I could end this post pretty swiftly by admitting that I do most of my games shopping on eBay. You will be amazed by the stuff you can pick up by bidding on every 3 Euro game (including postage) and waiting to see what is overlooked by other bidders, though patience is key. Unfortunately, when it comes to physical shops, I’ve never exactly felt spoilt for choice, be it in my home town or where I currently live.
A relatively unknown title I picked up on one of my “3 Euro maximum” eBay trawls.
However, I have stumbled across a few places on my travels which have been a wealth of hidden treasures, awesome bargains and cute gear. Each have had their own individual quirks, which goes to show that it’s sometimes not enough to find just one trusted store; even if you don’t end up picking up anything in these different stores, it can be fun to simply observe different small business models revolving around games and gaming merchandise. Two of the stores I’m going to talk about are in the north of England and the other is in the north of Germany, but even a reader halfway across the world may find it interesting to learn where different stores place more focus.
A quick word about non-independent stores in the UK and Germany
If you’re feeling a little less conscientious about where you buy stuff, the smaller main stores (B tier stores, in other words) tend to not be a bad place to start when it comes to buying used PAL games in the XBox/Gamecube/PS2 era. I’ve taken more notice of whether a place sells PS2 games than anything else, as that’s the only console in that generation that I collect for.
In the UK, the selling of games in the “A tier” media stores such as HMV has died a rather confusing death, with even PS3 games being scarce and only big name current gen games getting any love. While GAME is a haven of used PS3 and PS4 games, the PS3 section is becoming increasingly squeezed in some franchises and anything older is pretty much universally out of the question. However, CeX (a store catering solely in second hand multimedia) has considerable PS2, XBox, Gamecube and even PSP sections. It varies from store to store, but my favourite by far is the Sheffield store, which has contained some exceptionally valuable titles like .hack Part 2 and Dark Cloud. On occasion they bodge up their pricing (with the interesting but not-quite-rare games), meaning you get a slight bargain on some entertaining titles. I’ve generally turned up very little in either of the Manchester branches (the Arndale Centre store and the Piccadilly one, which has recently closed), but the York branch is fairly good in its range.
In Germany, the picture is a little bit different. You can stumble upon the occasional deal on PS2 games in the big electronics store Saturn, having personally spotted Bully (Canis Canem Edit for us continental pansies) on sale for a handful of change as well as Max Payne 2. The major game store, Gamestop, has a modest PS2 section, though the games in there can be pitiful in scope. Gamestop also has a fairly poor reputation, from what I’ve been told, with regard to its pricings. From my own experience, you can drop on nice finds now and then, though this is generally with the PS3 games rather than the PS2 games (my best find has been Disgaea 4 for 10 Euros). With systems, the big stores tend to have good deals from time to time, though not necessarily surprising deals: Media Markt, Saturn’s sister store, was selling off PSTVs for 40 Euros a year ago, though I can’t find them on their website anymore. While it is fairly deemed inferior to the plain old PS Vita, the PSTV is a nice, compact home console to have if you mainly want to play PS1 and PSP digital titles.
Sore Thumb Retro Games
Opening times: Tuesday-Saturday 10-6; Sunday 12-5; closed on Mondays
Tel: +44 7759161274
I can’t think of a more fitting place to have a retro games store than in an extremely quaint, preserved city like York, and these guys have done a bloody good job of setting one up. It’s a very packed store in the best of ways, as you’ll want to spend hours browsing through the overwhelming amount of groaning shelves lining the walls.
This shop particularly stood out for me as a PS1/PS2 collector, as they have a truly admirable collection of both. You might also find the occasional NTSC game thrown in (I picked up a copy of Silent Hill 2 off the shelves and saw it labelled as such), with prices seeming to be adjusted well to the quirks of each game. There were still a few odds and ends I was specifically looking for that I couldn’t find, but it’s one of the most impressive stores in terms of sheer number of games crammed into a relatively small shop floor that I’ve come across yet.
The display cases at the back had some interesting titles too – I spotted a loose cartridge of Resident Evil Gaiden for the Game Boy Color on sale for around £30, as well as Dreamcast and PS1 versions of Resident Evil 2. I had a smile to myself that Skullmonkeys was in the same display cabinet as some of the Final Fantasy PS1 classics, as I had bought it earlier on in the month but didn’t think it was quite that collectible! The ability to separate the wheat from the chaff and go straight to the back if you’re looking for something a bit more valuable was a nice touch.
Obligatory link to the beans song: check.
My regret with visiting this store was that I didn’t pick up the copy of Odin Sphere that I spotted, which was around £20-25 (going from memory). Also, I didn’t focus on much other than the heaving bulk of PS1/PS2 games, though there was a nice selection of boxed N64 games. If you’re looking for a games shop that is compact, filled to the brim and atmospheric, this is the place to stop by.
Also, as I suggested earlier, York is a great tourist spot regardless. So why not add a bit of games shopping in-between your walking tours and education in all things Viking?
Playtime Video Games
103 Pinstone Street
Opening Times: Monday-Saturday 9:00-17:30, closed on Sundays
Tel: +44 1142-723723
This dates back to April 2016, so take the Disney Infinity prices with a pinch of salt…
Looks can be deceiving when it comes to video game stores. When I first set foot in this shop on a visit home in September, it seemed like your bog-standard second-hand media store, i.e. only truly interested in the latest systems. It’s when you get to the back of the shop that I was gobsmacked to spot Dreamcast and other retro games; they even go as far back as the Master System!
Now, it’s worth pointing out how unusual this is with major stores in the UK – even in CeX, you won’t find anything further back than the PS2 being sold (with software at least), and you won’t get a trade-in price for those games, either. Playtime also has a nice little Vita collection, for those of you who wish to extend your PSTV/Vita beyond retro downloads – some branches of larger stores, such as GAME, don’t even stock Vita games anymore.
PS2 collectors like myself might drop on some gems here, too. They have a shelf devoted to very cheap (50p-£1) games, such as sports titles, with the more timeless ones being pricier but still very reasonable. They don’t just take in rubbish here, as I spotted niftier additions like Forbidden Siren 2 (at a bargain £15) mixed in. Overall, it was a really unexpected hit for me, and one I will be returning to whenever I’m back in South Yorkshire to visit the folks.
Forbidden Siren 2 is a relatively scarce title that was never released in the US and, as the video above shows, has been compared favourably to entries 1 and 3 to the series – so don’t brush off the idea of importing PAL games just yet!
If you’re wanting to buy PAL games abroad, they do have a website with international postage options. For UK readers, there is free 2nd class delivery available. Beware of the very noisy website banner, headphone users!
Knooper Weg 106
Opening Times: Monday-Friday 10-18:30; Saturday 10-17; closed on Sundays
Tel: +49 431 2600080
The German addition to my list is an impressively large store that should be a mainstay for North German retro collectors. My boyfriend Paul and a bunch of our friends run a retro gaming event called Super Zokker Day in the neighbouring seaside port of Hamburg, and they have done stock runs to this store in the past. When I was taken there myself, I wasn’t disappointed.
The handsome fellow speaking impeccable German at the beginning is Paul, the guy I incessantly nag to buy me corgis. I also met him thanks to Skirmish Frogs, as I reviewed the event here.
It isn’t just a retro store but also hosts an impressive collection of PS3 games, with more cult titles such as earlier entries to the Yakuza series. The sixth generation collection is very impressive, and I stumbled upon pretty much every classic I would ever aspire to have in my collection (at an appropriately high price, of course). The PlayStation collection was tucked away in a corner and featured some more obscure but highly collectable titles, such as D.
The shelves were very easy to sift through efficiently, and I eventually picked up a copy of Killer7 for PS2 for 8 Euros. This is the inferior version of the game compared to the Gamecube one, and the German version has green blood, but since I don’t have a Gamecube or Wii in my possession at the minute and I was interested to see how the game would run regardless of crazy German censorship, I still felt like I walked away with a good deal. The DOOM-themed carrier bag I took with me out of the shop was a cute touch. If you’re ever in Kiel for a North Sea holiday, be sure to build some retro game shopping into your trip.
What are your favourite independent games stores? Which hidden gems would you recommend to tourists visiting your city/country? Please leave your recommendations in the comments below!