Fact: Going to bars is fun. Also a fact: Arcade games are fun. And America, being a land of invention, has combined these two true statements into the peanut-butter-meets-chocolate nirvana that is the video game bar.

This new breed of drinking establishment is kind of like an old-school arcade, only with beer. It's got way more atmosphere than your average Dave & Buster's -- not to mention better games.

And while nerdiness is still a part of the deal -- some offer major prizes for setting house and world records -- these establishments are also hip enough that you could take a date to one and be seen as charming and quirky. Theoretically.

On the next page, Asylum takes a closer look at the finest video game bars in America -- and by "takes a closer look," we mean "tries to set a new record on 'Joust.'"

Barcade -- Brooklyn

The back story:
Barcade has quickly grown to be the gold standard in video game bars. While it's not the first of its kind -- that distinction is likely held by Seattle's Shorty's (see below) -- Barcade still broke new ground.

"We knew of other arcades and of course bars that had arcade games," owner Paul Kermizian tells Asylum. "But I'm not sure that anyone had an exclusive lineup of classics before we did."

Must-play games: "Right now it's 'Rampage' and 'Contra,' because people can play together," says Kermizian.

Odds of seeing a record broken: Better than at just about any other bar. "Most of the names on our high-score board are world-record holders," he says. "And the guy who just broke the 'Donkey Kong' world record, Hank Chien, can usually be found practicing on our machine."

"Galaga" high score: 1,459,410. Beat that, every other video game bar!

Ground Kontrol Classic Arcade -- Portland, Ore.

The back story:
"Nothing like Ground Kontrol existed when it came time to evolve into a bar," manager Art Santana tells Asylum.

While the arcade has existed since 1999, it wasn't until it moved to its current location -- a former bar and restaurant -- that it kicked open its doors as a video game bar. "It just made sense to add beer to the experience," Santana explains.

Must-play games: The bar's most popular games are the multiplayer stalwarts "X-Men" and "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

Odds of seeing a record broken: "Most of our customers are there to simply have fun," Santana tells us, "but many also play like it's their job: They show up every day at the same time, sit on the same stool, and put in a couple of hours on 'Galaga' or 'Robotron.'"

"Galaga" high score: 243,800. But Santana warns us that the 29-year-old machine occasionally resets, so it was probably way higher once upon a time.

Shorty's -- Seattle

The back story:
Like Ground Kontrol, Shorty's started as a "plain arcade," as owner Avout Van Der Werf describes it. "But after a while," he says, "the numbers showed that we needed to sell alcohol to make money."

This transformation occurred back in 1997, which would probably make Shorty's the original video game bar -- although Van Der Werf stresses that video games can sometimes take a backseat to his true love, pinball.

Must-play games: "Everyone claims a love for the old-school stuff," Van Der Werf says, "but our most popular game is 'Big Buck Hunter.'"

Odds of seeing a record broken: Van Der Werf doesn't personally talk to all of his customers about their philosophy of gaming, but he knows that they're pretty serious. His "Galaga" machine, for example, rolls over at 999,999, and while he resets it every few months to entice people to play, it's back at the 999,999 within two weeks every time.

"Galaga" high score: Pretty much always 999,999.

Stella's Lounge -- Grand Rapids, Mich.

The back story:
The newest entry to the list of fine video game bars, Stella's Lounge, officially opens its doors May 1. But the promise of the place -- which includes "stiff drinks, a giant stuffed hamburger, 200 brands of whiskey, and old-school alternative and punk music," in addition to its lineup of nearly a hundred classic games from the 1980s -- earns it a preemptive spot on this list.

Must-play games: Owner Mark Sellers says, "I expect 'Joust,' 'Tron' and 'Frogger' to be the most popular. But we have 87 games, so it's hard to know for sure."

Odds of seeing a record broken: Sellers certainly intends to make it worth the time it takes to give it a shot. "We're going to have a huge blackboard that will list the house record and the world record for each game," he tells Asylum.

"If someone beats the house record, they'll get a $10 gift certificate," he says. "If they beat a world record, they'll get one for $1,000."

"Galaga" high score: Well, since the bar's not open yet, it's not really fair to put them up against Barcade. But Sellers -- who competed in the Twin Galaxies video game tournament featured on a 1983 episode of the hit TV show "That's Incredible!" -- is confident that Stella's will be competitive, even if he has to set the record himself. "I can personally score over a million on that one," he laughs.