A few years ago, and well into my mid-20s, I finally acquired my own Super Nintendo. I grew up playing the console even though I never owned one myself. When I purchased my Super Nintendo, it came with the obligatory Super Mario World. With that, something inside me changed—something was triggered. One might call it an insatiable bloodlust for retro games and consoles.
A friend and I would make a day of it every few weeks. We would go out on the town and hit all the spots we could think of, grab a bunch of Chinese food, and return to the lair from which we crawled out of to examine our spoils from the day’s loot. Upon repetition of this behavior over a few weeks, we became friendly with the shopkeepers, and one day, on a particularly good harvest, I stumbled across Final Fight and a few other beat ‘em ups, along with a platformer or two. An employee at the shop approached me and asked if he could make a suggestion. I nodded as I clumsily held a pile of cartridges in my arms. He pick up a cartridge, stared at the label, and said, “It’s a pretty decent game. You’ll enjoy it, so don’t judge. And SPOILER ALERT! YOU GET TO FIGHT ON THE MOON!” As he said this, he stood in a power stance and drove the cartridge up into the air as if he was Link finding the dungeon map.
It was in that moment that I knew I had to have not only the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers SNES game, but that I needed to be a part of this community. I was, until that moment, just transient—coming and going on these day-long hunts for random games across platforms, not active in the dialogue. I would collect games and horde them to myself, but there was a whole community out there. People were discussing and collecting these games in parallel with the modern classics. With video game collections on the rise, I have compiled four tips and tricks so that you, too, can hopefully have a successful plunder and game night with your friends!
Not always the most fruitful of adventures, but you are likely to come across a discarded Nintendo Game Boy, some odd peripherals and, of course, games. While I know many have had luck with finding your gaming equivalent of the Holy Grail, my experience has lead me to find some great PlayStation 2 and original Xbox games. Thrift shops are also great for finding PC and DOS games. I chalk it up to parents discarding random things when their kids go off to college, so the correlating consoles of that generation or the one preceding it is often the most abundant. The downfall of thrift shops can vary. You may have to dig, and the digging my still leave you empty-handed. They aren’t specialized in video games, so they may not even have any when you go, and things could be broken (but if you need parts you may be in luck).
These places are often locally owned, which is cool. Support local! These stores are like double-edged swords. They’re fantastic because they have a wide array of media (no pun intended), and you can get vinyl, DVDs, and even some VHS tapes along with some games. So you’ve been meaning to watch Gymkata? This place probably has you covered (caveat: go watch Gymkata). The downfall is that you’ll be paying top dollar for the games you find here. There are many video game collectors, and probably not as many people collecting DVDs. But you will definitely have more luck and more games and consoles to pick from than the thrift store. Just be weary of the price because there’s nothing worse than over-paying and immediately finding that same game for half the price. So many tears.
Besides the huge chain stores that you can find all over, there are video game-specific stores, usually locally (or somewhat locally) owned. They often have games and consoles spanning from the dawn of time to the present. Of course, you can find old movies as well, so you just might get your Gymkata fix after all. These spaces tend to be my most traveled locations. Games are usually at market value, and the staff is more knowledgeable about consoles, compatibility, and “Hey, if you like game X, perhaps give game Y a try.” Also, in my experience, if you end up being a “frequent flyer” in these stores, they often set aside things that you may be interested in or let you know when a certain game you’ve been looking for shows up in their case.
Whatever kind of store ends up being your go-to for all those great gaming goodies, build a rapport with the employees. Be nice—you’re obviously engaged with the products if you’re searching for the perfect cartridge of Donkey Kong Country, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Sometimes you may not know what you’re looking for, and that’s okay—perhaps they have recommendations. Some of the best Genesis games I have acquired have been $3 shots in the dark; Lotus Turbo Challenge on the Genesis is one of my jams. Just picking up a few odd titles to fill out a console collection? Great! Invite some friends over and muddle through games together. There are a bunch of various old sports games you can pick up for fifty cents, and they can create quite the entertaining night if you have some pizza to share with friends, too. Remember couch co-op? Yeah, me too. Go have yourself some!
Remember, folks, that while these games have a market, a lot of that market is based in nostalgia. Nostalgia can be a tricky mistress, causing that copy of Chrono Trigger on the SNES to be astronomical in price, but allowing for Chrono Trigger to turn up on the PlayStation as well as the Nintendo DS at a more reasonable price. So if you’re after the gameplay and story—and not necessarily recreating your childhood experience exactly—reissues on newer consoles are also an option as well as digital marketplaces such as the Nintendo eShop. It is hard to fine The Legend of Zelda: Oracle of Ages (or Seasons) in cartridge form, but you can pick up both for a faction of what one would cost in its tangible form. Also, don’t be afraid to check the Internet. It can be your friend. Check the price of what the game is being sold for on average and what people are willing to spend. Just because a game is $50 doesn’t mean it is necessarily worth it. So don’t be shy! Check the availability of things.
Get out there if you want to find some of those stories from your past. They’re within reach! Collecting retro games doesn’t have to be and shouldn’t be about the numbers in your collection. Video games are consumable goods, so build a network around you and play these games. Go grab a copy of Goldeneye for the 64, a few friends, pizza—no Oddjob, of course—and get some PvP on (oh, and turn on paintball mode).
Good game, my friends.