So you want to start a retro video game collection? Well I can tell you, it’s a fun hobby to get into to. Not just because video games are fun, but also I’ve grown to acquire a certain joy while I’m out hunting for video games. The thrill of searching for gems at a used game store or my local collectible show. The sheer amount of choice I have when I go to a retro gaming convention. The joy when you find a game you’ve been looking for for years and it’s in pristine condition and it’s within your price range, there’s nothing quite like it. However, as fun as this hobby is there is one drawback that practically every other hobby has, it can get EXPENSIVE. Very expensive. A ton of hardcore collectors put so much time and money into their collections that it could make your head spin. Especially since there are so many games, systems, peripherals, and even special edition consoles that you may not know where to start. Well that’s what I’m here for. To help you newbies start. There is a TON of stuff to cover, so much that I’m splitting this into 2 different parts and will dive into more tips in a future article. Now obviously we aren’t made of money and getting your collection to the level you want it to be will take time. A lot of time. Trust me I have my own dreams for my future game room and am currently no where near where I want it to be. Yet every collector starts somewhere, all you have to do is take that first step. These tips are designed to help people who want to start a retro video game collection but (like me) are on a bit of a budget.
KNOW WHAT YOU WANT TO START COLLECTING
When it comes to starting a retro video game collection there are a WIDE amount of options to choose from with so many different variables that I could probably fill a book about it. Yet we’re going to start small. It’s always best to know what aspect you want to start your collection with. Do you just want to buy games or do you want the systems as well? Do you want multiple systems and Special Editions of those systems? Are you OK with loose carts or do they have to be CIB’s (Complete in Box)? Which generation of consoles do you want to start out with? It’s these types of questions you should ask yourself before you start going out and spending money on random games and consoles. A good rule of thumb is to start with one game console you are familiar with and go from there. For example I still have my original PlayStation and and I when I do go game hunting I look for games that I’ve always wanted to play but never had the chance to or I’ve lost/sold them when I was young. One day I found a copy of Final Fantasy Chronicles for the PlayStation for $15 in pristine condition. This copy of the game came with Chrono Trigger and Final Fantasy IV. I love the Final Fantasy franchise but Chrono Trigger was the reason I bought it. It was a game I’ve never played but always wanted to and now it’s in my collection, waiting to be played. It’s always best to start with what you are familiar with, and if you still have the system that’s a huge plus.
DECIDE WETHER YOU’RE COLLECTING TO PLAY, OR COLLECTING TO SHOW
Every collector marches to the beat of their own drum, and whatever you want to do when it comes to your collection go ahead and do it. However this is one thing every game collector should know about themselves because some games, even if they are the same title, can and will be sold at different prices where the difference is hundreds of dollars. My copy of Final Fantasy Chronicles I mentioned earlier? It was a PlayStation Greatest Hits reprint of the game with the Square Enix logo on the cover. I have seen that exact same game at other stores but it was priced over $40. Why was it so expensive compared to the $15 one I got? Well because it was a first print run of the game, had the Squaresoft logo on the box and the black PlayStation border on it as well. I’m a collector who collects to play, I really don’t care if it’s a first run or not or if the game I’m looking for is a CIB. If I can afford it, the game works, and I can play it when I want, I’m most likely getting it. Other collectors however may not think the same way. They may only want the first print of games or they only want certain packaging and that’s OK. Just know that those games are going to be way more expensive than their loose cart/greatest hits counterparts. I found a copy of Final Fantasy VII that was being sold for over $200 because there was a misprint on the box (like the one shown above). I’ve also come across copies of Mario Kart 64 where the cart itself is only $35 but CIB can go for $100-$125. Of course some of those CIB’s can be considered the crown jewel of one person’s collection, and if you have to have that specific title, then save up and wait. It may take longer to get it and buying it online can be risky, but if you’re willing to be patient and save up the money you need for your favorite game then go for it.
HD REMAKES/RERELEASES AND MINI CONSOLES ARE NOT THE ENEMY
Once again, beat of their own drum, however this tip is aiming at the more limited budget readers of this article. Now, obviously certain games will be more expensive than others and they are also very rare to come by, luckily we now live in an age where we can play certain games with ease than we could a few years ago. Games like Crash Bandicoot and the Spyro trilogies are great examples. The games are essentially the same as they were back in the 90’s but the visuals have been overhauled and they are cheaper to get and will definitely work on modern consoles. One drawback to collecting older consoles is that as the years go by these things get worn out and may not be compatible with newer TVs. There are console clones which DO work with HDTVs and most of them can play multiple games. There are also HDMI cable adapters for those original consoles as well incase you are going the purist route. However if all you really want is a solid library of games then the mini’s are a great way to start. I’ve talked about how much I’ve enjoyed the mini consoles here before so I won’t go too much into detail, but most of them do come with super rare and hard to find games. Personally the recent release of Collection of Mana for the Nintendo Switch made me jump for joy. I’ve always wanted to play Secret of Mana for the SNES, but never owned one. I bought a SNES Classic Edition just to play it and with The Collection of Mana I can play the first game but also the never released in North America Trials of Mana. So if you’ve never played a classic game like Secret of Mana or Crash Bandicoot and you have a modern console, then getting the HD remake isn’t a bad play, especially since those games are $40 new.
I hope these tips are able to help you out, and if you need more tips then no worries! As of this writing I am currently working on the second part of this piece so more tips are on the way.