As an avid fan of all things gaming, I love to look over at my wall and see stacks of games lining the shelves. From the Atari 2600 to the Nintendo Switch, I love them all; unfortunately, I have a student budget which does not come close to fuelling my need for games. Over the years, though, I have learned a multitude of ways of getting as many games, consoles, and peripherals as possible with the limited cash in my wallet. This week I will go over all of these tips and tricks – as well as which consoles I recommend you start collecting for, right now!

The first thing you need to do before getting into collecting is to decide what you want to collect. I like to collect physical games, especially for retro consoles, ‘complete in box’ (which means you have the game, box, and instruction manual all together). But that isn’t the only thing you can collect. Many people I know enjoy collecting consoles. The GameBoy Advance, for example, has more colours than I can reasonably list here. The 3DS has a plethora of minor variations (2DS, new 3DS and so on) that could cover your entire bookcase. Furthermore, you could collect peripherals! Who remembers the tennis rackets for the Wii or, going even further back, the GameBoy Colour printer?! If you want to collect games you will also need the consoles and peripherals to play that game – but beyond that the choice is yours.

There are so many different consoles nowadays. If you only include the big three (XBOX, PlayStation, and Nintendo), and only include home consoles, there are 14 unique consoles you could purchase. Damn. Luckily, if you are already into gaming you likely have at least one of these, so you already know where to start! You might as well start by buying games for a console you already own – then you don’t have to dump a load of cash on an entirely new console.

If you are considering purchasing a new console, I have a few recommendations. The PS3 is insanely cheap at the moment, along with its game library. It has been officially dead for a few years now, but the upcoming PS5 releasing in 2020 is rumoured to be backwards compatible with PS3 games. This will result in a big price hike for PS3 games when the PS5 releases, so now is the time to start collecting! Another option is the NES (Nintendo Entertainment System), which was Nintendo’s first true home console (ignoring the colour-tv game from the 70s). NES games are becoming surprisingly affordable recently, but are likely to go up in price within a few years as they become rarer and rarer. Additionally, the homebrew scene for NES games is booming at the moment, with many different types of games easily available to purchase online. Together, these two things mean it’s the perfect time to corner the NES market.

Once we have decided what we are collecting for, we then need to know where we can find them. There are many options online. For new games, you can simply go to Amazon and order them new, but there are also plenty of options for older games. The obvious choice is eBay, a go-to simply because it has such a huge variety of games available, as well as having much more reliable sellers. Facebook marketplace can be a good resource too, and you can often find people listing bundles of games for WAY cheaper than they are worth as they’re unaware of the true value.

However, the issue with purchasing online is twofold. Firstly, it is very easy to sell fake games. As the value of retro games climbs, it attracts con-artists – scammers are getting very good at producing labels that look almost identical to the true products. I have fallen prey to this before, purchasing Pokémon Yellow on eBay a couple of years back only to receive it in a fake box with a fake cartridge. Secondly, purchasing older games that used cardboard boxes is risky – if the seller does not package it properly, the box can get damaged in transit, meaning your newly-purchased near-mint copy of Mega Man 2 could arrive as a crumpled mess. It hurts my heart to even type this.

Luckily, purchasing games in person is also an option. Granted, searching in-person does not offer the same seemingly unlimited range and variety that shopping online provides, but the ability to check out the game and make sure it is legit and undamaged gives any buyer better ‘peace of mind’.

For common games, especially those after the 5th generation (the PS1 and N64 era), Computer Exchange (CeX) is your best friend. CeX is a chain of shops specialising in used video games and electronics. There is bound to be one within walking distance of you, with as many copies of Wii Sports as you could ever need. CeX has very fair prices, and they make sure all of their products are in working condition – with a warranty. The only issue with CeX is that they are lacking in a) rare games, and b) older, retro games.

For most people, then, CeX is your best friend – but if you’re like me and enjoy diving into the rich history of video games, you’ll want to know where to get the rare stuff. For this, there are many options. Charity shops are always a good shout. Although not commonly found, sometimes you can come across something rare for significantly less than it’s worth. I’m talking Super Smash Bros. Melee for £1. This is because, for example, many parents will simply give away their children’s games when they move out of the house. Equally, car boot sales are an excellent choice. A few years ago you could find bucketfuls of rare pickups. Recently people are becoming a lot more savvy about the worth of their old games, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find bargains at a market or car boot sale, but you can still get lucky. If you are looking for insane deals, stick to charity shops or eBay and hope that fortune strikes.

But if you just want to find something specific, that rare gem you’ve spent years searching for, I recommend going to a convention! Retro gaming conventions are great, but not that common. You will, however, find some relevant stalls in any gaming convention you go to. Insomnia, the UK’s biggest gaming convention, and Comic-con are my personal favourites. You’ll find lots of people selling literal crates of old games – at the last Comic-con I managed to snag almost every Spyro game from a single seller (keep your eye out for an upcoming article about them here in Felix Games!) Also, conventions are quite possibly the best environment to be in for an avid game collector. You’ll meet many like-minded people that you can spark a conversation with, and maybe even make some friends you can trade with in the future.

Hopefully you have a better idea of how to get started on your game collecting journey! Last points: make sure you know what your collecting for! If it’s retro games, then buy in-person and ideally from a convention or a charity shop. If it’s newer titles, then buying online or in a CeX shop is your best option. Just remember to have fun with it, and don’t go overboard – or you’ll never get through that dreaded backlog.