USAA), typically produced by Brunswick, Dynamo, and Gold Standard.
Otherwise, you may be looking for an arcade style hockey table for the visual flair, light show, or other unique features (like a sloped play surface, electronic scoring, sound effects) that make the game more fun to play or that add style and energy to your game room lineup.
Arcade style air hockey tables will also be a much larger investment then a more casual model, running anywhere from $2,500 at the low end to nearly $12,000 or more for a 4-way table.
How do I choose the best arcade style air hockey table?
There are a lot of options to consider when trying to evaluate the best air hockey tables for your game room.
First, it's probably most important to decide if you want a regulation model authorized by the United States Air Hockey Association. While still arcade quality, these tables tend to be more utilitarian than some of the other arcade style options that you might consider. But, if you buy a USAA authorized air hockey table, you'll be guaranteed a consistent, repeatable, and high quality play experience that you can use to practice your skills for competitive play.
Current (as of 2020) authorized competitive air hockey tables include the following games:
United States Air Hockey Association (USAA) Authorized Air Hockey Tables:
- Brunswick Blue Top
- Dynamo Brown Top
- Dynamo Blue Top
- Dynamo Purple Top
- Dynamo Photon (Ice-Blue Top) w/ thin centerline
- Dynamo Pro-Style
- Dynamo Best Shot
- Gold Standard Games Classic Pro
- Gold Standard Games Classic Plus
- Gold Standard Games Classic Elite (Sanctioned under white light)
- Gold Standard Games Classic Premium
- Gold Standard Games Gold Flare Plus
- Gold Standard Games Gold Flare Elite (Sanctioned under white light)
- Gold Standard Games Gold Flare Premium
- Gold Standard Games Tournament Pro
- Gold Standard Games Tournament Pro Plus
- Gold Standard Games Tournament Pro Elite (Sanctioned under white light)
- Gold Standard Games Tournament Ice
- All Gold Standard Gold Pro and Gold Flare Home models
If you're willing to branch outside the constraints of the authorized table list, you start to get a lot more options. Of course you'll find some more creative offerings from Dynamo (under their master Valley Dynamo brand) and Gold Standard. But, you'll also come across quality air hockey tables from arcade industry powerhouses like ICE Games, WIK, Bandai Namco Arcade, Barron Games, Sega Amusements, Kalkomat, Great American and others.
With these tables, you'll often find features such as:
- A more diverse range of color and lighting options
- Licensed artwork (for example, Bandai Namco makes a DC Justice League Heroes vs Villians themed air hockey table)
- LED lighting
- Infrared scoring
- Overhead lighting and score displays
- Curved playing surfaces
- Weatherproof options for indoor/outdoor air hockey action
- Variety in playfield design, like the Great American Boom-A-Rang designs for smaller footprint areas
How much does an arcade style air hockey table cost?
You'll certainly pay a premium for a quality arcade style air hockey table for your game room, however the upgraded materials, build quality, and manufacturer reputation is generally worth the cost for players who want the best experience with minimal headaches.
A basic competition worthy air hockey table like the Gold Standard Home Pro Elite will set you back roughly $2,500 and that's before any applicable taxes or shipping fees.
Something a little more stylish like the 8' Dynamo Fire Storm Home Air Hockey table can run about $7,500. There are of course other tables that sell for much more than that.
Of course if you can find a used table on a site like Facebook Marketplace, Craigslist, or through a local games vendor, you may be able to knock off a few thousand dollars on that sticker price, depending on the condition of the machine.
What is a good size for an arcade style air hockey table?
Most arcade style air hockey tables come in either 7' or 8' versions. Stick with the 8' if you want an authentic, competition level experience.
Depending on the specific model you buy, an 8' table may have the following dimensions (measurements based off the Valley Dynamo Fire Storm Air Hockey Table):
- Height: 71" (with overhead lights/scoring)
- Width: 51.5"
- Depth: 99.5"
- Weight: 435 lbs
A 7' table will have measurements close to these (based off the Great American Power Air Hockey Coin-Op Side Score Game)
- Height: 31.5"
- Width: 47"
- Depth: 87"
- Weight: 527 lbs
How long do arcade quality air hockey tables last?
Like most high quality arcade and game room machines, with proper maintenance and care, an arcade style air hockey table can last for many, many years.
Of course if you plan on holding onto your air hockey table for years (or even decades) you may need to replace or tune up certain parts over time (like electronic components or the blower motor).
Otherwise, with regular use and irregular cleaning, your air hockey table may only last a few years before the gameplay experience starts to degrade.
Where can I buy an arcade style air hockey table?
For an arcade or commercial quality machine, your best bet is to buy from an established game room distributor like Betson (primarily a commercial vendor, but will do home sales), Game Room Guys, Maine Home Recreation, or your own local distributor.
What are some good arcade style air hockey table brands?
There are a lot of quality air hockey manufacturers to choose from when deciding to buy an arcade style table. It's important to be selective when choosing the brand of air hockey table you buy, as you want to be sure the quality and craftsmanship is up to your likely high expectations.
Some of the top air hockey table brands include:
- Valley Dynamo
- Gold Standard
- ICE Games
- Bandai Namco Arcade
- Barron Games
- Sega Amusements
- Great American
What features should I look for in a good arcade style air hockey table?
Really when you start looking at arcade style air hockey tables, you're looking mostly for build quality. Look for solid construction, and high quality parts and construction. You'll also want to make sure the blower motor is strong and that the airflow creates a smooth, consistent play experience.
Beyond that, it's really up to personal preference! If you want cool colors and LED lights, there's a table for you! If you want something themed after a favorite video game character or comic book hero, there's a table for you! If you want something with a unique playfield design, or something that can operate outdoors, there's a table for you too!
Where can I buy air hockey pucks for my table?
Pretty much anywhere you might consider buying your arcade or commercial level air hockey table, you can get some air hockey pucks. Plus, you can find quality air hockey pucks on sites like Amazon or Ebay too.
For the most part, stick with pucks that are authorized by the USAA to ensure you're getting the highest quality product. Currently, the USAA sanctions three different types of pucks.
- Gold Standard Games Lexan Yellow Air Hockey Puck
- Gold Standard Games Lexan Red Air Hockey Puck
- Dynamo Green Air Hockey Puck
All the pucks above are 3 1/4" in diameter and made from high quality fiberglass and are heavier than most other pucks on the market, which you want when you're using a higher quality table.
Air hockey pucks are an important part of the game, and it's important to use the right ones with your arcade style air hockey table. This ensures a smooth, consistent play experience.
Where can I buy air hockey mallets for my table?
You can acquire air hockey mallets almost everywhere you would think to buy an arcade or commercial level air hockey table, just like with your pucks. In addition, Amazon and Ebay are both good sources for excellent air hockey mallets.
While the USAA isn't as specific with their mallet recommendations as they are with their pucks, they do advocate that mallets have the following features:
- Weight must be 6 oz. or less.
- Diameter must be less than 4-1/16".
- Color may be any except that the outside rim must be of a different color than game surface of table.
- The mallet must consist of the same material and be uniform and symmetrical throughout its circumference
For an easy purchase, we recommend sticking with the Gold Standard brand of air hockey accessories. This would be a good pick for most people:
When it comes to arcade style air hockey tables, there are a lot of factors to consider when making your purchase. This guide has aimed to cover the most important aspects of buying an air hockey table and provide some quality brands and models for you to choose from. No matter what your needs or wants may be, we're sure you'll be able to find the perfect arcade style air hockey table for your home game room. Thanks for reading!