Retro Video Game Finds

by Salvatore Pane

Now that I have a tenure track job and a forthcoming novel, I’ve decided to turn this blog into a tumblr about all the retro video games I find.

Ok. I’m not going that far, but I do think it might be fun if I document some of the games I find in my travels. Most people who know me in real life know I’m a huge retro game collector. I don’t much care for the new systems–I have a Wii that I mostly use for Netflix and occasionally NBA2K12–and instead prefer the games of my youth or earlier: the Nintendo Entertainment System and games where you go right and jump. I started collecting in 2004 and my ultimate goal is to own all 750 NES games. So far I’m a little over 200 mostly because I’ve dipped into collecting Super Nintendo, Atari 2600, Intellivision, and most recently, Sega Saturn games.

What most laypeople find relatively interesting about retro gaming is the way I go about finding them. I personally think buying them online is cheating and half the fun of the hobby is finding these things in the wild. That means flea markets, pawn shops, and thrift stores. You can find old games via retail outlets, but those are growing rarer and I try to avoid them because of the marked up prices. Nintendo games are not worth more than $5, and I do my best not to pay more than that.

Recently, I visited Chicago, Columbus, and Indianapolis. Here’s what I found along with a few things tracked down in Pittsburgh. Everything was purchased within the last two weeks.

I found these in an Exchange chain store in Chicago. They’re Super Famicon games–the Japanese Super Nintendo equivalent. Dragon Quest I & II, Dragon Quest V, and Dragon Quest VI. They’re text heavy and completely in Japanese and I have no way to play them, but at $5 a pop, I couldn’t pass them up–my friends Kevin and Katie were with me when I purchased these and when I told them they were completely impossible to play they just blinked at me; even the store clerk sassed me.

I also picked these up during AWP at a different retail store that had tons of retro games. I nabbed Wall Street Kid for 95 cents and A Boy and His Blob: Trouble on Bloblonia for $2. I regret nothing.

These were total no brainers. Complete, in-box Intellivision games from the same Chicago retail store as above. Star Strike was $5 and Demon Attack was $2. The later is my favorite Intellivision game that I currently own, and the former was promoted by the Paris Review‘s George Plimpton.

I picked these up at the Exchange a few blocks away from my apartment. $2 each for Viper and Wrath of the Black Manta, common but fun games, and $5 for King of the Ring, a pretty uncommon, bordering on rare, late generation NES title. Plus it has Bret Hart on the cover.

Intellivision games are wildly overpriced, so I was ecstatic to find these three titles for $1 each at a retail store in Columbus, Ohio. BurgerTime is an all time favorite, and I’m curious to see what 1982 NBA action looks like on Intellivision. Tron Deadly Discs is the steal of the group, as I’ve seen it go complete, in-box for over $25. Plus, it yells at you. I have the Intellivision voice module and greatly look forward to being verbally abused by the Master Control Program.

Both of these gems cost $2. I picked up Marble Madness at the same Columbus store from above, and I found All Pro Basketball–developed by one of my favorite NES companies, Vic Tokai–at a flea market in Pittsburgh, Trader Jack’s.

Professional Idiot Chris Lee left his Nintendo 64 at my house last year, and I’m never giving it back. At Trader Jack’s, I haggled some bro eating a sandwich into giving me Perfect Dark and Wave Race 64 for a combined $4. Eat it, Chris Lee.

This is easily my best thrift store find–surpassing Double Dragon III for $1 in 2005–and my best system find ever–surpassing an Odyssey 3000 at Trader Jack’s for $6. I purchased this Sega Saturn with all the hook ups and a controller at Goodwill for $13. They clearly didn’t know what they had. Saturns can set you back $50 normally, and the clerk thought that a stack of Atari 2600 games would work on it. I MEAN COME ON.

The system has a broken watch battery inside, so every time I turn it on it asks me if it’s 1994–my girlfriend saw this and burst out laughing–but other than that, it works great.

Another steal at Trader Jack’s! I bought the turbo pad and multi-controller adapter for Saturn at $5 combined, and I found the regular pad in Columbus for $7. Now I can play Sega Saturn with five other friends. The only difficulty is finding a single other human being on earth who wants to play Sega Saturn in 2012.

Saturn games are pretty difficult to track down these days, but I managed some good deals. I found Dayton USA for $2 in Indianapolis and Fighting Vipers for $8 in the Dormont Exchange. Scud–based on a comic written by Community creator Dan Harmon–and The Hordea strategy adventure starring Kirk Cameron as a medieval servant named Chauncey–set me back $6 combined at Trader Jack’s.